Wisdom of Nym: Benchmarks, better graphics, and bountiful schedules for Final Fantasy XIV

Your manager says you should shut up.

What kind of deal does Final Fantasy XIV have with the Yo-Kai Watch people? For some reason this event keeps not just re-running but actively expanding each time, despite the fact that the franchise is just plain not popular. The fourth game never even got localized here, and the brief moment of success that the game had in Japan has basically exhausted itself. But you have to make some sort of deal to keep having the event show up, so what the heck does that deal look like?

That’s not really all that relevant, I know, but it’s something that springs to mind in the wake of this past weekend’s FFXIV live letter, which revealed… well, frankly, not all that much. Enough to talk about, but in all honesty the biggest reveal was just the benchmark, which we knew was coming as soon as the trailer started playing. But I’m actually going to talk about that last; first, I want to talk about the bulk of what we actually got during the live letter.

I have groused – if not publicly, at least privately – about how much time during the various fan festival presentations has been devoted to the graphical updates coming to the game with Dawntrail, but I actually think live letters are the perfect place for this kind of information. It’s good to show off, and it’s important to see, but a lot of what you’re being shown is just… visual information. You don’t need to fill in a bunch of space with talking about “so the plants are moving when you move through them” and then translating the Japanese to English. It’s enough to just see the changes.

What we’re actually seeing, of course, just plain looks good. FFXIV looks good in general, I think, especially for a game that is a decade old now, but this sort of rolling update really keeps the graphics fresh in a nice fashion. It also helps that Square-Enix seems to invest more in coaxing alchemy out of graphics these days than it invests in getting its presidents to just say stupid crap when each new year roles around, so that budget must be massive. But these are notable improvements, and they make the game look better.


The increased graphical options are also nice, and quite honestly, I’m happy to have a benchmark that actually feels like a benchmark again. I saved up money and bought myself a very nice new PC for Shadowbringers, but even then that was more of a luxury than anything. I have not felt as if I needed to upgrade since maybe Stormblood at latest. That’s not to say I think upgrades are in order, just that it’s nice to feel like the Benchmark isn’t just a Play With New Character Creation For A Day tool.

Also, those new blacklist features? Perfect. The only critique I have is that it should apply to existing blacklists instead of those being not converted, but still, no notes. It’s clear that Yoshida and the team continue to take the issue of toxicity seriously, and yes, having more tools for keeping people and even terms out of your play space is a step in addressing those problems before they occur. They’re good changes.

It’s also nice to see what the schedule is looking like for the next couple of months, but there is one major question mark that occurs to me with the schedule. We know that the next live letter on May 16th will be focused on the job updates with the expansion, and that the media tour concludes after that. Obviously, my question would be how the two are meant to play together. Traditionally, the media tour embargo is timed so that those of us in the media can coordinate and figure out all of the new abilities; I suspect that in response to leaks, the team think it’s smart to just get out ahead of this.

Obviously this is a good thing for those of us (me, it’s me, I am talking about me) who no longer will have to coordinate getting tooltip shots for every single updated and changed ability. And it avoids the leaks that happened last time. But it also does feel a little odd to me, after years of covering this, that suddenly we’re going to be working in a world where everyone knows how the new abilities will work mechanically.

Last but not least, there’s the benchmark itself to talk about. A long-standing tradition for the game, but how does it stack up, now that we can actually download and use it? (And yes, most of this column was written before then.)

It’s not exactly a surprise to see that Hrothgar ladies are set up the same way as the men are vis-à-vis their faces and hairstyles, although that is still a bit awkward; at the same time, these are the races that work that way, it’d be weird if they suddenly didn’t. But they certainly have the full range of emotions and expressions, and the character creator was (as usual) fun to play around with for these particular leonine ladies.

The benchmark itself runs fine, shows off everything you’d want it to, and offers all the options you’d expect. I appreciate the chance it gives you to look at your updated character model, too; sometimes you can get your character looking right with just a little bit of tweaking along the way, sometimes with changes that won’t even actually require any sort of fantasia. These are all good things.

I will confess that my own performance on the benchmark was a bit lower than I expected, but that’s with the caveat that it still scored comfortably and looked great. A lot of the graphical improvements are kind of invisible in the benchmark, of course; I imagine most of them will feel more notable when you’re playing the game and taking the time to notice dense grass, not when the camera is swooping hither and yon in order to take in every high-intensity angle and push as many models as possible at each moment.

Not that it really matters since I can’t really afford to replace my GPU before the expansion in all likelihood. But there’s some deep-seated urge to see a score at the end of a test go higher, and I can’t help that fact.

Regardless, at the end of the day the release of the benchmark mostly means that the launch of the expansion is not just that much closer but feels that much closer. Sure, in one sense it literally is closer; that’s how linear time works. But it also feels more real once we have a benchmark and actual character models to look at. It may not be the final release or even all that close to it, but the next couple of months feel somewhat more bearable because of it.

Even if we do have to endure… sigh… another Yo-Kai Watch run.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, I want to talk about a matter of grave importance that crosses over with Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth (which launched a while ago, I know, I even reviewed it). Does FFXIV lack sufficient minigames?

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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