Final Fantasy XIV Patch 6.55 braces for the game's next step into the future

While I've greatly enjoyed my time with Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker over the last 2 years, I'd be remiss to ignore that a portion of the playerbase have had their issues with how the expansion's post-launch updates have contributed to the game. If you were a raider like I was, we ate well this expansion; but if you didn't gel with the Final Fantasy IV inspired storyline for the patches, it's been a mixed bag. Variant and Criterion Dungeons were fun, but lack the sort of reason to return to them like content from the past. Similarly, the new Deep Dungeon felt like more of the same, rather than a real reinvention of the concept... and perhaps it's best not to get started with the state of relic weapons in Endwalker.

We always knew that when Final Fantasy XIV had to start fresh with a new story, to move the world forward, there would be some growing pains; but it's fascinating how with the most recent patch, we've seen how the characters themselves have struggled with some of those same concerns as a new adventure stares them in the face. After saving the universe, and saving a dragon while paving the way to perhaps one day salvage the Void; when a traveler from the New World tries to recruit the Warrior of Light as an ally to her fight for the throne, there's a degree of hesitation in the air - one which players can choose to hone in on.

Like expected, Patch 6.55 is less of a content patch and more of a seque into the next arc of the adventure - the first since Endwalker's grand finale of the Hydalen and Zodiark storyline that had made up XIV's story since A Realm Reborn. Even outside of the player's choice to attempt to distance themselves from the conflict that they'll soon find themselves in, other characters grapple with the events in their own way. Krile struggles to bring herself up to task of joining us on our upcoming journey to the New World, in search of information on her grandfather's legacy; while Thancred and Urianger realize that they've been recruited by a different party for the same struggle for the throne in Tulioyollal.

As for new characters... Wuk Lamat is already a joy, bringing a dynamic to the cast that has been missing. She's full of joy, eager to prove herself, and equally eager to explore the new delacicies that the creatures of Eorzea can bring. In short, she's exactly the sort of animated character that the main cast has been missing as the story had ballooned in size and scope with each expansion, and offers some much needed levity. I'm curious to see exactly how that levity will handle under pressure in Dawntrail, but I'm especially eager to see more of her relationship with Erenville. He was already a fan favorite from Endwalker's main scenario, and it's exciting to see him take on a much more prominent role heading into the future.

It's fascinating to watch how the stage has been set for Dawntrail. While previous expansions ended with bombastic events that would directly tie into the next section of the story - A Realm Reborn's betrayal leading into the Warrior of Light seeking exile in Ishgard, Shinryu's summoning directly forcing Eorzea's hands into working to liberate Ala Mhigo and so on - with Dawntrail, there has been nothing forcing us or our allies hands. Instead, there's the sense of trepidation and excitement as everyone, characters and players alike, brace themselves to explore the unknown. While we still have a vague idea for why we're heading to the New World, the ramifications of doing so aren't yet clear, and likely won't be until we're already at its shores.

In that sense, we haven't had this much mystery about the events surrounding the Warrior of Light in nearly a decade; and hopefully the developers tackling a more political slant to the storytelling in Dawntrail might just be what was needed to reset the stakes. After all, when we just got finished saving the universe, it would be an awkward follow-up to immediately try and craft an enemy that our walking tools of destruction would struggle to handle in a fight. Indeed, regardless of which options players ended up choosing, if there was one thing that 6.55 made clear - is that our characters should be at least a little cautious of the events to come, especially considering all of our shared history with royalty in Eorzea.

"Caution" really is the operative word, here. While Dawntrail has been billed as something akin to a summer vacation for our characters, it remains at the back of my mind that this expansion is meant to kickstart the next story arc for the world of XIV; and even if the stakes start smaller than Endwalker's finale, I'm well aware that any events that would kickstart a larger narrative would have to be impactful for the world as a whole. Even more than that, regardless of what exactly happens, the Warrior of Light will be intimately involved.

While Dawntrail bills itself one way, it's not hard to see how it might end up being the calm at the eye of the storm - and what awaits at the other side will be anyone's guess. Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail has a lot to live up to, and so begins the final wait to see exactly if it can match those expectations.