Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s patch 5.5 stories have some issues

    
11
Unshocking.

All right, I’m just going to spoil this column up front. Out of this patch’s stories… well, one is kind of a wisp of a thing, one is admirable in attempt but doesn’t quite land right, and one is just straight-up bad. And if you’ve played through all of them, you can probably guess which one is which, so that isn’t in and of itself much of a surprise. While the Final Fantasy XIV 5.5 patch definitely delivered on a content front, on a story front… we had two wrap-ups that either mostly did not work or totally didn’t work. That ain’t great.

Is that a damning problem? I don’t think so, but we do sort of need to talk about it properly, which means that the rest of this post may very well have spoilers in it. If you haven’t finished any of the major story beats for this particular patch (meaning Sorrows or Werlyt, the YoRHa arc, or the main scenario), you may be spoiled. Be fairly warned of that ahead of time.


Talking.Running in the first half by the numbers

I’ve never been a huge fan of how the story for the x.5 patches tends to get split in half. I understand the reason why that’s the case, of course; it’s set up so that both halves of the patch feel impactful, which is relevant when there’s always a longer gap between the last patch of the expansion and the expansion launch. But the fact that there’s a reason doesn’t mean that it usually does the story any favors.

That having been said, the bright side of this particular MSQ was that at least a lot happened during it. Between Tiamat, Lunar Bahamut, and the reveal of the towers, there was definitely a lot of stuff taking place. It all does feel a bit like the story spinning its wheels since none of this comes to any sort of absolute resolution or even ends on a suitable cliffhanger, but at least it wasn’t overstuffed with nonsense or watered down.

And let’s face it, Alisaie meeting Estinien was a pretty well-needed burst of comedy in what was otherwise a kind of dour set of stories.

Ultimately, though, my feelings on this half of the MSQ was that it feels very much like setup for the second half of the patch that hasn’t arrived yet. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, of course, but it does sort of make a final evaluation of this particular installment feel like it’s not getting all of the meat. Serviceable, not bad, let’s see what the second half brings.

Surprise, it's a huge waste of time.

What the heck was that?

The ending of the YoRHa chain is just crap.

I’ve seen some people try to defend this particular ending with “well, Yoko Taro is just kind of Like That,” and it really doesn’t work. Yes, Yoko Taro tends to have endings that leave you wondering if you were ever actually a good person and make you really question the ethics behind your decisions in the game up to this point. What they don’t do, however, is just end without any explanation. The ending of the actual story basically comes down to “stuff happened because Reasons, now it’s all going away, no explanations offered for how any of it pretends to make sense.”

About the only real hope to change this is that the subsequent weekly quests actually do something to tie together all of these plot elements and provide some resolution, but considering that half of the plot got yanked away with no explanation as soon as the raid was over, I think it’s unlikely to happen. It doesn’t carry the usual sting of a Yoko Taro plot with it. There’s no conclusion, there’s just waffling and a total lack of diegetic or thematic explanation for why anything happened.

That’s a shame because there definitely were places here for the story to go or to be explained. Instead, what we got is devoid of explanations or connective tissue. Worse yet, it proves the people who complained about this crossover in the first place right. It really didn’t fit into the narrative of the game and didn’t even pretend to. It is, ultimately, a series of setpieces that are mechanically fun but don’t really amount to much of anything.

I’m hoping that the weekly stuff at least tries to put things together in a coherent fashion, but it’s a pretty thin hope. It would be particularly on-brand for Taro, but it’s also distinctly at odds with the way that the game actually works, which makes the idea somewhat harder to swallow. And when you’re doing a weekly quest for more story just so the existing story makes some sense, something has gone wrong on a whole.

Again, it seemed as if there were somewhere to go with this, questions to be asked about, say, the way that the player character just goes along with objectives and never stops to ask if doing so makes the lives of people materially worse. But the actual narrative fails at explaining its own mysteries or the rationale for its existence. A solid failure that might rescue itself later on is still a failure.

Well, you tried.

The sorrow didn’t land

The good thing about Sorrows of Werlyt is that it doesn’t end in a way that fails to tie up its loose ends or explain its themes. The bad thing, however, is that it seems to be almost pathologically unwilling to actually put the blame where all of the story indicates it should go: directly on the head of Gaius.

On paper it all works. Gaius was, ultimately, an honorable opponent who didn’t succumb to the worst excesses of the Empire, and thus when he showed up again there was a real sense of seeing where this character could go from here. Working alongside him, you get to see the pain that he inflicted upon these people and the realization that even if he thought he was righteous, he ultimately did awful things. And you got a villain even more grotesque than he ever was to serve as an opponent.

And then… what happened? Well, Gaius recants his philosophy and we’re assured that he really is a good person now, so we don’t need to keep punishing him for anything! And at least someone made it out of all this alive despite everything!

It’s close to working, but there’s never quite that necessary reckoning in which Gaius recognizes that Valens isn’t his opposite but the logical extension of his philosophy. The story keeps pulling just shy of forcing Gaius to really engage with his behaviors and some of his worst excesses. The consequences of the pain he inflicted are treated as paid, as if swapping sides itself was a redemptive act.

That having been said… well, there’s also questions of cultural burdens, translations, and general thematic intent. While this one may not entirely work (and by “may” I of course mean “does”), you can at least see the bones of it. So it’s a bit of a disappointment in places, but it at least tried to tackle some really big ideas along the way.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, let’s talk a little bit about assumptions and known information with the window closing before the next fan festival.

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.
Advertisement

No posts to display

11
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Nellen J.

So I wasn’t the only one confused and disappointed by the Nier raid? I was excited to see how it tied into lore but ultimately it seemed like someone shoehorned it in to get people to buy the re-release that came out the other day. Gaius is hugely intolerable as a character for me and no one calls him out for it; the amount of coddling they do towards people who pillage and colonize is uncomfortable.

Reader
Tridus

Lets be honest: The entire YoRHa plot was crap. Start to finish. It NEVER fit in XIV at all. They realized that at the outset and never particularly tried to make it fit except with a vague veneer to give the Dwarves a reason to be there and thus have at least some connection to the First. But it never really worked.

Mechanically the raids are fun, the locations are neat, and the music is awesome. But that’s it. These are set piece guest raids that do not do anything in terms of the XIV world or story. The only way to really get anything out of it is to have played Automata.

I know that because I played Automata between when 5.3 (Bunker) and 5.5 (Tower) came out, and it changes how I view the whole thing. All the references suddenly make sense. I get who these people are and why I’m supposed to care about them entirely because I know it all from Automata. It makes no damn sense whatsoever if you’re just an XIV player.

The Ivalice raids had the same problem, except a place like Dalmasca could reasonably exist on the Source and so at least whats going on there is plausible, even if it was really aimed at fans of the Ivalice setting. They could go somewhere with what happened there in the story in the future. They can’t do that with YoRHa in any way whatsoever. It’s a total dead end. That the story doesn’t end in a way that makes sense just fits with the general theme of it never making sense at all in XIV.

Crystal Tower and Mhach both worked far better because CT obviously had strong ties to the XIV world even back then (and even stronger now), while Mhach worked because the War of the Magi is a key part of the history in XIV and influenced a lot of things that we saw before we ever got there. These clearly tie very strongly into the world and exploring them adds to the lore. The last two guest raids are their own thing, focused more on the guest designer’s stuff than the game they’re actually in.

That’s the true mistake and lesson here: if they bring in another guest designer, they need to focus on how that ties into XIV rather than just focusing on whatever the guest designer feels like showcasing of their own stuff.

Reader
Steven Williams

I’m still standing by my opinion that the Nier crossover was a big fat waste of everyone’s time.

I know it’s not very popular to sing praise at Stormblood for some reason, but I think it did a lot better with its patch storylines.

I liked Four Lords was better than Sorrow of Werlyt (expansion of Eastern Lore >>>> the 78th iteration of Ultima but this time it’s green);

I think Omega was much better than Eden and it’s soggy wet noodle of an “ending”;

I believe Return to Ivalice was TREMENDOUSLY superior to Nier in every way.

Reader
Tridus

Four Lords was great.

Ivalice was… fine? It definitely fits the world better than YoRHa does, but it has the same basic problem of “this is a guest designer showcasing their own stuff and it barely ties into the rest of the game”, which IMO is why the best two alliance raids are actually the first two. Crystal Tower and Mhach (the War of the Magi) are both key spots in XIV’s own world, rather than some other game being tacked on that only fans of those games will really get.

YoRHa had cool mechanics and great music, but the story was… yes. A complete waste of everyone’s time.

Reader
Sajiri

I think Sorrow of Werlyt was really great. MSQ, eh, we knew they were going to split it up, and I wouldnt expect there to be any great resolutions. x.4 and x.5 patches are for setting up the next expansion’s story.

Nier though…ugh. My big issue with these raids has been that it felt like to understand everything going on, you need to have actually played Nier Automata. While all the other 24 man raids have been crossovers too, there was never any feeling that you needed to know the lore or story from their respective games to understand what was going on in the raid storyline. I feel like it really could have been working up to something in the first two raids, but the abrupt ending to the story just kinda killed it.

We had barely any interaction with 2B or 9S or got to learn about them, and again, that just comes back to where it feels like you need to have played Automata to get the full experience.

Reader
Bereman99

comes to any sort of absolute resolution

The .5 patch stuff – either part 1 or part 2 – has rarely, if ever, had anything come to an absolute resolution. That’s almost always been what the .3 patches do.

We have almost always gotten some pretty revelatory moments that have almost always served as putting some of the first concrete pieces of future content in place while acting as a prologue to the following expansion in some way. Tiamat being finally free (after 5,000+ years in-game and 6 years of real world time), promising to continue her work in freeing her children in Meracydia? That is 100% setting up for some sort of future content, most likely in 7.0 (slim chance it connects to the 24 man raid in 6.0, I think, but greater chance it ties into future stories).

So expecting any absolute resolution in a .5 patch feels like expecting something XIV has shown itself to not do, especially a part 1 patch.

Also, I find the worrying about the fate of Arenvald and just what is the grander purpose of these machines if Lunar Bahamut was merely their opening hand to both be suitable cliffhangers.

As for Werlyt –

I definitely think the Werlyt story nailed the landing (and the cutscenes were some of their best yet), but I think much of that comes from believing that this wasn’t a “Gaius redeeming himself” story and instead was a “Gaius is beginning to atone” story, which is an important distinction.

necessary reckoning in which Gaius recognizes that Valens isn’t his opposite but the logical extension of his philosophy.

The necessary reckoning, like when Gaius realizes and talks about how he used to think that “the strong must lead the weak” (which is what he taught his adopted children, among others) but has realized how “absolute power corrupts absolutely, and those who have suffered at the hands of the corrupt are beyond counting”? Sounds to me like he’s made the connection – that his belief in and support of the strong leading the weak – has enabled others who took that and were corrupted by it and caused others to suffer.

This is further reinforced by talking Valdeaulin, the Duskwight who had once promised to kill him should he step out of line. He says

“Since then, he has turned his back on the Empire and its hateful doctrine. His guilt and anguish only strengthen his resolve.”

So yeah, I’d say he’s realized the ways that he’s screwed up, and how the system he supported and fought for created monsters

Though I think the take away that we’re supposed to go “Gaius is a good person now, let’s not punish him” is not the one intended. Instead, it reads a lot more to me like it’s him coming to a point where he is can make meaningful strides towards atoning for his actions as a conqueror for Garlemald and the pain caused through his conquests in their name, not that he’s paid the price just by switching sides. That his new role is to help the new government in the rebuilding of Werlyt adds to this idea, that he’s not doing paying penance for what he did and is simply on the path toward doing so…something that he could very well spend the rest of his life doing.

So yeah, I definitely don’t think the story tries to portray him switching sides as the redemptive act, but instead tries to portray his actions after switching sides – taking the fight to Ascians, destroying Black Rose facilities, helping in the fight to free Werlyt and take down Valens, and finally in agreeing to help them rebuilt – as actions that put him on a redemptive path, but one that is not yet complete.

I think it’s also meant to be a sort of reflection to another character who is also on working through a sort of atonement, and also happens to have served Garlemald and held similar “might makes right” ideals (inspired by Gaius, no less) – Fordola.

As for YoRHa?

I had given up on the story being much more than just a fancy event crossover after the second raid barely did anything with the androids or machines – which is what it turned out to be. The stuff with the dwarves and their squabbles are basically the meat and potatoes of this story, and it could have been done with any other setting, including one original to the first.

That I’m 99% certain that 2B’s audio message was directed at players who have played Nier Automata also reinforces my take that this was purely meant as a fanservice crossover and not some wild new story or continuation of the Nier world (despite being a persistent rumor, Yoko Taro never actually said that the FFXIV raid would be canon to Nier Automata) – she says “we’ll save the memories of our reunion – and of the time we spent in this world, with you” which makes no sense if aimed at the Warrior of Light. The WoL barely spent any time with her, much less met her before and then met again later. But the player? If you played Automata, this was definitely a reunion with the character, so it’s really the only way that line makes sense.

Which is about the most Yoko Taro thing about the whole thing, that it basically snuck a direct message from a character (from one franchise that is appearing in a different franchise) to the player.

Reader
Vincent Clark

MSQ: Short but sweet. A big tease (especially Zenos in the room full of weapons and the cut to black–cue Fan Fest!)

NieR stuff: Skipped all the story (which, I normally don’t do). Couldn’t care less. It felt too disconnected from the FFXIV world for me so I didn’t bother to invest time in the story. The raids, however, were great fun and the final tier really pushed things in terms of design and mechanics. Loved it. That said, I am looking forward to Endwalker and it’s FFXIV centric set of 24 man raids (i.e. no collaborations)

Sorrow of Werlyt: It had it’s issues, sure…but that ending. Come on now.

Reader
Dagget Burmese

I think the Sorrow of Werlyt was one of the top 2 or 3 endings so far in the game.

The story was not mainly about Gaius. Valens was overcooked (should have been more like Dr Megele, perhaps). The real story was that of the orphans and I think they did that one justice and the streamers I sniffling at the end would seem to agree.

Reader
cursedseishi

So… Yeah. I was one of those hoping the repeatable quests–and its 3 parts–meant we’d be getting a sort of recontextualizing of the three NieR raids as to flush out elements of the story. Nothing like adding an additional boss, but having us run a particular raid once more for boss scrap, and hey look at this! See Echo/Memories in cutscene, and go from there. That clearly isn’t the case, as the first two quests have just been a cycling through from one quest giver to another. I’ll withold any final judgement for tomorrow when the last one drops–in case it pulls something wild…

But, yeah. As it stands it isn’t great–Within FF14, at the very least. I’mma further block things off in Spoilers to keep this short and for people to check out if interested so… Also, like… BIG spoilers for the Drakengard franchise so… that’s why too. And bits of NieR–maybe.

The White Orb

This is, clearly, a Seed–as seen in Drakengard 1 and 2. It still operates in a way nobody is sure, as whilst its production of 2P fits with what is largely understood to be its mechanic? Anogg is… less so. The Seed is meant to herald a worlds end, and typically when interacted with it spawns something highly aggressive and meant to serve exactly that–and furthermore it never produces just one. It copies at a massive scale, though its always the same thing. And we have multiple instances of that in the series.
What we don’t have multiples of, til now at least, is instances of benign or passive creation. Anogg is that, and the only other true instance of this would be Nowe of Drakengard 2. His birth was about the only one that wasn’t replicated by other seeds, and was both passive towards humanity as well as aggressive towards what essentially is his own creation.

And my only guess as to why, is maybe Anogg wasn’t dead when she fell. Rather she was dying, and in her last moments interacted with the Seed? Because the only difference in the above scenario is whether or not who/whatever enters the Seed is living or dead. Treated merely as a means of resurrecting a corpse, it creates an inherently hostile entity. But Nowe? He was a ‘child’ born from a still living Inuart and the recently deceased Furiae entering the Seed together.

So, question remains however… Where did the 2P clones come from? The Seed doesn’t produce anything of its own making, it requires a base. Something clearly interacted or fell upon the Seed to trigger the 2P Clones, but must have happened when sections of reality were clearly shunted into the First–which… coincidentally, has happened before…

The Raids Toward The Towering Stalk

This is what would need the biggest explanation, if one asked me. And what I was hoping for most… It is clear that the raid locations weren’t just dropped upon us from on high, but rather came about suddenly in the area. Drakengard touches upon this in moments, both in the true end of 1 as well as seen throughout bits of 3. Modern Day cities (typically ala Tokyo) appearing in pieces or elements of them crossing into it. And always leading into a great change. Whether it be the ‘Great Disaster’ that birthed the Dragons as well as the Watchers and their Seeds of Destruction/Resurrection… or the Fall of the Queen Beast into modern day Tokyo becoming the harbringer of White Chloronation Syndrome and the degradation of life as we know it, leading to the Gestalt program and… eventually… YoRHA.

It is clear, at least for us, that the cycle leading into FF14 is based off that latest element. Obviously. The crashed Bunker, the ship as well as the immediate area around it was torn from one reality and implanted within the First’s. The question is… how? And that isn’t really… resolved… unfortunately. 2B and 9S were there, somehow, but rather than explain it away easily they kind of just… faded them out. Android bodies are replaceable. Their memories are two-fold, existing within the body itself and as data backed up upon the bunker. All they really needed to do was to have the two realize this was not their world, but something was threatening it–and that included their own existence. Rather than fade away, they could have detonated their Black Boxes, erasing their own existence from the First, without any… technical threat towards canon events. It could have been the last bodies left, and without a server to back themselves up to we’d not have to worry about them cropping up again for the most part.

Instead, they were treated almost like a paradox. Once the threat was gone? So to was the link for their existence. But if that was to be the case, then what brought them there should have also faded. It’s messy, it is unfulfilling and it leaves questions in a way the Drakengard/NieR series usually doesn’t. But, this does tease something else…

The Towering Stalk and its Blossom

So, speculation time! It’s been a common theory that the ‘Seeds’ are a literal thing. Aside from their powers, a big theory is that they also serve as the seed for The Black Flower. A rather dangerous organism that we don’t see in the games, and instead as part of the prequel manga for Drakengard 3. However we do see its work throughout the game proper, having been sealed away–it’s main body behind an untouched gate and a sliver of it within 3’s protagonist. Much like the Watchers and the Spawn of the Seed of Destruction, it is an inherently antagonistic element, and one that can ruin the world so long as even a sliver of it exists. Drakengard 3 is a journey of someone seeking to eliminate that last vestige of The Black Flower by any means. It culminates in the protagonist, Zero, having to kill her sisters who’ve also been infected by The Flower before enacting her plan. What comes from it is an inflorescence of her and her sisters, a manifestation of The Flower that can be killed and thusly so happens.

And that is the key word there. Inflorescence. The clustering and bundling of flowers upon a stem. In Drakengard 3, we do not see The Seeds–merely the aftereffects of the introduction of them and everything else to the world, including the inflorescence of the last fragment of The Flower, composed of the multiple Intoners formed from a main body . But here…? We witness The Seed before it sprouts into a towering stem, one we battle up towards the top where we find the ‘False Idol’, The Red Girl and perhaps its own fragmented AI struggling to exist and propagate itself here among the vestiges of the Robots, Androids and the crashed ships who perhaps is intending to try and overtake the blossom born from The Seed. But fails… And instead we meet ‘Her Inflorescence’, the proper flower. And someone who bears both the same sort of sprouting flower as seen with Zero in Drakengard 3, as well as myriad Lunar Tears throughout her hair. The body is a composite of two characters, though I’ve been wanting to see a really good close-up of the model before I put guesses forth on what composes it–though an easy guess would be the 2P Androids and Red Girl for now.

This would essentially confirm the fan theory that Seeds of Destruction are the seeds born from The Black Flower. Furthermore, it means said individual seeds could likewise give birth to Flowers themselves that are every bit as dangerous to the world as the Flower itself… And, uncannily enough, the only way to combat them is through song–and a dragon. Drakengard 3’s Inflorescence was defeated by Zero’s dragon and sealed away. The Queen Beast, of a similar fashion to these, was taken down by Angelus, and Her Inflorescence?

Well, The Warrior of Light is not a dragon, of course. the closest would be the Au’Ra but they are not dragons themselves, just scaled folk. However we have been granted a boon by the Dragons… Hard as it might be to say whether definitively canon, the WoL has shared a bond of sorts with Niddhog (through the Eye in the 2.0 Dragoon Job Quests) as well as of course our interactions with Midgardsormr and his ilk. And while hard to quantify how much that affects us?
It doesn’t take more than a droplet of blood to be able to harm the creations of The Flower and its Seeds. Drakengard 2 is proof of that, as Nowe also had a drop of Dragon’s Blood included with his birth. It made him a powerful weapon against the Watchers, and allowed him to fight back against their creations on his own. And those who have sealed a pact with Dragons have likewise been able to harm them.

… So yeah! Fun stuff to think about as it pertains to Taro’s own games… But it definitely falters in meshing with FF14. I’m a shameless fan of the series so I was happy irregardless, but I can admit better could have been done easily. It is hard to say how much the last… year or so might have impacted things to an extent, but I also don’t want to hand-wave complaints off as ‘blame the backstreet boys reunion tour’. Maybe we could have seen a little more if things weren’t impacted? Or maybe there was some stifling and creative control exerted over things that hampered the writing, since I imagine Square wouldn’t want to risk anything with one of their biggest moneymakers, and just wanted to use this as a way of promoting NieR Automata first, and then cap it off with promoting Replicant to a degree with this last raid (as the OG NieR remake would have been well under development by the time the Raid would have been introduced and planned).

As for the other story? Hah! less than 500 characters left here. 5.5 main story was fun. I haven’t done Weapons story, but consider that a protest of the continuing lack of G-Warrior. Let my Catboy pilot a Gundam more, Square.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Louie

I hate to say it, but I really feel like both guest writer storylines have felt way more disjointed than not. As far as progression and especially characters are concerned, the Crystal Tower and Mhach series were so much more satisfying when it came to their narrative arcs. Both the Ivalice and Automata raids felt like they were written as individual episodes that have very little to do with each other, and both suffer for it.

Reader
Tridus

So much this. The first two (Crystal Tower and Mhach) deal with important set pieces in the XIV lore. The guest ones are focused on stuff the guest designer cares about. While Ivalice at least tried to tie it in and it could conceivably make sense, it was really about showcasing Ivalice.

YoRHa takes that even farther and just makes no sense in XIV at all. They could have had literally no plot connected to those raids whatsoever, and it would have been basically the same thing. The raids are mechanically cool and have killer music, but the plot is utterly pointless when it exists at all.

I’m glad they’re going away from this in the future.