It’s fair to say that Final Fantasy XIV players have been expecting great things from the game ever since the eight-year-long story arc concluded in Endwalker proper. While the stakes are understandably lower after saving the world, patch 6.1 delivered on setting up an interesting and dramatic story that left me excited at the possibilities, and it came packed with fun fights and quality of life adjustments to boot. With the direction of the new story now established but still in its infancy, patch 6.2 arrives to develop this new tale further, and it brings with it a new raid tier and the much anticipated Island Sanctuary content, for all you farming sim aficionados. So how does Buried Memory stack up? Let’s find out!
In the previous patch, Newfound Adventure, the Warrior of Light and their companions discovered a way to safely travel to the Thirteenth, otherwise known as the Void. This is the reflection of the Source that the power of Darkness has completely consumed, and it’s where the fiends called voidsent originate from. We’ve fought a lot of voidsent over the years and even briefly visited the Thirteenth in the World of Darkness alliance raid, but up until now, we’ve learned precious little about this ruined world. In Buried Memory, we finally get a nice helping of lore and backstory that fleshes out both what happened to cause the Thirteenth to fall to Darkness and what reality is like there now for the voidsent who call it home. Most of this information comes courtesy of a new character with an intriguing past that your party meets after arriving in the Thirteenth. I won’t spoil who they are, but they are a unique addition to your list of acquaintances, and I look forward to learning more about them in future patches.
The new dungeon added in Buried Memory, the Fell Court of Troia, serves as your introduction to the Thirteenth and a reference to the Final Fantasy IV location of the same name. As you might expect, it is a twisted castle full of voidsent that you must fight your way through. Sadly the first two bosses are pretty forgettable, and the atmosphere, while creepy, isn’t quite as visually stunning as past dungeons. The final boss, however, is both a welcome step up in difficulty and a familiar face to FFIV players.
The trial boss will also be familiar for the same reason. To preserve a little surprise for players, I won’t name names, but let’s just say you will find yourself in a truly hairy situation. The extreme version of this fight is highly chaotic, and mistakes can quickly snowball into a wipe or hitting enrage. It actually feels more challenging than Endsinger Extreme did in 6.1, which is surprising since that trend is usually reversed. I will say, though, that I was surprised they made the trial and the classic Final Fantasy tie-in part of the main story this time around. Typically, this type of content would feature in side quests, so I’m curious to see how future patches will develop this turn of events.
The best thing about all this FFIV love, though, is the music. Masayoshi Soken brings his usual genius to the plate, cranking out some fantastic arrangements of Nobuo Uematsu’s classic FFIV tunes. I particularly love his rendition of “Battle 2” and hope to hear it again in at least one more dungeon.
Even-numbered patches add a new 8-man raid tier, and Buried Memory is no different. We return to Pandæmonium for another fun-filled romp through a dungeon of horrors, and I’m pleased to say that this second tier vastly improves upon the previous one in pretty much every way. First, the story is much better. There’s some much-needed character development, surprisingly dark reveals, and we finally get to meet a certain Ascian, who turns out to be quite the interesting fellow. Second, the music is fantastic this time around. The earlier fights feature two versions of a theme that is really enjoyable to listen to, particularly the vocal version with its almost Evanescence-like sound and lyrics. The final fight is basically a jamming medley of a bunch of themes associated with that Ascian I mentioned, with a bonus interlude from Akadaemia Anyder’s jazzy piano.
The fights themselves are definitely harder — or at least more complex — than the last tier, as promised by the dev team. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but the first fight in particular should be fun for any Summoner mains, and the second fight has a shifting tile mechanic that can be a little difficult to visualize in the heat of battle. The third fight often involves watching the boss to dodge mechanics, and the final fight combines elements from the previous three and other battles. Overall, I liked these four encounters more than the previous tier, and so far — up to P6S at least — the savage versions have been fairly challenging while still being fun to learn — a sweet spot that keeps progression enjoyable, in my opinion.
Outside of battle content, Buried Memory’s most significant new addition is Island Sanctuary. This is Final Fantasy XIV’s version of a farming sim, but as the name suggests, it takes place on your very own personal island. When you first arrive, the isle is completely wild and untamed. But with the help of a group of snarky mammets, you quickly start gathering materials to craft tools, shelter, and structures you can use to develop your island paradise. Within an hour, you’ll have a pasture to care for animals, cropland to grow food, and a workshop to craft items you can sell for unique island-only currency. As you gain experience by gathering and crafting materials, catching animals, or building new structures on your island, your sanctuary rank goes up. Higher ranks, in turn, grant you access to new tools that allow you to gather additional types of materials and further expand the number of facilities you can have. While the whole setup is pretty simple and you are encouraged to build your sanctuary at your own pace, it’s also robust enough that you can find yourself spending a lot of time with it.
At the moment, I only have two main issues with Island Sanctuary. First, flying is locked behind the current max rank of 10. This is ostensibly to prevent you from accessing a few areas containing special materials and animals right off the bat, but it does make getting to certain parts of the island a little more annoying. To be fair, the ground speed on a mount is quite fast — it actually feels a touch faster than max speed with riding maps does out in the rest of the world — but flight would still have been useful for reaching areas on cliffs or the other side of ridges simply by virtue of being able to avoid obstacles and terrain. And there are other ways they could have gated access to the mats and animals locked behind flight, such as needing an additional tool or trap.
Second, and far more annoying, there is currently no way to pin items needed for constructing or renovating facilities, or the mats you need for your workshops to churn out items for sale. When you first reach your island, the game very helpfully tells you what you need in the journal log along the right side of the screen. But after you build your first workshop, the log just says, “Create the hideaway of your dreams.” Thankfully, you can check item requirements from the Island Sanctuary menu while you’re out and about, but it seems kind of weird that you can’t continue to use the journal log to pin projects once you finish the tutorial. It just ends up being wasted space that I feel could be put to better use.
Finally, Buried Memory introduces a few quality of life changes. Some are small UI adjustments, others are quest improvements, and of course, there are a helping of job changes. More notable is the expansion of the Duty Support system to include five more main scenario dungeons — Snowcloak and Keeper of the Lake from the post-ARR patches, plus Sohm Al, The Aery, and The Vault from Heavensward. As with the previous expansion of the Duty Support system, the addition of these dungeons includes some significant changes to boss mechanics. For instance, the yeti boss from Snowcloak no longer involves pelting him with snowballs to do major damage, and the final boss in The Aery features almost entirely different mechanics that you might recognize from a certain 3.3 trial. The Heavensward dungeons also give you a few main characters to party up with, and even the generic NPCs have some dialogue now that helps make them feel a little more personable. But the single most important change is probably the doubling of storage for the glamour dresser. After all, everyone knows that glamour is the true endgame.
Buried Memory brings some intriguing developments to the main story, tough new fights to master, a healthy heaping of nostalgia, and an entire island to get lost on when you aren’t busy saving the world. Add to that various improvements and updates for old content, and there’s a lot to see and do in this patch. And there’s more on the way too! Variant and Criterion dungeons, relic weapons, and more Hildibrand adventures await in patch 6.25, so players will likely be plenty busy until patch 6.3 drops sometime around Christmas or New Years. I know I certainly will be.