Wisdom of Nym: Impressions of Final Fantasy XIV’s patch 5.4 story

    
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Teamwork.

It’d be wrong to say that this patch is our first patch back on the Source in Final Fantasy XIV. We’ve been splitting our time between the two for a while now, for one thing; for another, one of the big story beats still took place back on the First, there was a little follow-up story there as well, and so forth. So it really continues the split. It’s just the MSQ that is now primarily concerned with the Source again after our time on the First.

Everyone’s going to have different reactions to this, of course, and that’s my focus this week. Still, it also does belie the same factor I talked about last week. After a concluding patch that was a real tour de force, this one was always going to have some challenges in being the next bit of story after wrapping things up on the First. So what did they choose to do?

And then, eventually, we go here.

And now, go fix minor problems for an hour

Yep! It’s all a sidestory. It’s paying off the whole “there might be a way to fix tempering” aspect that itself feels like a minor side story with only the slightest connection to actual things to be concerned about, a huge digression into Limsa Lominsa that feels utterly superfluous, and then only features important things actually happening in the last quest in a short cutscene.

So, yeah, not a fan here!

I don’t mean to sound overly negative here, although I guess I’ve stumbled into it anyway, but the main problem I have with this particular bit of story is how little it really sets things up. Yes, we know about Alisaie’s attempt to handle the tempered from the First, but it didn’t feel like a real proper centerpiece… and it feels like a far smaller thing in terms of focus. By the midpoint of this story we’re being introduced to a pirate leader we’ve never met before who’s being dealt with in the very next quest to clean up plot points about Limsa Lominsa we already know by now. It doesn’t feel like it’s developing or building to something.

The big saving grace is getting some good character moments in there, from Ga Bu’s reunion with Alisaie to Merlwyb’s excellent shooting to G’raha being firmly established as the in-universe fanboy for the people he’s working with. It’s clear that the writing hasn’t gotten worse or anything in the time that we’ve spent away from the Source. If anything, the problem here is that Fandaniel’s appearance just wasn’t enough for a story installment on its own, so we need to spin our wheels for a while and more foreshadowing will come in next patch.

Of course, this is not altogether shocking; normally we’d have gotten this patch back in October and we’d now have the outlines of our next destination via the expansion announcement, even if it was remaining somewhat vague. I was kind of hoping for some more hints as it is, but as of right now it still feels like almost anything is on the table (disregarding my own speculation a few columns back).

Trouble double.

Memory girls

You know, weirdly enough, the ultimate reveal of what Gaia is and what’s going on with Eden is one of those rare times when the solution to the puzzle is less interesting than speculation would have been. I’d seen some pretty out-there theories, but the actual answer is just… Ascians, again. Eden is really just a weird thing produced by specific circumstances and not actually mechanical in any fashion. It’s all kind of straightforward and simple.

That part was a little bit disappointing, but what I do like is that it did still keep the writing firmly fixated on the characters and their overall designs. This really was the appropriate plot coda for Gaia and Ryne, and it really made it clear what burdens Ryne is carrying with her, what she’s afraid of, and what she’s hoping for from the future. It leaves things in a better place, and yes, hopefully this will be just enough to help revitalize the First somewhere down the line.

Also, the landscape we’re treated to at what once was the Empty is just plain gorgeous, let’s all admit that.

I would have liked to have gone into a little more depth here than we did, and as mentioned I might find the ultimate reveal a little pat, but perhaps that’s also grousing too much. There was no promise that this was all going to have some conclusion that satisfied people deep-diving into the weeds when it comes to lore, it promised to be a story about two people and about memory. Interestingly enough, the ending is almost a direct inverse of the end of Final Fantasy VIII, with the whole idea of finding one another again being explicitly the side of the villain of the piece.

Still, though, I thought this was a much stronger story. It had all of the character writing and was somewhat disconnected from what came before, but it felt far more linked to what we already knew on a whole. And while the final conclusion with the two of them planning a party we’ll likely never get to see felt a little bit weaker, I think it’s overall a solid wrap to the story arc. Maybe not as strong as Omega, but that one got surprisingly good toward the end.

Worth two in the bush, and all.

Valens van Varro is a gigantic creeplord

Remember when doing shirtless pushups and drinking milk was enough to make this guy seem creepy? Remember when he also wasn’t a torture monster with a creepy paternalistic attitude toward young kids? Good times.

Honestly, I know some people have found that this particular story is not working for them, and I get why; it all comes back to Valens, really. I’ve done an entire article about how the Empire is bad and they are the unambiguous villains, but Valens really takes it to the next level. He’s not just the villain, he’s a screaming unapologetic monster who seems to just want to ruin things.

This is going to hit some people the wrong way for one of two reasons. For some, it’s going to seem unrealistic that someone could actually just be a harmful monster whose only interest is having power without bothering to earn it. For others, after several years of watching several harmful monsters hold power and hurt people for basically no other reason, it’s an unneeded reminder.

Personally, at least, I still am enjoying this arc… although I wonder how it’s going to end, since the idea that the lizards we’ve been following are secretly rebelling against the Empire removes the fun part of the idea wherein they are essentially brainwashed by Gaius. I still like the overall direction, but it feels like the plot is going somewhere a bit more conventional after teasing something more unusual early on. Then again, perhaps that’s foreshadowing for the next expansion…

As always, feedback is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next time around, I want to take a look at the year in review because it’s been a messy one and most of that isn’t actually this game’s fault. I’ve been putting it off for a while, I admit it.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
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Aric

I’m not sure that the ‘solution’ to tempering is as insignificant as you make out – we still aren’t 100% certain how it all works and how it relates to our own “blessing” – or how that might tie in with what feels like the ultimate end point of the FFXIV storyline.

I actually find it quite exciting that something as Eorzea-defining as primal influence is being played with by the writers – because I believe it’s massive, in terms of both the short and long term future of the story.

In regards to Limsa, again a similar feeling. Most of our journeys away during expansions have led to us coming back to a relatively unchanged state of affairs, only to hop away to another continent/world without anything *really* changing. But now the “base” FFXIV world, the city states it felt like we nearly left behind at the start of HW, are front and centre again.

It hasn’t escaped my attention that the formation of these massive towers is actually a very brave step, it isn’t often that a sprout and an endgame player can stand in the same spot and see entirely different things in the open world (I can think of a few exceptions, Alexander, Rhalgr’s..maybe there’re more that I’m forgetting) – could it be a taste of things to come in the next expansion – could we possibly be staying “home” for some of it, but with a world entirely different to what we currently see. How that would be achieved, I have no idea, but the amount of work it must have taken to enable flying within ARR zones, when it only currently benefits a very small amount of people (how much flying does a level 50+ player actually do in ARR??) has always been suspicious, why now, and why not for people who are actually playing through ARR? It can’t simply be for the now even shorter ARR patches? Everything seems to point to ARR areas being much more vital in the future then they have been to previous expansions.

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Sorenthaz

Doing side quest hole patch duty for 5.4’s MSQ made enough sense. We, or at least the Scions, have been gone for a good while. There was a lull in the action, so this was the best time to go ahead and do what they did. Who knows, it could prove to be important step for future encounters as well. Overall though it was a necessary breather in the story after defeating Elidibus and getting teases of what Fandaniel and Zenos might be cooking up in 5.3, and once we took care of the side stuff we got the beginning build-up to whatever the hell is going to happen in 5.5 and beyond.

Sucks that it’s taking longer for patches, but that’s kind of unavoidable for now.

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Dagget Burmese

I’m betting on us playing as Gaius in a solo fight with Valens, was foreshadowed with the Estinien solo duty earlier.