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Ma'aiq Shadowstep

The Liberator

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FFXIV ARR & Seventh Umbral Era: A Novice's View

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WARNING: There Be Spoilers Ahead!

If you are a newbie to the story, don't read ahead if you don't want to be spoiled. If you are a veteran at the MSQ and lead up into Heavansward, then thanks for reading a newbie's view on it!

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Because of time and other things going on in my life, it took me a little less than a year to make it through A Realm Reborn. However, it only took me a week or two to make it through The Seventh Umbral Era quests. Why? I think there is a vast difference in the quality of the quests that people either don't remember or don't want to acknowledge.

I'm going to start out by saying that I loved the MSQ for A Realm Reborn. I loved how slow it started out where you were a complete outsider heading into the town of your choosing (mine was Gridania). You slowly work yourself into the community of the town until you are finally accepted into the community by the respective leader of the town. You are introduced to the Scions of the Seventh Dawn where they are like: "you see, about that huge monster? That was called a Primal and you didn't panic over it. You just helped us defeat it like a boss. Please come see our leader so you can help because it is a thing that nobody is doing anything about and we want you on our side. Plus, we have cookies! ❤❤❤

And so the story goes....

Seriously. The story is a bit hit or miss from there where it is all about the Primal Threat to Eorzia before going into the "WE ARE AT WAR!!!" stage of nearly all Final Fantasy stories. My favorite part is honestly putting together the banquet for the Company of Heroes. I know! A lot of people hate this questline, but it is one of my favorites and it stood out to me so much that I remember it specifically. Why?

It is a complete hazing ritual!

It is literally a merry band of individuals snickering that they are making this rookie going out to gather all of this stuff to test their ability to carry out menial tasks and to see if they just stick with it for long enough to get the job done. We didn't know that the quest givers were the actual Company of Heroes. To have them show up was a shock and a delight.

Plus, it is basically implied that they all had to do it too, so they are passing the tortur-er, pleasure down to us. As soon as that was revealed (along with Y'shtola's dry "these guys are idiots and I told them so") did a lot to make me feel closer to both them and Y'shtola. It really made me feel part of the group and ready to take on the world with this band of people since the game was repeatedly telling me that I was too much of a rookie to do this and they were the big, brave Heroes, not me.

The rest of the story was pretty good. I got really attached to the Sylphs. The tragedy at the Walking Sands completely wrecked me. The fact that they made me bury the bodies of my friends and companions nearly did me in and made me stop playing for a while because that was rough. The reveal of Cid, which I should have seen coming a mile away, but I had no idea who he was or even that he was featured in past Final Fantasy games. (This is only my second Final Fantasy game and the first one I'm playing myself instead of watching my husband play.)

The only problem I had was the ending.

The ending wasn't that satisfying. I don't know if it was because I took a long break because I got busy with school during the school year or if I just missed the reveal of the Ascians that got a total of one line or so at the very beginning that I forgot about. I didn't know why I was supposed to care about this Thancred character.

Plus all of these people that had the MSQ quests down to an art and skipped nearly all of the mobs just to rush the bosses to get it done. I get wanting the MSQ quests populated for newbies; if you wanted to do it like they wanted to you missed the boat and/or you should have done it with friends (who are all busy with the new expansion and who hate doing the MSQ roulette anyway). They just didn't feel important and I felt left out 98.9% of the time. The only time I felt that I mattered was during the cutscenes (which I was feeling super guilty about even watching until I realized they were unskippable for everybody).

The last cutscene was still sorta blah and didn't feel like it concluded well. Thank goodness there were more MSQ quests right after that point that just continued the story.

Which brings me to The Seventh Umbral Era quests. Some of the most hated quests in the MSQ for beginners because it keeps you from just jumping into Heavensward. Except for two times (once at the very beginning because they didn't acknowledge very well that you were the hero of Eorzia and once in between Lady Iceheart and the spot where they forced you to clear all three previous primals on hard), I thought the story was meaningful.

There was the initial confusion of the big roar we heard at the end and Minfillia's funk over her mother. But don't be confused once you finally find her because Minfillia was adopted by her! Surprise! I sincerely thought intermingling and cross-racial romance was a canon thing for Final Fantasy until they were like: "oh! she isn't my real mom, but she is the lady I call mom because she basically took me in and raised me when my father died. So she is my mom. I thought you knew?"

But then the story made sense. There was trouble in Ul'dah and that revolved around refugees. Then there were more refugees from a different country and we need to help them because they are living on a boat and we aren't completely egocentric. But, what about the refugees that are still here from Ala Mhigo? They deserve acknowledgment and help. The game clearly points out that there is a double standard there that needs to be addressed.

Then it flows into the Lady Iceheart story and that leads us into the Dravonian War between Ishguard and the fact that they are an isolationist country. They were basically forced to blackmail us into help or else they would have been wiped out and that struggle leads us directly into the end of the story and Heavansward.

Oh! The end of the story. Nanamo didn't want to be seen as a cruel dictator (which is why she didn't seize control of her own country from the Syndicate) and who had lofty ambitions about founding a democracy instead of a failing monarchy that had already dissolved into an oligarchy.

The end was cruel and shocking and the best moment of FFXIV that I've experienced so far. Rip my heart out and trample on it! Leave me feeling shell shocked and hopeless. Make me want to slap Alphinaud several dozen times over and over because he is being dumb and we have to be the bigger person to get him to move on and survive. Not continue with our lofty ideals. Just survive.

That was fantastic. It left us with such high stakes that felt deeply personal. It made me realize that I was just a pawn being moved around. A piece of a bigger story in a living world and things do not go the way we plan.

That ending felt like the true ending of FFXIV A Realm Reborn. That is why I say that the Seventh Umbral Era quests are better than the entire story of A Realm Reborn. The story really isn't about an invading empire that the game wants you to believe. The story is about a country struggling to unite because of differences and being completely overthrown by a rival ideology that you didn't take seriously enough to actively work to stop. Now you have to deal with the consequences.

Good Job FFXIV! I can't wait to see what awaits me in Heavansward.
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