Final Fantasy XIV’s fourth major patch update for Shadowbringers is underway. 5.4, titled “Futures Rewritten,” brings with it no shortage of content to delve into, with the Main Scenario Questline beginning to sow the seeds of drama leading up to the next expansion, the Eden’s Promise raid series reaching its conclusion, and The Sorrow of Werlyt picking up speed toward it’s grand finale. Not to mention the final installment for the Ishgard Restoration Project has at last begun, with the continuation for the Save the Queen storyline right on it’s heels.
While there are plenty of things to tie us over until patch 5.5, I wanted to take a moment to focus a little on the writing this patch, namely on the three major story continuations: The MSQ, Eden and Werlyt. In this, I will be delving a bit into each, sharing my thoughts on these three stories and how they all combine together to create a fun little “filler episode” that the overall story really needed in order to prepare for what’s to come.
Heavy spoiler warning for Patch 5.4 of course, so if you are not caught up, you may not want to read beyond this point.
The Main Scenario Questline
The Main Scenario Questline begins in the home of the Scions, or The Rising Stones. The Warrior of Light is back back on the Source, and the group is confronted with a couple of questions in need of answers: What in the world is going on in Garlemald since you’ve been away on Norvrandt, and is it possible to cure the Tempered, a name for individuals who are under the influential mind magicks of a Primal. While Thancred and Urianger deal with the former by gathering information on the Empire, the Warrior of Light, Alisaie and G’raha (a newly appointed Scion) deal with the latter, leading them on a grand adventure that ends with them meeting the latest Ascian: Fandaniel.
First I want to focus on one of the main plot points this MSQ: Alisaie. Her story arc started in A Realm Reborn, during the Binding Coil of Bahamut raid series. Over the years, we’ve watched her struggle with Primals and Primal-like entities — Her grandfather becoming Phoenix, Ga Bu becoming a tempered, Tesleen becoming a Sin Eater, and even the Warrior of Light on the verge of being lost at the end of 5.0. Each of these instances were so eerily similar, and it seemed like the sister-twin to Alphinaud never got her chance at happiness, never found that break of good news despite her best efforts to make the most of her troubles. In patch 5.4, she finally gets her break.
I remember being so heartbroken when we lost Ga Bu, an adorable little kobold, to Titan’s influence in 3.4 “Soul Surrender”, and anytime we got to visit the little guy, I’d always left the cutscenes with tears welled in my eyes. So when Alisaie learned how to save Halric from light contamination, I knew that the people she had lost and the people she could save were not far from her thoughts, and in 5.4, we get to see the fruits of her labor: Ga Bu is saved.
This is a huge step for Alisaie’s character. She had spent so long losing people she cared about to Primals and Primal-like threats, and to have her determination to save people finally bloom into a happy result is something she more than deserved. So many Scions have had moments of victory throughout the story, where Alisaie had quietly suffered in the losses she took harder than most anyone else. To have saved Ga Bu, and ultimately create a way to save hundreds of lives, is no small achievement, and a long-awaited victory that was literal real-life years in the making. Not to mention how a cure may come in as a massive plot point later on, especially with how the patch ended, implying that many people are about to be tempered by Fandaniel’s wi-fi towers of darkness.
Limsa Lominsa’s beloved Admiral, Merlwyb, finally got some time in the spotlight herself this patch, and in the best way possible in my opinion. In patch 4.5 “A Requiem for Heroes”, Merlwyb and the other leaders of the Eorzean Alliance had been called out on their shortcomings by the then-Emperor of Garlemald, Varis. I hadn’t expected any of the members of the Alliance to take his criticism to heart or react to it beyond that cutscene, but the writers of FFXIV surprised me once again. Merlwyb — a character known for her extreme prejudice against the Kobolds and Sahagin — proposed the plan for making peace between the city states and the indigenous races of Eorzea in an attempt to not only stop Primal Summonings, but to open dialogue and trade between them. A passion for peace that was so strong, she was willing to give up her life for the cause, an act she did not perform lightly.
It was yet another huge step in character development for this patch. The Admiral had such little screen time outside of her involvement in the Leviathan questline in A Realm Reborn, especially in comparison to other Alliance leaders like Raubahn or Aymeric. To see her finally take the spotlight, admit to her faults and apologize for the grievances between the Kobolds and Limsa Lominsa, was quite an incredible leap. I’m looking forward to seeing how the peace talks progress between all the city states in coming story updates, and how this will impact the overall story, and Eorzea, moving forward. I, for one, would love to see Sylphs, Sahagin, Vanu and more in major city states, or see the two sides working together to protect their homeland, and world, from the Ascian threat.
Then we end the MSQ with the formal introduction of Fandaniel, an Ascian with a want for the complete annihilation of every living thing in the known world, including himself. While there was no real character development happening in this section of the MSQ, the stage for future conflict and chaos had been set in this scene, giving us a tiny glimpse at what the game could be building up to in the next expansion.
I wanted to take a moment though to talk about Fandaniel specifically, and how I am extremely relieved that he was not an attempt to recreate the successes of Emet-selch. Many times writers will fall prey to their successes, and attempt to make that happen again in the form of a different character or event, only to fall short. I had been concerned that with the popularity of such a layered antagonist like Emet, the writers would attempt to make a character similar to him. Fandaniel being so completely opposite of what the Unsundered Ascians were was a relief, and I am so excited to see where his character goes from this point forward and now much further into Kefka-like territory he descends.
Eden’s Promise: The Finale
Eden’s Promise, a trilogy of end-game raid content, came to a close this patch, bringing with it the conclusion to Ryne and Gaia’s story and all kinds of amazing references to Final Fantasy VIII that one could ask for.
While I thought the Normal Modes of the raids themselves were a bit lacking in exciting mechanics — especially after fights like Titan and The Idol of Darkness — I felt the story was quite the opposite. It not only tied up any loose threads in regards to Gaia and her place of origin, but gave Ryne’s story proper closure and granted her the happy ending that she had been denied in 5.3. With her friends and father-figure all returned to the Source to obtain their own happy endings to Shadowbringers, it felt like Ryne — who had spent years locked away in a gilded cage, mostly alone — had been left behind. I felt sad for her despite knowing she still had Gaia, at the time of 5.3, her relationship with the Oracle of Darkness was still in the air and nothing was quite so certain. Would Gaia end up the final boss, forcing us to fight her and leave Ryne alone again?
Thankfully, while Gaia was the end boss of the Eden Series, she was spared from a permanent end, allowing Ryne the chance to wield her father’s Gunblade to save her dear friend in a recreation of a familiar scene from Final Fantasy VIII — as well as mirroring Thancred’s rescue of us Warriors of Light at the end of 5.0. Not only did Ryne accomplish what she set out to do in the beginning by bring life back to a desolate landscape once plagued by eternal light, but she also pulled Gaia from the brink of darkness, helping her establish her individuality and new life. The former Minfilia would not be alone, properly closing the storybook of Norvrandt.
Gaia’s growth over the course of Eden’s storyline was interesting, and I grew to like her character as the series progressed. Gaia was the Oracle of Darkness and the reincarnation of the Ascian Loghrif, mirroring Ryne as the Oracle of Light and the reincarnation of Minfilia, At the start of the series, Gaia was cold, blunt and extremely distant with Ryne, but toward the end, she begins to show a willingness to open up and let go of her mysterious past in hopes of a brighter, happier future. Only to have her efforts thwarted by her centuries old companion and guardian Mitron, who was determined reawaken Loghrif and, in the process, destroy Gaia’s memories. It takes the combined efforts of the Warrior of Light and Ryne to help pull her from Mitron’s grasp, barely saving her present-self.
Gaia’s development from a distant, bitter girl to one more accepting of friendship and forgiveness was very sweet. Despite Mitron’s attempts at destroying the life she had begun to build for herself — thus allowing her the choice to move on from her Amaurotian past — Gaia forgave and even hoped to meet her former guardian again in another life should that be at all possible, and even expressed distress when Mitron ceased responding to her. It showed just how much of a positive impact Ryne’s had on shaping Gaia’s view of the world and her own self-worth since the beginning of the Eden storyline — when she was much more cold and rude. As much as Ryne needed a friend, Gaia needed one too, and I’m glad the story ended with both of them able to look out for one another.
The Sorrow of Werlyt: Emerald Weapon
I’m not going to lie, the Final Fantasy VII fan in me is very much delighted by this storyline. I’d been wondering for years now if the Garlean Empire was just the Final Fantasy XIV equivalent to Shinra, and upon completing the Emerald Weapon section of The Sorrow of Werlyt, I am further convinced that is the case.
After destroying the Emerald Weapon, we rescue one of Gaius’ foster children, Allie, and learn that the new Legatus of the VIIth Legion, Valens van Varro, is obsessed with beating Gaius, and is the head of the Weapon project. We’re shown how ruthless and incredibly creepy Valens is, from brutal torture of his soldiers to utilizing innocent civilians in twisted experimentation. Although he’s more power hungry than a seeker of knowledge, but I couldn’t help but notice the underlying hints of Final Fantasy VII’s creepy scientist Hojo at times — such as his expressions, cruel experimentation, and lack of respect for personal space and boundaries. His mannerisms also ensured that, if I wasn’t already aware of Garlemald being a mess in dire need of the Warrior of Light’s help, I am well aware of it now. Valens is likely just the tip of the iceberg to a much bigger and deeper rooted problem, and I hope we don’t ignore the Empire for much longer if we hope to save the innocent people suffering under their unchecked rule.
On the other side, it seems the antagonist of A Realm Reborn, Gaius, is being set up for a redemption arc. The former Legatus turned Ascian-hunter now must face the horrors of his actions with the Ultima Weapon, which spawned the idea for the Weapon Project continuing in his absence. While his arc is being handled a bit strangely — such as Gaius mentioning he had no idea terrible grievances were happening to civilians under his watch — I am curious to see where his story leads him, and what role he may end up playing in future patches and the incoming expansion. Should we visit the Empire, we will need someone familiar with the location to guide us through the uncharted territory, allowing for Gaius’ redemption arc to be further explored, hopefully clearing up any misunderstandings that may arise in this side-story.
5.4 wasn’t exactly mind-bogglingly epic in comparison to the previous patches and even 5.0 proper, but I believe it was a much needed break and gave some characters a moment in the spotlight, allowing them the chance to develop and grow, gaining new strengths and shedding the burdens that once weighed them down. As I mentioned before in my thoughts over the Shadowbringers storyline and the importance of pacing, it’s good every now and again to have a “filler episode” to help give the story some breathing room, shifting the focus off of the plot to world building and character growth, letting the reader form personal connections that will help achieve a better, stronger response to something meant to be epic or grand in scale.
Alisaie achieved her goal of saving the people she cares about and ultimately found a way to save many, many lives — giving us hope and inspiring us to fight for our future. Merlwyb began the efforts to turn Eorzea into a better, peaceful place for all races and admitted to her faults that had driven a divide between Limsa Lominsa and it’s indigenous people — reconnecting us to our world that we had been away from for so long. Ryne obtained her long-awaited happy ending by saving her homeworld and her friend, and Gaia was able to create a life for herself, free of expectations and past ties — this closes the last, lingering chapter of Shadowbringers, and allows us to move on from Norvrandt for a time. And Gaius is facing the misdeeds of his past, no longer able to ignore his crimes, while giving us a glimpse into more untold horrors of the Empire — possibly preparing us for our inevitable journey to Garlemald.
Now, with Fandaniel having set the stage and some stories having begun their final chapters while others closed their books, we can shift our focus toward the next and newest god-tier catastrophe that awaits us Warriors of Light in 6.0.