Review: Final Fantasy XIV Patch 5.4 Futures Rewritten

The fourth major patch for Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers is here! Patch 5.4, Futures Rewritten has us reunite with a variety of characters on the Source and witness the events that look to shape our future there. We also take up arms against the Emerald Weapon, finish the Eden raid series, and see an effort to re-energize Triple Triad!

We have five reviewers, five categories, and a maximum score of 100! Let’s see how Patch 5.4 fares!

Our guest reviewer for Patch 5.4 is the amazing Twitch partner, Pookajutsu.

Warning: This review contains spoilers for Patch 5.4 content.

Main Scenario

Fusionx: We’ve finally taken the group back to the Source and now we’re immediately reminded of a lot of characters that we haven’t seen for awhile. Lyse, Merlwyb, and hey, even Ga Bu!
After the last patch, I was a proud member of team Alisae, and it was great to see her help take the lead with the narrative while also giving us some absolutely huge lore implications with being able to cure tempering. The thing is though, I knew it was a big deal, but there was something about how everything was presented that just didn’t make me care.

Afterwards though, we get to see what Fandaniel is scheming and that completely caught me by surprise. The towers that were constructed are now visible in many areas of the Source and that… is really freaking cool. I still can’t find myself to care about Zenos as a villain, but whatever weird plan Fandaniel is scheming definitely has my curiosity.

3/4

Xenedra: “Let’s do a poll and see who everyone’s favorite characters are, then we’ll send them on a quick jaunt with the WoL!” and that’s how the first quest of this patch was decided upon. Honestly… I don’t mind it. The fetch bit was a ho-hum fetch bit, but I love awkward cat boy and gun-ho elf girl. I wanna see their adorable interactions. And wrapping it up with the use of computers to figure out a magic formula tickled me. Nothing group breaking here, but enjoyable.

I’m a Limsa kid, so I’m always pleased to see the story take a turn toward Vylbrand. Ga Bu’s long awaited de-tempering (untempering? distemperment?) came to pass, at last, and he was frickin’ adorable! However, I felt the delivery here on some of these very big issues was a little lack-luster. Merlwyb has, from the beginning, been a huge supporter of, “crush the Beastmen, this land is ours!” So to see her swing toward not only wanting peace with them, but risking her life to free them, is great character development for her and quite significant to the Limsa Lominsa branch of the MSQ. Though, I do wish we got to see more of her journey to this point. The story also puts a nix on piracy in the nation of pirates. These are big changes, but they somehow seemed dwarfed. I can’t help but wonder if it’s because of just how universe shattering our previous journey was.

And finally… Fandaniel. We move back into the realm of universe scale significance and see some of the beginnings of the plan by team Fandaniel/Zenos. I’m very torn here, because it’s been a while since I’ve seen a villain who is a villain just to rock the boat, (or in this case, capsize it, light it on fire, and bomb the lake it was in). It’s almost refreshing to see, but I know in my heart of hearts that a baddie with a reason is going to be more interesting. I hope we eventually see a better reason from Fandaniel.

3/4

Aldianaux: We’ve seen such incredible story reveals, character moments and long-standing questions answered that at some point, we were bound to get a less exciting chapter. This is that point for me. Maybe it’s because I don’t particularly enjoy the pirate council politics or the general setting of Limsa Lominsa. Either way, the start of the MSQ this patch felt like there were no stakes. Everything came a little too easy. Fandaniel, Lunar Bahamut and the strange towers did leave us with a lot of fun questions though.

2/4

Rook: Patch 5.3 was a hard act to follow, but 5.4 offers a solid setup for the next chapter of FFXIV’s story. While many of the events have large-scale lore implications for the Source and revisiting Limsa Lominsa was much appreciated, the story itself is largely slower in pace.

3/4

Pookajutsu: Traditionally, a .4 patch sets the groundwork for the next major story to unfold in FFXIV. Because of this, it creates a lot of expectations, many of which end up subsequently subverted in the .5 patches that follow. Square Enix enjoys throwing curve balls. Knowing this, I feel that the MSQ this time around accomplished exactly what it was intended to do. Though, after the emotional ride that was Reflections in Crystal, 5.4 felt woefully short.

Fandaniel’s motivations, as presented to us, don’t carry much depth. This becomes even more apparent when presented alongside Zenos and his singular driving goal. I believe there is room within FFXIV to tell these kinds of stories, but I expect them to come paired with something to really sink my teeth into. To some extent, Fordola and Yotsuyu bore this burden for Zenos in Stormblood. I eagerly await to see what the analog to this will be as 6.0 draws nearer, and if Asahi 2.0 and his pet dragon will actually hold our focus.

The true strength of the MSQ this time around was how it brought us back to, and advanced, the story from A Realm Reborn. It was an absolute delight to see Merlwyb have some time in the limelight finally, and I’ll admit they nearly got me by hanging a few death flags along the way. That gunshot hit me pretty hard. I’m looking forward to seeing the future of Limsa Lominsa and of the tempered. And as always, extra points for Ga Bu, who is best boy.

3/4

Main Scenario and Dungeon Total: 14/20

Dungeon

Fusionx: Coming into the patch, we had seen snippets of Matoya’s Relict. My assumption is that it could be a fun dungeon, maybe have some zaniness to it. I’m happy to say that that’s exactly what we got.
We got some fresh new mechanics that play with verticality (something I ‘ve been wanting to see for awhile) and the dungeon theme is a playful, almost Halloween version of Matoya’s theme (keep in mind that if COVID delays weren’t a thing, this would have likely landed sometime in October, making it an absolutely perfect fit).

4/4

Xenedra: This is everything I wanted when we started seeing previews of it. It’s got a witchy Matoya’s theme remix. It’s got weird LSD lava, and a cute method of creating a mama porxie… which somehow logistically makes sense. It’s straight-forward and simple as far as dungeons go, but it’s legitimately fun! It also brought back a dye-able version of my favorite armor set (range DPS specifically)! I feel like I haven’t said enough about this dungeon since I love it so much, but it’s just… fun! It feels put together well and I don’t dread having to do it over and over.

4/4

Aldianaux: This was a fun, whimsical romp. Matoya and Y’shtola’s relationship really set the tone for this dungeon. If you bring Y’shtola in as a Trust, you see more of it as well which I thought was great. The mechanics are easy to understand, and the visuals are incredibly charming. My only gripes are with how fun it will be to repeat ad nauseam in the expert roulette and how easy it is.

3/4

Rook: Matoya’s Relict has a delightfully unique tone, creative boss fights, and playful new environments. While the difficulty of the mobs feels a little lackluster compared to other expert roulette offerings, the overall dungeon is memorable and brings in many elements that are enjoyable for a first-time run.

3/4

Pookajutsu: Matoya’s Relict might easily be my favorite Shadowbringers dungeon. Though, to be honest, I’m quite biased towards anything that has to do with that woman. The music has a spooky, yet whimsical vibe that I found to be light and fun but not too annoying in the process. The scenery is colorful and varied, quite literally when clearing a path to the kiln. And the second boss might be the most adorable thing I’ve seen in the game so far…that I’ve had to kill. The mechanics felt very inspired, and don’t feel like too much of a chore to do in a dungeon that I’ll very much be running daily. The easter eggs were a neat and charming touch. I also won the minion… so it’s pretty much my favorite place in the game at the moment.

4/4

Trial Total: 18/20

Trial

Fusionx: The Sorrow of Werlyt has been an interesting questline. I’ve loved seeing more of Gaius after his reappearance in Stormblood, and getting more backstory on him, on the children he helped raise, as well as the town of Terncliff has been really interesting.
With this patch, we get away from the silliness of a solo instanced battle as a flying robot that’s glued to the water and get an 8-man trial against the Emerald Weapon. The fight itself seemed complicated as you see multiple mechanics going off at once, but ultimately proved to be an easy, yet fun fight.
The storyline surrounding it is building up towards its conclusion and I have to say, our main villain in this questline, Valens Van Varro, has made me excited to hate a villain again. This guy is an absolute monster and is, right now, incredibly more interesting to me than Zenos. I really, really hope that Varro intersects with the main story instead of being kept to this side quest.

4/4

Xenedra: When the first Wyrlet quests came out, I gave them a rough review. They seemed quite stereotypical, (not to mention Ruby Weapon’s terrible feet). But the second installment waylaid some of my fears, and I’d go so far as to say that this latest entry was, in some ways, more interesting that the actual MSQ. (I’m sorry!) I’m solidly of the opinion that Gaius still counts as a villain. Even though we’ve seen him feel regret before, it was more about how his mistakes held Garlemald back. We’re starting to see him regret what he did to a generation of children and showing some real empathy.

Enter the Milkman (Valens Van Varro), a character that makes me cringe down to the calcium in my bones, but in a good way? He is despicable and they don’t cover it up at all. We’re finally seeing the dark side of Garlemald that we always assumed was there, that was mentioned in passing, but never quite on full display. It’s great! Seeing the atrocities makes every other Garlean’s actions so much more significant.

Oh, there’s actually a fight as part of this category, too! The fight is short and sweet, and the sword patterns can be a little annoying at times, but I found it quite fun! Seeing Gaius’ good ol’ gold armor make a return was a fun pinch of nostalgia, as well. The weapons look very much like the Emerald Weapon, which is to say: chunky, clunky, and funky, but hey, that’s what glams are for!

4/4

Aldianaux: As a huge Gundam fan, The Sorrow of Werlyt is scratching an itch that I can’t articulate. In this installment we really got to see the depravity that results from the Garlean Empire’s dogmatic views about scientific progress, rank and social status. We’ve seen some nasty people featured from the Empire before, but no one quite like the Milkman (no I will not use his real name). It really helps the audience to understand why the pilots of these weapons will risk anything to be free.

4/4

Rook: While the fight against the Emerald Weapon itself makes for a decent challenge, the newest portion of the story surrounding the weapons is what steals the show. Featuring a compelling villain and complex themes concerning morality and the cost of warfare, the narrative is a true homage to the Gundam franchise and rivals even the MSQ story.

4/4

Pookajutsu: If patch 5.4 has a weakest point, I feel it might be the Emerald Weapon fight. To be honest, I didn’t find myself being particularly fond of the Ruby Weapon encounter either. If anything, this time around, the fight itself is a bit more drawn out than it needs to be. I wish I could put my finger on exactly what it is, but the other boss fights in this patch definitely feel a bit more put together and inspired than the Werlyt series has been. What holds my interest in this series of quests however is, once again, the music (which is phenomenal), and the story. However, I should note that I was not ready for the heavy nature of the story’s content this time around.

I’d completed the quests on stream, and found myself unable to read parts of it out loud, because of how absolutely detestable Varens is. The man is truly monstrous in a way that FFXIV hasn’t shone a light on in such direct way before. And just as the game gets us all worked up to go after him, the next quest reminds us how much harm we’ve caused in the past personally, and we’re left to just smile and nod. Powerful stuff.

2/4

Trial Total: 18/20

Raid

Fusionx: After seeing that our first fight would be against the Cloud of Darkness, my hopes and predications for this final leg of Eden shot through the roof. That expectation then came back, and shot me in the foot. There was a lot of potential with this last part of the series to do something really neat with the story, and I can’t help but feel that it ended up falling short.
The narrative took a turn that I wasn’t suspecting with the Ascian element and for that I was pleasently surprised. There were also a lot of (incredibly) subtle nods to Final Fantasy VIII in the quest dialogue as well.

Ultimately, what bothered me in this final tier was the poor handling of the characters, and the form of the final boss. I don’t understand why they decided to use Artemis of Epheseus as a model for the last boss, I see the link they tried to make, but I don’t understand the form. It wasn’t interesting to me. It wasn’t “Final Fantasy.” The middle of the fight was also an incredibly odd narrative choice that really kills any momentum your party begins to build up. Did we really need to see the girls going out for biscuits and picking out lipstick in the middle of a raid? I applaud the attempt at doing something different, but this didn’t work.

2/4

Xenedra: I just… wanted so much more from this. There is a story here, but it’s written with levels of metaphor that I feel better suit a novel, or some other form of media that you can digest in one go. For a raid story, where you are likely to never return to the first tier, especially not the cut scenes, and where you go months between, it just doesn’t really work. At least not if you have a terrible memory like mine! Some very interesting facts however, are laid out here. We learn who Gaia really is, who the voice in her head was, and that particular chunk of information was engaging and added even more layers to what we know about the Ascians. I wish that that story wasn’t so encapsulated in the end portion of the Eden tale, though. Instead, they painted on the trope of, “love and friendship conquers all!” to wrap the story up.

The bosses this raid tier are a weird grab bag. Cloud of Darkness was a neat call back, but also disappointing, since so many of us wanted to see the story actually go to the void, rather then just be a memory projection of it. Shadowkeeper seems out of place, and for me, is one of the least entertaining fights I’ve had to slog through in a while. I understand the mechanics, I do them, and they bring me no joy (referring to savage, specifically). On the other hand, I actually love Fatebreaker. I find the dad-chimera hilarious, and the scenario in which we have to fight it makes at least a little bit of sense. It’s kind of like a more compact Midgardsormr. The last boss however, is the most disappointing. It wouldn’t really have made sense for us to face Ultimecia, but I still wanted to.

In previous raid iterations where there were other Final Fantasy references, we got to see actual characters and bad guys from those FF entries. Eden, with the exception of Eden itself, lacks that entirely. There are a handful of decent parallels and references, but that’s not exactly what I wanted to see? I appreciate the effort of trying something different, but it was a bit of a let down after how direct the previous inserts were. We did get a rockin’ version of The Extreme, though!

2/4

Aldianaux: This was a tough one to score for me. While I enjoy all the fights in this installment of the story, I can’t help but be disappointed in where that story has gone. We finally got our answers about Gaia, her place in the universe and what Eden truly is… I just didn’t like them. That is, until I watched the Void Quests. Once I started to think about the implications of seeing things like The Shadowkeeper, that Ascian Prime, and the true end of these Warriors of Light… this score jumped a little.

3/4

Rook: The Eden’s Gate finale is comprised of interesting new fights and a heartfelt conclusion to the story of Gaia and Ryne. While this installment has intriguing reveals, it overall falls a bit short due to its disjointed blend of themes.

2/4

Pookatjustsu: So, I might’ve told a little white lie in the dungeon portion of this review. The Empty after the completion of the Eden storyline is my favorite place in the game. I am a lore junkie, so having the raid series being so closely tied to the MSQ and the world itself has been incredible for me. I’m so very pleased with the resolution, and the blanks that were filled in along the way. Including that nice tidbit about Greek Gods and Titans being a naming convention. The normal mode fights were fun and inventive. There’s definitely a lot to process at a time when going through them. And to this very day, some scholars are still deciphering how E11 works.
Admittedly, I died so very much to normal mode mechanics because I’d spent the week covering the savage modes of the fights, but that just gave me more time to get caught up in the spectacle. The voice acted transition phase in E12 was a neat touch. But ask me again in a few weeks if I’m a fan of long mid-fight intermissions. The next time you’re on Hyperion on Primal, stop by The Empty for some coffee biscuits with friends!

4/4

Trial Total: 13/20

Other

Fusionx: I need to start off this section with an apology. The additions to Triple Triad, especially when discussed during the last Live Letter, seemed so odd and unnecessary to me. I’ve since gone over to the Gold Saucer and joined in on one of these draft tournaments and… I absolutely love it. I think this is exactly the kind of thing that the card game needed.

While I’m still not sure if I like the exact shade of blue that the new classic UI skin uses, I do appreciate all the attention to detail in the various menus with certain elements appearing to be a bit 8-bit like.

Lastly, we had a new series of quests, Void Quests. Apparently, these are absolutely incredible, and do a great deal on improving things like the story of Eden’s Promise. However, the requirements to access them are high and that absolutely lost this category a point. Lore should be easily accessible, especially when multiple other stories hinge on it.

3/4

Xenedra: There was less “Other” this time around, but they seem to be doing a valiant job of up-keeping recently released side content instead of letting it fall to the wayside, ala Ocean Fishing and Unreal Trials. We also see them making improvements to content like Triple Triad, which might not be for everyone, but some people really enjoy. And finally, any patch that sees us get some new furniture is definitely going to please me. I’m in a submarine loop forever now, trying to get sinks… try saying that in normal conversation and see if you don’t get some weird looks.

3/4

Aldianaux: Void Quests.

Wait… this has to be longer than two words? OK fine. I won’t go too far into how much I loved this extra series of quests because I want people to experience them on their own. I will say that I didn’t expect to be so invested in them. Other than that, the Monk changes are… not ideal, but also not horrible. They feel like another step towards lowering the skill floor of the job, which is great, but that also has affected the skill ceiling as well. I remain hopeful that we will see some of that complexity return in the next expansion.

4/4

Rook: New housing items, gear sets, gemstone rewards, and more are welcome additions. The introduction of draft mode in Triple Triad refreshes the mini-game. Though there isn’t a great deal of additional content outside of the new fights and story, what was added is satisfying.

3/4

Pookajutsu: My entire score here is given to the Void Quest series that takes place after all of the Role Quests have been completed. This patch just keeps delivering with longtime payoffs for characters we haven’t seen in ages. First the Admiral, and Ga Bu, and now we got Unukalhai out of that stuffy office at the Rising Stones. Seriously, did anyone check in on him to see if he had food, or a nice book to read, or anything? He’s been in there for ages!

Jokes aside – though the beginning of the quests did have plenty of opportunities to do just that – it was a grand experience to not only facilitate a reunion, but to provide two immortal beings with a purpose, to mentor what may as well be the next set of world saving adventurers, to instill hope for a world that’s all been given up on, and to maybe eventually prove some Ascians wrong along the way. Plus, I practically gushed at the budding friendship between Unukalhai and Taynor. Though, I might’ve been expecting a fusion dance somewhere along the way. Do you blame me?
Oh, there was also a NieR raid quest this time around. It uh… was there.

3/4

Trial Total: 16/20

Patch 5.4 Total: 79/100


You can listen to our spoiler-filled review of Patch 5.4 on Aetheryte Radio Episode 186.


Images courtesy of Square Enix.