Monday, 8 April 2019

JP Fanfest 'we can't use the 'before the Storm' puns this time' Edition

 Well this was a bit different to the usual Fan Fest affair wasn't it? not much info but what there was was surprising and significant. Some announcements that had people going nuclear to the point of sending Yoshi death threats, yes really, and overall exciting things to look forward to in game, also a reminder that by and large people are trash and jump at the chance to be trash but thats a rant i will spare you. So eye rolling at people turning on a guy they have sung the praises of for nearly 6 years aside what was announced?

The World: So my guess before now was split between another Shard and the Future. Turns out the former was correct. In Shadowbringers we are travelling via the Crystal Tower to "The First", specifically to the last surviving land of Norvrandt and The Crystarium (which some of you no doubt recognise from the original tech demo for 1.0, apparently Yoshi liked the design so much he chose to bring it back here). The last bastion of life on a dying world built around their Crystal Tower. Something that makes me wonder if the Allagans opened a doorway to more than just the World of Darkness back in the day. All we know for now is this is a world so suffused with light night doesnt exist, darkness doesn't exist and anyone who knows a little about sunlight and the planets knows constant light beating down like on a planet caught in a orbit without rotational movement on its axis means one side is going to be burnt to a crisp and the other frozen in permanent night. Only in this case the source is not a star but magical in nature. Everywhere is turning into a scorched wasteland. Patrolled by roaming lightsent monsters called 'Sin eaters'. Creatures apparently being designed by one of the artists who worked on the Shin Megami Tensei franchise which explains why they gave off such stark Persona/Megaten vibes to me.

 So for the most part people live as refugees in a shanty town, huddled together counting down the days till the encroaching light burns away the last of all life while up above in a building that looks suspiciously similar to the Aftcastle of Limsa Lominsa this worlds Miqo'te, not the stringy nomadic tribal people of our world but sedentary literal fat cats, live a life of wilful ignorance as they choose to throw a party to bring in the end of the world without a saviour. That is until we arrive.

 It has been a few weeks now so i assume you dear reader have caught up on the MSQ at this point. In it we are directed to our own Crystal Tower to find a "Beacon to throw wide the gates" by a hooded figure with a crystallised hand (i'm putting my money on Ardbert but who knows) who is calling us to The First to help the world and find some way to combat the Ascians without the same thing happening to our world as well. Its our duty to become the Warrior of Darkness these people need to fight off the Sin Eaters and bring back the Night Sky and save the world. So y'know, just another day on the job right?

The key difference here of course is its quite the opposite of 'same shit, different day'. These are places familiar yet strange. Silvertear Lake and Mor Dhona in this world is "Lakeland" a zone on the edge of the Crystarium and one of the few habitable regions of Norvrandt not yet ruined by the Sin Eater crisis. Will we see buildings we recognise? will we see people? i don't know about you but i would not be surprised to see a certain merchant lady trying to set up a import and export business with a tired old blacksmith in tow who doesnt recognise us but seems awfully familiar to us.

 See for the most part everything that is on our world may exist in some fashion. The worlds split 10,000 years ago. After that point life diverged down differing paths. That doesn't mean however that things can't have happened again albeit in different ways. A key example of that is the reveal of the Dwarf Beast Tribe. A diminutive race that hides behind a set of armour, a large helmet and a big fake beard. Turns out Dwarf is the Norvrandt term of Lalafell. In this world they are seen as something like a Kobold or Sahagin while Hyur are called Humes, Viera the Vis, Elezenn the Elves and so on. These are races we might think we know but as with the fat, lazy Miqo'te or 'Mystel' as they call themselves on The First the culture and history of the people will be very different indeed. Personally i am a big fan of 'what might have been' alternate history stories and its going to be cool to see alternate versions of people we know. Which only makes some of the stuff going on with the scions still a little muddy. Are they waking up? does going to the first return their souls to their bodies? are their souls in their other world counterparts? do we all have counterparts? was Ardbert our counterpart literally? or as a line in the trailer suggests are the Scions holding down the fort back on The Source with the whole Garlemald/Black Rose situation while storywise we are spending the 5.0 portion locked away from the crisis on our own world until the issues on The First are dealt with? right now we still don't know and since i hate going into a rpg knowing beat for beat whats going on i'm perfectly fine with that, its the mysteries that keep us wanting to know more right?

Personally i am excited. Its the sort of thing i enjoy but i can see why it has a few people wary in a 'i've been down this road before' kind of way. Once again going back to World of Warcraft, because MMO's nowadays always need to right? the end of Mists of Pandaria appeared to wrap up the Horde vs Alliance conflict and a character specifically told the player "the Burning Legion is coming, get ready" and people were excited for the big bads who have been teased but not seen significantly since the RTS games were on their way right? well actually no. Instead Blizzard revealed "Warlords of Dreanor". The players were going to an alternate world and travelling back in time to that worlds past. An alien world, the original home to the orcs and now an irradiated hellscape floating in the void, was once a primal, verdant world similar to Azeroth. The villain of the last expansion went back in time to before that world blew up, introduced advanced technology to this pre industrial level society and was sending them as an invasion force to the current day Azeroth. Instead of a warlike tribal savages that sold their souls to demons it was a fully industrial empire of sorts waging a unified war campaign to invade and take over the world. Interesting idea right? well aside from the execution falling flat on its face and beginning the downward trend for the game and Blizzard in general the mere announcement left players upset. They were going to an alternate dimension? so none of this actually matters to the world they pay a sub fee to play on? that seems a bit absurd since story is story but they had a big demon invasion coming, were straight up told that by an ingame npc of significance but now that was being shelved for what felt like a straight filler expansion? I haven't seen many rumblings of that here, mostly because we have always had the paralell world deal in the core story in FFXIV and its not a random asspull to maybe fill a huge development gap between retail releases, but for some the worry is still there. MMORPG's in general tend to follow the trend of "one great expansion, one middling expansion, one disappointing expansion and the downward trend begins and recovery is nigh impossible" so with rumours of Yoshi P leaving -not being helped by him announcing a new game in the works last week- players in some small number are worried this is a sign of phoning it in, perhaps the Crystarium isn't a nod to 1.0 but recycling assetts cut from the original game as productions winding down?
 Its not my own opinion and i think its absurd but other games crashing and burning when they try to pull off a setting shift like this has people wary of going through the same let downs again. I don't agree but i also can't blame them after putting nearly 6 years into this game and growing attached after certain others they may have put longer in turned to crap while exploring the same ideas. But thats enough rambling about the world, we have two other major bits of information to talk about.

New Job - Dancer: The... ranged DPS?!? Hoo boy. This was the start of the buttmad train that didn't stop. The new job is Dancer. Yes it has support elements like BRD and uses dances to buff themselves, their party and debuff their enemies. No it isn't a straight healer. No it isn't using daggers or ribbons to get in close and kick and twist their way around their enemies with style and grace. They are kind of another turret dps. Standing back and slinging Chakram or Shuriken style "Thrown Weapons" to do damage. Thats fine i guess, but really no version of Dancer people wanted is seeing the light of day and instead we have something that right after 2 dps, including RDM as a range that can buff, heal and dash around to be a fencing dandy it feels a bit weird. The people who wanted a healer are upset. The people who wanted a true support are upset. The people who wanted straight up Primrose from Octopath Traveller are upset its another hang back and stay out of most mechanics ranged job. In fact, while i haven't seen many truly upset Dancer is the job, i haven't seen too many excited for the version of Dancer we are getting.
Personally i would have liked either a new Healer since its been a few years now since Astrologian was added with Heavensward or a melee job. Perhaps they don't want it overlapping with MNK too much since some of the move animations seem ripped right from Lys's routine in the Stormblood trailer. Who knows maybe DNC was meant for Stormblood and swapped with Red Mage which was magic from The First or something? who knows.
I mean i level every job to cap for completionists sake (i swear i'll get PLD 60-70 sometime this month to finish the lot again!) and i hope its fun but it doesn't look terribly interesting thus far compared to most jobs since Ninja onwards. But we don't even know what the combat revamp is going to look like, let along who the current jobs will play to compare and contrast. I'm glad we got Dancer, maybe Puppet Master someday, i just think a lot of people aren't pleased with the role/combat type it is and i think thats fair but after BLU i think its like a double whammy of "heres the thing you were asking for, just not in the way anybody appears to have wanted" which is a bit of a sour note. Though not the worst of the night in terms of reveals with a reaction i'll be kind and call "mixed".

New Race - Hrothgar: Leak of the name aside i don't think anyone was that surprised to see FFX's Ronso joining the roster under a different name. There has been rumours of two playable mono gendered playable races coming for a while and with BLU so recently added and Viera covered it was the common theory with BLU on the mind that, much as people would like something crazy like Yukes or Ivalician Moogles or something, it ain't gonna be the Qu so its probably going to be the Ronso. Sure enough Yoshi reveals a second all Male (hey its magic they can figure something out i guess) race that just as expected is tall lion dudes with horns. Personally i wouldn't play as one but FFX has a lot of unique art assets and people/creatures that have been long overlooked and the Ronso have been a firm favourite with players. On top of that there is also the east vs west mmo style division. Players in the east want characters to play as that are slender, pretty and magical. Its why Blizzard added Blood Elves to the Horde during The Burning Crusade in fact. While the west for the most part prefer their beastial, animal races. This was the people who want their pretty race get Viera, the ones who want a beastly one get Hrothgar. Everybody wins. Kind of.
See the problem here isn't the Hrothgar, if you said "hey do you want Viera AND Ronso in FFXIV" i doubt a soul would have said "what? no. Thats stupid and lame" because its another popular race in the franchise right? The trouble here is both races are mono gendered. You can only play female Viera and Male Ronso. When It was rumoured to just be Viera sure people were upset, some who clearly just wanted 'Alphinaux with bunny ears' wank material going so far as sending death threats and trying to drum up an angry mob online, but at least in the story Viera males are rare and reclusive. In the entire IP i think Viera have been in about 7 or 8 games now and i don't think they have done a single instance of a male one. So while thats a disappointment for people its just a continued trend. But the you have the Ronso which as shown in FFX clearly do have 'furry melwyb' looking females. These are documented. They have been in two past Final Fantasy games and are common place. Thats when it gets a little iffy.
I myself don't really care. Viera are neat but are confirmed they can wear helmets or use head glamour model wise so i dont think i'd race change from my current Au Ra for one. Hrothgar are cool but i tend to play casters in FFXIV and i am not a fan of robs in giant silhouettes with the Roegadyn as is. But in an ideal world there should be male Viera and female Hrothgar. I don't really care myself but as people have said male Miqo'te are meant to be the reclusive male Viera equivalent in XIV already and that doesn't matter. I wouldn't even mind if they came later in the expansion as resources were directed towards it but i think it should happen. Though i'm also not one of the people going nuclear just because they see it as 'gender locking'. I don't freak out when the Tomb Raider games 'force' me to play as a woman. A character is just that. A character and as long as i like the character i'm fine with the ones i'm handed to play as options wise. Granted there are people that treat characters more like avatars of themselves and true self inserts into a story but i can only speak for my opinion and not theres. Its a issue they should have seen coming and at the same time some people are taking it far too seriously and looking like complete jackasses. Time will tell how its received and how issues get resolved though i guess.

New raid: Eden Finally they announced the none Alliance Raid for Shadowbringers and its based on Eden. The Cruise Chaster-esque Airship to robot transforming super summon. It was eventually going to happen after Alexander and bosses like Ozma and with the whole 'overwhelming light' aspect Eden seems like a good fit. Apparently the story involves people, after the 70-80 story of the Warrior of Light/Darkness, trying to restore the elements which have been consumed by the Light/Sin Eaters. Also being done by another guest creator. In this case famed Final Fantasy regular Tetsuya Nomura.

This is when people started to worry.

See Nomura is most well known for his work on FFVII and his baby Kingdom Hearts. In more recent years however Nomura's name has been less associated with quality projects and more "things that take a very long time to end up not as good as stuff he made in a faction of the time 20 years ago" with a sentiment that he is artistically one note with his black leather and buckles/zippers fetish and he spreads himself over too many projects at once and they all suffer for it. Considering he is supposed to be working on the FFVII remake thats rumoured to be in development hell, Kingdom Hearts 3 DLC and multiple other small projects you might see why some people were concerned to the point of saying "Your monkeys paw wish gets Taro Yoko working on Final Fantasy, but Tetsuya Nomura has to come with".
 Don't get me wrong i have enjoyed a lot of his work and don't want to outright shit on the guy. But he is not the creative powerhouse with the finger on the pulse of what rpg fans want anymore and hasn't been for about 15 years. His games have stories as predictable as his character designs and Eden brings to mind FFVIII which, love or hate the story, used the art direction of Yusuke Naora for a very unique take on blending the mundane modern day with fantastical future tech in a way he also tried in FFXV which is itself getting a XIV collaboration he worked on in like a week or less at the time of writing. I don't know about you but when i think of Eden i think of VIII's science-fantasy and not Nomuras Soft Goth, Toriyama inspired deiselpunk style of Final Fantasy. Its not bad but its not what i and apparently based on comments many wanted to do Eden justice and more to the point Nomura has bigger projects he should not be taking time off like this to avoid working on at this point and just in general his modern perception as a guy who is thrown at projects to make a generic, serviceable FF look while making completely forgettable games is kind of a lame reveal after Taro Yoko bringing his brand of absurdist, atomistic thinking to a straight fantasy universe.

Maybe it will be great and it will be the think that lights a fire under Nomura again but we have been saying that about projects he has been working on for the last two console generations and to put it into perspective Kingdom Hearts 3 came out a month or two ago and has already pretty much been forgotten while 1 and 2 were cultural phenomenon's amongst jrpg fans back in the day. His work ain't what it used to be and that has people worried.

But on the plus side Yoshida was being very coy as he pointed out the character "Gaia" shown in the concept art for the raid is using a hammer and said "Hmm, i don't think there are any jobs that use hammers yet" which of course has people speculating about another post 5.x patch job. Perhaps with the elemental restoration storyline this is going to lead into GEO as a hammer user? Maybe a hammer healer who knows? if theres one thing this Fan Fest proved its that the FFXIV team does not like to settle and will always keep us guessing.

 All in all i think this is the most mixed the reaction from the fanbase has been to a Fan Fest yet. Can't all be home runs i suppose but the mood was a little more disquieted than we are used to. Doesn't say bugger all about the quality of the product of course, but for their big domestic market event with the biggest amount of attendees i feel like it was a bit of a damp squib compared to the smaller but roaring with overwhelming cheers kind of crowds we saw in the EU and US audiences. It always sucks to write about something that left people a bit disheartened in some fashion but i'm still excited. I can't wait to go to The First, to try the new jobs and see where the story takes us. Which i guess is at least partially the point of Fan Fest and the rest is to bring the community together. Granted it wasn't really in an overwhelmingly positive way this time but you can't deny it still did that.

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