Final Fantasy XIV: The Alpha and the Omega
At long last, it’s time to take the fight to Omega in the Alphascape. The sentient super-weapon that dispatched Shinryu and chased Midgardsormr to Hydaelyn is ready to take on the Warrior of Light in the final tier of the eponymous raid series. It’s been a hell of a journey since we first scuffled with Exdeath in the summer of last year, but the end is within reach if you can handle the challenge. (Expect some mild spoilers.)
As with previous tiers, Alphascape brings four fights: Chaos, the final boss of the first FF game; Midgardsormr, the father of dragons in the form he took before his flight to Hydaelyn; Omega itself; and a final encounter of galactic proportions. From the start, the music and visuals are excellent across the board. It’s hard not to be taken aback when you see Midgardsormr at the height of his power, or to find yourself tapping your foot along to Omega’s theme when you take the fight to him directly.
Moreover, the encounters are what you’d expect of a concluding raid tier like this. Compare Chaos to Alte Roite and you’ll see what I mean: Alte Roite, the first Deltascape encounter, felt like a mid-boss or glorified training dummy, whereas Chaos poses an immediate threat that feels like more than just a gear check. While there aren’t many mechanics that debut for the first time, everything feels really fresh and tightly put together.
And that brings me to my next point: the difficulty of this tier has been cranked up a little, both on Normal and Savage, but it’s entirely welcome. Sigmascape and Deltascape came to feel woefully trivial outside of savage, and it was a little uninteresting to repeat them for loot. But Alphascape, even on normal, is fun; the third encounter in particular is a challenge, though one that occupies a sweet spot where it remains doable by random folks on Duty Finder.
Savage, too, is a little harder, with a more natural difficulty curve. Sigmascape’s first two Savage fights (the Phantom Train and Chadarnook) were hardly challenging even on the first week, while the third fight was much, much rougher in a way that I think was quite jarring; I heard anecdotes of it breaking groups up or otherwise forcing roster changes after initial success. Alphascape is challenging as a whole by comparison, but it feels like it’s been designed to be a challenge you can build up to.
Now it’s over, I think it’s fairly safe to say that from a casual perspective, Omega’s not quite as strong as Alexander. The series never quite had the oomph of either its Heavensward counterpart or The Binding Coil of Bahamut. But Alphascape is a significant step up from Sigmascape and Deltascape, offering a strong set of raids that brings the series to a satisfying end that’s well-worth seeing.
Even the story, which felt too much like an anime filler arc where the heroes are thrown into a tournament and forced to compete, rounds off well. There’s something oddly emotional about seeing Alpha run off to explore the world once everything’s said and done, and the final encounters do an excellent job of underscoring just how much Omega’s shaped the events of FFXIV. That’s no mean feat.
An unexpected aside comes from Square Enix as part of the XIV fifth anniversary celebration. They’ve put out a minisite with some fun statistics about the game.
It’s easy to get caught up in things like patch notes and more ‘concrete’ achievements like world first raid clears. But Hydaelyn is a world a lot of people have lived in this last half-decade. Ever wondered how much gil has been spent on repairs? Or how many miles producer Naoki Yoshida has flown across the world on business? All has been revealed. Sadly, there’s no mention of Eureka among the stats, but maybe one day the scholars of the future will be able to tell us how many times ‘Pazuzu up?’ was asked.
A final note from me
So hey, this is awkward. I’ve been writing MMORPG.com’s FFXIV column for about two years now, though I highly doubt you’d recognise the name at the start of this piece more than anyone else’s. Allow me a personal indulgence, though, because this’ll be the last one I write, and I’d like to say goodbye.
When I joined the team here, a lot of people told me I was mad. I’m a traditionally trained journalist, and I work for an old-school ink and print newspaper. Writing about video games, let alone the same one week-in week-out, is an unusual move. But I’ve never been one to turn down an opportunity, and when I saw the editors here looking for someone, I leapt at it; I’ve never once regretted it.
It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been playing MMOs since Ragnarok Online, messing around with everything from City of Heroes and raiding Molten Core. Nothing has quite compared to XIV: The game itself is fun, and I don’t think anything will ever sucker me in this much again. The community is fantastic and it’s been a pleasure serving it in this small way over the past two years and sharing that passion with everybody else. From my humble beginnings gushing over Palace of the Dead to interviewing Naoki Yoshida, I’ve crossed just about everything off any conceivable bucket list I might have had. It’d be selfish to keep going, really.
I just want to take this moment to give a shout-out to my former raid leader, a grumpy fellow with a heart of gold, and my Free Company for all this time, Passion, on Cerberus. Without their help getting me into encounters and even providing material and screenshots from time to time I’m not sure I would’ve made it this far. Also deserving praise are Bill Murphy and Suzie Ford, and everybody else who keeps the gears turning at MMORPG.com. If you think my column is bad now, boy howdy, you should see it before it passes through the editors here. And if you’ve read anything I’ve written before now, thank you, too. I wouldn’t have had this chance if there weren’t people stopping by, and I’ve never taken that for granted.