I finished it, it’s the end. It took 55 hours, but I’m finally finished. Managed to beat the boss in only two tries, too; it was extremely close, but I managed it. Found an easy way online to level friendship (just go to the first area and beat up punis), so that wasn’t an issue like I thought it would be, either. Also, got all but one of the endings (there’s often some ridiculous-requirement ending(s) in this series), including the true ending. I’ve already given my general impressions before, so I won’t give a full review here, but I will talk about the story and endings. So, SPOILERS from now on.
I’ve never been a fan of alternate universes and timelines. I like the Back to the Future method best – you’ve just got one timeline at a time, and what you do changes (or doesn’t change) that one single timeline. Infinite universes are the worst, as far as storytelling goes: they don’t allow tension or resolution, as far as timetravel goes, because what you do doesn’t matter, and you can’t get back to where you’ve been. The way this game goes is kinda in the middle: you alter the past, you merely create another timeline; your present/future is unchanged, but for some other timeline, it can be different. Gets rid of some timey-wimey stuff, while allowing change. But the resolution to this doesn’t make sense – if you can just use that item to lock the timelines, why even go into the other one to save that Stia that didn’t get saved, when you can just lock it to your own outcome (where Stia did get saved)? There are also hints at various other places in the game of timeline changes – whatever happened with those? Oh well, it’s alchemy, it doesn’t have to make sense.
Gotta say, that boss-before-the-boss was a pain. It’s pretty easy (if a tedious use of resources) if you do it right; if you mess up at all though, you’re dead. I started out at level 78-79; I figured a few levels wouldn’t do me much better, since gear adds stats instead of multiplying them (unless you have the +% traits, but those are pretty rare, and generally not as good as flat bonuses). Stupid dragon attacks FOUR times in a turn; that’s pretty bad, especially when it gets to go first. But it’s just a doorstop get you to use your items before the actual end-boss.
And what a jerk he is. I think the ideal team is Sterk-Lulua-Rorona in front, with Aurel-Piana in back. Aurel’s better in the back, since his status ailments rarely work, while his backline healing and cleansing is quite valuable, especially on Sterk. Lulua and Rorona of course get to share status boosts, which is key when using the Draco Elixers – you get a 2-for-1 deal there. Piana doesn’t really do a whole lot herself in back, but it’s good to have her as backup when your front alchemists get wiped, and getting a few hundred more damage when you actually do manage to land a status ailment isn’t nothing.
Something I should have been doing from the start of the fight, but didn’t, was using Sterk’s line ability instead of the massive gorilla ability. The boss doesn’t resist magic, so a magic+physical ability, at half the MP, would have been better than the added faint from the big attack. Could have saved my butt earlier on, but no. Also, hate how resistant the boss is to status ailments. All the tricks the game has given you, up to that point, are mostly pointless. Unga bunga is the way to be, and hope you get lucky. Which I did – the last Executioner attack didn’t kill either Rorona or Lulua (though they were in bad shape), and I was able to finish off the boss.
As far as the endings go, I’m going to rank them in order of “how well these fit with the story and feeling of the rest of the game”:
- Piana end
- Normal end (+ Eva end)
- True end
- Aurel end
- Niko end
- Ficus end
(The Rorona end fits in with any and all of them, because it’s not about Lulua.)
The Piana end seems like where the game was leading up to the most: Lulua sticking with her teacher (and presumably Stia), going around in the mobile atelier, spreading the teachings of alchemy around the place. The whole Arland arc of this game was all about Totori preparing Lulua for this; Rorona and Meruru are hopeless teachers, but Lulua can actually do it, and has the skills to back up her teaching style.
The next best ending is the basic Normal end: Lulua shacks up with Stia at Atelier Lulua, doing the normal alchemist stuff of helping the townsfolk with stuff. This seems more in line with the feel of what was going down than the True ending, which is Lulua and Stia going off on a random journey. Also, it supports the Eva ending, with Lulua helping Eva run the orphanage (while also operating her atelier); this just seems like the most satisfying set of endings.
The other endings are Lulua going off with one of the three guys on their own personal journeys. Aurel is the most likely of the bunch, just because it’s a regular journey, much like the one Firis takes in her game. But I don’t see Lulua ever going with either Ficus or Nico – they’re just too specialized, and they didn’t seem like such good friends as to journey together (especially Nico, when his last event was basically “see you later maybe.”).
But of course, if there is an Arland 5 game, they’ll probably all be canon, somehow, just like all the endings in the other games got mashed together to all be true.
Now it’s time for a new game. Final Fantasy XIV, or Elder Scrolls Online? Or…?