Note: There will be spoilers as I feel enough time has passed to discuss story.
Last night I finished my second playthrough of the 5.3 MSQ. For some reason, we chose to run our RP characters through first, and I’ve been putting off finishing up on my main for a while. Mostly because that story trial battle is… just as painful as I remembered it from the first week, honestly.
Overall, Patch 5.3 has been a great one with lots of fantastic QoL (flying in ARR zones!) and fun things for everyone to do (nice crafting/gathering rewards). I can’t complain about pretty much anything that the patch brought to FFXIV.
Storywise, 5.3 did everything to bring Shadowbringers to a nice clean conclusion and put a pretty little bow on it. In this time of IRL struggles, I get the sense that the devs may have felt the need to offer players something fairly uplifting in terms of tying up all the loose ends. And they did that well enough.
While I don’t think there was anything bad about it, there was also not all that much that gripped me like the original 5.0 storyline. There were a lot of nice touches and interesting pieces of lore – like the confirmation of your character representing the Azem, the 14th. And Emet creating a nice little stone just for you – that was endearing!
I think what troubled me was Elidibus, and how I guess we were supposed to see him as a sympathetic bad guy. I just don’t think we had enough time with him to do this. While he was a tragic figure, it was hard to connect with his struggles the way that I did Emet. Part of that was just his personality, I think. Maybe with a bit more time I would have warmed up to him.
I think it didn’t help that he was wearing Ardbert’s body for the time that we did get to know him. I know that was part of his thing — he took the identity and used the concept of the “Warrior of Light” to his own ends. He even became the avatar of the Warrior of Light for his battle.
I know that was intended to be the “neat twist” — the concept that the Warrior of Light became your enemy in the end. And that Warriors of Light from other shards were used to fight you… especially after the game had brought it home for so long that your character was the Warrior of Light.
But it was a tad disappointing to think that even the concept of what was good and right in these worlds were still influenced and somewhat manufactured by the Ascians. Not even the concept of Warrior of Light was safe from their meddling. Or maybe that’s the point.
Maybe it was intended for your character to step beyond the Warrior of Light and accept this Azem concept instead. I dunno. I’m sure that someone else out there has these concepts down a lot better than I do. I’ll just say there was a lot of brow-furrowing going on during all this for me.
The next order of topics – the one that I might get roasted in the fire of fandom – is just how easy the fan-favorite G’raha Tia got off in all of this. Absolutely every good he could have ever wanted was given to him in the end, and there was a lot of glossing over in terms of how it would leave the folks in the Crystarium – Oh, they’ll be finnnnnne!
I’ll just state my opinion that the Exarch/G’raha were both alright in terms of character, but nothing that special in the long run. The writers played the endearing hero-worship card using a cute character (similar to Haurchefaunt), and once again the ship-starved fandom ate it up.
Sorry folks. If anything, I’m fairly burned out on the Exarch/G’raha simply due to how much the greater fandom fawns and dotes all over him. He’s not a bad character, and plays an interesting part in the plot. But he’s not super dynamic, or gripping (to me), and obviously he’s put there to allow those who want the fan service to make it for themselves.
So yeah. Fan favorite gets off easy. I don’t mind that he gets a good ending, but boy did they go over the top to please Exarch/G’raha fans by giving him an almost absolutely perfect ending with very little consequence. This doesn’t bode well for his future character development.
For example – let’s look at Y’shtola. When she returned to the party in Heavensward, she was given a specific burden to bear and a challenge to overcome. This is part of her current and future development and something she still hasn’t found an answer to. There was a balance of a happy story (friend returned) but there were still consequences – and that is interesting!
G’raha got none of this that I can see so far. Maybe he will in the future, who knows. But again, with all that’s going on IRL, I can’t blame the writers for wanting to make folks happy. This is just me being a grouchy writer in my old age. XD
As for the cliffhanger at the end of the patch… we have another Ascian (Fandaniel) to deal with. Again. Though this one isn’t so hot on serving Zodiark, apparently.
And this one has, again, taken over a body of someone who died in a previous expansion (Asahi of all people). I know this is their thing, but… I dunno. I’m getting a little worn thin with having to readjust my mindset that this character’s body is not who that character used to be because now they’re an Ascian.
The one thing I liked about Emet was that he got his own model, and therefore, had his own character that was unassociated with any other character. But yeah, minor grouch on that.
Whereas Emet seemed rather strange and dramatic upon his entrance to the story, Fandaniel just seems over the top insane. Toss him in with a brooding Zenos and you know that there’s going to be trouble. Even if Zenos is not amused.
I’m not fully sure where this is leading (maybe the Empire expansion people have been hoping for) but it won’t be boring, that’s for sure. A little strange and eccentric? Probably.
We’ll just have to see!