Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Nier: Automata raid!
Yesterday marked the release of the first major patch of the Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers expansion. Patch 5.1, entitled "Vows of Virtue, Deeds of Cruelty," expands upon the main story of Shadowbringers, focused with determining how to get the souls of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn back to their bodies on the Source before they die. That adventure will take you to the edge of The First into the new dungeon, the Grand Cosmos.
Players are more excited for the 24-man Alliance Raid that launches with this patch though. The first wing of YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse starts here, with players gaining access to The Copied Factory. Heading into the patch, there were questions about how Final Fantasy 14 was going to tie in the narrative of Nier: Automata to the growing world of Eorzea.
That's because the previous Alliance Raid, Return to Ivalice, was a hard reference to Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy 12, overseen by Tactics and FF12 director Yasumi Matsuno. In that storyline, the plot of Tactics was a long forgotten story of Eorzea's past. There have been other references to past Final Fantasy titles, most notably within the Omega raids for the Stormblood expansion. That raid had the creature Omega creating simulacrums of legendary figures, like Chaos (Final Fantasy), Exdeath (Final Fantasy 5), and Kefka (Final Fantasy 6) to fight the amassed players. Would YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse be an alternate reality, or another secret history?
The answer is refreshingly straightforward so far. On the First—an alternate reality of Eorzea where Shadowbringers takes place—in the northern mountains of Kholusia, players have previously worked with a tribe of Dwarves who spend their days mining away. A quest added in Patch 5.1, "Word About Komra" (12.9, 8.7, 4.1), sees the Warrior of Light getting caught in some Dwarven shenanigans. It seems since then, the diminutive race has now found some ruins deep within the mountains, guarded by strange machina. In front of an armored door, the Warrior of Light and two Dwarves, Anogg and Konogg, find a woman in white, who gives her name as 2P. From there, with a copious amount of explosives, the party heads into The Copied Factory itself. (You need to be level 435 or above to run the raid.)
The environment recalls the Abandoned Factory region in chapter 8 of Nier: Automata. Over the course of this first wing, players will be confronted by three bosses: Serial-Jointed Command Module, Hobbes, and Engels. The final fight is a familiar face for Nier fans, with 9S facing the party directly in his Flight Unit. 9S was 2B's partner in Nier: Automata and is probably the most direct reference to that title. 9S is shown to be controlling the machina in the factory, and at least one reference is made to him wanting to destroy 2P. Unfortunately, given that this is the first wing of the raid, we're light on details about the past between the pair.
Some eagle-eyes players have already found a secret room within The Copied Factory, full of corpses that look like 2B. This seems to be a reverse of the twist in Nier: Automata, where 2B is revealed to be an android tasked with having to kill 9S over and over, wiping his memory when he came back to life multiple times. One of the endings even saw 9S killing a horde of 2B models, so perhaps this is a direct callback to that ending?
One absolute highlight of the YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse is the fantastic soundtrack. There's a different track for each boss, and while the remix of "The Weight of the World" at the end is a highlight for many Nier fans, every track is amazing. They're all mixes of Nier: Automata tracks and familiar Final Fantasy motifs that somehow fit together perfectly. It's a shame Square Enix is so slow in regards to official soundtrack releases for Final Fantasy 14, but you can find all the tracks on YouTube with a little searching.
Finishing the first wing of the raid rewards players with new role-specific gear, all inspired visually by Nier: Automata. It's not just Nier: Automata nostalgia that's compelling players to run the raid over and over again: it's the sweet 2B dress glamour that's awaiting them at the end of it. (Glamour is essentially a costume system for Final Fantasy 14.) Defeating the final boss drops three glamour coffers for the entire 24-man raid to fight over, meaning you have to have at least a little luck on your side. The glamour is level 1, so any job can wear it. Players have been making versions of 2B in glamour sets before, but many of them have been gender or job specific. This new set is not only unisex and dyeable, but it's multiple parts, meaning you can mix and match it with existing gear.
Already players have taken online to show their new spoils. The new Viera race looks particularly smashing in the 2B dress, but I've seen a number of male and female catfolks (Miqo'te) running around The First in the outfit. (Players have found out that the 2B outfits changed the flat butts of some female models.) I've also seen one or two Hrothgar, the male-only lion-like race that was introduced alongside the Viera, donning it. In fact, male characters in the 2B dress is the most frequently posted FF14 item I found online today.
This is only the beginning of Nier: Automata's inclusion in Final Fantasy 14. If it follows other expansion releases, we'll get another two wings for YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse over the course of 2020, probably in January/February and August/September. We're in for the long haul, but so far, it seems that the world of Nier, or at least one version of it, has found itself nested within Eorzea. It's exciting, because as a Final Fantasy 14 player, I want the game to continue to consume all things Square Enix. Let's get Front Mission, Star Ocean, SaGa, and Valkyrie Profile in there next. I want everything to be in there when Final Fantasy 14 rounds its 15th anniversary.