In the days of my youth, you usually got introduced to a new band via the radio. (The radio was like YouTube, but no video, only for music, and it was terrible.) Once you heard a new song on the radio, you would often begin a particular cycle of disappointment. First, you’d hear this new song. You’d go and track down the album, and you’d be impressed to find out that not only was the song good, the rest of the album was as well. So you’d get super interested in when the band’s next album came out!
Anyroad, that’s sort of how I feel about this season of Ishgard restoration in Final Fantasy XIV.
Some elements of this season may or may not be entirely a matter of the decisions made by the development team. It’s possible that there was a limited amount of time to make new outfits, which is why we get only one new outfit and it’s in the coffers rather than from scrips. Maybe the largely identical gameplay loop is also chiefly a matter of reusing time and assets, too! But… I suspect not. I suspect that what is in this part of restoration is exactly what was meant to be there, especially as there doesn’t seem to be anything missing per se.
And it’s not like it’s bad! Restoring Ishgard was fun crafting and gathering content before, and it’s fun now. Sure, you have to re-learn where things are because they’ve changed, but it’s not so impossible or difficult. There’s new stuff to gather, new crafts to make, new ranking to chase. Maybe there will even be new rewards once we finish this phase! It’s certainly plausible, after all.
But at the end of the day, this really does seem to be what we were already doing but with some names and descriptions changed. There are a few new rewards. I have already purchased the ones available via scrips. Ranking stops in less than a week. It’s a second album. If you didn’t enjoy the last one, you will probably not find this one all that compelling, but it’s still a great way to level up and so forth.
It’s hard for this not to feel like a bit of complaining.
I don’t know if much can really be done to address the fact that FFXIV proves with its concerted works that there’s a certain critical mass of players that is just too much to account for in a limited space. My machine is a beast and even it struggles a bit during those. Beyond that, though, it’s just… the process. Rank up, turn stuff in, earn scrips. If you really want to be ranked in the top, well, get those Expert crafts done. It would probably feel a bit different if the location weren’t quite so contiguous; as it stands, it really does feel like the same as before, but now different parts of the map are opening up.
And that’s great! I love this. This stuff is like catnip for me, and it’s fun, and watching the servers creep up in progress and work overtime to finish all the crafts is neat. It just doesn’t feel like the same sort of revelation as the first time around. It’s fun, it’s good, it’s the second album that isn’t as good as the first one because you’re not blown away by this thing you’ve never heard before.
It seems clear to me that what we’re going through here is meant to less serve as a one-off style of content and more a prototype for what will hopefully be a new regular sort of content in the future. In all likelihood, the next expansion will feature a different region of restoration. So it’s probably best to not expect anything wildly different for the next two phases after this one (based on what we’ve restored so far, I think that sounds reasonable, especially since that brings us to 5.5). As with dungeons, while this is not a perfect version, this is where we will be for the next few patches.
One thing that is great about it, of course, is the sheer number of people who turn out in force for this content. It seems like the entirety of every server jumps on this crafting content with gusto once it’s there, a far cry from… other titles. Everyone wants to get this thing rebuilt, and the fact that people are still crafting away even when the rewards are largely exhausted shows that there’s something special about it.
I also find myself wondering if the current setup of having the quests all waiting until the restoration is finished works perfectly. It’s easy to forget this will even be a thing for a long while, since it takes a while for that crucial construction finish; that having been said, since the ongoing story here specifically concerns rebuilding the Firmament, it wouldn’t necessarily make much sense for them to be intermediaries (especially since that’d take time away from crafting). I guess part of me just wants for a little break in the repetition.
Still, on a whole, this setup worked before and still works, and I like it. I was kind of expecting a bit more out of the new phase, I suppose, but the stuff that already worked has been repackaged and gently altered, and that is more than enough to pay the bills, so to speak.
And, again, this does feel as much like a proof of concept as anything. I’m eagerly looking forward to the world first clears for the stages, for example; I hope that the next expansion contains something similar. (Will we rebuild Norvrandt? Ala Mhigo? Something other than Doma!) It feels more organic and personal than any of the rebuilding processes we’ve seen thus far.
But we already knew that going into this one. And even if it was always a pipe dream, part of me kind of wanted this to feel like another big revelation, something it was never going to do. This means that I suppose I’m complaining about something being very good but not surprisingly good.
That one’s on me, then.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I want to do something that’s going to seem a bit odd in terms of speculation. If the next expansion really is the last one… what would it look like?