So now we’ve gotten the ending. And… gosh, sometimes these patches really do not merit splitting up, which is kind of the case for Final Fantasy XIV this week. I’m not sure exactly how the team could have handled this differently based on the final fan festival because on some level this feels like something that would always get derailed by the announcement or would make the announcement redundant; at the same time, now that we knew our destination this story mostly had to mark time.
It’s not unwriting what you think
Here’s the central lie that basically all of our speculation was built upon: We can’t go beat up the Ascians like this.
It’s an understandable basis. What we know about the First is what Arbert told us, that the flood of light in the world followed them defeating all of the Ascians on that shard. So it was easy to assume that if we had to become the Warrior of Darkness, we had to fix the balance, meaning that we had to turn against our allies and the goodness we had been operating under to be the villain and…
Well, not so much. The hooded man makes it clear that his warning isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about continuing down our path. In other words, it doesn’t actually matter if we do go stomp out the Ascians because we’re all screwed if we don’t deal with a different problem… like, say, the First being overwhelmed with light.
In other terms, the warning is that so long as we’re dealing with the rat infestation and ignoring the fact that our house is on fire, we’re screwed. We have to go deal with that fire.
To be honest, this makes no small amount of sense. Everything that Arbert told us about the fate of the First was based almost completely on his understanding, and his understanding was by necessity filtered through the explanations of an Ascian. While Elidibus clearly has a different agenda from his brethren, he’s still an Ascian, and this story installment makes it very clear that he considers us well worth killing.
My suspicion is that the flood of light wasn’t caused by defeating the Ascians specifically, but something unleashed by them to ensure that the world becomes unbalanced. Even Minfilia herself didn’t seem to understand what was happening. But we do, at this point, have a clearer picture of what actually needs to be done.
We’re not leaving the Source behind
It’s very clear that this next expansion is focused on the First. At this point there’s no real reason to expect that any of the zones we’ve been shown or have teased are going to take place in the Source. And yet it’s also very clear from this ending that we’re not going to be taking a two-year-long vacation from our home realm, popping back over to just visit Ishgard as it rebuilds. The Source is still vital.
This patch makes explicit that Zenos is seeking out his own body once again with his artificial Echo, that Elidibus and Varis both have their own plans in motion, and that there’s no shortage of things that are going to be happening at home even as we fight to restore the First. I’m not sure which of these antagonists are going to follow us into the First, but it seems all but absolute that some of them will. We have more stories to tell and explore there, as well.
This strikes me as important by way of emphasis. Yes, we’ve got to go to the First and deal with problems there. But we’re also going to be dealing with problems back at home, and there is the potential for one to bleed into the other. We are not, as was worried, faffing off to deal with other things when there’s a more urgent threat.
In fact, on that note…
The war has spun to a stalemate
Pay close attention at the end of the MSQ. The clear statement is that the Empire isn’t ready to deploy Black Rose, but produce it. That implies that there’s some time left before it works… and it also tends to imply, at least to me, that Varis is on some level intentionally stalling. I don’t think he wants to lose this fight, but I also get the feeling that he has reason to not rush to its conclusion.
Between national unity, putting down other uprisings, the fact that the three people serving as the leadership who all have somewhat different goals, and some high-profile defections? The Empire is actually losing this war. And that’s entirely realistic. The Garlean force is at a disadvantage to many others, a disadvantage traditionally mitigated by its use of magitek and a fearsome reputation. But with several legions lost, a divided internal state, and less intelligence all around, it’s not able to just roll back in to Ala Mhigo.
Does it still feel like we’re going to head into the Empire? Of course it does; the Garlean Empire is the obvious capstone to the story arcs established thus far. But when I say “capstone,” I mean it. Defeating the Empire will be the end of a huge plot point and is something you can’t really deploy casually. Heading away from that gives us a much better chance to make this endgame feel suitably climactic as we move to it.
It’s going to be a long three months
If all of this feels like a very positive takeaway, my actual takeaway was… mixed. Yes, this bit of story set up the next expansion, but it didn’t do so in the most elegant fashion; it felt a bit like marking time, telling us the things in-universe that we already knew to be true out-of-universe. And it certainly didn’t have the climactic feeling that the end of 2.5 or even 3.5 delivered.
That having been said, it did bring in one bookend that we’d been missing with the final fight, while also hinting that it wasn’t quite the conclusion. Prior to this encounter with Elidibus, we’d fought Zenos three times. The first fight was in early Stormblood, when you can barely touch him. The second fight was in Yanxia, and you did better, but he still was untouchable. And the third time was… in a full party against him in the Ala Mhigan throne room.
This, then, was the third match against him in a one-on-one duel, not as a boss but showing what you could do against a form of this long-running antagonist. Yes, it wasn’t quite him, but it was a bookend the game had been teasing for a long while. And sure, the victory didn’t stick, but it was a victory just the same.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time, let’s start talking a little bit about potential development plans, databases, and the scenario that can make the new gender lock feel more planned and less like a pointless mistake.