Review: Final Fantasy XIV Patch 5.1 Vows of Virtue, Deeds of Cruelty

Three weeks ago, we received the first major update to the incredibly well received Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringes expansion. Patch 5.1 Vows of Virtue, Deeds of Cruelty brings with it the continuation of the Main Scenario, the new NieR based 24-man alliance raid, changes to Disciples of the Land and Hand, and more!

Patch 5.11 is also being factored into this review.

We’ve got five reviewers, five categories, and a max possible score of 100. Let’s see how Patch 5.1 fares!

Our guest reviewer for Patch 5.1 is our good friend, and Twitch Partner, Ethys.

Warning: This review may contain spoilers for Patch 5.1 content.

Main Scenario

Fusionx: 5.0 was incredible to me and I’ve been waiting to see how the first patch would continue that epic story. While the MSQ this time around is nowhere near the size of the initial expansion, it does a good job of helping to set the stage for the story that will be told over the next year and a half. I also greatly appreciate that discussion of “the soul” felt very thematic for this patch, and was discussed in content outside of the MSQ. As is the norm for a patch, we had some big “wait what?!” moments towards the end. For me however, the section with Estinien at the end was by far my favorite part of the MSQ this time around.


Xenedra: This patch’s MSQ started out pretty strong, with a bunch of juicy details for those of us thirsting for more lore on aether and the First itself. It seems like every time we head to Kholusia, though, we’re in for a a downturn. Tying up loose ends in Eulmore was necessary, of course, but felt awkward, much like the giant Talos section of the main expansion release MSQ. So this was almost a 3 for me, until the upturn at the end of this section of story, what I like to refer to as, “Ok, you did the paperwork, now go be a badass,” time. Say what you will about Estinien, but he’s a badass, and this last third of the story highlights that beautifully. Getting to play as him in a previously unseen section of the world was not only fun, but brought up some interesting new questions. ARCH Ultima!?


Aldianaux: We all know that 5.0 is a tough act to follow. It would be understandable if each 5.x patch Main Story Quest installment failed to live up to those standards. 5.1 makes a good attempt, and for me it really succeeded. The Eulmore chapter was an uninteresting, if necessary, detour but the ending in Garlemald is heavy with implication. The RP romp as Estinien was exciting and whatever the heck Zenos is up to leaves us with fun speculation. That is exactly what I wanted to see from the first major patch of Shadowbringers.


Rook: Patch 5.1 is a promising follow up to the powerful narrative of Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers. The new content efficiently wraps up the lingering threads of the expansion before setting up future challenges. Further insights as to the nature of aetheric imbalance and tempering are a welcome lore reveal. Though the final instance was a real high point, the necessary slow start of the patch cycle left this just under a top rating.


Ethys: The climax of Shadowbringers’ (5.0) MSQ was — most of us can agree — the pinnacle of narrative payoff in FFXIV and perhaps the whole franchise. Prior to 5.0, the most loved and thoroughly actualize characters and stories on Hydaelyn had already been molded by the hands of Natsuko Ishikawa. Her contribution to Shadowbringers as lead MSQ writer injected a substance and depth which Stormblood’s melodrama often lacked. The 5.1 MSQ had a very tough act to follow.

Rather than lingering at this dramatic peak, Vows of Virtue, Deeds of Cruelty gets straight to the business of setting up the next narrative spindle and introducing some new friends (and mysterious foes) to help turn it. For a ‘.1 patch its arc is pretty standard, but it offers enough fresh world-building, juicy lore morsels, humour and satisfying dialogic repartee to keep us firmly gripped in the post-Hades story.

I would have given it a lower score, but then daddy Gaius and Estinien get all Goku on Zenos in what has to be one of the best composed FFXIV fight scenes which then leads into the greatest roleplay instance we’ve had thus far.


Main Scenario Total: 17/20


Fusionx: I loved the lore behind this dungeon and getting to see a little bit more of what civilizations looked like on the First. I absolutely loved seeing the apparitions scattered about, giving us a glimpse of what life might have been like. I’d love to be able to return, if only to just look around and have more time to take in the sights (and to read the bubble text from the brooms). It’s also been awhile since I can remember wiping on a dungeon boss in a patch and having to actually take a moment to talk strategy.


Xenedra: From a mechanical standpoint, the dungeon is extremely bare-bones. The first ground of mobs do literally nothing, but swing at you. The boss fights were more interesting, at least the first and last, but coming off of expert roulette dungeons like Twinning, I guess I was expecting a bit more complexity.

It’s a pretty enough place, especially the inside, though the sharp color saturation in the garden weirds me out a little. They were probably aiming for that. Two things bumped this up from a 2 to a 3 for me: the atmospheric details like the mobs jumping from painting and that ballroom full of ghosts, and the mortal flame mechanic in the last boss fight. Burn stuff? Hell yeah!! I swear I’m not a fire bug, but the concept of getting rid of a fire debuff on your character by burning the boss’s stuff just tickles me.


Aldianaux: Dungeons are hard to rate. At some point, no matter how cool they are,they become a boring slog, especially expert dungeons. The Grand Cosmos will be no exception. For me, the atmosphere, mechanics and the glimpse into Elven lore on the First is enough to make it one of the best MSQ dungeons introduced in a patch.


Rook: Providing a whimsical glimpse into the history of Elven civilization on the First, the Grand Cosmos is a fun romp with serious undertones. The ghosts of remorse and loss haunt the halls as surely as the spectral summons players encounter along the way. However, the light tone and fairy bosses miss out on utilizing the most impressive moments of this dungeon. The ghostly ballroom serves little purpose other than a passing backdrop, and while the final boss displays some unique mechanics, this dungeon ultimately felt enjoyable but forgettable.


Ethys: A gaudy Baroque palace, vaguely reminiscent of several previous dungeons but not quite like any of them. There’s some neat world-building here for the Lakeland Elves and for Voeburt and interesting set pieces, but nothing to compare to the spectacles of Twinning or Amaurot. The only fresh boss mechanic is about as interesting as it could be without breaking the well-established difficulty standard of expert roulette. The Grand Cosmos was a treat to explore for the MSQ but beyond that, pretty forgettable.


Dungeon Total: 16/20


Fusionx: Since its announcement, I’ve been… interested to see how NieR would find its way into the world of Final Fantasy XIV. What we were given as the entry point to the story of this collaboration left us with many more questions than answers than previous alliance raid story setups. I have no idea what’s going on, or why I should care. It’s a shame that they couldn’t have included voice acting for parts of this raid, specifically during the second boss fight. The last leg of the Ivalice raid series had voices, and not having it here is a step in the wrong direction.

That having been said, I absolutely love the music, and I enjoyed what they’re trying to do with the newly added collection feature. I appreciate that they’re doing something different with drops, with the inclusion of the glamour chest at the end, but I wish we would get a loot revamp more similar to the wonderful rework we saw with Eden and 8-man raids.


Xenedra: I’ll admit immediately that this is more my favorite of the 24-man raids. I enjoyed most of Ivalice more. I’ve also never played NieR of any kind, so I have no idea how relevant to the other games this dungeon is, BUT I enjoyed the look of the place and the not-quite-formulaic concepts behind the fights quite a lot. I’d like to see them push that further, in fact.

I also like the fact that a lot of the gear is similar. It’s weird to say, I know, and it probably goes against how most people feel about gear based on looks, but so often in 24-mans especially, where it’s REAL time investment to go in after one specific piece of gear, it’s nice to know that no matter what you get (as long as you can wear it), you’re still probably going to like the look of the piece. And I mean… who doesn’t like pretty dresses, and snappy coats, let’s be honest…

Ultimately I gave this one a 4 instead of a 3, though, because even though I’ve run it approximately 300,000 times, I don’t dread running it again. It’s a fun jaunt.


Aldianaux: I have never played NieR so being wholly unfamiliar with the setting I was expecting to be thoroughly confused by the story… I was. But hey, 24 people rocking out to the awesome music and dying hilariously is good enough for me. In fact, the last boss theme is why it is a 3 instead of a 2 for me.


Rook: The 24-man raid demonstrates that fresh collaboration is a welcome and exciting prospect even outside of the Final Fantasy franchise. The Copied Factory may be an ambiguous start as far as story goes, but the music, progression of fights, and bonus rewards incentivize players to return. Hopefully, Yoko Taro’s design influence will be expanded upon in future installments with a more challenging set of bosses that truly bring NieR’s non-traditional elements into FFXIV. Regardless, this meeting of worlds leaves players with a memorable first installment and incredible musical score.


Ethys: Yoko Taro fans have been vibrating out of their pants since the announcement of what at the time seemed like a wild, ambitious collaboration. The guest-developer’s signature moves of subverting genre and narrative expectations are thus far conspicuously absent; the one instance of what seemed like a Taro-esque easter egg and possible Drakengard reference (the random, chaotic appearance of a “dying dragon” NPC) turned out to be a simple glitch and was quickly patched. There are no alternate endings or spontaneous 2D-bullet hell segments here (yet), but I thank the Twelve that 2P is piloting the flight suit and not that dead weight Samurai from Alliance B. For better or worse, Yoshida seems to be keeping his guest under close supervision.

What we do have from both the instance and the story for this first foray is a pretty typical Alliance Raid with a NieR: Automata skin; the fights and level design are of a comparable quality to Stormblood’s — which is to say, very high. The standout feature is without a doubt Keiichi Okabe’s FFXIV-flavoured arrangements of tracks from the Automata OST; they rouse this Warrior of Darkness to wipe as many times as necessary For the Glory of Mankind.

Feeling compelled to repeat the raid several times for the 2B glamour might seem like a contrived kind of replayability, but it will keep the Factory populated and it is a delight to re-run in any case. The opportunity to leisurely re-explore the Factory and collect lore logs is a feature I want for every instance both in future and retroactively. Please.

Compared to the standard Alliance Raid, the Copied Factory is great for all FFXIV players and greater for Nier nerds.


Trial Total: 17/20

DoH/L Changes and Ishgard Restoration

Fusionx: As someone that has dabbled in crafting, and previously camped nodes on my Miner, I was pleasantly surprised with these changes. Once again, Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers does a great job of “cutting out the BS” with its gameplay changes. So many abilities on my Miner were gone after switching over to it, but truth be told, I couldn’t even tell you what they were or what they did, because no one ever used them.

Ishgard Restoration is something I’ve been excited for since its announcement and at the end of the day… the content we got to see felt short lived and a bit lack luster. A week after its implementation and my server is finished with its upgrade for now. Luckily I was able to take place in our first Concerted Works, but was incredibly disappointed (though somewhat understanding) of the lack of any kind of creative gameplay.


Xenedra: My rating went down the moment I hopped onto a crafter and all my abilities had little red hash marks through them. It really does feel like starting from scratch here, more so than when abilities change with battle classes. Once you get through the ability shuffle, though, it is a less harrowing process, and quick gathering is so good, so my 3 started to creep back toward a 4.

Until Ishgard. To keep it cut and dry: I was pretty disappointed in some of the behavior I saw centered around Ishgard’s concerted works. It’s good, helpful content and it brings a whole section of the community together that may not normally have a chance or reason to. Maybe I’m being a bit of a soap box climber with this one, but chill out, guys. Enjoy the content for what it is.


Aldianaux: The changes to the DoH/DoL roles is what made me finally level my gathering jobs. The Ishgard Restoration content is a great first step for unique Crafting/Gathering content. I can’t wait to see the implementation of leaderboards and the real endgame rewards.


Rook: Much needed quality of life changes have led to crafting and gathering being more accessible than ever. The new content has promise, but a few release issues led to frustration and difficulties for those who wished to participate. Those problems aside, simplified skillsets and the Restoration of Ishgard have brought many people to crafting and gathering either for the first time or as returning disciples.


Ethys: The Ishgard restoration inspired me to dust off my Disciple of Hand game for the first time since Heavensward; in so doing I realized the magnitude of the quality of life changes for crafters delivered by 5.1. Firstly, the tedium of leveling has been almost comically circumvented. Crafting systems feel so much more approachable and intuitive, without being rendered mindless. No longer do external resources feel necessary for any but the most hardcore of crafters.

I’m no expert in this sphere, but it seems that an injection of interest has been offered to new or long-neglected crafters but — sparingly — without pulling the carefully woven rug out from under the veteran marketboard moguls.

The collaborative, community-driven goal of a world’s crafters rebuilding the firmament is something I have not yet seen to take shape beyond the repopulation of old zones with busy gatherers and the cacophony of clinks, whirrs and scrapes in the Firmament proper; but I’m eager to watch it unfold and excited — believe it — to once again soar across the Diadem with my gatherers come 5.2.


Raid Total: 17/20


Fusionx: There were some great quality of life changes added to this patch, such as being able to filter lists by job in locations like gear NPCs or the glamour dressers. The Pixie beast tribe quests have been great thus far, and I absolutely love how the story helps to connect back to the MSQ to give us a good reason to care about what’s happening with that content. Additionally, I absolutely love the new PVP gear that was implemented- I don’t think I’ll switch the glamour on my Machinist for a long time.
On the downside, we saw the introduction of Fellowships. I honestly don’t know what the developers intended with Fellowships, but there are so many improvements that need to be done- to the point that I feel they should scrap them entirely and incorporate the features into our existing social channels like Free Companies and Cross-World Linkshells.


Xenedra: My 4 here is based on the Pixie quests and new gear and furniture, only. It’s probably hop down to a 3 otherwise. I loved the Pixie storyline and how it not only tied back into the MSQ, but into real world lore as well. I loved that second bit about everything related to the Pixies so far. Candy land is delightfully ridiculous and makes me want macarons so bad. And finally, any patch that delivers me new furniture gets hype points, if nothing else. I’m excited for an indoor fountain you don’t have to glitch the shower into the wall for and that doesn’t let off steam because it’s actually a bathtub!


Aldianaux: I am a Summoner… Best patch ever. But really, from those Job changes for Samurai, Ninja and Summoner to the surprisingly fun Pixie beast tribe quests, this patch has something for everyone. Even if Summoner is a little too strong now… Don’t tell anyone I said that!


Rook: Additional content such as the Pixie beast tribe, a variety of glamour and furnishing items, quality of life changes, New Game +, and the next ultimate fight: the Epic of Alexander, have given players a huge variety of content to play in patch 5.1. A few areas of the patch were lacking or seemed to have fundamental design flaws, such as fellowships, but overall the new content has kicked off the post-Shadowbringers patch cycle with great success. All of these changes lay the groundwork for exciting future content and the ongoing development of the game.


Ethys: Hades is, as we say in the colonies, an absolute banger. Ninja is finally not a complete migraine-inducing exercise for Australian (and other high-ping) players! Alexander Ultimate is a subject best left to the experts but it appears to meet expectations; the Pixie dailies are simple, straight-forward and deliver a story both endearing and relevant to threads of the 5.0 MSQ to which many of us feel invested. NG+ is wonderful for content creators and story/RP/lore nerds but could always use some extra incentivizing. PVP remains untouched by this guy, but there’s enough positive hearsay to pique my interest and convince me to front up in the near future.

All said, there’s probably no controversy in labeling Vows of Virtue, Deeds of Cruelty the strongest ‘.1 patch we’ve seen since 2.1, if not period.


Other Total: 18/20

Patch 5.1 Total: 85/100

You can listen to our full review, as well as Patch 5.1 spoilers on Aetheryte Radio Episode 149.