The Returner: Omega and FFXIV as a game of many “final” bosses

The Returner: Rediscovering Final Fantasy XIV

All right! Let’s talk Omega. Because Omega was fucking dope, yo… or however the kids express enthusiasm for such things in space year 2022. There will be Omega spoilers ahead, but if you’re as far behind as I am in Final Fantasy XIV, you may well have been spoiled already — and if you’re staying up to date you’ll know all this already, so enjoy the perspective of someone who has never experienced this glorious, joyful part of the game.

As my preamble might suggest, I have finished catching up on Stormblood’s raid cycles — both the three 24-man Ivalice raids and the 12 8-player Omega raids. (I haven’t done Savage, because that requires more organisation than I’m presently able to commit to the game, but I’m not ruling it out at some point.) I’ll save talking about Ivalice for another day — I want to run them through a few more times before I talk about them — but Omega… Omega left a strong impression on me that made me want to talk about it. So let’s do that.

Final Fantasy XIV: Omega

For context, Omega originated as a super-tough optional enemy in Final Fantasy V; towards the end of the game, there’s a sequence where you can either sneak past Omega (who is one of the few enemies that appears on the map rather than as a random encounter) or fight it head-on as an optional superboss. It’s a difficult fight, but not impossible with proper preparation — though its reputation as a devastatingly powerful opponent is well-deserved.

In Final Fantasy XIV, Omega’s existence had been teased for quite some time prior to the Omega raid cycle being added to the game. Initially it lying buried in the Carteneau Flats had been part of the reason for the PvP mode being introduced, and as Stormblood approached we started hearing a little more about it. When Ilberd “Sloppy” Feare summoned Shinryu — another superboss from Final Fantasy V, fact fans, this time one who rather rudely hid in a chest waiting to surprise people who hadn’t saved for a while — Omega finally put in an appearance as a last-ditch attempt to contain the powerful primal and prevent it from triggering yet another Calamity.

After sealing Shinryu — who would conveniently get released as the final boss of Stormblood’s main story — Omega promptly buggered off and buried itself in a huge hole in the ground called The Yawn, only to re-reveal its existence when the Warrior of Light, Cid and friends decided that an appropriate thing to do when confronted with a glowing, steaming purple pool of concentrated aether would be to just dive on in there. After all, the chocobo from Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon hopped out of there — along with a spectral form of Alte Roite, another boss from Final Fantasy V — popped out of there, so how dangerous could it be really?

Final Fantasy XIV - Nero in Omega

From there, things get weird. Omega pulls the Warrior of Light and company into an interdimensional rift, where it steals their physical form from them until it allows the chocobo Alpha to return it to them. It then decides that it wants to “test” the Warrior of Light in particular by placing them in combat against a series of opponents drawn from both history and fiction — with both Final Fantasy V and VI being implied to be stories told in the world of Final Fantasy XIV that might have at least some grounding in historical fact — and seeing how they respond.

Omega believes that the Warrior of Light will fail quickly, but is also aware that by this point in the narrative they have already triumphed over a series of astronomically scary opponents, so is curious about exactly what makes them special. Thus, it’s up to said Warrior of Light (and seven friends, but we don’t talk about them, as in most of the other raids) to kick the snot out of all Omega’s “recreations” of historical villains, prove themselves worthy and then, inevitably, give Omega a much-deserved smack around the metallic chops once and for all.

What then follows is nine stages of absolutely gratuitous Final Fantasy series fanservice, with encounters ranging from relatively obscure Final Fantasy V bosses (the aforementioned Alte Roite, along with Catastrophe and Halicarnassus, all from the Interdimensional Castle towards the end of the game) to Final Fantasy VI’s iconic Ghost Train and Kefka along with Final Fantasy I’s final boss Chaos.

Final Fantasy XIV - Chaos in Omega

Each of these fights are mechanically distinct and an absolute joy to participate in — though as we talked a bit about last time, these raids in their “normal” incarnation are quite noticeably easier than the stiff challenge the Ivalice dungeons offer. That doesn’t matter, though; they’re simply fun to be part of, filled with interactive elements and interesting mechanics to contend with, as well as some absolutely magnificent remixes of classic Final Fantasy music.

Ghost Train (Sigmascape 1.0) is a particular highlight for me, since the very nature of this battle means that it is anything but a regular “tank the thing in the middle of the circular arena and DPS repeatedly assault its buttocks” sort of fight. Instead, the fight involves lots of movement and independent action — with the sequence that involves deliberately getting whisked away by a ghost to avoid being choked by cloying smog being especially exciting, particularly as this results in you having to go one-on-one with an add in order to get back to the main fight.

What really got me excited about the Omega cycle, though, was how it built up to a final battle against Omega itself. Alexander had previously left me a little disappointed in this regard — though the actual final battle for the Alexander cycle was pretty neat, the story which had led up to it left me pretty cold — so I was hoping Omega would provide something significantly better. Signs were good throughout the early stages of the cycle — and the finale did not disappoint.

Final Fantasy XIV - Omega defeated

In traditional Final Fantasy fashion, Omega as a “final boss” has multiple forms. In fact, you can defeat the second-to-last tier of the Omega raids and have the game tell you that you have “completed the Alphascape”, suggesting you’re done. But no; there’s one last challenge. And, notably, it’s one that is preceded by a genuinely emotional cutscene that makes you want to jump right into battle at its conclusion.

Let me tell you something about myself: one of my favourite things in all of gaming is fighting RPG final bosses. Ever since I first fought Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII — the first RPG I ever completed — I’ve been fascinated to see the differing and dramatic approaches to how grand finales are handled. Sometimes (all right, often) they’re overblown, dramatic affairs in which you’re literally fighting some sort of god-like entity. At others (Wild Arms II and the original Blue Reflection are great examples) they’re surprisingly emotional affairs where you’ll be fighting with tears in your eyes.

The thing I love about Final Fantasy XIV is that it has so many narrative threads to follow and bring to a conclusion across its complete runtime, you spend a significant part of the game as a whole fighting “final” bosses. There’s the final bosses of the base game and each expansion pack’s main story. There’s the final bosses of the “post-game” narratives before the story starts leading into the next expansion. There’s the final bosses of the Deep Dungeons — both the “normal” tier and the “hard” levels. There’s the final bosses of the 24-man raid cycles. And there’s the final bosses of the 8-player raid cycles.

Final Fantasy XIV - Omega-M

Omega’s final boss is fantastic. After defeating Omega the machine, you end up floating in the obligatory final boss void, ready to take on a Yoshitaka Amano-designed pretty boy with a big sword. It’s a projection of Omega’s “soul”-equivalent; Omega’s desire to truly understand the Warrior of Light. And the entire battle is a reflection of this earnest desire; Omega’s unattainable wish to understand and obtain the inner strength of the Warrior of Light.

To that end, if you pay attention during the battle, you’ll notice that Omega makes use of a lot of abilities that various player character classes are able to use. In one particular section of the fight, Omega literally uses the exact same Limit Breaks you have access to. And, perhaps best of all, one can even argue that Omega has stolen “your” theme music for the fight; much of the battle’s accompanying soundtrack draws elements from classic Final Fantasy XIV tracks such as Torn from the Heavens (heard during major boss battles), The Maker’s Ruin (heard during the first Ultima fight in A Realm Reborn) and even the Prelude — but it’s also obviously its own distinct thing.

To date, the final battle of the Omega cycle is one of my favourite ever sequences from Final Fantasy XIV. And, rather delightfully, the fact it’s the conclusion of a raid cycle rather than a base story encounter means that it’s impossible to completely overpower if you’re playing in a full party with level sync active, since it was intended to be challenged by players with good gear for that point in the overall progression of the game as a whole.

Final Fantasy XIV - Omega-F and Alpha

This is more important to the overall experience than you might think; at several points in the game, encounters that were once enormously dramatic have had their impact somewhat diminished by how easy it is to completely overpower them with good gear; the most prominent examples are probably A Realm Reborn’s final story dungeon Praetorium, and Heavensward’s final boss in The Singularity Reactor. In both cases, what were once incredibly exciting, nerve-wracking fights feel like they don’t get the “respect” their narrative context deserves, which I always feel is a bit of a shame.

Not so for Omega. You reach the finale of Omega, you do it properly. (Unless you’re doing it unsynced, but that in itself carries its own “I’m taking down a powerful thing solo!” fun factor.) And that makes me happy. I love a good final boss. And Omega is a really good final boss.

Now I’ve done all the raids and the dungeons I have access to — and sent Alpha on his way to kick off the Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon series — I guess it’s finally time to get the main story moving again and take aim for Shadowbringers. We’re making progress!

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Pete Davison
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