So there are, in fact, a number of stories going on in Final Fantasy XIV‘s The Dark Throne patch, but there are only two that actually matter. Oh, sure, if you’re hard in on the game, you are probably going to be very excited by the NPCs you get to hang out with when you reach rank 15 on your Island Sanctuary, but it’s the main scenario and Pandæmonium that are the real standouts for this patch, and let’s not even pretend otherwise. So those are what I intend to talk about here.
Consistent readers will probably recall that I have generally been fond of the MSQ that’s been unfolding over the past several patches and rather dismissive of Pandæmonium for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that the time travel nature of it makes its relevance dubious at best. So now we’ve seen the endgame. What can be said about it? How did the latter story wrap up? How is the MSQ developing? Hopefully you’ve seen for yourself by now because I am going to spoil the snot out of them here. Fairly warned be ye.
Won’t you stay just a little bit longer?
I’m not going to lie, I really expected this story to end in this patch. But not specifically because of Golbez.
The late-hour reveal that we do, in fact, have a Zeromus fight in our future is in and of itself fine. That doesn’t shock me, and it’s keeping with how much of this expansion has involved Final Fantasy IV homages. While I’ve made no secret of not caring for FFIV, this is hardly a problem. Rather, it’s interesting to me in this context because it means that we’re going to get our next expansion reveal in the middle of this not-really-a-cliffhanger.
I say it’s not really a cliffhanger because, like… come on. We all know how this is going to end. Zeromus is not going to be our big bad in the next expansion, that’s a given. But the next expansion announcement is going to tell us whether we are actually going off to the Void for the next expansion or somewhere else.
Yes, it is possible for Yoshida to tease us as he has in the past and not technically tell us what our next destination will be. But come on. The Thirteenth doesn’t have sunlight. It’s going to be pretty obvious right away if we’re going to be exploring that again. Don’t front.
As far as the actual story beyond that point, it continued on the general course that we’ve gotten up to this point, which pleases me. I really like how the story actually set up explicit parallels to the ending of Endwalker’s main story with a similar sense of building a coalition and collecting an assortment of allies and helps from various corners, followed by our plan… not working out after all. Subversion without being too heavy-handed, in other words.
I’m also really enjoying Zero’s characterization, right down to her even getting a moment of gentle self-parody in the middle of the MSQ. Yes, we could definitely use less of the loporrits at this point, but that was a good use of the bunnies. I’m really hoping she sticks around; she adds a dynamic the Scions hadn’t previously had, and I really like the idea of her continuing along in the next expansion. She’s a keeper.
Of course, while I give her decent but not certain odds of sticking around into our next expansion, I would be willing to bet that by the end of this story we’ll have a real name for her and/or she’ll be getting a new color scheme. It’s such an easy layup, after all, and it’s not really an FFIV homage without a visual redemption arc.
Actually, say no to Panda
There was exactly one good moment to the wrap-up of the Pandæmonium storyline, and that’s when Lahabrea finally drew the lines between his characterization in this storyline and his later developments. I liked that. Not as an embrace of his darker half, but as a simple reality of who he is. He made it clear that even if his remembered self didn’t know anything about why he would become an Ascian, it still made perfect sense to him. That part worked.
Of course, it… still didn’t really work because functionally this whole plotline has been a retcon. Lahabrea was an early named antagonist who later turned out to have been more important in lore, and it was kind of retroactively shameful how easily he got punked by Elf Pope. So we got a whole raid attempting to make what had been a more cartoonish villain into a real person, and the biggest difference now is that the story at long last had some stakes instead of taking place in the past when the outcome was functionally predetermined.
But it still didn’t really work. Athena’s goals are vague and nebulous (yes, “become a god” is kind of a vague goal in context) because the story isn’t really about her; she’s just the antagonist because we need to have one. We get an explanation of the Heart of Sabik, but it still doesn’t really explain much of anything. Literally, the explanation made me think of the Happy Fun Ball sketch. (“The Heart of Sabik is made of a substance which fell to Etheirys, presumably from outer space. The Heart of Sabik may stick to certain types of skin.”)
Heck, it even falls back on the intensely implausible “everything you’ve done was part of my plan” bit, which implies that Athena’s plan involved such a ridiculously circuitous set of events that frequently came down to coin flips. And it still didn’t matter because she actually was only tangentially related to the first two wings! She wasn’t even there!
Ultimately, the story was just disappointing. It wasn’t truly dire or offensive or anything; this isn’t another case like the NieR raids that utterly failed to have a point. But it was a sequence of events with no real stakes for most of its run time, followed by stopping a villain we didn’t care about from doing something that didn’t make sense. And that tracks because the point of the events was never to actually tell a story but just to give us an excuse to give Lahabrea characterization that he didn’t have before when we later realized he was a bigger deal than in the original quests.
Good thing that the fights were fun, though. And the achievement name made me smile. That’s hardly a reason to invest in the story, but those are something close to being saving graces.
I also like the fact that with the retcon, Lahabrea not knowing that Athena was hanging out in the Heart of Sabik makes him look just as stupid as him getting punked by Elf Pope. Are we actually sure Lahabrea is smart? Maybe he just sounds kinda smart.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to email@example.com. Next week, as mentioned before, I want to take on a consistent bit of grousing that’s emerged from the FFXIV veteran community through Endwalker and ask a question: Is there really less to do in this expansion than in prior ones? And more importantly, why does it feel like there is regardless of whether or not it’s factually true?