So originally, this column was going to involve a fair amount of speculation regarding some ambiguous phrasings and translations of timing for the next Final Fantasy XIV patch. Then the digest came out and actually clarified it quite well. A month is expected, more is possible but as of yet not confirmed, based off of the original schedule. So at this point, well… expect July, as you already should have. It’s a bit off, but not by leaps and bounds. And there’s not much to be done about it, is there?
First and foremost… the reality of the old zones allowing flight is still kind of amazing to me. I can think of one other game that has done something similar, and while that took a not altogether different span of time, the consequences for bringing that flight were… well, you can do your own Thanos-from-Infinity-War meme here, if you’d like. (Bonus points if you drop that in the comments.) It’s a pretty big change… and also a kind of tiny one, since while it’s not impossible or even all that unlikely that some of our quests in 5.4 and 5.5 will bring us back to older maps, these maps were designed to be navigable on the ground and thus we’ll be shaving off only a certain amount of time.
Still… it’s a change. It’s a notable one. And as many people have noted many time, it’s indicative of one of the basic philosophies of FFXIV, that the game is meant to encourage you to engage with older content and that nothing is ever meant to be altogether obsoleted.
Heck, as much as I disliked and still am not a huge fan of including the Hard versions of Ifrit, Garuda, and Titan in the mandatory duties to clear for the 2.x series, I think it’s the right decision to teach people what Trials are like. Similarly, I think there’s a certain wisdom in having the Crystal Tower be mandatory, especially if there are people who either have never done an Alliance Raid or think that they’re still… well, what they were at the initial launch.
If you don’t remember the content from pre-Stormblood, just trust me, there was a time when Labyrinth of the Ancients was hard. Heck, there was a time when even Void Ark was difficult. (Syrcus Tower not so much. Even when it was current.)
And, of course, this is also coming along with some changes to the main scenario questline. This makes sense because while I don’t think this is the change that will make you like the game if you’ve never liked it before, it is indicative of how much the team had to learn about designing the main scenario.
There’s something that isn’t really discussed about the 2.x series in general, and that’s the simple reality that it was the team learning on its feet. The original 2.0 launch story had to introduce the world of FFXIV to new players. It also had to catch people up on the original story of 1.0 because even if 1.0 was no longer accessible you still needed the broad plot outlines. It also had to guide you through the world, a world that was not really designed to have a smooth contiguous flow… oh, and it also had to introduce a lot of characters, some of whom wouldn’t actually be relevant for years.
Oh, and keep in mind that the models FFXIV had to use for how to do this were all not very good at it or not great models to take from, to boot. And then when the patches hit you have to address criticisms about those quests while also providing enough story to finish off the old world story and set up this expansion and future ones. While you’re still figuring out how to do this in the first place.
Sounds easy enough, right?
None of this is to say that the 2.x story is really all that good. Really, it manages to be acceptable based on all of those requirements, but it never reaches a level that I would call “good” until the very last moments, and even then it’s mostly because that’s when the story finally seems unafraid of being shocking or weird or different. And yes, it’s memorable, but I would really have preferred things getting good well before then.
We all knew this. Seriously, fans of the game from back then will almost certainly not defend the game’s story so much as the world around it, which was already very well realized. But the result was that 2.x is, on a whole, a flabby and not terribly good story that’s full of important foundations for what comes later, but without a whole lot of reason to care now. And only some of that can even be changed.
I’m interested in seeing what actually is changed because as mentioned, there’s definitely some fetch questing that can be cut out and some steps which can be consolidated. But as mentioned, the biggest issue of the quests here is not entirely the flow but the reason to care. Like… you could cut the entire back-and-forth searching for crystals to fight Garuda bit easily enough, to pick on one particularly roundabout questing segment, but the Isle of Umbra is still actually generally important, and it sets up Siren, which becomes a bit more important later…
The story isn’t likely to change in leaps and bounds. Even if it gets streamlined and consolidated, it’s still a story trying to serve a lot of different masters, and trying to just turn it into a sequel or compressed form is missing the parts that are actually important. Without remaking it from the ground up – a bad idea – there’s only so much that can actually be changed.
At the same time, what we have heard is hopeful. The consolidation is there, yes. The boost in experience so that you can get through by just doing the main quests? A good thing because it means less time spent waiting to get to the next step of the story you may not be invested in anyhow. And the faster you get through the older stuff and into the parts that people generally consider when the story gets good while still getting the actual important story facts? The better.
I don’t know how effective it’ll be at getting people who already don’t like the game to get over the hump. But it will at least shorten the hump notably, and if it’s done well, perhaps it’ll even make it less… hump-like. That’s all for the best.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week? Let’s speculate a bit about our upcoming Bozja battlefield.