You might be thinking that we’re a little early to be doing this sort of thing, and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong; normally I wouldn’t be talking about these sorts of storylines in review until we hit the end-of-expansion lull, and I’ll probably still brush up against this again then. But right now Final Fantasy XIV is moving a little shower than even the developers would like, which means that people who write weekly columns about it (me) have a bit more space to explore things, and you know, there are only so many times I can write weird hypothetical speculation based on nothing more than idle chatter.
The good: A coherent, linked story
One of the issues that the job quests have always had is that no matter what important task you have to do, it doesn’t really tie into the MSQ in any fashion. It’s just off to one side, and the result is that the large plethora of job quests run the gamut from “good” to “bad.” By limiting the scope of role quests to just a handful of quests covering a small number of NPCs – with all of them linked by understandable causes – the writers were free to focus on telling a single interesting story with four facets, including an ultimate capstone that explored the lingering questions about these characters and the world.
The bad: Not a very good story
Here’s the problem with this particular setup. While it’s all well and good to say that being able to focus more directly on a single plot line instead of nearly two dozen allows for a more interesting story… well, role quests aren’t actually better, on average, than job quests. About a quarter of them are bad, about a quarter of them are good, and the rest are middling at best.
Speaking solely for myself, I loathed Lue-Reeq the moment he was introduced, and subsequent quests did not make me like him even a tiny bit more. Giott was grating with moments of interest and Granson was compelling, if generic; the NPC I liked the most was from the magical DPS, and he clearly made so little impression on me that I can’t even recall his name. And all of these quests were basically the same story.
“I want to hunt this thing. Oh, look, I have to deal with a personal failing along the way that mirrors the backstory of this other NPC. There, now I can kill the thing, and now I’m going to go wander off.”
More simply, I found the overarching connecting story far more interesting than the actual individual character stories. That… is kind of the opposite of how this is supposed to work.
The good: A self-contained aside
Role quests have at least one other major issue to deal with in the matter of not sending all the usual job NPCs to the First. This is a challenge in and of itself. Normally, each individual storyline can start from threads left over during the last set of job quests, then leave some more threads to pick up next time. But here, we needed to have storylines that exist for this world and that you don’t expect to be picking back up in the future.
In this, the device works pretty well. While it’s clear that all the major NPCs will continue to have adventures and things to do, we’re not given any particular reason to expect that the adventures in question will be related to our own activities in the future. Indeed, it’s entirely plausible that most of these characters will start forming a similar dynamic to some of the other NPCs wandering around Norvrandt.
The little coda quest post-MSQ usually does a decent job of tying off some loose ends, but it’s a welcome change that it’s more of a bonus than anything. A reminder of who these NPCs are and that things haven’t stopped back on the Source, in other words.
The bad: Lack of connective tissue
Remember how I mentioned that usually the job quests provide grounding for your job’s identity and role in the world? Yeah, role quests give none of that.
I have no idea how Dark Knights or Ninjas or Dancers are seen on the First. We see some of them, yes, but none of them get any sort of identity. There’s no difference in visuals or idea of how Dark Knight might be different or even what this job is called here. Instead, we just get a single roleplaying instance playing as each Cardinal Sin’s origin point, and that’s it. This means that one of the big things that job quests normally do is just… not there, at all.
The good: No skills linked
Job quests aren’t annoying, but it is kind of bothersome when you’re suddenly pulled out of the flow of questing to go back and continue the line (usually with at least one or two tedious solo instances) just to get the skills you leveled up for. This was particularly bad in the Heavensward levels, when you got nothing by leveling except the chance to go do another quest and then you got a new ability.
Now, though? You get something for finishing role quests, you have to do it for MSQ completion, but you aren’t required to finish them just to get access to your proper toolkit. That’s a good thing.
The bad: No skills linked
Wait, how is this also a bad thing? Well, because it underscores that role quests are kind of artificially bloated. You have to clear a bunch of them, but there’s not much that actually happens during these quests; instead, you just have to do this because there’s more experience and you don’t want to do all of this when you’re already level 80. So while it removes one reason to completely break up the flow of leveling, it adds in another one, which is not exactly a massive improvement.
At the end of the day, I… feel pretty neutral about role quests. I understand why they exist in the form they do, and I don’t mind that we didn’t get job quests this time around. I wouldn’t even mind too much if we follow a similar structure in the next expansion. But the actual execution leaves a lot to be desired, and that’s not a great mark in their favor.
Feedback, as always, is welcome down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time, I’d like to try something very different by talking about the kind of utilities and quality-of-life changes a lot of jobs could use when new abilities roll out for the next expansion.