Friday, 6 March 2020

Lets rip the band aid off and talk about 5.2

I know i know. I was planning a big write up on 5.0/5.1 but honestly i think at this point its better to save for another end of expansion wrap up at this point like i did with Heavensward. I've been sick, hospitalised -hell of a christmas right?- and been busy besides so i thought i would just jump back in the saddle with the current content since x.2 is usually when the expansion really shows its hand in an MMORPG. The class balance should be solidifying, the new jobs/classes should have found their place and the x.0 story enters its final arc while setting up the overall world story.

 So i've done all the new content up to this point. What did i think of it?

Story: by this point in the story we have dealt with the Sin Eaters, Vauthry and fan favourite Emet-Selch and discovered a lot about both ourselves and the true nature of Hydaelyn, Zodiark, the Ascians and are really left with 3 major questions. 1 - What is Elidibus' deal? 2 - If the goal is the rejoin all the worlds created when Hydaelyn shattered Zodiark and the Source then how do we get around the 13th being destroyed rather than rejoined? its kind of a jigsaw with a piece missing scenario right? and 3 - Getting the Scions back to their slowly dying bodies in the first.

Elidibus' seems at first kind of obvious. He is revealed to have possessed Arbert's corpse and with the reveal that any 'echoes of a falling star' -in our case Dalamund- in the Crystariums case a fake meteor shower- awakens the Echo which is in fact a remnant of Ascian/Amourotine creation magic that sparks into life at anything resembling the soul scarring trauma of the Terminus Event that nearly destroyed the original Source 10,000 years ago.
He spins this as Hydaelyn choosing a lot of people as Warriors of Light who he convinces to abandon their posts. Maybe just to create instability, maybe to create another flood of light? The greatest twist here is that we learn "Elidibus" was used as the sacrifice to summon Zodiark as Ysale was for Shiva or Yotsuru was for Tsukuyomi. Which could mean that perhaps the white robed Ascian IS Zodiark or perhaps he is more than one person? a primals core shattered into 14 pieces but with the power of 'The Eldest and most Powerful of Primals' at even 1/14th of its full strength could seem comparable to Lahabrea or Emet-Selch in theory right? perhaps we have spent the last six months thinking we are down to one Ascian left but there is in fact an entire "Council of 14" of a far different sort who was even manipulating the Ascians themselves? Or to go a slightly less tinfoil route consider that Emet-Selch was a title of office as a member of the Amourotine Council of 14. The fan favourite villains actual name was Hades. So we know A Elidibus was the core of Zodiark but we also know there was enough time between Zodiarks first summoning and Hydaelyn's that a resistance had time to organise and splinter from the other Ancients. Maybe this Elidibus is a new character given the title? perhaps he is not tempered by Zodiark but follows him as the successor of the Elder Primals core to follow his masters wishes?
For now all we know for certain is that there is a new Ancient on the cards, the woman who formed the core of Hydaelyn being introduced but beyond that a lot of this is setup for the final act while really cementing that Elidibus is one of the two main antagonists left. The other of course being Zenos.

Unfortunately in that regard we get a small reveal that Zenos has been reliving the Terminus in his dreams his entire life and a new white cloaked Ascian in what might be the body of Yotsuyus brother, or just Eldibus using a different host for each world in the story right now, ends the brief scene about to tell Zenos what Emet-Selch told us back in Norvrandt. Honestly given his body jumping artificial echo stuff i would not be surprised to see Zenos somehow show up in Norvrant or Amourot in some fashion. Creation magic and Zenos sounds like the kind of horrible combination that could lead to some "another Terminus will cull the weak from the strong" scenario Square loves for its jrpg villains. I mean Garlemalde proper IS building the gem themed weapons from FFVII now so may as well go whole hog on jrpg bad guy bingo right?

Meanwhile Eden continues and story wise its okay but mostly what i expected bar Shiva being Rhyne rather than some Shiva Twins fight of Hauchefaunt and Ysale. But we did get a double primal fight in the tier which was something i guess. Right now its hard to say where the overall story is going since i thought Gaia was from the 13th but now she is just a random Eulmore girl possessed by a voidsent? I guess giving Rhyne a friend means she will have more than just your and Feo Ul to visit her when everyone else returns to Eorzea but overall? i can't tell what direction the next story hook is going for. Though i do still think Eden will be the maguffin to solve our "how can rejoining zodiark be a threat when a world/piece of him is missing" and Eden will take norvrants excess of light aspect Aether and use it to rebalance the aether in the void of the 13th world to let it coalesce again. We save two worlds at the cost of solving the largest problem the ascians had in their grand scheme. Though of course were that possible why wouldn't they have done it when Eden first showed up 100 years ago? unless it takes Rhynes special abilities to do so of course. Still i wouldn't be surprised if Gaias Eulmore and Rhynes are not in fact the same and the reason they share so many similarities is because she is the Rhyne as Ardbert was to us.

Overall it felt like a brief story update lacking the story twists or development of the last two major updates but topping 5.0 in particular is something i have not seen another MMORPG ever do, haven't even seen another FF game do in almost twenty years so its tough to fairly judge when the bar has been set so high for me. I would say overall its a minor dip in overall intrigue and progression but still comparable to the best of Stormbloods post 4.0 content.

Dungeons.. i mean, Dungeon: Only one dungeon this time. Also kind of a simple one but also one that kind of has some weird stuttering or lag at times. We ride Bismark down to the sea floor to an isolated part of the ruins of Amourot to find a flooded archive of Ancient Creation magic templates. Instant monsters just as aether! overall its pretty easy and mostly just generic beasts and sahagin but the monsters are a nice number of movement heavy fights which compared to other dungeons recently -the previous Amourotine dungeon in particular- was a welcome change even if the dungeon around the boss fights felt very 'been there, done that'. Overall its fine but just fine. It feels more like a "well its an MMORPG we need to add a dungeon" than a crazy new idea the devs were burning to bring to life. Call it was it is: its gear catchup. Not the worst dungeon in the game but certainly not the most memorable either.

Raids and Rubies: On the other hand i'm pretty pleased with the 8 man content. Bar one fight i'll get to Eden's second wing is much more enjoyable than the first and Ruby weapon is the most enjoyable and challenging trial we have had in a hot minute. So lets go through them.

First off we have the reveal that the thing we fought as Estinien was a prototype not for another Ultima Weapon but new models of Weapon. Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire and Diamond. A certain former Garlean general from the ARR box art has returned to Ala Mhigo to inform us of the oncoming threat blazing across the wasteland of the Gimlet Dark and its up to us to stop it. Hey Ultima and Omega were no problem right? this will be a cakewalk. Right?

Theres some minor twists involving who is piloting these mechs and how its fusing with and mutating them but i think thats a pale secondary draw compared to the fight. Might be controversial but honestly? its a two phase fight where i vastly prefer the first. The second is basically a DPS race with one neat meteor blocking mechanic but the first is fast, frantic and adds some great twists on mechanics we haven't seen i like half a decade from a FFXIV boss. Its a fight that you enjoy doing even after you figure it out because of the spectacle and how good it feels to pull it off well. Even on normal it was a refereshing bump in challenge when most of the story part launch week Titania is very much 'story mode' difficulty nowadays outside Savage and Extreme but this felt more comparable to Ozma and if you have read my past word vomit you know thats one of my favourite normal difficulty fights from back in the day.
The musics great, the production value is great and the fight is a blast. Even if optional trials aren't usually your thing i recommend beating it at least once before its likely nerf just to say you did and experience it as it is now which is just a great fight.

Moving on to Eden with E5 we have Ramuh... or Ixion...Ramixion? Whatever. Openshirt centaur butler is on the scene. We need to down him to restore storms and current to the atmosphere of the Empty!

Overall a solid first fight in the new tier of raid bosses. A much more interesting and entertaining fight than Eden Prime was and with the nostalgic music track and remixes of old moves its basically just Ramuh but better in every way. It just suffers from the old '1st boss syndrome' where the moment you got the mechanics down it is a cakewalk unless you get one person not paying attention and dropping a stormcloud in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Its a well made fight that i've done quite a few times and not gotten bored which happened to me with Eden Prime -excellent FF8 music remix aside- after like a fortnight.

But then hoo boy. I don't like to say this but i'm no blind brand loyalty shill so i gotta call it like i see it: This is one of the most disappointing raid fights in years.

Two primals at once. Ifrit and Garuda to restore Fire and Wind to allow for rainfall, warmth and temperate climates. Surely a double primal fight will be crazy right?

Honestly? no. Not really. You fight Garuda a bit and has like two moves that are a threat until you realise how they work and you just stand aside and Ifrit is about as bad. Theres a neat twist when they combine into a new dual element primal but honestly the fight is just red light, green light -pun not intended- movement based gameplay with what i think might be Sokens first remix i found bland and underwhelming. I hate to say it but its just a total disappointment. Its not fun. Its not even good fan service for the primals its meant to be a remix of. I would rather just fight Ifrit or Garuda extreme. Or both at the same time i guess. This was just the low point for raiding for me in general since maybe some of the throw away Goblin fights in Alexanders middle tier. But theres always gotta be an idea that sinks rather than floats now and then and boy is this one of those.

Thankfully though things take a turn for the interesting right after. That dark spirit in Gaia makes their appearance already as the 'Iconoclast' A crystalline voidsent that controls a massive flock of avian Sin Eaters. Its light and dark coming at you at once, ever played Ikaruga?

Honestly this is another Ozma style fight where its simple and brainless when you know it. But you go in blind? its so much visual noise and new mechanics that it wrecks you. But slowly the mechanics click like a very Ikaruga style light shield for dark attacks and vice versa mechanic that make for a very enjoyable raid boss. The musics great, visually its something pretty unique and mechanically its a lot simpler than it looks but it looks and feels just so tightly tuned and balanced so its never too hard nor too easy to be bruteforced. I honestly enjoy this fight the most out of the tier so far.

Then finally we get a bit of a twist. To Summon Shiva Rhyne offers herself up as the sacrifice/host becoming at times a slightly aged up more Ysayle looking version of herself and then transforming into a light aligned primal in this wierd Bayonetta 1 opening cutscene bodysuit thing. Overall its a very fan service heavy fight -and i'm not talking about the questionable taste of attire for a young girl- but in its mechanics and how it redoes some of Shivas moves but also adds in neat references to other fights and even other games. Theres no way the final fake out wipe followed by beating down a dps race meter isn't a homage to the final fight of Warcrafts Wrath of the Lich King raid in Icecrown against the Titular icy necromancer.
This fight is for the most part very similar to Ramuhs. Simple mechanics but certain moves like her mirrors which echoes her attacks with different placements can mess up people not that good at maintaining orientation on such things but overall it was a nice memorable fight. Especially compared to E4 which fun as Titan was the first few times i actually had to look up what it was because in the end outside his tiny quadbike backpack its kind of forgettable. The set piece alone garauntees that wont happen here and the nice twist of adding a second elemental stable of attacks was a welcome shakeup that pulls off what E6 tried but succeeds everywhere it fails. For me at least.

I'm pretty happy with the raid bosses this patch to be honest. Sure E6 is far from a favourite of mine but the whole package feels much stronger than some other patches, in heavensward in particular where the bland loot pinata was in full effect in more than a few mid tier fights. Here the balance feels smoother and the concept of taking old bosses and remixing them like this is interesting alone. Though i do wonder how they will do a dark and light primal fight since all i can think of is Odin, Atomos, and Bahamut for dark aligned Primals and for light? ...Mogglemog i guess? we have to wait and see. Its more Yoko Taro goodness in the second Nier raid next so its going to be a while before we conclude the Eden line and for now Shiva is a pretty solid place to stop and Ruby Weapon is a wonderful side jaunt one and done trial to boot.

Odds and End: This is a bit of an odd one since we have a lot of stuff coming in a .5 update such as the relic weapons and a new area/questline all about saving the Queen of the Hrothgar/Ronso and a bunch of side content to lose countless hours in so for now it seems a bit sparse.
We have the new beast tribe but since i've been pretty sick and also capped my crafters and gatherers in the first month of the expansion its not really got any rewards down to xp worth rushing for but so far i'm almost done and the idea of just randomly picking and shaping the history of the little rat guys seems questionable at best. But at least we get more about the Viera/Vis and the Ronkan empire which is an area i felt the levelling experience teased so much but showed very little of overall. Its good to get some more of that before we head home and back to the Garlean issues waiting for us.

Then there is Ocean fishing. Or 'Rainbow Fishing' as its being called even though technically i think folks are talking about an Aurora. You head down to Limsa as a FSH from any level from 1-80 and once per 2 real world hours, yes really, you can spend 15 odd minutes at 3 locations fishing for points that get you scrip, xp and prizes.
Its a nice idea and i like Fishing don't get me wrong. I think its fair to say no other MMORPG on the market has a better Fishing set up than XIV does but  honestly it kind of feels like another Diadem style thing where the moment people get the shark mount the participants will plummet and then so will the packed ships and so will the points buffing 'rainbows' that anyone can trigger for the whole party. No doubt some fishing maniacs will form party finder groups for it but it seems like unless they expand on it in future, maybe airship fishing in the sea of clouds perhaps? then it feels like a fair bit of effort for low reward and these things often seem to end up forgotten like Chocobo Racing. More power to them for experimenting rather than settling but i feel like this needs support or its going to be a ghost town sooner rather than later.

So thats that for now i suppose. I've got my crafting macros to rejigger after the move pruning, levelling Gunbreaker to 80 and getting those monotenous desynth levels up because muh OCD and maybe the Gil incentive but overall its nice to be playing more and to be writing again.

Sorry it took so long :p

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