Warning: Contains Spoilers for the ending of FFXIV Stormblood.
As the 4th of July is a holiday for me, I was able to buckle down, along with Syn, to make a lot of progress in Stormblood. Not only did I reach level 70 Red Mage, and finish all those class quests, but we were also able to complete the storyline for FFXIV 4.0.
While other people were figuring out Omega, which I’m not in a rush to do, we were hashing out the last dungeon (and first of the Expert Roulette), as well as the final fight in the Menagerie.
Here’s some thoughts on the ending. Complete and total spoilers ahead. Also, probably going to be long.
The Royal Menagerie
Zenos-Shinryu is no pushover for a final boss. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, for all the buildup with Mr. Sloppeh we got and the final cutscene of 3.5, this trial had some big shoes to fill. Making it a pushover like Thordan wasn’t going to cut it.
On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot of people compare this to Steps of Faith difficulty when dealing with PUGs. It is extremely mechanically intensive. However, the mechanics are well-telegraphed and honestly a conglomeration of things we’ve mostly seen before in previous fights. Some of these mechanics have a bit of RNG tossed in there, as Shinryu can pull from several attacks used by previous primals, in different orders, so you don’t always know what to be looking for.
For someone who has spent time with this game, practicing alliance raids, dungeons and roulettes several times over, this fight isn’t too bad. I watched a video before I went in, expecting the worst… because the video does express just how much you have to deal with in a fast and furious mode.
I was very lucky to have a FC who quickly got together a full group for us, and cleared it smoothly the first try. I’m going to attribute that to the skill and knowledge of the rest of the team, since they’ve run this before, some several times. I only had one death during the fight — during the move where he blankets the entire platform with blue, except for a tiny corner. Even with sprint, I didn’t quite make it in time, and got blasted off the platform to my death. 😦
On the flip side, for a player who may only clear dungeons once to get through story, doesn’t practice roulettes, and doesn’t choose to raid, this fight is a lot to take in. I’ve never been a fan of silly-rediculous trials that gate story. Though I got a fast clear, I know that isn’t the case for everyone in our FC. Yeah, eventually, people will outgear it and it’ll become easier to do like Final Steps did, but are the casual folks who just want to see the end of Stormblood really going to stick around until next patch if this fight blocks them?
I’m still not sure what to make of Zenos. I’m not sure that the other NPCs know what to make of him, either. By the time we got to the end of it all, he seemed completely off his rocker, fusing with a Primal, and then ending his own life when he was defeated.
I felt it was a bit of a cop-out that he killed himself. But I don’t know that it was completely out of character, either.
In fact, Syn and I had a long talk about his character, or lack thereof. I still hold the opinion that Zenos was never meant to be something we completely understood. In fact, in closing cutscenes, his own father called him a “monster” who was never “fit for the throne.” It was alluded to that he was a test subject… likely similar to what we saw happen with other characters.
The fact that we killed him off so quickly, and there felt like there was no backstory or explanation, leads me to feel that Zenos was more of a plot device than anything else in the long run. He’s there to impress upon us the idea of the lengths that the Empire will go to in order to achieve power (experimentation, mutation)… even if the outcome is total loss of humanity.
Zenos was seriously messed up. I can’t find a lot of sympathy for him. But, I also sense the game is saying that Zenos was made into the madness that became what he was, and there’s a lot of potential for developing that line of thought.
I’m also curious if Elidibus might not have taken Zenos’ body. In the end, when we revisit the spot of his death in a later cutscene, it was missing.
Speaking of missing bodies… I don’t know how I feel about the reveal that Gosetsu and Yotsuyu are still alive. In fact, I was so conflicted by this, I forgot to take screenshots.
I know the creed of “if you don’t see the body, then you can’t prove they really died” thing. And I even had a sneaking suspicion they were going to pull this with Gosetsu at least. But when I saw Yotsuyu there, too, I Noped out of that whole thing.
Are they really going to try to get me to swallow the redeemed bad guy with Yotsuyu now? It’s obvious they wanted the player to feel some sympathy for her, but dang, the writers are going to have their hands full if they want to sway my stance on her character. Now, it may very well be they can do it… I’m sentimental like that. But it’s going to have to be good.
The lack of Estinien actually doing a whole lot in Stormblood bugs me. I guess he was only associated to this story due to his connection to the eyes of Nidhogg. But it was still rather disappointing to see him pop up, blow up a cannon, and do nothing else until the epilogue where he finally destroys the eyes for good.
And why the heck did the Scions jut leave the eyes of Nidhogg lying there when they left the Menagerie anyhow? Ah, well. At least I think they’re gone for good… the eyes thing was getting a bit too played out.
And Everything Else…
I felt, overall, the Doma part of the story was a lot stronger than the Ala Mhigo part. By the time I got to Ala Mhigo, I started to get the itchy feeling that the story arc should have already seen its conclusion. I dunno. It was hard to top Doma and the Steppes for me.
The final areas and dungeons went by pretty quickly. We had a lot of stuff compressed into the last few levels, and it seemed to have lost the air of discovery we got from making the trip to the far east. Once back in Ala Mhigo, it was all business and war again… and I guess that was to be expected, but it was what interested me the least.
I also have the least sense of culture for Ala Mhigo of all the places we visited. When that’s held up to the extremely cultural Kugane, Doma, and the Steppes, it’s quite apparent. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time in the Lochs yet to get that understanding. I also haven’t touched any of the side quests, saving all of those for leveling another job.
I know that this has been a laundry list of writer criticism, but despite these things, I actually enjoyed Stormblood as a whole. I don’t agree with all the choices the writers made… but they see the bigger picture of the story, and I do not. So, I’m going to put some faith into them, and hope they address the areas that felt weak to me somewhere in future story patches.
Despite this, I still maintain that FFXIV remains head and shoulders above other MMOs in term of strong story and likeable characters. Stormblood is an excellent addition to this story, and I’m curious where the future is going to lead us.