This week, Square Enix dropped the eagerly anticipated patch 5.1 for Final Fantasy XIV. It’s a major patch for a variety of reasons, including new gameplay features and systems, a brand new Alliance raid themed around NieR: Automata, and the continuation of the excellent Shadowbringers story arc.
Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for Shadowbringers and patch 5.1.
When the Shadowbringers expansion dropped three months ago, it became clear that this would be FFXIV’s darkest expansion yet. Literally. Not only did our Warrior of Light become the Warrior of Darkness, the story went to surprising places and had such thematic depth that you wouldn’t normally expect of your typical Final Fantasy game.
The story was extremely focused on the main character, particularly towards the end, and this allowed Square Enix to tell a story that felt very personal and introspective as a result. This, I suspect, is a big part of why Shadowbringers has been so well-received.
With patch 5.1, Square Enix aims to wrap up some of the loose ends from the expansion, and lighten the tone a little at the same time.
Two key moments stuck out to me as the most poignant in this patch: the first quest, which has you visit F’lhaminn, and the tail-end of the patch, where Alisaie learns restorative magic in an effort to bring Halric’s mind back from the Light.
With the Shadowbringers expansion taking place entirely in the First, it’s easy to forget some of the characters we’d left behind on the Source, F’lhaminn being one of them. And with Minfilia being such a key part of the story this time around, it was inevitable that we’d eventually have to come to terms with that character’s fate and bring news of her demise to her mother, F’lhaminn.
Whereas that scene with F’lhaminn learning of her daughter’s fate in the First was more about acceptance and letting go, Alisaie’s story arc goes in a slightly different direction.
One of the most harrowing scenes in Shadowbringers occurred early on, where we witnessed Tesleen getting brutally murdered and transformed into a sin eater right in front of her soulless husk of a brother, Halric.
It was a clear demonstration of how devastating the Light could be when it became all-consuming. The story never circles back to Halric and the player is largely left to assume that he’d just spend the rest of his days as a lifeless shell.
Patch 5.1 brings Halric back into the limelight, as the Scions’ quest to return to the Source bring up the possibility of restoring the Light-damaged people back to their usual selves.
In this case, we begin to see Alisaie go through yet another character development arc as she learns new magic to help restore Halric’s mind and finds new purpose in trying to help the people that were previously deemed to be a lost cause. And that, of course, includes the tempered Ga Bu –a name we haven’t heard in over two years.
With how heavy Shadowbringers could be at times, it’s also incredibly refreshing to see the game go back to the lighter side of things with this patch as well. We’ve got Alisaie and the Exarch basically fighting each other for the Warrior of Darkness’ affection, and Alphinaud unabashedly making fun of his sister’s arts and crafts skills –the early patches right after an expansion are always nice. It always feels like a well-deserved break after a long, drawn out conflict.
In many ways, patch 5.1 feels like the palette cleanser we needed after Shadowbringers’ powerful conclusion. It closes out some outstanding plot threads while continuing others, paving the way for even greater adventures and story twists on the horizon.