Update 29/04: Dragonsong’s Reprise is proving to be one of Final Fantasy 14’s hardest-ever challenges as progress slowed to a crawl yesterday. Multiple, difficult, in-sequence DPS checks, puzzles to solve, and the beginning of what people believe is only the second half of the fight is proving the exact challenge that was promised – long, arduous, and a real race.
Over the course of yesterday the tricks to rewinding time, saving Haurchefant, and beginning what the game dubs the “Alternate Dragonsong War” were figured out. You can see it in action here, but the short version is that you need to go back with your Limit Break bar full – impossible in the first version of the fight at the start of the instance – then use it to save Haurchefant. He then must be healed, protected, and a spear that’s slowly killing him DPS’d to prevent his death. Once all that is done, the timelines branch, and, uh, this happens.
Then, well, this.
Prompting reactions such as this.
Theory was that, since the fight up to this point is so hard, and there was already one unusual checkpoint in the fight, there would be another once you successfully restarted time. Not only is that not the case, but the “Alternate Dragonsong War Progress” meter is at only 15/100. In addition, due to marketing, datamining, and various other bits and pieces, it’s known there are at least two more boss forms to go.
Many of the mechanics seen at the start of this new phase are callbacks to the Unending Coil of Bahamut, the first Ultimate raid released for FF14 and the last time we fought dragons in one. In this new timeline it appears that King Thordan, perhaps managing to outmaneuvre you as you care for your friend, ‘tempers’ the dragons that would normally be his enemies, turning them against you. Thus you are now fighting a super-charged Thordan, his Knights of the Round, and all his dragon buddies.
Which looks, you know, fun. This tweet from Thoughts Per Second’s Sindalf kinda sums it up.
Here’s the thing: just to get to this point you have to do Thordan’s first phase, which is a fairly complex but relatively doable series of mechanics without much of a DPS check. You can do roughly the same thing in each time and get through it. Then you fight Estinien-Nidhogg, which is a very complex and precise series of mechanics with a relatively tight DPS check. Then you fight Nidhogg’s eyes, which is a slightly less complicated series of mechanics, with very specific movement required, and a very tight DPS check.
Then you go back in time, and do a DPS check while using tank limit break (which means you can’t use the very powerful DPS limit break to help with any of the above DPS phases) to keep H-F alive. Finally, you do yet another DPS check on the spear killing him, assuming everybody survived the relatively easy mechanics while he was being healed.
Your reward for all that? Another pile of mechanics vomited at you, mixing the Thordan phase with mechanics from UCoB, which is going to easily destroy any group that reaches it the first 5-10 times they do. Die, and you’re right back to the start two paragraphs up and around 10 minutes of play time earlier.
And there are still 2+ phases to go.
“This is gonna be a long weekend” – Arthars, 2022.
Update 28/04: Fan theories have proved correct and everything’s getting a little bit spicy in the hunt for world first Dragonsong’s Reprise in FF14. While the streaming teams are slowly progressing through the latter stages of what now appears to be the first version of the fight, the unstreamed Thoughts per Second have revealed that, at some point, time rewinds and, presumably, you start the whole thing over again.
Here’s the big reveal from TpS, which is about as mysterious as anything Square Enix themselves would put out.
The text at the bottom reads “Thus did one song draw to a close. But here and now, this minstrel shall perform another… a song of imagination transcending.” The music over the top is the theme from Heavensward, though has also been edited in by TpS as they haven’t been posting clips with the original audio. It confirms the theory espoused yesterday that, after completing a retelling of the story as it went, we will now return to a key moment – the death of Haurchefant – and prevent it.
From there, presumably, things change, as the Minstrel’s “imagination transcends”. This would form some sort of ‘golden route’ where everyone lives, nobody dies, and everyone is happy. Or it’ll be way, way worse – never mess around with time travel and storytelling imagination. As you can see in the replies to that tweet, it has left the FF14 community with no chill whatsoever.
Speaking of no chill, here are some more mysterious tweets from the TpS team. One of their tanks, the FC and team leader, and Black Mage/streamer Sfia with a couple of succint questions. Their chief memer has also been having some fun, but I certainly wouldn’t take too much on their feed seriously.
Those not part of that eight-person tease cabal will need to wait for the various stream teams to start getting past the current prog point to see what awaits. Currently most folks are getting to a phase where two eyes must be killed before the dragon form of Nidhogg appears and murders everyone. This is a reference to what was originally a cutscene after the climatic fight of the 5.3 patch, where you and the ghosts of various companions lost on the way remove the Eyes of Nidhogg from the human he has possessed before he can regain his power. That’s a lot of Capital Letter Terms but just trust me, it’s pretty cool, and it seems whatever comes next is cooler.
If you want to follow the prog, I can recommend two things. One, this Reddit thread with links to a bunch of streamers. Two, the fact that Windows can now auto-tile into four corners if you drag a Chrome tab into the corner:
For the removal of any doubt – whatever happens in this fight will not affect the overall story of FF14. Everything that is relevant to the wider story of the game is told through quests and easy content that anyone can complete. It is, quite literally, a game director self-insert writing fan-fiction about what could have happened.
Update 27/04: It’s been a confusing 24 hours of Final Fantasy XIV raiding for those striving to win the Dragonsong’s Reprise world first race. The raid itself is roughly what was expected – a series of extremely precise mechanics from a number of bosses in sequence that take hours to make minutes of prog through. Beat one thing, the next thing will kill you almost instantly with very little explanation as to why, and you need to see it multiple times to figure it out.
What’s mysterious is a moderately easy first phase, a conspicuous NPC death, and a checkpoint.
Some background: Dragonsong’s Reprise retells the story of FF14’s first expansion, Heavensward, through enhanced and much more difficult versions of key fights. It begins with new versions of some dungeon bosses, moves on to the final boss of the expansion, and then after that the ‘epilogue boss’ from the patches. Nobody’s gotten further than that, but we know that a couple of other characters show up based on screenshots released during the pre-release period.
During the course of Heavensward (incoming spoilers, and it’s one of FF14’s better moments, so consider yourself warned), you meet and befriend Haurchefant Greystone, a knight of the snowy country of Ishgard. As part of the story’s finalé he is killed protecting you from various nefarious villains, a spear of light penetrating his shield. With his dying breath he tells you to smile, as a smile better suits a hero. It’s touching and one of FF14’s various emotionally devastating moments that makes it one of the better story games out there.
Back to Dragonsong’s Reprise, this moment is retold as part of the fight. During an interlude towards the end of the first phase, Haurchefant runs in, raises his shield to protect the party from a spear of light, takes a bunch of damage over time, and dies. Meanwhile you bring an enemy’s health low enough that when it casts a climatic spell it can’t kill you. After this, the fight moves on to the second phase, a face-off with Thordan, the original last boss of Heavensward. It also checkpoints, meaning if you die to Thordan you’re returned to face him, rather than going back to the very start of the fight.
Still with me? Good, well, here’s where it gets strange. Checkpoints are not uncommon in FF14, and are often used in the harder (but not Ultimate-hard) fights to split them into two distinct phases, help groups that are attempting to defeat them for the first time, and give a major change in arena, boss, story, or all of the above. Where they have never been used, however, is in an Ultimate fight. Up until now, the entire point of an Ultimate is it’s a limiters-off, mega-hard, no-mercy, toe-to-toe battle with an entire story’s worth of bad guys in one, 15-20 minute long gruelling encounter.
Further complicating the issue is how the ‘story’ of the Ultimate is introduced. All additional-difficulty modes in FF14 are canonised in-game as retellings of a story, often by a self-insert of real-life producer and director Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi-P) named the Wandering Minstrel. You tell him stories, he writes songs about you being a tremendous badass that exaggerate the abilities of your enemies, you listen to him and imagine the fight as he did.
For Dragonsong’s Reprise, the Wandering Minstrel several times makes reference to saving a dear friend who passed away, and how it may have changed the course of the Dragonsong War. While there are various characters this could have been, it’s about as close to being explicitly about Haurchefant as it could be. Given he then shows up almost immediately in the fight, then something that’s never happened in an Ultimate before happens, two and two equals four.
Except… Why does the fight checkpoint after you fail to save him if you’re meant to, forcing you to go through the additional steps of resetting the instance to try again? Why is Haurchefant difficult to target, almost impossible to heal, and very much outside of the ‘play area’ during his time in the fight? Why, once you defeat phase two (Thordan), is there not an additional checkpoint, if the idea is, for example, to give you an easier time learning the fight before you then do a ‘full run’ that saves Haurchefant but doesn’t checkpoint? Counterarguments: it’s incredibly easy to reset before the checkpoint if you get Haurchefant killed without meaning to, maybe it checkpoints after the phase after Thordan, and so on.
All these questions are running rampant through the community, and nobody’s really any the wiser. One semi-popular theory is that, once you’ve heard the retelling of the Dragonsong War represented by this ‘first’ run through, the fight will reset and you will do a, ahem, reprise where it is possible to save Haurchefant. The checkpoint is there to discourage people from trying to save him and not just getting on with the fight normally. It also serves as a nice way to introduce players who haven’t done Ultimates before to the difficulty, and reward them for getting past the start of the fight before the real stuff begins.
Or, it could be something entirely different! As one Reddit user put it, has anyone tried using the /smile emote on Haurchefant before he dies?
Thoughts per Second, by far the best raid group in FF14, who don’t stream their progress for various reasons, have been posting bits and pieces on their Free Company (think a guild) twitter. These include oblique references to previous Ultimate raids and the tricks that needed to be used to beat them – each of the previous three has had some sort of ‘puzzle’ to solve that allowed for progress past a certain point, further fueling the Hauchefant mystery.
Most teams are ignoring this mystery for now. The Thordan phase leads into a third phase against the epilogue boss, human-form Nidhogg (I’m not explaining this, he’s a dragon who possessed a guy, that’s the important bit) and various groups are trying to get past that. Haruglory, of Japanese team One Ace, is the most consistent and furthest progressed currently, if you want to keep up.
Original story: After the ludicrous success of the (extremely good) Endwalker expansion, Final Fantasy XIV is receiving its most challenging update in over two years today. Ultimate raids are the most difficult and hardcore content the game has to offer, with only three released before now. The fourth, Dragonsong’s Reprise, was COVID-delayed out of the previous expansion into this one, and the community has been chomping at the bit to get their hands on it. Today at 3am PDT, finally, it will be released, and the world first race to defeat it will begin.
Ultimate raids are grueling 20 minute encounters with complex mechanics, few indicators, and requiring top-level gear and play from everyone involved. Here’s the World First clear video of the previous Ultimate raid from late 2019, The Epic of Alexander. That raid group, Thoughts per Second, is the favorite to also take the world first for Dragonsong’s Reprise, being the most accomplished players the game has to offer.
As compared to other MMOs, most notably World of Warcraft, FF14 releases almost no information about content before it is available. This means players have almost no idea what to expect when they enter Dragonsong’s Reprise, and any similarities to previous content – a long fight with multiple, distinct phases against different bosses, some sort of trick to defeat the final one – are assumed, not guaranteed. That makes it an exciting watch for fans everywhere.
While Thoughts per Second don’t stream their progress, the vast majority of FF14 content creators get involved, either through their own attempts or through the MogTalk Twitch channel which is running six hours a day of analysis and coverage for the race with multiple streams. Mogtalk is also raising money for Doctors Without Borders. The FF14 Twitch category will likely be packed with folks to choose from – stal was the first streamed kill for the previous Ultimate, while I’ve personally enjoyed RinKarigani for other content in the past. The race is expected to last at least four days, and likely the full week before the hype dies down. Popular raid tracking site, FFLogs, is also putting together a world first page to track progress of different groups.
The rewards for defeating the fight will be new weapons which, while technically the best in the game, won’t remain so for more than a few months and are only very marginally better than what’s already available. However, the unique look of these weapons (also unknown until the servers come up) is considered highly prestigious by the community, as is the title your character receives for having downed a particular Ultimate. For the rest of us who aren’t likely to get it done, at least not for a long time, it’s exciting to see what the FF14 raid designers can do with the brakes off, as well as new music and usually quite thrilling visuals.
The race begins at 3am PDT – around an hour from now. We’ll keep you updated on developments.
Written by Ben Barrett on behalf of GLHF.