One of the few things we all have in common, despite our identities and backgrounds, is being extremely good at collecting regrets — both big and small. You might think that playing almost 1000 hours of Final Fantasy XIV in eight months would be one of those. I mean, it is a truly ridiculous number. But, dear reader, with each new content update — and especially the one released this week — I am reaffirmed in that, no. While playing this game so obsessively is many things to me, it’s not anywhere close to a regret. Not when it’s as good as FFXIV patch 5.2, which captures in a mere few hours everything that makes this MMORPG so brilliant.
Patch 5.2, also known as “Echoes of a Fallen Star,” considerably builds on the previous patch’s comparably light story foundations. Here, the main quest scenario dives deeply, even if briefly, on one of the best parts of Shadowbringers: how much it added to the lore of the universe of FFXIV.
It introduces the next primary antagonist, who shoulders the burden of being successor to who is now one of the most popular villains in the entire series. The writing only plants the seeds of his personality and objectives, but it’s effective at already making Elidibus (the new antagonist taking center stage) seem like an unfathomable threat. That’s no easy task. There was so much depth to the pain of Emet-Selch, who players bested at the end of Shadowbringers, that made him seem not just unstoppable, but pitiable.
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But where Emet-Selch was passionate and heartbroken underneath his wit, Elidibus is cold and detached. While Emet-Selch played around with the idea of finding common ground with you, Elidibus rejects it outright and almost immediately showcases his cunning and degree of power. I’m already looking forward to how he’ll play out — despite Emet-Selch being one of my favorite FFXIV characters, much less villains, and after only interacting with Elidibus for a short time.
The story also complements the core of Shadowbringers’ central narrative, which aimed to demystify the concept of a hero. The expansion threw you into an entirely new realm with entirely new threats, had you question why we inherently associate lightness with good and darkness with evil, and reflect on the fact that you, as the Warrior of Darkness, along with the Scions, aren’t the only ones willing to stop at nothing to save what you value. I won’t spoil what happens here, but it’s utterly fascinating to see how FFXIV further complicates how we see heroism. Even though FFXIV is an MMO, where progress is constant and loot flows like water, the writing remains excellent at leaving you feeling powerless.
The patch also continues the Eden raid: an eight-person, story-centered series of boss fights as part of the Shadowbringers endgame. Not only is the story much more interesting in this second leg, but the fights are a sight to behold and an utter (messy) joy to play.
New Raids Bring New Gains
One of the most fun experiences in FFXIV is jumping into new raids on day one of a new patch and puzzling out mechanics as you collectively wipe again and again. The dev team has gone above and beyond in regards to the difficulty of these fights, making them exciting and challenging even if you have high-level gear. There are some new brilliant mechanics that prove hard to nail even with experience (and by experience, I mean my friends still dying multiple times in a fight they spent two hours trying to clear the previous day); the arenas and bosses are visual treats; the music is, in typical FFXIV fashion, impeccable. The last of these battles has what is now one of my favorite tracks in the entire game. Appropriately, it’s also one of the most breathtaking encounters I have played in and out of FFXIV.
Gaia, the brand new character introduced in this phase of the Eden raid, is already memorable, too. That’s mostly thanks to her touching relationship with Ryne (a new protagonist introduced in Shadowbringers). While FFXIV has an incredible cast of women, they don’t interact as much as I’d like them to. It’s lovely to see the game use Eden to focus on the budding, complicated, and heartwarming friendship between two girls who are stronger and kinder than they think.
Wedding Day Presents
There are many other additions included in this patch that I could list, like the Ruby Weapon fight, the stunning new dungeon, and fantastic remixes of old songs that don’t need to go as hard as they do, but that my playlist is so grateful for anyway. There are also quality of life changes, small class updates, the new quests for the NieR: Automata raid, the Qitari beast tribe, and so much more. Although I’ll give a special shoutout to the wonderfully welcome un-restriction of Eternal Bonding clothing. This means that players getting married in-game can wear wedding dresses or tuxedos as the please — regardless of in-game gender. It signifies more progress toward representation and inclusivity that FFXIV is getting slowly, but surely better at all the time.
But the point is this: more than ever, it’s so exciting to be a FFXIV fan. It’s good to know you’ll never get mere crumbs of satisfaction, for this is a bold game that is many things — but complacent isn’t one of them. As the MMORPG explores old territory in fresh ways and covers entirely new grounds, it’s hard to see this as anything but one of the best Final Fantasy games. I don’t regret being a part of its growth at all.