This week, Square Enix launched patch 5.2 for Final Fantasy 14, entitled "Echoes of a Fallen Star". The patch introduces more encounters for the Eden raid, a brand-new Trial against Ruby Weapon, and Qitari beast tribe quests to keep players satisfied. More importantly, the patch adds to the overall story arc of Shadowbringers, introducing us to a new character named Gaia.
Players who completed the second encounter in Eden's Gate raid set will recall the fight against Voidwalker, an armor figure held aloft by a winged demon. Gaia is the woman inside the armor, an amnesiac who holds vast powers over darkness inside her. The quests leading up to the Eden's Verse raids paint a picture of a character that stands as the opposite of Ryne, the Oracle of Light.
Gaia is also one of the first characters designed by Final Fantasy veteran director and character design Tetsuya Nomura. The Final Fantasy 14 has called upon guest creators from within Square Enix to help with storylines and characters in the past: Final Fantasy Tactics director Yasumi Matsuno helped with the Return to Ivalice alliance raid for Stormblood, while Dragon Quest 11 executive producer Yosuke Saito and Nier Automata director Yoko Taro provided input for the current Nier-inspired YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse alliance raid. In addition to Gaia, Nomura will also be designing some bosses for Final Fantasy 14.
The thing is, the community has responded to Gaia's in-game appearance with its own collective sense of humor. Many of the characters in Final Fantasy 14 stick within the same aesthetic lineage, and past guest characters like Nier: Automata transplant 2P fit within that look. Gaia is… decidedly different. The proportions of her face reflect Nomura's style, not Final Fantasy 14's, so her eyes and mouth are much larger than the rest of the main cast. Standing next to them, she looks odd.
"My only real complaint is that Gaia's face is hitting some uncanny valley notes to me. I can't quite put my finger on it, but she looks… off," said an FF14 forum member.
"When you add thick lips as a stylistic choice to your artwork and the absolute madmen of the FF14 dev team actually put it on the ingame model," said another Reddit user.
Fans have commented on the difference, creating fan art exaggerating her features. They've transposed the meme to the new Ruby Weapon boss. Others have noted that Gaia looks a lot like Jessica Jones actress Krysten Ritter. But everyone seems to notice that it's less a problem with the design itself, and more that it clashes with the rest of the characters.
"It is true to Nomura's art of her," admitted FF14 forum member Gula. "Gaia's eyes and lips are very large in her concept art, even though Nomura's style usually has smaller eyes and lips. I don't think he did a lot of research into the game itself though, seeing as how he gave her a hammer, and then added a note of apology later, because we had no hammers."
"It's not just her lips either, the detail on the rest of her face looks a bit jarring next to the other characters," said one Reddit user.
It seems that it's something that players will just have to get used to, as Gaia is looking to be a major part of Shadowbringers' story moving forward. Some have already made her Thancred's second adopted daughter alongside Ryne, at least in their hearts. The Oracles of Light and Darkness seem to be the key in bringing balance back to the First, even with a new threat rising in Patch 5.2 storyline.
Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers might've just been an expansion, but it was also one of USgamer's favorite games of 2019. FF14 creative director Naoki Yoshida has already confirmed that the team is working on a PlayStation 5 version of the game, even as he heads up the team behind a new next-gen title for Square Enix.