Approval, disapproval.
There's something a bit odd about playing what amounts to a promotional event for a game you won't be seeing for several months. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII promises to conclude the two-part trilogy that its predecessor created, but it's not coming out in the US until February of next year, leading to a minor disconnect.

Still, it matters only in the broadest sense; after all, most of the references packed in hearken back to the first game in the set, and I didn't need a pre-order to know that I wanted a gunblade. So I've been following along with Final Fantasy XIV's event and dutifully progressing along the quest chain for the week.

But I wasn't terribly impressed all around. I think there were some very nice touches coupled with some really baffling decisions here and there, and the overall effect was rather lackluster. It isn't really the fault of the event so much as a problem with popularity.

This was at 10 AM on a weekday, I wish to note.Bad things first

The quests, as they stand, are paper-thin. You talk to someone, you go off and wait for a FATE to spawn, you clear it with a high enough rating, and you turn in what drops. This in and of itself is not too much of a problem, but the execution leads to some issues.

See, the FATEs in question spawn on a timer rather than offer an NPC to speak with. That means that the first step is finding out where they spawn, which isn't difficult but is also not entirely self-evident after you get the quest. Hints are given, but there's a lot of guesswork involved. This wouldn't matter so much if not for the amount of time you spend hurrying up and waiting.

The worst was the first set of FATEs. Each one was on a roughly half-hour timer, and Lightning spawned only every other time the FATE spawned. So you could easily be sitting around for an hour waiting for the event FATE to actually crop up. And once it finally did... well, good luck getting a high enough rating to get a reward, as that hour-long wait time meant plenty of people were clustered about in huge numbers and throwing around AoE abilities as if their keyboards were stuck on their biggest area spell.

The biggest problem that FATEs in general have at the moment are roaming FATE parties, dedicated to rolling around and powerleveling with little to no regard for learning what their classes do beyond the best multi-target spells. Terse, interesting, dynamic encounters are cut short as a veritable katamari of other players clusters around and rolls over everything, possibly finishing by being thrown into the stars by the King of All Cosmos. This event not only encouraged that but practically demanded huge groups of roving monster-slayers with no real interest beyond getting a high enough rating and leaving.

Ultimately, you're lucky if you even get to see Lightning before she's buried under a mass of spell effects.

Even once you get away from the FATE mess, there's the story to deal with. Unfortunately, the promised explanation of why Lightning showed up in Eorzea was distinctly lacking. She was put there by... someone for purposes she doesn't understand, and then she vanishes. We get a few typical Lightning lines about being someone's puppet. It does provide a nice little explanation of why she's dressing up as a miqo'te in Lightning Returns, but that's the long and short of it. When I first wrote about it, I mentioned that it could be explained, but unless we get an explanation in the next game, it's more or less a complete mystery. I'm not pleased with that.

Her impressions of Eorzea are like 80% particle effects.What I really liked (that isn't about the gunblade)

First of all, I really liked the pacing on this event. The fact that we got the quest chain piece by piece instead of all at once made the passage of time a bit more tangible. It created a nicely staggered approach that I'd love to see in future events; it's something that you can catch up on after the fact or do as it comes up, so it's definitely a schedule worth revisiting.

The FATEs that we got were, at the least, interesting and fairly distinct. I might not like the format, but I can appreciate that Square made fairly good use of that format. The changes in battle music and text were a nice touch, and the enemies seemed appropriately out of place while still seeming as if they had some spot in Final Fantasy XIV. I particularly liked the outing with the behemoth for visual flair.

Last but certainly not least, almost every weapon got some piece of visual flair that made it a bit more appealing. Some of them I think of as fairly lackluster, but I love how the gun-knuckles pull back their own hammer once you draw them. Yes, they're just to be saved for future cosmetic bits, but it's still fun to watch.

A problem of timing

I mentioned in the intro that part of the problem this event had was one of timing. And the reason for that is pretty simple: I'm level 50 and have been for a while.

My worst-geared job, Dragoon, is in mostly Darklight with a few lingering bits of AK gear. I've got a full level 60 set for all of my future jobs. At this point I've run both AK and WP so many times that I could more or less do them in my sleep. The only content that I have yet to explore is Coil, which is a bit beyond what I normally care to take part in. So I'm left with plenty of things to level but not much to do.

It's been acknowledged that patch 2.1 is lagging and that players on a whole are right where they were expected to be in terms of overall progress. I get that. But this patch came out at a point when there's a dearth of new or interesting things to do. So it's being judged a bit harshly because it's the first bit of new content we've seen in a bit.

Some of that isn't its own fault. There's only so much you can do with a small cross-promotional event. I think the failings here need to be addressed for future events, but you can't make a handful of quests seem like a full content patch no matter how much you might want to.

Next week, it's time to give thanks for Final Fantasy XIV, and the week after that I want to talk about why I don't write as much about Final Fantasy XI. Until then, you can leave comments down below or fire off an email to eliot@massively.com.

From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.

This article was originally published on Massively.