Why Final Fantasy XIV is Still the Best MMORPG Right Now - Patch 5.3 Thoughts
I’m not sure how they did it, but the most recent patch for Final Fantasy XIV – Patch 5.3: Reflections in Crystal – is probably the most impactful patch of the entire Shadowbringers expansion thus far – not just Shadowbringers – in the entire game up until this point.
Spoiler alert for those of you that haven’t played through the expansion or through the patch content yet – you’ve been warned!
So, 5.3 marks the end of the Shadowbringers storyline. Patch 5.4 and 5.5 are going to transition between the Shadowbringers expansion and the expansion slated for release in the middle of next year.
An expansion that would have actually been announced already if not for the situation going on in the world right now, but I’m content knowing the team over at Square – the team working on Final Fantasy XIV are safe and still hard at work to the best of their abilities.
This is probably one of the most satisfying finales to a story-arc I’ve come across in an MMO. While I didn’t cry – I didn’t, guys, c’mon. Seriously! We got a touching final moment with the good ‘ol Crystal Exarch, managed to save the Scions as they were on the brink of death, and make it back to The Source. All in one piece!
And with a brand new addition to the team: G’raha Tia himself, and oh my god is he the most precious character I’ve ever seen in the entire franchise thus far.
But it wouldn’t be an end to a patch without our buddy Zenos making an appearance, looking as sombre as ever. And we get a guest appearance from the eccentric new rogue Ascian Fandaniel – who I’m highly anticipating watching evolve into a very interesting character. I mean c’mon, listen to this guy.
Free Trial Expansion & Leveling Overhaul
While the patch brought an end to the Shadowbringers story arc, it brought quite a bit more with it.
That’s right, the most important new feature added was the extension to the free-trial. Originally, you could play until level 35, and then you’d be locked out of any further progression.
As of patch 5.3, you’re now given hundreds of hours worth of the game completely free – providing access to the entire base-game, and then the entire first expansion pack, Heavensward – allowing you to level all the way up to level 60, gain access to the Au’Ra race, the Dark Knight, Machinist and Astrologian classes, and all the subsequent patch content that came between Heavensward and Stormblood, with Heavensward being the point in the game that players generally considering the “turning point” where the game gets considerably better.
Players who had an impression of the game after playing the first several hours on the way to level 35 are now going to be given the opportunity to really invest time and effort into the game. And let’s be honest: If after completing Heavensward, you’re not a fan of the game.. Stormblood definitely won’t change your mind.
And now’s the perfect time to jump back on in. They revamped the leveling experience, removing quests and other clutter from the main scenario – making it faster for players to clear the mess that is the post-A Realm Reborn patch content.
That content has turned off many a player, and is not in any way representative of the content we get literally as soon as you’re done with it and begin Heavensward, which is why you often find people saying “stick with it, it gets better.” I know how it sounds, but trust me.. it really does.
Honestly, I wish World of Warcraft would take a note or two from this and provide more of the game for free than it already does. This is going to provide an even larger boost to the active playerbase and breathe so much more life into the game. Not that it needed it.
Dungeons and Raids
As per every patch, we got a brand new dungeon, which honestly wasn’t as exciting or aesthetically appealing as other dungeons introduced throughout Shadowbringers, but we also got the second NieR Automata 24-player raid, and let me tell you.. once again, spoiler alert ahead – but holy crap I didn’t expect to ever see 2B in Final Fantasy XIV.
Lord have mercy on my poor soul. The raid itself was a lot of fun, although not as mechanically difficult or demanding as the Orbonne Monastery – that remained, or remains, actually, one of the most difficult raids to get through with a full party of players making mistakes because they can’t follow directions or don’t know what they’re doing!
I love that Yoko Taro has a hand in the 24-player content in this expansion along with the story that accompanies it. It’s refreshing to see little sub-stories that have no relation to the main story taking place and being equally as appreciated and populated.
And don’t get me started on the outfits you get from each of them. Yeesh, they’re too much for my heart.
Then came the introduction of the new Shiva Unreal trial – which I was surprised to see people found as easy as they did. I know that the mechanics were the same as the original Shiva, but man, did we have trouble back when running Shiva the first time.
We definitely didn’t have a day one clear, but then I’ve never been a day-one progger anyway. I also found it weird that while Shiva Savage was current content, we’d have Unreal Shiva as our new content as opposed to something else like Ravana.
That would’ve been a fun Unreal Trial to tackle! Going forward they plan on rotating which boss gets upscaled to our level, so it’s a safe bet to assume we’ll get to see every previous Trial as current content at one point, but it may be quite a wait considering how many different bosses there are in total.
Crafting, Mounts, Minions, Resistance Weapons, Ishgard Restoration & More
I’ve never been a crafter in MMOs, and although it looks fairly engaging and like quite a bit of fun in Final Fantasy XIV, I still can’t see myself ever getting into it.
I just cannot for the life of me dedicate time to the art of crafting, I’d rather pay people to craft for me and reap the rewards of not putting in any effort! Okay that came off poorly. I’d rather pay people for their hard work and efforts. Yeah, there we go.
As you can expect – we are talking about crafting after all, there were updates to crafting. There were New Game+ updates, there were new mounts and minions added into the game, an expansion to the Ishgard Restoration, the new Resistance Weapon quest.. well, actually, that’s slated for Patch 5.35 so we got a few weeks to wait on that.
Content is King
There’s just a ridiculous amount of content that Final Fantasy XIV releases regularly. More content than I’ve ever seen any other MMO push out in the timeframe that Square does with XIV.
Don’t get me wrong. The Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2, Black Desert Online, even World of Warcraft pushes out tons of content. But not with the same flavor, the same variety. Not with the same level of detail, the same depth, and that is one of the many reasons this game has been steadily on the incline.
Where all the aforementioned MMOs have slowly declined in terms of active players over the last couple years, Final Fantasy XIV has shown that not only is Shadowbringers its most popular expansion to date, but they’re repeatedly hitting new highs in terms of concurrent active players and total players alike.
If you watched my “Most Populated MMORPGs in 2020” video over the weekend I went into more detail regarding how they’ve had several million new players register for the game this year and how they claimed over 1.2 million active players as well, closing in on the 2 million active that WoW has.
Toxicity at Endgame
Mrs Stix has played through quite a bit more than I have. I’ve never been a competitive progger in Final Fantasy XIV. She however has cleared Savage Shiva – which I’m incredibly proud of, mind you. Proud husbando right here.
She worked ridiculously hard to achieve that, and you guys can imagine how difficult it is working with other players to tackle some of the most challenging encounters in the game, especially with all these entitled self-proclaimed “pro players” judging you and every little mistake every player makes.
I think the toxicity in the “endgame raiding community” is probably the only instance I’ve found of toxicity in the game. Generally, I’m of the opinion that Final Fantasy XIV has the nicest community of any MMO community. Until you get into raiding, then everyone turns into WoW players.
And don’t take this the wrong way – I’m sure it’s just the vocal minority, but you can’t tell me you haven’t noticed it either! I’ve had players actually stop raiding competitively because they can’t handle all the stress and insults they get over making small mistakes while learning the fight. It’s honestly disheartening.
And is also one of the reasons I don’t raid competitively anymore. Not because I can’t handle criticism – I mean nobody will ever be a larger critic of me than.. well, me, but just how rude and harsh people can be to one another when we’re doing this for fun.
But this affects a very small number of people so while it isn’t technically an issue, I just wanted to bring it up here because I think it begs discussion, even a little bit. Have you guys ever witnessed this and if you have, what would you recommend we do about it?
Final Fantasy XIV Patch 5.4 and Beyond!
I’m eagerly anticipating the next expansion. I’m also eagerly anticipating kicking Zenos’ ass once again, hopefully putting an end to him once and for all.
I’m looking forward to completing the third and final NieR Automata raid, and I’m excited for.. well, the continued success and growth of Final Fantasy XIV.
It has continued to improve in every form over the course of its life, and with the success it’s had recently, I don’t see that slowing down any time soon. I mean it’s definitely plausible for it to pull a “Wrath of the Lich King,” and spiral downward after Shadowbringers but I highly doubt that.
There are so many reasons why Final Fantasy XIV is still the best MMORPG right now that it’d take me 20, 30 minutes to go through and I know you guys aren’t interested in that.
But this patch – Patch 5.3 has solidified for me what I’d already known all this time, and has given me even more hope for the future.
Hopefully with the new extended trial, more of you can get in-game and give this marvel of an MMO a chance and fully experience the intricacies of what makes it the titan it has become.
And I honestly hope to see you all in-game eventually as well. We play on Gilgamesh and go by Mr and Mrs Lentus.
Otherwise, that’s pretty much all I wanted to talk about today. I wanted to go over Patch 5.3 and also wanted to kind of interject my thoughts on why I believe Final Fantasy XIV is still the best MMORPG by using this patch as an example.