Well, that sure was a thing, huh? Another live letter in the books, and given the circumstances it’s a lot more understandable why Final Fantasy XIV didn’t have the whole thing in translated summaries ready to go right away, even as a lot of additional effort was put into translating the letter as it happened. Things that make you nod thoughtfully, and so on. But the important part is that the letter happened, and…
Why are we fighting the Exarch?!
To the surprise of absolutely no one, the final boss for the whole overarching Shadowbringers plot will be fought in patch 5.3, with the next two patches bridging the gap into the next expansion. All well and good. Concurrently, that means that we’re going to be wrapping things up, and the next trial boss is going to be a surprise… except it’s also quite obviously the Crystal Exarch.
“But the Exarch is on our side!” Yes, duh, that’s kind of the point. He’s the only one on the title artwork, which implies him already, and most of the other possibilities would be… well, not surprising. Having an Elidibus fight, for example, would at best be a rehash of Hades and at worst just feel perfunctory.
But even just from a narrative standpoint, fighting and beating Elidibus in any significant fashion would just mean that the story ends the exact same way it already went up to this point. The Exarch is the last figure on Norvrandt we have an emotional attachment to who has not yet reached an actual conclusion yet; we know who he is, but even he didn’t really envision himself living past the moment on Mt. Gulg. He is, in narrative terms, the one part of the plot that we have yet to tie a bow on.
So all that really leaves is the question of why we’re going to fight him. No matter what, it’s going to be tragic, simply because this is another figure who has been relentlessly on the same side as the player character who is going to need to oppose us for some reason.
My though is that this is going to have something to do with the whole hints about requiring a Crystal Tower clear for the MSQ; it’s definitely possible that this will end with some sort of more permanent link between the worlds, thus explaining why you would still be doing things on Norvrandt even with the Exarch now gone. (And we know that’s going to happen, since neither the YoRHa raids nor Eden will be finished until later patches.) But that’s still speculation at this point.
Yes, fighting the Exarch is also speculation, but I feel rather confident about it. If there’s one thing that can actually lead to a surprise situation, that’d be it. (Perhaps it will be Norvrandt’s newly Echo-enhanced heroes waging a war against the Exarch himself… that’d give another meaning to the Warriors of Darkness and the dungeon named “Heroes’ Gauntlet,” wouldnt it?)
We were all figuring the amusement park, and then as is the custom for this expansion, we got played. No, instead we’re investigating the heart of these androids, and if you thought this was going to play out broadly in the same strokes as NieR Automata you have now learned that’s not going to be the case at all. This makes no small amount of sense, given that the later areas there present their own problems for the game world.
At the same time, I don’t think this wholly precludes Simone or amusement park fragments; she’s an iconic boss, after all, and I’d be surprised if she didn’t get included in this overall run. But it also serves as a nod that we are not going to be precisely exploring the same territory as the game that inspired all of this running about. In fact, I think we may very well be sidestepping all of the big reveals from the game itself along the way. Anyone awaiting the big unveiling the game had about machines and androids, for example, should stop hoping.
To some extent, this makes sense since NieR Automata is still closer to being a current and active product than Final Fantasy Tactics, but it also begs the question of where Yoko Taro is actually going with this. Taro’s work always deals with heavy themes about existentialism, sense of self, and moral certitude. Sure, we all giggle at the thought he was told certain things could not be done in this particular content, but if you’re familiar with his other work you know that he still found space to explore.
In the broad strokes, this does explain something important about why 2P is on the ground and what is going on in the larger sense. Clearly, if the bunker is on the ground, we’re dealing with events well after the fall of the forces of YoRHa, which means that their conflict with the machines has ended one way or the other; that means the question is less who started the machines up again (since the end of the Copied Factory implies that’s down to 9S) but more what the ultimate purpose was. Surely it couldn’t be going after 2P herself, but…
Of course, this also makes speculation a bit more useless. We still don’t know how this integrates with what we do know about Ronka and Norvrandt, but it’s clear that we’re dealing with something that is a bit more subtle in many ways than what the Return to Ivalice series did. This isn’t just porting over the plot, this is… porting over more themes and ideas. And a wider mythology.
Yeah, this is officially more than enough.
To some extent, I get it. Heavensward as an expansion was full of Elezen and Au Ra, while Stormblood had Au Ra, Hyur, and Roegadyn with a dash of Miqo’te. We’ve not yet had an expansion wherein Lalafell were a major component of the NPCs we’ve interacted with, and Hrothgar and Viera weren’t a thing before this expansion, so it makes sense to have a lot of Dwarf interactions in this particular expansion.
But at a certain point you reach overload with a culture that only kind of has the one note, and Dwarves have hit that point by now. Tying them into the MSQ and half of the zone quests and the YoRHa raid and now here as well has left me with some notable fatigue. I’m not really jumping to get any additional content of the helmet beard fetish crowd. The novelty has well and truly worn off.
It doesn’t help that the Dwarves just really don’t seem to have much in the way of additional notes. Like, I keep waiting for the Dwarves to surprise me in some way, to have something new or some new insight, and yet… no, it’s still just the same gag. Maybe this line will prove me wrong, but at this point I am not tremendously hopeful. Ah, well.
Of course, there’s actually more to talk about with this for next week, and in this case I think I’ll do just that to talk about old-world changes and timeframes. For now, though, feel free to let me know what you think in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.