Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV patch 5.1 in review, part 1

    
11
Whee!

I always think I can get these patch-in-review things done in one column. That never turns out to be the case. This time, though, I’m not even pretending; there’s a lot on my mind for the latest Final Fantasy XIV patch, there will no doubt be more when the rest of it arrives, and unless this column was going to just be two words it would naturally not be able to quite cover everything. So I’m just anticipating two columns ahead of time.

Those two words, of course, would be “it’s good.” There’s a lot to like in this patch, and not much that really struck me as negative, even if elements like the crafting rework are going to take a fair amount of time to get accustomed to if you’ve never crafted in any serious capacity before. With that in mind, let’s start in on the part that I was the most concerned about – and it’s not the MSQ.

Even if our words seem meaningless.

On second thought, this can continue

Basically every problem I had with the Ivalice series of raids has been addressed and dealt with for the NieR: Automata raid, at least with this first installment. Where those raids felt overdesigned, overtuned, and generally unapproachable right from the start, this one was a joy going in blind on the very first night and has only risen in my estimation subsequently.

Some of this comes down to visual design. The feeling of slowly descending into the basin where the Copied Factory appears to be built conjures a real sense of geography even as it distorts what seems like should be happening. The melange of imagery and allusions feel compelling and disorienting as you move further in, as well; the white dust everywhere for the last two fights have a specific meaning if you’re familiar with NieR, another meaning for Norvrandt, and a combined sense of dread even when not much is happening. And, of course, it captures that perfect look of rust and decay amidst things that once had a purpose but have long since been forgotten.

But a lot of this was always going to be down to the fights. And here it feels like the influence of Taro’s other games resulted in fights that feel appropriately big and immersive and challenging without ever feeling like they’re constant ticking clocks or hard failure points. Even as my party had our first (totally blind) run, it felt like the vast majority of failures could be recovered from.

The ubiquitous orbs of death had several implementations, but they always worked as things big enough to see and predict even if their hitboxes weren’t always entirely clear. And they kept being deployed in different but interesting ways, creating moving hazards in a way that you don’t tend to see all that often. Really, these were fights about testing situational awareness, but not by anticipating everything; there’s stuff to watch, but you generally get told that right away. If you tend to watch the boss and not the map around you, you’ll run into trouble, but otherwise most things are thoroughly forecast.

And the story, too, was excellent. It feels ominous and like you’re not being told everything, but it also isn’t afraid to be silly and weird along the way, thus hitting just the right tone for its beats. Extra touches like the data collection and the subsequent exploration or the little hidden bonus rooms just make it more fun.

In short, I love it. The music, the design, the mechanics, the everything. This was easily a high-water mark for Alliance Raid design, and I can’t wait to see what the next part looks like even as I look forward to replaying this one for the next few months.

Oh, COME ON, what did that accomplish?

We need allies

By contrast, I’m… not really over the moon about the MSQ, which I think was inevitable, but is still a little disappointing, all things considered.

This does not extend to the dungeon; the brooms on the first boss are a touch hard to dodge and the Mortal Flames mechanic on the last one is a bit less clear than perhaps it should be, but those are very minor criticisms of what is overall a really fun dungeon that genuinely features new mechanics. Each boss really pushes to do things in new ways, and that’s a lot of fun. No, the only problem with the MSQ is that it’s very clearly building something new after a very natural-feeling climax, which means that its primary purpose seems to be bookkeeping rather than direct continuation.

Ironically, the part of it that I found the most satisfying was the conclusion of what happened in Garlemald after our little cutaways during the 5.0 MSQ, which resolves in a satisfying and weird fashion while also leaving us ripe for more story developments there. It still leaves the next major push an open question, but I feel like the thunderbolts are starting to align naturally.

On the First, meanwhile… well, we know the big problem there we have to deal with, but it doesn’t really seem to introduce any new problems and mostly sorts out the sort of problems you might have been previously worried about because of bookends. Oh, right, what happened to the patients in Amh Araeng? Gee, we never did fully resolve the Eulmore plot, huh? There’s no sense that these are problems that will continue to be front and center so much as making sure that any dangling threads are tied off in nice little bows.

Yes, this was a bit inevitable. But that doesn’t make this patch story any less of a matter of going through the motions. Setting things up for the future? Sure, I can dig that, but better storytelling tomorrow doesn’t make boring story beats today more exciting; it just means the payoff is worth it.

We also like making you get dumb things!

Monkey Gone to Heaven

The pixies as a reputation line featured the same problem that pixies have always had, namely taking something that’s inherently (and intentionally) a bit silly but also horrific and straddling that line. This is difficult. You have to hit the right blend between subtle threats, overt dangers, and weird silliness… while also giving the whole thing stakes that feel like they actually matter to people other than the pixies. Oh, and all of this has to happen against the backdrop of the post-Shadowbringers reality.

Fortunately, this one works out all right because the writers really do know how to write the fair folk. This especially comes across in the individual daily quests; the pixies aren’t ever threatening you as far as they see it, but there’s always that added stinger of “maybe you could stay forever” with various hints of what pixies tend to do to people they like. They’re one part lonely children and one part eldritch horror, and their joy is every bit as dangerous as their anger.

It also works well as an aftermath quest for the post-MSQ world. The pixies aren’t precisely invaders, but Voeburt’s ruins did have other residents, and they aren’t safe for most of the world… but at the same time, their more terrifying impulses can be corralled and directed in positive ways. And heck, the dailies let you build a playground you can actually play within. It’s a delight.

Of course, I do wonder where we’ll go for other reputation quests from here, seeing as the fuath, nu mou, and amaro are kind of off the table with this… but why focus on that? Let’s enjoy the nice dream.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, let’s talk about redesigns for crafting and Ninja as we wrap things up and (probably) get ready for 5.11, which has more stuff. At least there’s no shortage of discussion topics.

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.

11
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Danny Smith

The more we see of folks like the Chais the more it feels like The First isn’t going to be like Dreanor in WoW and never referenced again once the vacations over. I can see it being like when we pop back to ishgard to see amyeric or something.

I imagine having a copy of the world that hasn’t been through a bunch of calamities might also be useful once eden balances out the empty. I doubt Amourotte was the only thing waiting beyond the walls of civilisation that we could look for for info about the Terminus which Zenos totally isn’t going to trigger all over again, nope, no way.

Reader
styopa

“They’re one part lonely children and one part eldritch horror”
No, they’re BOTH parts lonely children. Lonely, colossally powerful children.
Dunno if you have any, but really small children are frankly egoistic sociopaths. There’s no remorse (just regret/anger at being deterred, or regret at being punished).

Very…pixielike.

Bereman
Reader
Bereman

On the First, meanwhile… well, we know the big problem there we have to deal with, but it doesn’t really seem to introduce any new problems and mostly sorts out the sort of problems you might have been previously worried about because of bookends. Oh, right, what happened to the patients in Amh Araeng? Gee, we never did fully resolve the Eulmore plot, huh? There’s no sense that these are problems that will continue to be front and center so much as making sure that any dangling threads are tied off in nice little bows.

For the plot in Eulmore, I wholeheartedly agree – that was a dangling thread being tied up in a nice little bow.

The patients in Amh Araeng, though? That’s an interesting one – the patients that we are checking up on and their particular set of troubles may be more of dealing with some dangling threads…

But…the developments there might prove to be among the most important going forward (not necessarily the most important, but it’s significant stuff), even if the actual characters (and one in particular) there aren’t actively part of the plot for more than a couple more patches

More detailed spoilers below:

Spoiler
So yeah. Tempering might be curable. Similar to the way those who became Sin Eaters had their aether shifted toward the astral/Light until it became stilled to the point that they were molded, transformed, and controlled by the Lightwardens…tempering is apparently a similar process, but with that individuals aether shifted toward the aether (or the aether they can control) of the primal that tempered them. We’ve even seen evidence of this before – the transformation of the Drowned, which is a result of being subjected to too much of Leviathan’s water aspected aether.

So the spell that Alisaie learns allows her to help shift aether into Halric, as a means toward essentially rebalancing his aether…and she notes how she knows of at least one individual who shares some of the same symptoms (Ga Bu…also I believe the first time they confirm that he’s been tempered and not just traumatized) but has aether shifted toward earth.

So if this can work for Halric…a similar rebalancing could work for Ga Bu and potentially others that have been tempered.

That’s a potentially pretty big deal…not necessarily just because of what it means for issues with primals and such back on Eorzea, but because of what we’ve learned regarding the truth of Zodiark and Hydaelyn, and their existence as primals. It could very well be the kind of thing that very much factors into later “big damn hero moment” style confrontations.

And of course there’s also how the whole situation directly impacts the research our friends the Scions are doing into how to move their souls back to the First, and how figuring out how to “still” the aether through a similar spell but in reverse is now part of the plot moving forward…along with the additional major problem introduced, namely that as it currently stands they can only reliably move either the mind or the soul into the auracite, so their current solution would leave them either bereft of their souls or their minds and memories and everything that makes them who they are in the current time (also a pretty interesting confirmation that the aether that makes up the mind or the pscyhe and the aether that makes up the soul are two separate things…I believe they call the former part of the corporeal aether and the latter incorporeal aether).

So yeah, less spoilery summary – it feels like we’ve got the usual x.1 patch stuff where a number of dangling threads are dealt with as part of the main thrust of the patch, and depending on how you feel about those groups it’s either really nice/sweet or good to see, or just is kind of there…

But it’s also got that x.1 patch element where it seeds major plot points that are gonna grow for a bit.

2.1 had the first reveal of how primals weren’t necessarily the actual souls of deities summoned by their worshipers. That truth led to learning how primals are basically constructs based on belief and something to power that belief and give it form…which has had numerous impacts throughout the narrative, and if you’ve played Shadowbringers, you know one of its biggest elements.

3.1 formally introduced the Warriors of Darkness – Ardbert and his crew (going by his self-admittedly daft alias of Arbert, as I recall). Another plot seed grown into something really solid.

4.1 didn’t really plant its seed until I believe the stinger scenes near the end, but it was when we first learned we weren’t quite done with Zenos.

And now 5.1 has almost certainly seeded this almost certainly very important piece of later plot, right in the midst of dealing with some dangling threads (and teasing the resolution of a plot element introduced back at level 20 when you first faced Ifrit).

So for me at least this patch has done some surprisingly heavy lifting and honestly has me looking more forward to the next patch than any x.1 patch before it.

And finally, regarding Copied Factory…I love the fights, I love the music, I love the aesthetic…if I have but one complaint, it’s that I keep losing the minion or the outfit box by just a single point on most of my runs. It might be the only place where I feel my heart sink a bit when I roll a 98 instead of a 99.

Nephele
Reader
Nephele

I enjoyed the Copied Factory, but I guess where you saw the Ivalice raids as being over-tuned, I felt like they were actually appropriately challenging. Overall, I found the individal fights in all three of those raids to be more unique and memorable than the fights in CF. I will say I appreciated the new mechanics in CF, and I’m definitely a fan of Nier:Automata in general, so it’s not like I hate it. It’s just that they all feel very similar to each other. There’s also a lot of reliance on simply learning the patterns of where to stand and not stand, which isn’t anything very new to FFXIV in general. I contrast this with a fight like Diabolos in Dun Scaithe however, or even Hades in the MSQ, and feel like the challenge level for the factory could have been better.

That said, my big problem with CF isn’t necessarily the challenge but the way they piled loot into it. I live on the west coast of the US, and I don’t generally take patch days off from the rest of my life, so I didn’t make it on until early evening. By the time I got into the raid for my first “blind” run, over half of the people there had run the thing 3 or 4 times already that day. They were all trying for the 2B crates and the loot, of course, but as a result, those of us who were new to the fights and the instance were more often than not being dragged a long by a bunch of people who just wanted to get to the end as fast as possible. I can only imagine how bad it’s going to be in a week, when most of the people queuing will outright assume that everyone has done all of this before and knows how everything works.

This is hardly a problem unique to alliance raids and it’s as much an issue with players as it is with the game design, but for people who take the content at a slower pace, it can result in some really negative experiences. It bothers me when I see new content built in a way that contributes to that.

My other comments are on the crafting changes. Being really honest here – I’ve been crafting since I started playing in 2.0, and it’s a part of the game I have always really enjoyed. Did it need some changes? Absolutely. Through Stormblood and then Shadowbringers, crafting had gotten out of hand with the number of abilities and the way the numbers worked. It was too easy to brute force recipes, too easy to just run a macro and guarantee high quality every time, on everything, and at the same time it was also so complicated that a new person practically had to go find a macro because trying to figure it out on your own, especially if you’d leveled up fast, was a quick way to get a migraine.

So, change was needed. But what we got? Honestly, I’m not really happy with it at all. Sure, it got rid of extraneous crafting actions and took us further back towards the basics than we’ve seen since Heavensward. But by changing the success chance to 100% on almost every action, the changes also sucked all of the risk, and thus all of the challenge, out of crafting. Sure, there were ways to bypass that risk before, but it was still there. Now it’s simply gone. And as a result? It’s just…boring.

I might be in the minority – in fact I probably am – but I remember when I first got my Lucent tools all those years ago, and how much of an achievement that was, because it was HARD. I had really missed that feeling of achievement over the past 20 levels of crafting and I had hoped these changes would get us back closer to that. Sadly, it seems like that’s not to be.

I really like FFXIV and many aspects of its design, but as it’s continued down the road of making all of its regular content and gameplay simpler, more streamlined, faster, and honestly easier, I find myself playing it less and less. Though to be fair, Square Enix is hardly the only publisher embracing that trend too.

Anyway just my opinion, but I really wish they had done something other than what they did with the crafting stuff. It’s made the game less fun for me others like me.

Staff
Kickstarter Donor
Chris Neal

I kind of expected there would be some loose end tying with this patch, and most of it was pretty sleepy up until Dulla-Chai’s ultrahug.

And then the ither stuff happened and now I am intensely curious what happens next.

Reader
Shadex De'Marr

They fix SCH yet? No? OK, see you next patch.

Reader
Vincent Clark

SCH isn’t broken, so why fix it? :)

Reader
Krista Allen

SCH is a healing power house. High skill floor though, maybe play WHM 😏

Reader
Ruby Lancer

I’m not sure if I want to say the Nier raid is undertuned or not in the long run. I guess it would depend on how easy it will be to run in future weeks and the like, as the player base as a whole (hopefully) gets better. The first and third bosses didn’t really feel like they were true bosses. Mechanically they were fine really, but it kind of felt like… they were just placed there because something needed to be there I guess? It could just be my overall unfamiliarity with Nier as a whole.

The MSQ did fine for the most part. Yeah, we were doing the wrap up thing in most cases, though the patients still have a bit more to go I think. With the trio of reveals that we got there though… Four if you count the fight… I suspect the next step for the MSQ between us checking up on the progress of getting our friends home is to be following up on some rumors.

I don’t see Elidibus doing anything on the First, or any of the other shards now for that matter, as long as the WoL is still a threat. Like, he might go to the First just to try and deal with us, but any plans for further Rejoinings are most likely on hold now.

I’m still working on the Pixie Tribe as a whole for the story, but I do like how they’re very clear about the events that happened prior to the start of it, but everything after a hard point is in a nebulous state of “They won’t mention it because it would require MSQ progress that you might not have.”

As for future Beast Tribes… we are -very- limited in what we’ve got on the First. I don’t see the Fauth being a potential source as it is, given their personalities (though the team can prove me wrong if they want), and the Amaro I also don’t see any potential hooks there either.

The Nu Mou maybe, but mostly because we have that one group of them in Il Mheg that is hostile. Outside of the fantastical kingdom, we are basically limited to the First versions of Beast Tribes we’ve already dealt with (though in some cases the Pixies are kind of like the First’s version of Sylphs.) We have the Mords and the Ondos here, being the Kobold and Sahagin proxies on the First, with the Ondos also having a more hostile faction that… doesn’t get poked at in the MSQ really, just Fates and a Hunt.

And while the Dwarves were introduced to us as a Beast Tribe, I’m kind of wondering how much of that was just the team playing around. Still, they are a potential one.

Of course, they still also haven’t given us any clues or insights as to what we’ll be doing for Relic gear grinds. I kind of hope they do soon and get us started on it, otherwise it might feel a bit too rushed and all.

Bereman
Reader
Bereman

I don’t see Elidibus doing anything on the First, or any of the other shards now for that matter, as long as the WoL is still a threat.

I don’t know how directly involved he might get on the First, but based on his comments during the post-credit scenes at the end of 5.0 he wants to keep us and the Scions engaged with dealing with issues there for as long as possible – keeping us out of the way on the Source essentially.

So he may not show up directly (being the last of the unsundered Ascians I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s more cautious than usual – even for him – for a while, though Zenos could do something that forces his hand regarding becoming more directly involved, what with Zenos’ place as a wildcard in the story right now), but I fully expect that his plans will involve the First.

So he’ll likely be doing things on the First, just by proxy.