Before anyone feels the need to point it out, yes, I am aware that this is technically round four of restoration in Final Fantasy XIV. I have been aware of that the entire time. Having noted that, however, I would also hasten to point out that the first round didn’t contain any rankings and also didn’t involve restoring anything beyond what amounted to the foyer. It was much more of a trial run and didn’t even have the Diadem involved. For all intents and purposes, there have really been three “main” stages.
At least personally, I find myself wondering how much of this was intentional. The first phase of reconstruction was arguably just too darn long despite the best efforts of the designers; there were too many stages, too much rebuilding to do, and too much emphasis on very slow progress being made. The second stage was much better in that regard, and the third one feels like it almost swings back in the opposite direction, with a whole lot of work being done almost too quickly.
Was this always the plan? Or were values shifted around? It’s hard to be sure. What’s all but definite now is that this is indeed meant to be a housing district, right down to the number of available plots; it’s hard not to see it that way, and indeed it’s likely to produce quite a bit of backlash if that doesn’t end up being the case. We admittedly have never been told there will be Ishgard housing, but after all this preamble and the layout of the Firmament… it’ll be a hard sell, let’s put it that way.
That having been said, it also raises the question of whether there’s a future for this content. And that, I think, is the most important takeaway. Obviously, we’ve just about reached the end of this particular content experiment. The question is whether or not it was worth it, how much players liked it, and what sort of future it has if any.
Restoring or building up an area has been a staple of FFXIV since the initial days of the relaunch, first with Revenant’s Toll and moving forward from there. Stormblood was the first time that the game tried tying the progression to player activity instead of just happening along with patches, but the Doman reconstruction was pretty passive; you sold stuff up to a limit, then you got some cutscenes and you waited until the next week to see some more. It was functional, but low-interaction.
The flip side to this restoration has classically been that it doesn’t really do a whole heck of a lot. Part of this is a simple necessity of time; when new players arrive, the restored version is the only version they’re going to be exposed to. The main point is not really to restore or alter the area so much as it is to give the impression that these areas of congregation are changing, that the world is moving forward around everyone.
Ishgard Restoration, then, is a very different take on this. Yes, the big focus is on restoring the area, but that restoration is going to happen at the behest of players rather than just arbitrarily over time. Player agency is thus a vital component of what’s going on… and the expectation is clearly built up that this place is going to later turn into something everyone can make use of.
This is good because short of the restoration itself, the Firmament currently doesn’t have much to offer beyond a custom delivery client. That’s nice, but it’s hardly a reason for the entire zone to exist.
In fact, the Firmament also carries forward a change that started in Stormblood as well. Rather than the restoration being centered around the area players are spending the most time in, the restoration here is entirely focused on an area you go to only because of the aforementioned restoration. Eulmore (the place where you spend your tomestones) remains static, just like Rhalgr’s Reach, but the corner where you’ve been restoring gets built up more and more.
It is, in other words, self-perpetuating. You’re interested in how the Firmament changes because you’re working to restore it, and it’s changing because you’re working to restore it. And why are you working? Well, because you’re restoring the Firmament. There are rewards, sure, but they’re pretty easy to get well before an area is finished being restored in its entirety, and from there the main motives come down to just “finish rebuilding.”
I suspect part of why players are willing to put up with this here is the expectation that there will be housing in Ishgard when all is said and done. But that alone makes me wonder how much this concept can be expanded forward. After all, the reality is that it’s pretty unlikely for the next expansion to feature another housing district. I’d love to work on restoring Ala Mhigo, for example, but what are the odds that’s going to have a new district to rebuild? How likely is it that we’ll suddenly have a city there when the next expansion is unlikely to center around Ala Mhigo and we’ll probably have a different place to spend tomes and do all of our usual adventuring business?
And if there’s no housing, just a new city area to explore… I wonder how well people are going to be compelled to bother past rewards. That’s a problem with restoration now, and it’s with the assumption that this is leading toward housing. It’s going to be much, much more of an issue if it’s leading toward nothing but an area to wander around with some NPCs to talk to.
At the same time, restoration has given some actual new incentives for people to craft and provided a new form of PvP ranking that’s genuinely pretty interesting. I’d hate to think that all of the work that went into developing this system will just be wasted. The real key isn’t that this can’t work; it’s just that some work needs to be done to ensure that it feels rewarding and fun, possibly with a longer ranking period and a different set of rewards expected for completion.
I’d like to think that this is a new face of how content will be experienced in the future. But I also think that the content isn’t yet fully refined, and we’re going to need to see what’s planned for the next expansion before we can be certain about it.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to email@example.com. Next week, I want to speculate a little on geography, the places we have yet to see on the Source and how likely we are to visit them.