One of the things I’m enjoying about the plot of this game is that unlike its predecessors, it’s giving me something that the series has lacked. The characters here don’t just have reasons for their actions, they have motivations.
Reasons are what drive the plots of the previous four games, which is most notably to the detriment of the “story-driven” Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy IV. You have a clear picture of what the characters need to do in those games, sure. What you don’t get, ever, is a reason why. Yes, Kain is there helping you take down Golbez, but why he’s doing so is never discussed beyond a vague handwaving of “well, Golbez did control him a couple of times.”
Sure, the world is in danger, but that’s not motive, that’s a reason.
By contrast, the crew in Final Fantasy V has a motivation. Sure, there are many occasions – such as now – when the primary motivator for the group is “guilt,” since they sort of exacerbated the injuries of the drake that they’re now trying to save. But guilt is at least a motivator, and it indicates characters trying to fix mistakes. So that’s a good thing all around.
It occurs to me, perhaps for the first time now, that my group has actually been in the same jobs for a while now. This is not an inherently bad thing, but it does mean that said group is moving into the territory of job levels that are a bit harder to get than they’re worth.
One of the things that the game does handle nicely by way of balance is the way that magic is balanced as a class ability. Once you swap to a casting class, you immediately have access to every level of magic you’ve learned for that caster. Leveling the job teaches you an increasingly large array of magic usable on every other job, so a Black Mage can always use the best black magic you have, but you have to level the class to get access to that black magic on, say, Time Mage. And since later levels require ever more investment, it’s to your advantage to stick it out for a while.
In my group’s case, though, it was time to mix things up a little. Especially since Faris needed another level on her Mystic Knight for Drain Sword.
So, the good news from the last installment is that the world is coming to an end and the group completely failed to prevent that evil whatsit from emerging from his prison. Which admittedly sounds all like bad news, but conceivably there might be some good news in there somewhere. Yet the game must go on, even though the party is down a member.
This is actually a part of the game I kind of despise, for two reasons. The first is that it’s a foregone conclusion the main party is heading after Galuf, since otherwise the game would consist of sitting around and waiting to die. The second is that it results in your party getting janky amounts of ABP and experience until you’re reunited, which puts everyone at a different place development-wise. When it’s already possible to lose track of your overall trajectory…
Eh, getting ahead of myself. Let’s figure out how we can chase Beardy McBeardpants.
Delivering the Adamantite is no more complicated than just taking a quick jaunt back to the ancient ruins located beneath the conveniently obvious landing pad in the middle of the ocean, which prompts a quick discussion that the resident geniuses are going to install it. I’m not sure how you install metal into a device, as it’s usually just used to make, like, parts which you subsequently install, but since the quest to pick this stuff up didn’t take forever I’m not going to sweat it.
This all certainly feels like we’re getting pretty close to the endgame, but that seems unlikely – we’ve still got one more crystal to theoretically save and most likely completely fail to save, and the party hasn’t even hit level 20 yet. It’s convincingly handled, though, without any of the obvious markers that it can’t possibly be this easy aside from having relentlessly failed to save every single crystal up to this point. But what’s a game without a few setbacks, right?
At any rate, the group goes to sleep, then wakes up to find that the airship is already ready for flight. Onward, to boss fights!
The downside of taking breaks between installments of this game is that when you have a game so thoroughly built upon making an extended project out of your characters, you occasionally… forget what you were doing with your characters. Luckily, it usually just takes a few minutes of glancing at abilities to figure out what I was doing again with character abilities.
With the plot? Not so much, since we have unfortunately slipped into a mire wherein we are going in a seemingly random direction for no reason beyond the fact that there’s stuff in that direction or something and I guess we can go that way or something? We seem to have nicely stepped away from our ostensible goal of finding the Earth Crystal, that’s not great. So it’s off to the Desert of Shifting Sands, because that’s close on the map and we haven’t been there yet, so why not?