Review: Final Fantasy XIV Patch 5.5 Death Unto Dawn

The beginning of the end is here for Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers! Patch 5.5, Death Unto Dawn begins to raise the stakes as we get ready to move into the Endwalker expansion! This patch gave us new MSQ, the conclusion of both the Sorrow of Werlyt and NieR storylines and more!

We have five reviewers, five categories, and a maximum score of 100! Let’s see how Patch 5.5 fares!

Our guest reviewer for Patch 5.5 is our very own Managing Editor, Josh “FireMarth” McGrath!

Warning: This review contains spoilers for Patch 5.5 content.

Main Scenario

Fusionx: I loved how the narrative presented so many different threads that we could inevitably pull on in the future. Tiamat and Meracydia, Krile and Sharlayan… and on top of that, the actual narrative gave us some amazing character interactions with Alisaie and Estinien. The arc for Alphinaud this time around felt a little heavy handed with his vulnerability and need for acceptance with his role models. The tease at the end was a bit annoying, but hopefully that’s something they’ll address with the part 2 patch.

3/4

Xenedra: Estinien. This grumpy-turned-good boy is honestly what made this part of the story so great for me. His interactions with the twins are precious. Better still, his presence in the Tiamat scene is significant on so many levels. Seeing this character go from what he was so many years ago, knowing that the story actually has shaped him into this (slightly begrudging) team player we get to see now? It’s feels like a full, satisfying character arc, even if it was half done one the extreme sidelines. Welcome to the team officially, Estinien. Don’t let me down!

3/4

Aldianaux: I realized the MSQ was hitting me differently this time around once I got to playing around with the Allagan nodes. The trip to free Tiamat from her imprisonment was long overdue, and as a Summoner main it felt essential. Fordola is a blast from the past for most players, but as a Summoner she’s a lot more familiar and her redemption arc winds right through your job quest. The mystery of these Lunar Primals and what Fandaniel is up to is compelling, and I have no idea what will happen next. That’s exactly what I want in a “part 1” patch.

4/4

Rook: It’s always difficult to judge a two part main story quest installment on only the first half. Patch 5.5’s writing does a satisfying job tying together various threads leading into Endwalker. Particularly of note are the interactions concerning Estinien and Tiamat as well as Fordola, who brings a challenging and engaging perspective to several of the scenes. However, her foil, Arenvald, feels a bit shoehorned into a place of emotional importance. Overall, part one is a strong opening, but lacks the impact of a full narrative arc.

3/4

FireMarth: Everyone seemed excited for Tiamat in this patch. There was a ton of discussion around Tiamat returning to the story and the events surround her. But I have to ask: am I the only player who completely forgot Tiamat existed?

5.5 was an exercise in bringing back characters that had been irrelevant for multiple patches and expansions. Tiamat, Arenvald, Fordola, none had done anything since Stormblood (with Tiamat missing since Heavensward), and now they’re suddenly back and we’re expected to not only remember them, but care for them again. Especially Arenvald, who suddenly has Alphinaud attached to his hip.

If the writers wanted to reintroduce these characters into a major playing role in the story, they really should’ve started building them up in earlier patches. There was plenty of opportunity to do so in 5.4, but we were taken on Pirate Adventures with Merlwyb instead. Between this, Estinien being shoved into the Scions in nothing more than I can call fanservice, and an overarching story that just kind of ends without any real hook, the MSQ here is the most disappointing of the 5.X patches for me.

1/4

Main Scenario and Dungeon Total: 14/20

Dungeon

Fusionx: I loved the music coming into Paglth’an, and while the scenery wasn’t much to look at in the beginning, towards the end of the dungeon we got a lovely vista with the tower in the distance. I enjoyed the second boss here the most, though was also very surprised that we removed Lunar Bahamut from the equation already. I loved seeing Estinien riding Tiamat around and contributing to the overall battle, though it felt weird to then see other NPCs participating as well.

3/4

Xenedra: This dungeon is another fun little romp. It’s a little shorter and I appreciate the slight break from the dungeon pattern that we’ve been experiencing for a bit now. I also appreciate that, with a little work, you can pull all the mobs before the first boss in one go. I know not everyone’s going to be interested in that, but I think it’s fun, and the option to do so is a neat little addition. Also, let’s ride dragons with our friends over a scenic field of gold grass as we head to beat up what we thought would be a bigger threat. Heck yes.

3/4

Aldianaux: Fandaniel’s summoning of Lunar Bahamut was a huge moment in the last patch, but to see a freed Tiamat fighting against yet another hollow facsimile of her mate after wading through her tempered children? Bruh… However, fighting and defeating Lunar Bahamut in a dungeon was a little hollow. Even though I love the twist that this summoning is not the real threat and there are other Lunar Primals to deal with. I would have just liked to see a bit more out of the fights mechanically, especially for such a huge character.

3/4

Rook: The new dungeon showcases memorable music, notable npc character appearances, and a vista that will remain with players long after their first run. In comparison, the rest of the journey is relatively unforgettable, with two bosses possessing decently varied but forgiving mechanics, and surroundings comprised of fairly standard set pieces. It’s an enjoyable progression and the new gear set is well worth farming, but it falls just slightly short of being truly unique.

3/4

FireMarth: After running the formulaic and “solved” Heroes’ Gauntlet and Matoya’s Relict for months, Paglth’an is a breath of fresh air. The dungeon finally allows for more freedom in approach, rather than the enforced “pull two mobs, murder, pull two more” of the previous two Expert Roulette dungeons. Having Tiamat and Estinien (issues though I may have with them storywise) wrecking havoc through the run creates some fun setpieces as well.

What really sold me on the dungeon, though, was the final boss. Facing off against Lunar Bahamut was the last thing I expected here. I had thought we’d run the dungeon, take down some random monster or tempered dragon, then see a faceoff against Lunar Bahamut in the post-dungeon cutscene. Nope, Bahamut’s here, he’s angry, now kill him. While not a particularly difficult fight, the surprise and spectacle sold me on it.

3/4

Trial Total: 15/20

Trial

Fusionx: The Sorrow of Werlyt has been one of my favorite sidequests not just with Shadowbringers, but out of the entirity of FFXIV. I have never hated a villain in this game more than Valens and while I was hoping he might live to fight and make us hate him another day, I was satisfied with the conclusion. This storyline also made me feel the most feels since the end of 5.3’s MSQ. As for the fight itself, it had some fun elements with the two platforms.

4/4

Xenedra: More so than even the MSQ this time, Werlyt made me feel some emotions and any time a story does that, it deserves a point boost. I wasn’t a fan of Alfonse being put in the Diamond Weapon, it seemed forced to me, and a little stereotypically “anime,” but I do like a number of the things they were able to do with that story element as-is, so I can’t be too mad.

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: Stealing the show for the second patch in a row, the finale to the Sorrows of Werlyt provides a deeply satisfactory conclusion to a series of quests that feel more akin to a short novella set within the FFXIV storyverse than optional side content. One of the most emotional and unexpected journeys in the game thus far, the writing does a stellar job of portraying morally complex characters, the true cost of war, and the ties that bind us; both to those we love and the ideals we uphold.

4/4

FireMarth: The finale of the Sorrow of Werlyt storyline cemented it as one of the best stories FFXIV has ever told. I’d argue that it’s better than the main Shadowbringers MSQ… mostly
due to having much better pacing. To be fair, it’s more the fault that Shadowbringers tells its story over 50-60 hours, while Werlyt is a self-contained tale told efficiently in maybe five. But it doesn’t require me to run around fairy land for ten hours, so point for Werlyt.

The way Gaius is handled and developed is simply incredible. Not once is he forgiven for the atrocities he has committed in the past, but the background and development this storyline puts him through helps to justify his position in the game now: an uneasy ally.

Oh, and the fight against Diamond Weapon is enjoyable as well. But, really, Werlyt is all about the storyline. The fight against Diamond Weapon is just a bonus.

4/4

Trial Total: 20/20

Raid

Fusionx: I came into this raid series a bit unoptimistic as someone that has tried multiple times to get into NieR. The music has been incredible, and the raids themselves have had some interesting mechanics. The story however, is much more problematic- I don’t know what it is. There are some robots, a factory, a tower… I really don’t know what’s happening. Ultimately we got a NieR story in FFXIV, presented in the style of a NieR story, that even NieR fans can’t fully comprehend. Crossovers can work, but they need to adapt to the story telling of the game they’re coming into. NieR failed to do that. I was curious about the weekly quests that were introduced for this raid series, but so far they’re incredibly disappointing, and two weeks into them, there’s still no end, or payoff, for doing them in sight. When trying to think about this series and what it means… the only thing that sticks out to me is that it was nothing more than a (poor) marketing campaign for NieR: Replicant. I’m very much looking forward to leaving collaboration raids behind with the next expansion.

2/4

Xenedra: There sure was a story here and I think it might have gotten from point A to point B while making just enough sense and making me feel a twinge of emotions last patch. That pretty important element aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the fights themselves. I found them engaging with a few tricky little elements that makes me not dread having to run them multiple times!

3/4

Aldianaux: This is a great example of what can go wrong with a collaboration. On paper the themes of NieR (and the rest of Yoko Taro’s work) mesh so well with the story of the Warrior of Light, the Ancients, The First and its’ lost civilizations, etc. It sure would have been nice to see those intertwine. Instead we got a gorgeous and engaging set of fights with no compelling narrative. As an outside observer of all things Yoko Taro, I went from just assuming that the games were all flash and no substance to marveling at the storytelling of NieR: Automata and its’ endings. I can only hope were in for a pleasant surprise with these weekly quests. At this point, I’m just disappointed for all the NieR fans who wanted more.

2/4

Rook: The NieR raids have been a passionate subject of debate within the player base, and rightfully so. While many hoped the final installment would provide some clarity on the direction of the surrounding story, players are left with a narrative culmination that feels as underwhelming as it is uninspired. The mechanics, music, and visuals of the raids are their one saving grace, making this last 24-man enjoyable to run at the very least.

2/4

FireMarth: If this raid series was supposed to sell me on Yoko Taro and NieR, then it has completely and utterly failed. I understand Taro’s writing often revolves around… well, nonsense… but the story that concluded here with Paradigm’s Breach is badly written and unimpactful nonsense. None of the “mysteries” set up in the previous raids are truly solved, and 2B and 9S end up not really doing anything, leading me to think they were just here so NieR: Automata fans can say they got to see them on screen while playing a different game.

On the plus side, at least actually running through Paradigm’s Breach is fun. Some of the mechanics here are noticeably overused between fights (The boss cloned itself and now it’s attacking from two sides, oooooh!). But the final fight is easily my favorite in this raid series, and the phase transition moving the fight to the “real world” is a wonderfully surprising moment… even if it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

2/4

Trial Total: 11/20

Other

Fusionx: We’ve had so many quality of life adjustments come in with patches this expansion, so it’s a bit odd to not see many of them this time around. That having been said, they did introduce some new things that I’ve really liked. The new fates in the Firmament give us a way to casually get experience for our crafters while also providing us that loot box adrenaline rush. The new Hades and Byakko weapons have some really great looking effects, but the team proves again that they simply don’t have the resources to invest in creating more Dancer or Gunbreaker weapons. Last, but certainly not least is the new Forge walls for housing. I absolutely love how different this housing glamour is from everything we’ve had before it and I can’t wait to see what kind of drastic changes they make with these going forward.

3/4

Xenedra: oor “Other”, category, you get the short end of the stick. You get to start at 0 on the scale instead of the midpointof 2! I AM glad they added Fetes so that players for years to come still get to experience a symblance of that the Ishgarian restoration was like. The newest housing skin is pretty cool and the Byakko weapon effect is pretty badass- but I’m a dancer, so I don’t get one of those… I’m about up to a 2 at this point… Fishing? Eh… 2.

2/4

Aldianaux: This is always a fun category to just pick and choose highlights from. Bozja updates mean that catching up because you ignored the relic until we found out that it would eventually be better than the raid gear will be easier- for people who did that… Not me of course! It just shows how closely they are observing this incarnation of that “Eureka-like” content. The High-Definition UI assets are awesome. Sure, it is a small thing, but these overhauls to keep up to date with technology are a sign of a healthy game. They are also the sign of healthier eyes, at least for me and my weirdly setup UI!

3/4

Rook: Compared to previous patches, the additional content added in with patch 5.5 is varied, but less robust. New furnishings, glamour items, housing exteriors, additions to ocean fishing, Ishgardian fetes, and Bozja changes are welcome, but relatively light in content.

3/4

FireMarth: Aside from the new high-res assets (which are greatly appreciated), the only
“other” new thing I had access to were the fetes in the Firmament. I joined a session, completed all of the fetes, and I now have no plans to ever join in again.

The fetes mostly involve running from point A to point B for three minutes at a time while hoping my GPU doesn’t melt down from the sheer amount of other people on screen. All in return for “gifts” that only gave me tokens that I could spend for prizes and a piece of furniture for the house I will never own. Upon seeing that I needed 50+ tokens for the only interesting prizes, and I only received around eight from my fete session, I left the Firmament and this grind-fest of a “celebration” behind for good.

1/4

Trial Total: 12/20

Patch 5.5 Total: 71/100


You can listen to our spoiler-filled review of Patch 5.5 on Aetheryte Radio Episode 186.


Images courtesy of Square Enix.