Sadly, January 7th did not see the release of the new Final Fantasy XIV benchmark. It did, however, see the release of both the beta tester application and the full trailer for the new version, both of which are relevant to the interests of any Final Fantasy XIV fan. The trailer is likely of greater interest, seeing as how most current fans are likely already flagged as Legacy players and thus don’t need to apply for testing, but the point is that both are out there.
Of course, the new opening movie is the only piece of information we’ve had about the game for a little while, but it seems worth analyzing and examining even on its own merits. No, I’m not talking about speculating as to whether or not the guy on the horse who looks exactly like Odin is in fact Odin or not (spoiler, doy). I want to talk about what this means for the lore, what the overall effect is, and whether or not this monster of a trailer succeeds at what it’s meant to do.
The first part of the trailer is familiar to anyone who’s followed the game for a while; it’s the End of an Era trailer in its entirety, with no differences that my eyes could pick out. It’s a good trailer, but I wonder if it might confuse players coming to the game for the first time because there are a lot of important people on the screen in short order, and we don’t get a sense of who they are at any point in the video. That makes it all the more likely that they’ll be around in the new world just so players unfamiliar with the first version will know who these people are.
Mind you, Merlwyb is awesome, and I don’t want her to die. But the death toll from the Battle of Carteneau should really be higher than “one old elezen who might still be around in some form.” Punchy endings aren’t a bad thing.
Let’s move on from morbid ruminations. The second part kicks in after the final spell is cast, and in parts it’s just a pastiche of footage that we’ve already seen in bits and pieces. The roaring behemoth and Odin in the woods have been glimpsed before, and neither of them has any connection that we know of to what’s unfolded in Eorzea. They work as establishing shots but aren’t terribly exciting.
When we see Thancred and company, things take a turn for the interesting. The fact that they lived seems almost a given, especially as they were nowhere near Dalamud’s landing spot, but the fact that we see them hammers home the idea that it hasn’t been all that long since we were last in the world. None of them looks older, and all of them look to be expecting the return of the players, and of course they’ve got snazzy new pseudo-steampunk bits adorning their outfits.
This does raise some interesting questions regarding the storyline: Do they know that the players are coming back? Thancred and Y’shtola’s actions in particular seem to suggest that they were waiting for a sign that just arrived. That makes me wonder just how much of what has happened was already part of Louisoix’s planning in the first place, whether he expected the whole summoning ritual to fail or not. It might have always been a contingency plan… but that’s all wild speculation.
I have to say, Eorzea repaired awfully quickly from the absolute destruction Bahamut inflicted. I’ve seen five years thrown about as the accepted figure for the gap between the original game and the relaunch, but considering the effects of Dalamud, I think five years seems a little short. Still, none of the Circle members appears to have been ravaged by long years in a post-apocalyptic world, so it looks like five years is just about right.
Once we’ve had a roundup of the major NPCs, it’s back to the stand-in players, who do nothing particularly interesting — they call their chocobos, then run off toward a weird thing in the distance, full stop. Worth questioning is whether they’re in a reborn Silvertear Falls or not — the landscape could easily be Ishgardian, or Dalamud’s return could have restored what the airship’s tussle with Midgardsormr knocked loose.
As a lead-in to the remake, it works fairly well. While there are some bits that won’t be clear to non-veterans, all of the major points are addressed. There was a massive battle, a cataclysmic awakening, and all of the heroes were cast to another time and place to renew their efforts. If you weren’t around for everything leading up to what happened in the trailer, you can get the gist of it, even if it’s uncomfortably long in that regard. Not that there’s a whole lot that can easily be trimmed out.
As a trailer, it’s… less successful. More than half of it is either recycled footage or bits that we’ve seen in passing, enough that watching it for the first time feels like a long recap followed by a few moments of things actually happening. It raises some interesting questions, but some of those questions either would be answered in moments by the remake or will likely be ignored altogether.
It’s not bad, but boy, I would have rather seen a benchmark. Just for nostalgia’s sake, really; I do not have any real worry about the game running properly.