Review: Final Fantasy XIV Patch 5.3 Reflections in Crystal

The third major patch for Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers is here! Patch 5.3, Reflections in Crystal servers as a finale of sorts to the Shadowbringers story and helps to set up a taste of what players can expect from the game going forward. A new trial, Drarf tribe quests, and the ability to pilot a mech are only some of the things added to the latest patch.

We have five reviewers, five categories, and a maximum score of 100! Let’s see how Patch 5.3 fares!

Our guest reviewer for Patch 5.3 is our good friend, and Twitch streamer, Glenn Ángel.

Warning: This review contains spoilers for Patch 5.3 content.

Main Scenario and Dungeon

Fusionx: In our initial review of Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, I had called 5.0 “an Avengers level event”. While I still stand by it, that same level of build up also makes it an apt comparison for 5.3. Reflections in Crystal confirms popular fan theories about our player while also helping to push the game into its next chapter. Towards the end, we’re given the Hero’s Gauntlet dungeon, which serves as our last hurrah of our narrative time on the First. There are a lot of different elements that populate the dungeon, be it the music that borrows elements from myriad tracks, or moving from zone to zone. (Speaking of which, if Feo Ul could teleport us from Ahm Araeng to Il Mheg… couldn’t that teleport have just…. taken us to the Crystarium instead?) The dungeon itself was fine, though I felt the music to be a bit too lighthearted considering the story aspect. The idea of traveling between zones is ultimately disappointing in a patch cycle where we’ve been given one dungeon per patch. To finally get a new dungeon, only to have it take place in areas we’ve been exploring for over the past year is ultimately, unexciting.

While the story that began in Shadowbringers is now more or less complete, I felt it reached this conclusion somewhat abruptly and I can’t help but raise an eyebrow as the curtain is lifted on the next bit of story. After all of the things that have happened, Ascians are still in play and our next villainous duo serves as a tiresome reminder that Stormblood was a thing that existed. It would seem that the more things change, the more they ultimately, appear to stay the same.

3/4

Xenedra: I’ll start by saying that I think they did Elidibus wrong. Wrapping up his story by overlapping him with that original Warrior of Light was pretty cool from a player’s perspective, and I always love seeing the nostalgia woven in. However, I honestly think that it took away from Elidibus himself. The beautiful, Amano man that they presented me with distracted me from the significance that was Elidibus. Maybe it was meant to be that way.- that he had been at it for so long, that he’d forgotten himself, but that’s what I wanted to see: him. I hope we’re not done learning about what happened to him and how it changed him. Similarly, while I adored the presentation of going from expansion to expansion, re-killing the antagonists (and some of our friends…?), I felt like Elidibus was beating a dead horse. I get it, man. You’re trying to restore your world because those people were your friends and family and you want them back. Emet-selch made this point much more eloquently, and you’re not changing my opinion with your awkward attempts to show me what it’s like to kill my friends. With what I’ve said so far, you’re probably thinking, “how did this get a 3 out of 4?” Well! As I’ve said many times before, I like to be surprised by plot twists, and here that was very much not the case. It was revealed that we are, in fact, the 14th member of the convocation that left and Elidibus was indeed the heart of Zodiark, but you know what? Everything meshed together so nicely, I didn’t even mind. Sometimes being able to read into the future of a story just means it’s put together well, and I think that was the case here. At the end the characters (those we left on the First and those that are with us on the Source) felt incredibly full and the personalities of the Scions have never been so bright.

3/4

Aldianaux: So many answers! Elidibus becoming the embodiment of the very concept of the Warrior of Light was a revelation that I can’t stop thinking about. On one hand, there is a special sort of wickedness in him using the goodwill and hope of a world to destroy it. On the other, I couldn’t bring myself to dislike him. I just hope that the Ascian what’s-his-name and Zenos can even attempt to hold a candle to this. What an ending!

4/4

Rook: In a staggering demonstration of masterful and truly moving storytelling, Shadowbringers has been given a fitting finale that both satisfies and surpasses player expectations. It is by far the most compelling finale to an expansion that I have experienced in Final Fantasy XIV so far. The characters, narrative, and twists moved me deeply, leaving an impression that is unlikely to fade. Much like Emet-Selch’s request, the story of this patch and the expansion it brings closure to, will be a memory that all Warriors of Light and Darkness carry with them for years to come.

4/4

Glenn Ángel: To say that I cried at least 10 times would be an understatement. I did the entire story while wearing contacts and I had to take them out because my tears were ruining them. This batch of quests reminded me how much I enjoy the way the team makes me care about every single character- and I mean every single one. When we had that little stroll down memory lane, everything hit so hard. My body literally had full blown chills for a good 5 minutes straight. I was mildly concerned. So many wonderful conclusions, but now I’m thirsty for so much more.

4/4

Main Scenario and Dungeon Total: 18/20

Trial

Fusionx: “Let’s kill this Amano $#@!%” was the first message in my duty finder group upon joining up for this patch’s trial- and they’re certainly not wrong.
The FFXIV team has already proven that they can take artist Yoshitaka Amano’s designs and translate them into the game, and the design of this boss is no exception. The fight pulls mechanics from other fights that players may or may not have seen in other content, providing a decent fight for veterans, and a challenge for the more casual players. In an expansion where we’ve transformed into the Warrior of Darkness, having the Warrior of Light be our final trial seems incredibly fitting.
It also cannot be overstated just how fantastic the “To the Edge” track is for this fight. While a little hard to make out all of the lyrics, the ones that are audible do an absolutely incredible job of reminding us who the Ascians were, and to have it performed by Jason Charles Miller, (who performed Shadowbringers) is the cherry on top of an amazing sounding sundae.

4/4

Xenedra: I have to give the Trial a 3/4 as well, being that it is the embodiment of one of my issues with the MSQ. It’s a beautiful trial in setting, design, significance, but I still think it takes away from any impact Elidibus could have had as himself.
I don’t want to say it’s an easy fight, because there certainly are mechanics that aren’t 100% clear at first, but if you know the pattern of an FFXIV fight, this one will become clear to you fairly quickly. I’d go so far as to call it straight-forward.
And that music! Had to have it. Got it. Put it on the house. It’s so good!

3/4

Aldianaux: This is my new favorite trial, bar none.
I love everything about it. I love the way the mechanics really drive home the narrative with Elidibus emulating us (or are we emulating him?) and using our abilities. I love the subtle Final Fantasy IV reference of the party of summoned doppelgangers(assuming it is in fact, a reference, and I’m not wearing a tinfoil hat.) I especially love that he will react to the party casting a limit break by using Hallowed Ground and saying a voice line. That is a simple but impactful meta-mechanic. I would love to see more boss interactions like that. Don’t tell my static, but I certainly won’t be upset about running this one about a hundred times for the mount.

4/4

Rook: Tied deeply to the main story, the trial calls back to the original Warrior of Light while also feeling utterly appropriate for the current world of Final Fantasy XIV. Mechanics such as the limit breaks were a clever detail that, paired with the supporting story, helped make this fight exciting and fresh. However, being unable to have a member fail the quick time event can cause the battle to become difficult for those who may have obstacles with button mashing. A reused arena, though appropriate to the setting, and an underwhelming Extreme version hold this back from a perfect score.

3/4

Glenn Ángel: First of all, I freaked out that it was the Warrior of Light from the original Final Fantasy. The normal trial was so beautiful. My first group wiped around six times. Luckily we were all patient, but I was getting close to calling people out after we figured out why we couldn’t advance. I was especially excited for the Extreme version and it ended up being a very satisfying fight. The mechanics were a lot of fun to figure out, but now I’m wishing it were just a tad bit more difficult. Though, that could be biased since I got to it three days into the patch and a lot of people already knew the fight and I didn’t really get to enjoy the chaos of going into the fight completely blind.

3/4

Trial Total: 17/20

Raid

Fusionx: The second installment of YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse, The Puppet’s Bunker has us travel through a barren landscape littered with debris before falling into the remnants of NieR Automata’s space station. Mechanics that we’ve seen previously are given new coats of paint to help fit the NieR aesthetic, and it works quite well. We have another great track with the final boss that meshes NieR and FFXIV together, though I didn’t find it to be quite as good as the previous boss theme. The story also took a surprisingly sharp turn into unexpected territory as well, though it still feels a bit out of place. I’m still not entirely sold that NieR belongs in FFXIV, but the team continues to do a good job translating it into this raid series.

3/4

Xenedra: I’m a big fan of 24-man raids. There’s something about riding that line of being manageable with a large group of players that just brings me joy. This one did not fail to stay up to par. In fact, I thought it was better organized than its predecessor. With the exception of the final boss, I found each of these boss encounters quite fun and just difficult enough to make you pay attention.
With the last boss… I don’t think my displeasure has to do with the appearance of it so much as it lacked that fun union that I enjoy so much. The ultimate “Compound” was lacking, you might say.

4/4

Aldianaux: I give it a solid “meh.”
I did really enjoy the set dressing and thought the mechanics were pretty fun. The hallway gauntlet was especially great and I love seeing these injections NieR gameplay into these raids.
There was a great moment with the last boss and the reactions. The story however, just isn’t engaging me so far. I feel that compared to the previous alliance content, this is more easy to skip- it doesn’t feel like it really connects to the greater story. Maybe in 6.0 I’ll be proven wrong, and I’ll welcome that! The new raid gear from here also doesn’t help my score.

2/4

Rook: Delivering on the innovative ideas that a collaboration between Yoko Taro and FFXIV proposed to the community, this new installment features intriguing fights and excellent music. The environments are likewise beautiful, and the hallway section has become one of my favorite mob phases of the entire game.
That being said, the surrounding story continues to feel like the weakest element of this collaboration, and it has yet to show any true depth in a compelling manner.

3/4

Glenn Ángel: I feel like I could give it a perfect score just for the music alone. Why is it so good?!
I absolutely loved the mechanics of this fight, and I love seeing how Square Enix makes each installment more and more difficult. I’m very glad that it’s easier to revel in the chaos of a 24 man since there are a fair amount of moving parts that so many people can mess up, such as completely obliterating an entire alliance with a line AoE!

4/4

Trial Total: 16/20

Crafting/Gathering

Fusionx: While the next installment of the Ishgardian Restoration isn’t here quite yet, we’ve got a brand new custom deliveries NPC in the Firmament to help move the story forward while we wait. In addition, the new Dwarf tribe quests are yet another way that 5.x is providing a plethora of options for players to level their crafters. It also gives us a tank mount! Who could say no to that?
Of course there are other QoL adjustments as well. Each patch has been taking steps to make things easier for this section of the game and just when I think there’s nothing more they can do, they find ways to improve.

4/4

Xenedra: Dwarves! I love them! Even more-so than Lalafell. How? Why? When I think Lalas, I think Ul’dah, that cesspool of scum and villainy. But Dwarves? Lets greet each other in a rediculous manner and get drunk! That’s my kind of person! So any content that includes then is bound to be high on my favorites list.
That said, these crafting dailies came way too late for me. That does make them easy to churn out daily from a completionist perspective, though, not so useful.

3/4

Aldianaux: The apparent lack of Ishgard quests this time around are a bummer, but that doesn’t detract much from what we did receive this patch.
We already had great crafting and gathering gameplay and with these last quality of life additions, the crafting user experience is becoming something I want to find more time to engage with.
Also, the Dwarves are amazing.

3/4

Rook: The 5.x patch cycle has featured crafting and gathering quite heavily. While it has provided new opportunities for players to engage with the content or use it to gain experience if they were behind, I think that at this point, additional battle content would be much appreciated for those who may not be as invested in crafting or gathering.

2/4

Glenn Ángel: I’m still a bit behind on some of these changes since I leveled most of them via Ishgard Reconstruction. Only two of my crafters have Manipulation and the Master Recipes are so hard with all those factors against me. I love love love the Dwarf quests though!

3/4

Trial Total: 15/20

Other

Fusionx: With this patch, we continue the Sorrow of Werlyt story as it (as well as parts of the MSQ) go what I can only describe as “full anime.”
On paper, the idea of piloting a mech in a solo instance as it flies around sounds cool. In actuality however, I felt the gameplay of it was a bit lackluster, especially with how grounded the “flying” G-Warrior feels to the water. It also feels odd considering the first battle for this quest line was an 8-man trial. To then take a step back and make it a solo instance (while giving the impression that future installments of this series may also be solo instances) is a little disappointing.
Including a small town instance at the end of this fight however was very surprising and I couldn’t be happier with its inclusion. Similarly, the new flight for A Realm Reborn areas was also quite surprising, and surpassed what I felt were, very reasonably and realistic, low expectations. The areas have been adjusted more than I thought and being able to fly in these zones is great.

3/4

Xenedra: Sometimes I love being proven wrong. I honestly thought that flying in the 2.0 zones would be mostly trivial, that maybe we’d save a few minutes moving through the zones here or there (and we do), but the dev team really put in some extra effort here. There are actually new places you can go in the zones now and the fact that they bothered with those details instead of throwing up invisible walls is amazing. Once again, they remind me why I’ve stuck with this game for so long: they love it as much as they want their player base to.
There was also the addition of Faux Hollows. Our first trial out of the gate is Shiva, which has some people on edge because they are sick of Shiva, though I don’t mind it so much. Doing this fight again like it was upon release was actually pretty fun and has me looking forward to future trials. The attached mini game is simple enough and the whole process of beating Shiva and then doing a mini-game, doesn’t feel overly time consuming like Wondrous Tales sometimes can. You also don’t have to go and get a book each week. You simply queue in once you have it unlocked. Additionally, you’ll almost always build up points. It might be slow going, but you’ll get to the prize eventually. It can’t get much simpler.

4/4

Aldianaux: I didn’t have many expectations of what flying in 2.0 zones would be like. Maybe that made them easier to blow away. It is truly astonishing to me that they put in this amount of work. Not only that, but they added terrain in spots just to create new vantage points!
The Sorrow of Werlyt quests were brief, but bombastic. Piloting a Gundam? In my Final Fantasy? Give it to me. Though, I am not yet inspired by the milk enthusiast big boss. He seems a little over the top.

4/4

Rook: Much needed quality of life updates and changes to the game, as well as A Realm Reborn flight have helped round out a strong narrative patch. The single player Sapphire Weapon duty surprised and intrigued me as to what the future of our next expansion could hold. Though I have not delved into it myself, the new beast tribe also provides players enjoyable daily content with a bonus bartending mini game that delighted those who discovered it.

3/4

Glenn Ángel: I’m most excited for the Job clues. They had a lot of fun sprinkling in hints, especially in the new dungeon. Meoni from Youtube brought up a good point about our focus on chirugeons in the First and it makes a bit of sense! We are bound to get a new healer, especially with the response to no healer in this expansion and Chirurgeon feels like the perfect FFXIV version of a new type of healer. I’m also wondering if some hints are for limited jobs? I know we’re not a big fan but how else am I going to get some kind of queue for my Blue Mage? I want to breathe fire in a more consistent manner!

3/4

Trial Total: 17/20

Patch 5.3 Total: 83/100


You can listen to our full review, as well as Patch 5.3 spoilers on Aetheryte Radio Episode 177.