Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood in review – side stories, part two

    
4
Up.

If I’m being entirely honest, I could probably stretch this series out even further from having two columns on side stories in Final Fantasy XIV. There was a lot of storytelling going on in this expansion, and while not all of it was an unqualified hit, I feel like overall the side stories did a better job for this expansion. Plus, we didn’t have anything that was as senselessly bland and dumb as the Scholisticate, so that’s a nice bonus.

Still, in the interests of being done with this before we reach the launch of the expansion, I’m keeping it down to just two installments. That means I might miss some of the potential highlights; it’s just the nature of the beast. But at least this series doesn’t involve Cid hanging out, unlike both Omega and Ivalice! That guy doesn’t half get around during the story, huh? He needs a break. And counseling to deal with his boyfriend. Let’s move on.

The Four Lords

Again, why can't we get an Egi of this dude? That's not an overwhelming ask.Here’s the big failing of this particular line: it was set up as a series of trials, but instead of fighting all four lords and then the big bad they were sealing, we fight all four of them (one of them in a dungeon) and then the actual sealing happens in a cutscene. It’s kind of a letdown, especially when the Genbu encounter is fun but feels perfunctory compared to the stand-alone trials.

This having been said, the overall pattern of this content was paced out well. Clearly, the developers learned from the implementation of the Warring Triad, making this particular sequence a matter of not just fighting in trials but in exploring several sorts of content. There are a couple of arguable stumbles (the solo trial in the middle is overtuned) but the story largely hangs together, makes sense, and gives a believable feeling of dread without being tacked on.

It also manages the core issue of this series nicely. There was always going to be a sense that you were coming into this series of quests as an outsider, that you’re a late arrival to a bunch of established relationships. Rather than making that vague, it’s actually text here; the eponymous Four Lords don’t really trust you precisely because you’re an outsider. You are not their friend. You are a tool, and a tool that may or may not be reliable.

These aren’t my favorite stories from the expansion, but they work and they’re fun as a whole. I’d love to see the quartet themselves pop up again, or even just the lesser creatures within the sanctuary. It’s a neat idea, and it’s a worthy expansion of the lore in the game.

Class and job quests run the gamut

The smartest change made here for the expansion was that job quests are no longer required for every new ability. It’s just the last one, and the overall number of quests is decreased by one. You’d think that this would result in weaker stories, but in most cases it actually means that the job quests feel like a bonus and the overall pacing can be more freeform.

Seriously, it means a lot to me that, say, the entirety of the White Mage job quests takes place in the Fringes. The entire Machinist story is in and around Ishgard. There’s no need for everything to end in high-level areas from the expansion, and that means the story is content and able to explore logical progression from the current story arc rather than chasing the new regions.

In many places it also feels like long-running plots are reaching a proper resolution, which seems fitting given the destination for 5.0. We finally wrap up the Gladiator storyline that was left on something of a cliffhanger, for example. The Ninja story reaches its endpoint. All of it feels like we’re taking a break from the NPCs we’ve gotten to know during the prior portions of the game, perhaps presaging the different sort of experiences we’ll have in the First.

There are weaker links in the chain, sadly, but on a whole I think we had a good batch of class quests that bring the stories of these jobs to a satisfying conclusion. And if we never get to see our old trainers again, well, that’s all right; it feels like this is where we grow into something new anyhow.

Let's put things back together.

Rebuilding Doma, one brick at a time

I really hadn’t expected what amounts to unlocking Better Vendor to become a whole thing, but here we are. The process may have been a little stilted at times, but I honestly found this particular storyline to be a pointedly moving one, and watching the enclave go from being a collection of burnt-out husks into a functional locale was a real joy. It’s a shame that it doesn’t show up like that for everyone, although I suppose from a technical standpoint that might encounter issues.

The biggest thing that struck me about this particular sequence was that it focused on a very different side of rebuilding. The infrastructure of Ala Mhigo was still largely in working order, and the revolution was about taking back the land and fixing the government. Doma, though, was all but eradicated as anything but a satellite of the Empire; it didn’t just need to rebuild its internal government and alliances, it needed to rebuild the very core of a society that had been under Garlean rule for ages.

This line focused on finding a path to do just that. And it was touching in many places, giving us a look at how the society worked and people coming together to provide for brighter times. I really enjoyed it and suspect I’ll come back to it on alts just for the heck of it, even if the gil rewards aren’t enormous.

Eureka and other sidelines

Finally, this is a thing.Eureka, as a story, is both interesting and annoying. I like the ground that it covered, but I don’t think that this material was best covered here; then again, part of the problem with that was that a lot of people clocked out of Eureka fairly early, which meant that for some players it may as well have not existed. I think it’s a better fit here than the Binding Coil of Bahamut story was for that loose thread, let’s put it that way.

Regardless, it’s another explanation of vague stuff that happened in the background a while back, and while I’m not entirely fond of the way it was told I think it’s an interesting deviation. That seems like a good enough place to leave it.

Of course, we also had a bunch of other side stories in varying depth as well; for example, we only had two hard mode dungeons in the form of the Arboretum and Fractal Continuum, but both of those continued on plotlines from elsewhere and wound up answering some lingering questions. Heaven-on-High tied back in to the Allagans in a way that still leaves questions. Heck, there was even an effort to tell a story through a series of FATEs, odd as that sounds to type!

As a whole, I think this expansion had some side stories that didn’t land well, but as a whole it worked out well. The best of it easily reached the heights of Heavensward, and the worst still managed to stay clear of the worst of Heavensward. A good improvement across the board, then.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next time, let’s start in on content with leveling! Yes, we’re following that same line as the previous expansion-in-review practice.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
bereman99
Reader
bereman99

we didn’t have anything that was as senselessly bland and dumb as the Scholisticate

Bland I can understand – character arcs based around the fall out of political changes are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

But dumb? What’s dumb about showing the inner workings of an important part of the political organization in Ishgard through a mystery involving students in what is supposed to be the premier theological school and one of the main mechanisms through which they’ve exerted control over the populace, while also breaking down the walls that they’ve hidden their truths behind?

Honestly, that kind of pulling back of the curtain on political elements and ramifications is largely missing from Stormblood, and really could have used it.

Reader
cursedseishi

I didn’t have any major issues with the Scholisticate myself, but at the same time…? Yeah, it’s definitely interesting to watch the fallout from the political shifts taking place, but there were some definite rough edges to the questline as a whole. It was nice that House Dzemael wasn’t the obligatory ‘bad guys’ in it like literally every other quest in the 50-60 zones treats them as… But there were some dumb, if minor, bits just throughout how its handled.

Then again, the questline as a whole ended up being rather forgettable for me too. Heavensward had some really strong highs for me, but that also tended to swing hard one way or the other, and the Scholisticate line ends up falling into the swing towards bad for me.

bereman99
Reader
bereman99

Forgettable and bland (for some) are both different than “dumb” though.

Dumb is pulling plot elements out of no where just for the convenience of moving the plot forward, it’s taking established characters and having them do something out of character with no build up, things like that.

The only thing that could really be considered dumb about it was spreading the pacing of it out over multiple patches the way they did – it flows better when played all at once…but then again, how many of the other side stories and even the MSQ suffer from that same issue at times?

The criticism in the article reads more like “I didn’t like it and that means its dumb and that means its good we didn’t get anything else like it this time” and that just feels out of place with the more considered comments regarding the rest of the side stories.

Reader
cursedseishi

If we’re lucky, we could always get an “Ultimate” styled bit of content for the Four Lords story, and that could always include us having to deal with the Big Bad as a result. The pacing of the updates though for it was already off kilter unfortunately, and it was becoming increasingly obvious that there just wouldn’t be time to actually ‘fight’ this big evil thing. Which sucks because, hey, we don’t actually get to fight anything for the conclusion… But, that’s also nice. Because… hey, we don’t have to fight something to conclude its story. We helped things line up, we brought the necessary pieces together… but after you beat the last of the Big Four, we’re essentially useless.

So I could see an ‘Ultimate’ battle where we need to go through Byakku, Seiryu, Suzaku, and then a proper big fight with Genbu. The four gather then to seal Koryu, but the fighting had left the four drained and the big bad breaks free. And because these ultimate fights love tapping the other boss mechanics, Big Bad could always manipulate the four lords aramitama and we have to contend with it–gradually stripping said aramitama and purifying it to return to the four lords, leading to the others growing more focused and stronger for the boss to use. It could be similar to the Sunken Temple hard mode’s first boss, where you target parts rather than the boss itself, since we’ve not seen that mechanic pop up all that often, Shinryu and Rathalos being the only ones off the top of my head come close. Also leaves it open for achievement variety aside from simply beating the boss, like finishing the raid four times, each by ending with a different lord as the final kill or the like.

Eureka is… bleh. I’ve enjoyed doing the artifact weapons for my main, and honestly the way Eureka seems to drop it midway through for another random weapon just turns me off from it. It’s nice that they give you a way to keep your initial class gear relevant and all, but some of the weapons are just… ugly. And I haven’t thought that of the previous two relic weapon lines. Especially in the first zone, the fact you have to wait til you’re already just about completely done with the area before you get access to your Chocobo is ridiculous. If you’re on a populated instance it might not be so bad, but I’ve had a few stinkers where there was barely enough to do even the basic level NMs that pop up and chat was unresponsive. Having to run and risk dying in an instance where nobody is answering or around and subsequently losing a levels worth of xp is a bummer. I know they wanted to move away from the previous method of progressing your relics, and its great they included the armor in with the weapons too… But, please Square not again alright?