Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood‘s regular content updates are now well underway, with patch 4.2: Rise of a New Sun marking the second major update since Stormblood‘s launch last year. If you’ve been playing the game at all since its 2014 relaunch, you surely know what to expect from each new patch: one or two new dungeons, a new chapter of the main scenario, a few extra sidequests, balance changes, and quality of life improvements.
Rise of a New Sun doesn’t deviate from that framework, nor should it—why fix what ain’t broke, and all that. To that end, it brings a new chapter of the Stormblood story that sees the Warrior of Light and her friends return to Doma; a new wing of the Omega raid dungeon, starring a handful of bosses from Final Fantasy VI; two new dungeons in Hell’s Lid and The Fractal Continuum (Hard); a new primal, Byakko; a new set of beast tribe quests for the Ananta people; and, perhaps, most significant of all, a new system of dealing with glamours.
Back to Doma
The previous patch more or less wrapped up the events surrounding Ala Mhigo and Raubahn, so Rise of the New Sun turns its attentions back to Doma. After receiving an anonymous tip, the Warrior of Light and the Scions of the Seventh Dawn find themselves tracking clues that they hope will lead them to a long-lost old friend. Their search brings them back to Othard continent, where they inevitably run into trouble with the Empire—it seems that even after being so firmly beaten at Doma, the Garleans aren’t ones to give up.
However, not all within Garlemald favour the empire’s aggressive foreign policy, it would seem. Shortly after the Scions’ reunion with Lord Hien and the Doman Liberation Front, an imperial airship appears, displaying a signal of peace. This airship belongs to one Asahi, a Doman-born Garlean citizen claiming a desire to broker peace between the Empire and Doma.
It’s easy to doubt his intentions at first, being a Garlean and all, but much of the new story chain in Rise of a New Sun focuses on spending time with him and discussing his plans for a prisoner exchange. He makes a very convincing argument, and while I’m not sure whether I trust him, he creates a much more complex situation than “Garlean = bad”. It’ll be interesting to see where the story goes from here, but I’m already enjoying this new arc more than I did the Ala Mhigo stuff.
One of my favourite things about the new main scenario quest line is that it opens up a new area called the Doman Enclave. It’s a small little hub area (think Idyllshire and Rhalgar’s Reach), but set in a town on the outskirts of Doma that’s in the process of being repaired. There’s not much to there at the moment, but it’s a beautiful place to just relax, enjoy the scenery, and take in Final Fantasy XIV‘s new arrangement of “Cyan’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VI. There is one side quest in the Doman Enclave that suggests it might become a new crafters’ hub; I really hope that’s the case, because any reason to spend more time there will be most welcome.
The Psycho Clown
Omega: Deltascape is one of my favourite raids in Final Fantasy XIV to date, in part for its creative boss mechanics, but mostly for the delightful way it calls back to Final Fantasy V. Rise of a New Sun brings the second arm of the Omega raid, called Omega: Sigmascape, and it’s every bit as much fun as the first part.
For a brief story recap: the Omega raid sees players pulled into a sort of Dragon Ball Z-style fighting tournament, wherein the god-like machine Omega brings fighters from the full span of history and literature to fight, so that it might find the greatest warrior of all time. In Hydaelyn, the stories of older Final Fantasy games seem to exist as pieces of folklore, giving Omega free reign to draw upon memorable bosses and characters from older games. It was this setup that had us fighting the likes of Alte Roite and Exdeath from Final Fantasy V.
For Sigmascape, the bosses are all pulled from Final Fantasy VI. It starts with the Phantom Train—easily one of FFVI‘s most recognisable bosses—which has been very creatively adapted into an encounter befitting an MMORPG. Most of the fight takes place on the back of a flatbed with the Phantom Train hot on its heels, but at various points in the fight you get transported inside cabins to do battle with ghosts, and even to the roof of a carriage for a daring escape. It’s a lot of fun.
The second boss is Chardanook, the haunted painting, which has you avoiding various attacks by painting objects to live with a magicked brush (don’t worry if you’re not artistic, you don’t actually have to do the painting yourself!). The third boss is probably the least interesting of the bunch; it’s the tank-like Guardian, and like it’s Final Fantasy VI counterpart, it cycles between attack patterns based on Ultros, Air Force, and Dadaluma.
Finally, there’s the mad clown himself, Kefka. Being the last boss of Sigmascape, you can expect a lot of different mechanics to deal with, though it’s nothing too complex—if anything, he’s easier than Exdeath. Kefka’s main gimmick is trying to trick you with marked AOE attacks that sometimes require you to stand inside the mark to avoid it, rather than getting out of there while you normally would. Fortunately, there’s a slightly different visual effect wen Kefka’s telling fibs, so once you figure that out, it’s easy enough to dodge those. Beyond that, it’s mostly just a case of handling various mechanics that you would have seen hundreds of times by now, and enjoying the beautiful new rendition of “Dancing Mad”—one of the best pieces of Final Fantasy music ever composed.
Tech, wind, and fire
There are two new dungeons in Rise of a New Sun: Hell’s Lid and Fractal Continuum (Hard). In keeping with Final Fantasy XIV‘s form, the latter isn’t simply a tuned-up version of the original Fractal Continuum; rather, it’s a new dungeon with a new layout and new bosses, but set in the same place and with a similar aesthetic. Like its predecessor, Fractal Continuum (Hard) is full of marvels of allagan technology and creepy biological experiments, which all come to a head with the dungeons final boss, The Ultima Beast. Based off Final Fantasy VI‘s Ultima Weapon, The Ultima Beast has a penchant for casting spells like Flare and Flare Star.
That boss is a nice throwback to FF6 (one of many in this update), but, overall, I find the dungeon rather dull. The bosses aren’t particularly interesting, and I’ve seen enough allagan tech to last a lifetime. This is one of only two dungeons on the Expert Roulette, too, so we can expect to see a lot of it in the next few months.
The other new dungeon, Hell’s Lid, is far more exciting. Set within the volcano in the south of the Ruby Sea, it has shades of World of Warcraft‘s Molten Core at first, but that soon gives way to some beautiful caverns and a subterranean lake. All three bosses are based on spirits from Japanese mythology: the yōkai Otake-maru and Kamaitachi; and Genbu, the black tortoise, one of Kyoto’s four guardian spirits (which are, in turn, drawn from Chinese constellations).
The first two bosses aren’t especially noteworthy in their mechanics, but Genbu is an interesting one. The fight takes places on a grid of seven hexagonal cells, with various mechanics that make use of them. One move that he uses often sees arrows appear on each cell, pointing in various directions, with one of them marked with a blue orb. After a few moments, a big wave travels forth from the orb, following whatever path the arrows take it on until it gets sent off the edge of the arena. The trick, then, is to predict the path that the wave will take, and find somewhere safe to stand. It’s not a complex mechanic, but it makes for a fun encounter all the same.
Completing Hell’s Lid for the first time also unlocks a quest that leads you to the new Primal, Byakko. Like Genbu, he’s based off one of Kyoto’s guardian spirits—the white tiger, in this case. The fight itself is one of the more enjoyable Primal encounters, being relatively easy but with a few neat mechanics to play with. One attack he uses often sees him shooting dark orbs that travel outwards in various patterns, which you then have to dodge—it’s clearly based on NieR: Automata‘s twist on bullet hell shoot ’em ups, and it fits really well into Final Fantasy XIV‘s battle system.
All dressed up
I’ll get to all the new content in a moment, but for me, the most welcome thing about Rise of a New Sun is the Glamour Dresser. Glamours have been in Final Fantasy XIV for a few years now, giving you a way to customise the look of your character without compromising stats by giving your equipment the appearance of something else. So if you didn’t like the look of the latest, strongest gear set for your job, you could simply cast a glamour on it—retain the stats, but change its appearance to anything else that your character can wear.
Naturally, for people who like to play dress up with their MMO avatars, this lead to bags and bags full of items that are functionally useless, but just might come in handy for glamour purposes at some point. Managing all this gear was a nightmare, and it wasted a lot of retainer inventory space that could otherwise be put to much better use.
The Glamour Dresser changes all that. When you put an item into the dresser, you lose the actual item (and can’t get it back again, so be careful) while keeping those glamour properties in storage. You can then apply the look of a Glamour Dresser item to the gear you’re wearing, the same way you would before, but without the need to waste inventory slots. At the moment the Glamour Dresser is limited to 200 items (for technical reasons, I believe), but that’s enough to store more than a few outfits’ worth of glamour gear and free up a couple of retainers’ bags.
Additionally, the Glamour Dresser also lets you create and save different outfits to things called “Glamour Plates”, and then switch between them without the need to apply a glamour to each individual piece every a time. You have to be in an inn room or private residence to access the Glamour Dresser, store items, and save outfits, but once that’s done you can switch between Glamour Plates in any of the big cities. It’s a far, far more convenient way of dealing with glamours than the old method, especially if you have a lot of outfits you like to switch between.
Like I said, for someone with a lot of vanity gear and who likes to play dress-ups, the Glamour Dresser makes a world of difference, and is the highlight of Rise of a New Sun.