I did actually sit down for the most recent live letter, which was only halfway intentional. It’s not like I didn’t want to hear about the next Final Fantasy XIV patch, mind you, it’s just that the lack of a translation makes the letters kind of tedious to sit through aside from the fact that Naoki Yoshida looks like he is having an absolutely wonderful time. That alone is always good to see.live-tweet the stuff that was going on during the letter, both for the purposes of people who wanted to read without watching (which includes me, but let’s not quibble) and for the purposes of taking notes to relate later in this very column. So now that we’ve gotten the letter out of the way and know the broad shape of what we’re looking forward to in patch 5.2, let’s move on and hit some of the highlights that stood out to me.
The dungeon count drops
I have no real thoughts on the new 5.2 dungeon other than being a bit surprised we’re back to Amaurot already; then again, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at all. No, most of my thoughts center around the announcement that our dungeon count is being scaled back once more, from seven to five.
Putting it out there like that, this isn’t really a major change. If the oldest/lowest-level dungeon is dropped regularly, we’ll lose Amaurot with this patch, the initial Expert dungeons with 5.3, and so forth, keeping at least a decently sized Expert roulette. If instead it’s a straight replacement then we have a two-dungeon roulette from now on, which is less than idea, but is also somewhat plausible. (I suspect the former.) By itself, this isn’t a dramatic shift.
At the same time, it does kind of indicate that we’re done with having hard mode dungeons show up, which is both understandable and a bummer. I’ve always liked the way that the game has created what amounts to entirely new dungeons from familiar pieces right on down the line, and it’s always struck me that one of the benefits of this approach is that you get to break up the temporal action of the expansion. Having hard mode dungeons back in Ishgard or Othard, for example, would serve as a way to break up the normal flow and remind you that the world is in motion even when you’re doing other stuff.
Some of this has also been presaged by the way that many dungeons have increasingly been tied directly into the story. There’s less space to make a Shisui of the Violet Tides (Hard) given that the place is normally a peaceful palace; you can’t revisit the wreckage of Doma Castle in a new, harder form.
More to the point, the amount of work needed for new Hard dungeons and for entirely new dungeons – or entirely new non-dungeon content – means that eventually something had to give. That being said… well, I’m not actually excited about the prospect of a third new trial in 5.2, whatever it might be? Trials are consistently the least rewarding and (to me) least interesting form of content that the game puts out. If that’s going to change, all well and good, but we need more than just supposition to bear that out.
So this is kind of not great news. It’s not devastating, when you look at the overall impact and changes on the game’s structure; it’s an evolution of a natural path, and while cutting down to one dungeon from the old days of three is significant, those days of three dungeons also lacked Deep Dungeons, normal-mode raids, Diadem, and whatever else is coming along in the future. But it’s still diminishing.
Our trials magnified
Finally, we know our trial series, and friends, I feel silly for not guessing this one. Obviously we were set up for more Weapons with the end of 5.1’s story, after all; Ultima Weapon didn’t originate in Final Fantasy VII, but that was the first game in which there were multiple things named as Weapons, and it’s very easy to read that boss Estinien fights as an introduction to this new set of Weapon types from the Empire.
It also makes sense as something to deal with now rather than later. Right now, the Empire’s power structure is in jumbled disarray; there’s no one at the wheel and yet these weapons are still there. Best to dismantle them now, before whomever is next to take control of Garlemald decides to deploy them against the front lines of the now-stalemated conflict in the Ghimlyt Dark.
I don’t have a lot more to say about the supposed “additional” trial that I didn’t say up above. Notably, though, we’re looking at three trials rather than four; that seems to me to indicate that whatever the extra one is will not be another thing in the vein of the Extreme trials. It may be another new story trial, although it feels early for that.
Eden is unshackled
So the preview for Eden makes it clear that Ramuh is pretty likely to be the capstone of the second string of Eden fights. The question is whether it’s going to follow the same format as the previous batch of fights or if we’re going to be moving through all of the four remaining elements now; both make sense in the context of the lore established up to this point, after all.
Since Eden itself has been the first boss of this series, it’s tempting to wonder if it might not be the final boss of the Eden series, and while it’s certainly possible for us to get another two elemental fights and two not-elemental fights, we need some mechanism for that happening. Gaia hasn’t yet appeared in more than passing form, but she definitely doesn’t seem as if she’ll be a recurring antagonist so much as an odd ally of sorts. I’d definitely believe it if we go through Ifrit, Shiva, Garuda, and Ramuh altogether in this sequence; then again, I’d also believe it if we have a couple more Final Fantasy VIII-inspired bosses to break up the sequence and wind up with just Ramuh and one other for this particular batch. One bit of speculation I saw was that Garuda and Ramuh are in this batch for weather, while Ifrit and Shiva arrive in the last group for temperature.
Regardless, it’s hard to draw many conclusions just yet beyond “Ramuh is going to be there.” I only hope his beard becomes even mightier.
Life’s what you make it
I don’t really want a Qitari quest line, exactly, or at least not as much as I want a proper Qiqirn one. Then again, I should just hush up and take my… gathering quests, I guess? I have to admit that this one is a surprise. Usually we get crafting and gathering quests later, but not this time, and even more notable is the fact that this tribe means we are under no obligations about what the third tribe will be or even if there will be one.
We’ve generally operated on the rules wherein the two new tribes get a quest, plus one existing or smaller tribe to fill out the crafting side. Here, though, we’ve not heard of the Qitari before now (and technically still haven’t heard of them in-game), and while they’re based on the Qiqirn they also break that rule wide open. That means our next tribe could be a familiar face from the Source that we haven’t yet seen in beast tribe quests, the Ondo, the Dwarves, the Mord… basically anyone. All we can rule out is that it’ll be in Il Mheg or (presumably) Rak’tika.
Heck, we can’t even be sure that there will be a third tribe! This kind of turned a lot of things on their head.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, while there’s a bit more space to speculate on this, for the moment I’d rather look forward to the year ahead since we already know quite a bit about it.