Today's update to Final Fantasy 14 is Patch 4.5, A Requiem For Heroes. In terms of the game's narrative, this is the first patch that begins the transition from the Stormblood expansion to the upcoming Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers. It offers more quests in the main story of FF14, a brand-new 24 man Alliance Raid, a new Trial, and brings Mahjong to the Gold Saucer.
Some players expected that Blue Mage would be joining the playable roster for this patch and it is, just not today. Instead, the Blue Mage job will be going live next Tuesday. Altogether, the job will be a weird one; introduced mid-patch instead of with an expansion, Blue Mage will also have a maximum level of 50. We'll dive into the unlock quest "Out of the Blue," when it's active on January 15.
The real news is what Patch 4.5 teases for the game proper, with the return of a classic Final Fantasy character. Fran from Final Fantasy 12 appears as part of the Return to Ivalice storyline! Dataminers had unearthed a Viera model in the patch files and it looks like this was the reason. Fran is an emissary on behalf of the mysterious leader of the rebellion against the Garlean Empire. (Likely Ashe from Final Fantasy 12, though she is mentioned as killed previously.)
Fran looks to be using her updated model for Zodiac Age; she's got a butt and the FF14 character models famously do not. This isn't quite the Fran that players remember, as FF14 has brought Ivalice over with some changes. In this case, Dalmasca was one of the many places invaded by the Garlean Empire, instead of the Archadian Empire from the original game.
Characters and locations from Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy 12 have all been referenced in FF14 up until this point, many as part of the Return to Ivalice content. The War of the Lions storyline seems largely intact as past events in the world of FF14. The new Alliance Raid is actually Orbonne Monastery from Tactics and a callback to the entire cast appears, though they're all made using the existing FF14 character creator. A Bangaa is also hanging around on Prima Vista, the personal airship of Ramza and Alma bas Lexentale, the children of playright Jenomis cen Lexentale. The children were named for the original Ramza and Alma Beoulve by their father, whose real name is Arazlam Durai.
A bit of dialog in the patch content points to the two races of Viera that players may get to play in Shadowbringers. The reference speaks of the dark-skinned Rava Viera and the lighter-skinned Veena Viera. Viera in previous Final Fantasy games were all female, but concept art for male Viera was shown by Square Enix previously, as a scrapped race in favor of Heavensward's dragon-like Au Ra.
Given that Viera as a playable race has been one of the major requests from the community, players must be pretty happy about the hints from today's patch.