All right, I realize this is the sort of thing that’s going to bother very few people, but it bothers me that Final Fantasy XIV decided to name this particular raid series Pandæmonium. Specifically that. It’s not “Pandemonium” or “Pandaemonium”; it’s Pandæmonium, and that’s going to be an absolute bear to type over the next several patches. Just one of those little things that bothers me specifically because of my ridiculous occupation because it means that getting the name of the thing right is going to be much more annoying.
In other words, I hope the next raid series is Sin. That’s nice and quick to type.
See, because of the whole Alexander series, we actually have a pretty clear picture of how time travel works in FFXIV overall. The game subscribes to a fixed time loop structure, wherein time travel is more about having multiple vantage points to a single sequence of events than alternate timelines and changes to what already happened.
“But Shadowbringers -” Was a specific set of technology meant to explicitly work against that problem, which was discussed in multiple places as being a problem because normally going back in time wouldn’t allow any events to actually be changed in the first place. That’s why the technology in question incorporated the Crystal Tower, Omega’s tech, and Alexander’s systems to make it work. It had to basically break the flow of time in a unique way, and it was a one-shot deal.
Furthermore, without going into bigger MSQ spoilers here, we know from Endwalker that this is the way time travel works. Whatever happened already happened. It isn’t happening multiple times; it’s happening once, and you can’t “choose to do something different” because you already chose how you were doing things in the first place.
Thus, the central problem of Pandæmonium is that there’s no actual dramatic tension of “what will happen” because we already know what happened. For that matter, it’s hard to get invested in some of the characters because… well, we know how all of this ends. It’s kind of a foregone conclusion in a way that the game usually avoids, and it’s why I’m surprised that instead of using characters we know, the game gives us a whole new cast of people to focus on.
Our story touches on Lahabrea and his demeanor almost entirely by reputation, and while it’s kind of nice to get some extra characterization for one of our first major adversaries, it also seems a bit odd that we’re just basically told about him rather than getting to actually interact with him at all. At least, so far. That might change, which would be nice, since right now Pandæmonium is feeling a bit like a raid series solely to have one with a rather inconsequential plot.
But then, this isn’t just a game of story; there’s also gameplay and visuals and rewards to talk about. And it’s interesting that for this particular raid series, the first in a while that hasn’t invoked the past and nostalgia in some way, the general vibe seems to be… leaning hard on a set of Castlevania nods.
I don’t mean that as a bad thing, of course; it’s not really a mechanical element of the fights, it’s just a very strong aesthetic influence, especially on the last fight. I just find it an interesting choice, and one that does succeed in making Pandæmonium visually distinct from the rest of the game but also feels like it’s about halfway to being an actual reference without ever quite getting there. Not that they don’t work hard to sell it.
The first fight, as other people have noted, is pretty darn simple; it’s honestly not until the third fight that you wind up getting a really complex battle with different sorts of design elements. I also find it a neat if potentially odd decision to have the fourth fight have such a strong visual composition of quadrants which do not actually track most of the mechanics going on; it feels like dividing the field up into quarters should do a little more than it actually does, if that makes any kind of sense.
Beyond that, there’s a strong tendency to use unique overlapping AoE effects and a lot of things that require tracking visual cues beyond “orange area bad, don’t stand there.” The third boss in particular has tons of AoEs where if you see the indicator, you are already getting hit by the ability, and a couple where the telegraphing feels… well, readable, but just a little too jumbled to be straightforward. Probably some of that is making everything yellow, orange, and red, I don’t know.
I can imagine where Savage is going to ramp up the complexity for several of these mechanics, particularly that one. They’re pretty good fights, though, even if the first one feels a bit undercooked in terms of design.
The gear rewards, meanwhile… eh. Stat-wise, they’re fine, and having them be the apex of gear for a couple of weeks until we get Savage and our weekly tomestones is something. But the visuals… I get what the designers are going for, but it just does not work for me. The vaguely classical look just makes the outfits all look uniform, not cool, and they don’t even really match the visuals of the actual area or the enemies therein. It’s like someone designed the outfits without any thought for how they’d look within the actual raid itself, which is never a great sign.
Then again, how thematic any rewards are is always a game of push and pull, so let’s not get too far down that rabbit hole. I’m not a fan, just the same.
Overall, then, the raid is kind of a mixed bag, and I’m not really sold on it after the kickoff. I think there is definitely something positive about the fact that the raid as it’s set up is less about a world-ending threat and more about just diving into a weird corner of lore and investigation; that part makes sense, especially considering that the prior MSQ was going to make it hard to sell anyone on a huge world-ending threat right away. And hey, the fight designs are still solid and the art is good. But it doesn’t all quite come together, and that’s honestly kind of unusual.
But hey, maybe you loved it and this is exactly the raid you’ve been waiting for! If so, I’m happy for you and you can feel free to tell me about it down in the comments or by mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I’m going to talk a little bit about the stuff that I’m still eager to hear about for this expansion even though it’s going to be a while.