Every major patch in Final Fantasy XIV brings a flurry of activity and excitement as players log on to check out new content, but even patches like 5.2 are especially busy and exhilarating as raiders start working their way through new savage fights. If raiding isn’t your thing, there is still plenty to see and do in this patch, though you may find more satisfaction with the side content than the main story this time around.
Echoes of a Fallen Star’s story is one of half steps forward and whole steps back. Progress is made on finding a way to get the Scions back to the Source, but our heroes are stumped by a small technicality that must be solved before they can return home. Meanwhile, the Ascian Elidibus is up to no good but paradoxically engages in seemingly counterproductive behavior, prompting our heroes to try and learn more about their foe from various ruins scattered about the First. There are some highly interesting revelations in this patch regarding the nature of Hydaelyn and Zodiark, as well as the existence of the Echo, but like patch 5.1, the story is a somewhat slower affair that lays groundwork for a mid-expansion climax in 5.3. Personally, I’m just the tiniest bit disappointed by the pace and direction of the story in this patch, but I still can’t wait to see how all of it will come together in roughly three months when 5.3 drops.
Over the last two expansions, Square Enix has changed how many dungeons are added to the game with each patch. While Heavensward added two dungeons with every patch, Stormblood alternated between adding two in even patches and one in odd patches. In Shadowbringers, they’ve evened things out with just one new dungeon in every patch. 5.2’s addition is Anamnesis Anyder, an underwater excursion with a killer jazz remix and fairly simple boss mechanics. Unfortunately, this dungeon is unlocked by the penultimate main story quest, so players looking to get to it quickly (say, to unlock expert roulette) will have to wait a bit.
You won’t have to wait long to check out the new trial series, however. Titled The Sorrow of Werlyt, this questline has you take on the first of several new superweapons developed by the Garlean Empire. But we’re not talking about just any old superweapons here; you face off against the Weapons from Final Fantasy VII, starting in this patch with Ruby Weapon. With FFVII Remake just around the corner, the timing of this trial series is perfect, and longtime Final Fantasy fans will undoubtedly enjoy the nostalgia of fighting this classic superboss (even if the fight itself isn’t nearly as difficult as I remember Ruby Weapon being in the original FFVII). The storyline also adds some nice background for a certain ARR character, and some intriguing lore is utilized to explain a particularly surprising twist that should make the future installments of this trial series very interesting.
For a lot of players (myself included), the star of patch 5.2 is the new 8-man raid content: Eden’s Verse. This is the second leg of the raid series in which you and your fellow Scions attempt to restore life to a vast wasteland on the First known as The Empty. This time around, you team up with a new character named Gaia who showed up rather unexpectedly in the previous tier, and though she is kind of prickly, I loved the awkward yet adorable friendship that forms between her and Ryne. The fights continue to see you facing off with souped up versions of the elemental primals, and as you would expect for the second raid tier, the difficulty is ramped up in both normal and savage mode. I’m having a blast learning the savage versions, and the music is absolutely fantastic, especially the vocal theme for the final boss.
Outside of the new trial and raids, patch 5.2 shows a lot of love to gatherers. The new Qitari beast tribe is exclusive to level 70 disciples of the land, and if you are a fan of the pudgy little snake minion known as the Great Serpent of Ronka (screee!), you will love working toward the various rewards you can earn by helping this tribe of rat people (think FFIX’s Burmecians, only shorter) recover their history. One unique thing about this beast tribe is that when you rank up, you are presented with a choice of how to interpret a recently unearthed artifact. While the options are always extreme polar opposites for which you have no context (making most decisions more of a choice of how cynical or optimistic you’re feeling), it’s kind of cool that you can influence how the Qitari record their history.
For those who prefer to gather the various aquatic denizens of Eorzea, patch 5.2 introduces the all new ocean fishing activity. Every two real-time hours, fishers of any level can board a ship from Limsa that sails around the coastal waters of La Noscea. The voyage consists of three stops, and each stop gives you seven minutes to catch as many fish as you can. Points are awarded based on the type and quality of the fish you catch, and reaching certain thresholds rewards you with titles, a minion, and even a horrifying shark mount. The nice thing about ocean fishing is that it’s a relatively short activity that gives a lot of experience. Lower-leveled fishers can expect to level up several times per voyage, so if you’re like me and ignored fisher until your other gatherers were leveled, this is a great way to catch up. The not so nice thing about ocean fishing is that you’re basically on a floating casino. The only way to rack up lots of points is to find spectral currents by catching certain unique types of fish, but even if you catch one of these special fish, you only have a chance to spawn the current. So whether you do well enough to earn the various collectible rewards is pretty much entirely up to RNG.
Gatherers are also a big part of patch 5.21’s ongoing Ishgardian Restoration. The new leg of reconstruction requires new materials, and most of these can only be found in the Diadem. Originally a form of large-scale content focused on battle classes, the Diadem has been reworked for gatherers only. As long as you have a gatherer at level 10 or above, you can enter and collect materials from various nodes and fishing spots. As you gather, you build up compressed aether, which can be shot from a bazooka-like device at the various non-aggressive monsters that roam the region, instantly slaying them and showering you with a huge helping of materials. Once you’ve gathered to your heart’s content, you must take your haul back to the Firmament to have it appraised, which gets you skybuilders’ scrip and allows you to use the materials you’ve collected in crafting (or you can just sell them on the market board).
The crafting portion of the Ishgardian Restoration is mostly the same as in patch 5.11. The recipes are new, but you still turn them in for skybuilders’ scrip and a healthy dose of EXP. Once your server turns in enough crafts, a group FATE will spawn, which sadly is the same variety of “click here” and repeat that we saw in 5.11. What’s new this time around are the ranking system, expert crafts, and Kupo of Fortune. High-level crafts and gathering earn you points, which are tallied among all players, and those on top each season will receive special prizes. Expert crafts are the new fiendishly difficult crafts for max-level players to attempt in order to boost their ranking. Macros can’t be used with these crafts, and there are new conditions exclusive to these recipes that change how you strategize the crafting process. Finally, Kupo of Fortune is a new feature that rewards players turning in certain crafted items with a game of chance. Handing over specially marked crafts earns you stamps on up to ten Kupo of Fortune cards. Once you have collected five stamps, you can turn the card in and play what is essentially Eorzean Scratch Off. Prizes vary from mounts and minions to housing items and more, but unlike real-life scratch off games, you are guaranteed to get at least something, even if it is a consolation prize. I do wish that gatherers could participate in this, but it is still a neat thing that encourages and rewards participation in the Ishgardian Restoration.
Overall, 5.2 is yet another good FFXIV patch, but the star is absolutely the new fights and excellent new music. The main story continues to set the board for what should hopefully be an exciting patch 5.3, but let’s just say we really need that mid-expansion climax after two slower patches. In the meantime, players will have their hands full with Ruby Weapon, the new raid tier, and lots of gathering, so the next three months should pass by quickly.