The funny thing about big Final Fantasy XIV patches these days is that because the smaller material gets a bit more spread out, we also wind up not really being done with the patch until a while later. However, it does mean that the big rush of content can be discussed all at once, and there is certainly a lot of material to discuss with this particular patch. All of that MSQ stuff didn’t just evaporate when the dungeon was done, after all.
What’s the Elidibus agenda?
At the launch of the game, there were three Source Ascians – Elidibus, Lahabrea, and Emet-Selch. All three of them had different approaches to dealing with the Warrior of Light and the Scions. Lahabrea was all about brute force and crushing things, knocking us down along with the rest of the world. He didn’t care about subtlety, really. Meanwhile, Emet-Selch made it clear that his goal was more to see if we were, actually, worth the bother of recruiting; my personal suspicion is that Emet-Selch wanted to see if absorbing all those Lightwardens might forge an Ascian, since that would have long-term implications.
Now we’re left with Elidibus. And he clearly has his own way of doing things… but for the Ascian who has always been most willing to converse with his enemies, it’s not immediately clear what he’s trying to do, just like it’s not quite clear how his nature can be so different from his connection with Zodiark.
The obvious thing to assume is that Elidibus is, in some way, less of an individual and more of a manifestation of Zodiark; that would somewhat be borne out by the fact that he has always been visibly separate from the other Ascians. But I feel like it’s also too easy, and it implies a state of separation between him and his fellows that we just don’t see in the actual game. Obviously, this is something we’re more likely going to see more of over time.
But what is he doing? Based on usual history, 5.3 will wrap up the bulk of the action on Norvrandt and mark the point when we start turning to the prelude for our next expansion. (Indeed, the coda for the Eden series pretty strongly implies this, since it’s writing Urianger and Thancred out of the story ahead of the next installments in 5.4.) That means whatever he has planned with the awakening of so many would-be Warriors of Light has to be resolved soon.
However… the key word there is resolved, not solved. We need to feel like there’s nothing more to do on the First, and I can see three possible reasons at work here.
The first option is that Elidibus is dealing with us by, functionally, ignoring us. Yes, we’ve set back the efforts for a Rejoining, and it’ll take another few centuries to put things back on track. But Ascians think in terms of centuries. Starting up a new path to a Rejoining would explain it, but it does slightly suffer from the fact that it’s kind of narratively unsatisfying to have this big scheme turn out to be nothing we have to cope with.
Our second option? Elidibus isn’t preparing for an eventual rejoining, he’s stepping up the timetable and preparing for all the rejoinings. Of the 13 Ascians, four are gone, and while two of them were very important Elidibus could easily plan to use this as a way of recovering bodies for the other eight members of his group if needed. That would make for a good path to ramp up tensions ahead of the next expansion, although we’d need some explanation of how he can speed up everything across the remaining worlds.
The last option? Well, if there’s going to be some connection between Norvrandt and the Source open permanently – which has been speculated – having that many would-be Warriors of Light around could incite all sorts of incidents. It’s possible that this is a bit of planning wherein we know the plan but don’t yet have the means to know how the impact could shake out; just because it seems as if it should be obvious doesn’t mean it is.
Restoration of Balance
So the elements are back in balance in the Empty, and things are happening again. I honestly didn’t figure on this happening this quickly, or at least figured there’d be a more obvious falsehood to the high first, like everyone wasn’t just walking off for happy times after Shiva was taken out. But no, it appears that we’ve cleared the stage and can move on entirely to focusing on Gaia for the final stretch.
This bit, uh… doesn’t entirely work, honestly.
I’m reluctant to call it out abjectly as not working this early, obviously, since we still have one more major installment in the wings. But while I definitely agree with people who have mentioned that Gaia is likely if not certain to wind up in an Ultimecia-esque role for the finale, I think we also have to reckon with the fact that the story is telling two very separate parts. On the one hand, there’s Eden and the restoration of the Empty, and on the other hand we have Gaia, the Oracle of Darkness, and whatever that is all about.
This particular installment is basically all about the former and only lightly intersecting with the latter. Indeed, the main reason for Gaia being so present now is she basically barely appeared in the first installment, and we need time to build up parasocial bonds with her and care about the things that happen to her and Ryne in the final section.
That’s fine, but it also speaks to the problem that these two stories don’t seem to have any thematic cohesion at this point. There’s not a parallel between “restoring the dead world” and “figuring out Gaia’s deal to facilitate Ryne’s ongoing emotional development.” The fact that there’s not more obvious connection between the two makes this installment not bad exactly, but it suffers a bit insofar as the Eden arc has now basically ended. Seriously, it contains all the beats you need for a complete arc… except we know it hasn’t.
Gaia herself is portrayed well enough, a portrait of what happened to the youth of Eulmore being both denied a future or the hope of changing that. Her interplay with Ryne works well, and I’m interested to see how they do wrap up her story. But at least right now, it feels like that’s a very different story from the one being played up from the beginning.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week? Let’s talk about where we’re going next and how it fits into the overall pattern of the gameplay. (And also feel free to let me know how you feel about this particular splitting of the column’s contents; I feel it worked out well, but I love hearing reader feedback about these changes.)