Eden was… this week, wasn’t it? It’s really hard to keep track sometimes. Like, sure, intellectually I’m well aware that Eden launched in Final Fantasy XIV with the most recent patch, which is less than a week old, but I also cleared the whole thing on the first day and have thus already had enough time to internalize and get accustomed to its presence that it feels longer. Heck, with the sheer volume of things to level and projects to work through it’s easy to have had so much to do that my inherent reaction is “who can remember that, I’ve been working on leveling and that’s not even halfway done yet; can I even reach the halfway point before a month is up?”
Sing a story of the ending
I had some predictions about where we’d be going with the story of Eden ahead of time, but as before, it seems as if the story at this point has raised more questions than were answered. Eden is hardly the first of the Sin Eaters, nor is it really tied to them, but there’s also something interesting going on with the way that it seems to have been responsible for the cessation of the flow of aether in the larger world. In other words, it seems to be the herald of the Flood of Light, but we also still don’t know everything that we would perhaps like to know about the causes behind the Flood of Light.
As we’ve seen so far, Eden doesn’t appear to actually have much in the way of a will. It’s a reservoir, a repository, like it was just storing everything up to be used later. This raises further questions vis-a-vis the Ascians and the very nature of what we’ve been doing on the First, questions that will no doubt be answered… oh, around the time that patch 5.4 rolls around and we get the end of this particular series. I don’t want to call it predictable, but the whole point of having these mysteries set up is that we don’t know the answers and can’t wholly figure them out yet.
Equally interesting is the set of story conceits going into this series. We start off not just with the obvious MSQ victory under our belt, but with two pretty major wins kicking off Eden. By taking control of it and then successfully proving that the initial plan behind its mechanics can work, we’ve already got a template for restoring the remaining four elements, even though it’s obvious just from story structure that there’ll be more than that before all is said and done.
I have to admit, though, part of me was really thinking that Nero was going to show up right at the end there. Just for the absurdity of it.
Of course, that also ties into the big unanswered question of the end of the MSQ. We have a lot of places we can go at this point, and that’s excellent, but it also means that we’re stuck in a place wherein any given direction feels plausible. I suspect that a big chunk of what we’ll see with Eden is tied into that… and I also suspect that Eden has more to do with dimension-hopping than has been heretofore revealed. Just a hunch.
Fighting the inverse
Here’s the part of the raid that still tickles me immensely. Normally, the normal raid series involves fighting your way past a whole bunch of lesser bosses leading up to the fight against the eponymous source. Fight your way through the whole Coil of Bahamut to fight Bahamut Prime. Fight your way through Alexander and fight Alexander Prime. Here, though, the very first fight is… Eden Prime. There’s something oddly satisfying about defying expectations there.
Not that we can’t still wind up fighting Eden again to cap things off, of course; let’s not forget that we fought Omega twice in a row to end that series. It’s just amusing.
On a mechanical side, the fights for this particular series all seemed to be an experiment in a weird way. Specifically, the goal seemed to be to see whether or not the game could still deliver fights with comprehensible mechanics (especially of the sort that you can figure out after a blind run) while still delivering new ones. Every single fight delivers something new in that regard. Eden Prime’s slow-and-root patches are new, and they need to be dealt with differently, as is the instant-death arena wall. Voidwalker’s delayed spellcasting is new.
Arena changes are nothing new, but Leviathan Prime plays with it in new ways, and it also delivers some new stuff with player-centered knockback effects. Titan is also playing with knockback and the grid layout in weird ways. And all of them are clearly experimenting with the very idea of phase changes; there are clear changes between the different portions of the fight, but there’s no point in which you’re trying to avoid dying to the Big Wipe Mechanic, so to speak.
Are all of these experiments successful? Well, my favorite mechanic of the bunch seems to be the one that people seem to screw up the most with Voidwalker’s delayed casts, so I don’t know if that’s as much of a success; in all honesty, it does have the obvious issue of forcing people to remember AoE markers instead of knowing and predicting. But the fights all feel fresh and different along the way. Sure, the Titan-car thing is a little weird, but it’s the good sort of weird.
I also do appreciate that each of the “familiar” fights still feel like an homage to the originals while being novel, and putting Titan as the capstone feels appropriate. Newer players might not really know how brutal that fight was back in the day, much less the way that it was eminently possible to fail hard on that fight as well as Garuda and Ifrit. For all that these raids have elements of nostalgia, it’s telling that the nostalgia at play here is still very real… for FFXIV itself. This is how you leverage your game’s own history six years later, making the old endgame into the new endgame without just recycling the same ideas.
And you know, I like it. The fights don’t feel instant-kill heavy or overloaded, but neither do they feel too difficult. Once you figure out what you’re supposed to be doing, they’re pretty straightforward and comprehensible, and it feels like any given mechanic that’s a bit too lethal is also one that you personally keep making mistakes through. I like where this is pegged in terms of challenge, and I look forward to the next wave of fights in, oh, half a year or so.
Now, is Garuda going to transform into an airplane, a train, or a boat? I’m hoping for boat.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time around, I want to actually address that whole “things we probably won’t learn more about which I want to learn more about” bit that I had planned earlier.