It was an interesting day for Final Fantasy XIV today, as it saw the release of Patch 2.55, also known as Before the Fall Part 2. This was a highly anticipated patch primarily for the fact that it promised to bring the A Realm Reborn storyline to a conclusion as well as set up the events of the upcoming expansion pack Heavensward, due out in June.
So far as “game content” goes, there wasn’t a huge amount of new stuff in this one — the main attraction was the one new Trial on the Steps of Faith, which we’ll talk a little about in a moment. But “content” was never really the intention of this patch; it was always intended to be a narrative-centric patch to send off Final Fantasy XIV version 2.x with a suitable bang and prepare the playerbase for what might await them in Heavensward.
I shall endeavour to refrain from major spoilers in this post, but a few mild ones may slip in.
The storyline for Before the Fall Part 2 primarily concerns the Dravanian Horde’s initial assault on the isolated land of Ishgard, a nation which was once part of the Eorzean Alliance alongside Ul’Dah, Gridania and Limsa Lominsa, but which subsequently closed off its borders and effectively locked the majority of its people inside its city walls. The Dravanians — who are big fucking dragons — have been making incursions into Ishgardian territory for some time thanks to a longstanding war between the two nations, and indeed the adventurers of Final Fantasy XIV repel their attacks on a number of occasions through the dungeons you challenge over the course of your career.
This time it’s different, however; there’s rumblings of one of the Great Wyrms making an appearance, and before long due to various unfortunate circumstances and villainy, the Ishgardian protective wards on the giant bridge The Steps of Faith are under assault from Vishap, probably the biggest enemy in the entire game, and his assembled Dravanian forces. The new Trial sees you and seven companions battling Vishap as he makes his inexorable progression across the Steps of Faith, hopefully taking him down before he breaches Ishgard’s last line of defence.
Following the pattern of past patches, this big battle (and it’s a pretty huge, quite challenging battle) isn’t the endpoint of the story; far from it, in fact. The overall conclusion to the A Realm Reborn storyline is quite genuinely shocking, surprising, dramatic and emotional. Oh, and long; the game warns you before triggering these cutscenes that you’re going to be sitting and watching for quite some time. It’s a worthy watch, though, and it drives home the fact that on the whole, A Realm Reborn has done a significantly better job with storytelling than pretty much any other MMO out there. You’ll care about these characters and what happens to them — be it triumph or tragedy, and for sure there’s a bit of both in the ending.
The finale isn’t perfect — some have already criticised the parts where it takes agency away from the player character, though it didn’t personally bother me all that much — but it forms a fitting conclusion to A Realm Reborn, bringing a sense of closure to the storylines that have been running for the last couple of years now while simultaneously building anticipation for Heavensward through the introduction of some new characters, the reintroduction of some we haven’t seen for a while and an extremely intriguing cliffhanger right at the very end.
Now all we have to do is wait until June to find out what happens next… although in the meantime, we still have the Final Coil of Bahamut to defeat, so I’m sure that will keep us busy until the expansion arrives!