After years of iconic Raids and existential robot dread, the NieR inspired Final Fantasy XIV Alliance Raids are coming to a close with The Tower at Paradigm’s Breach. Introduced with the latest game patch this final Raid ramps up the difficulty and draws upon Square Enix’s rich history of gaming iconography to deliver a unique, challenging conclusion to the YorHA: Dark Apocalypse crossover content.
Thanks to our friends at Square Enix we were able to dive into the latest Raid and offer up some impressions. Slight spoiler warning though, we take a look at the mechanics used in the boss fights!
Once More Into The Breach
As noted above, my access to The Tower at Paradigm’s Breach was granted through a press account geared and levelled for the new 5.5 content. My gorgeously outfitted DPS warrior is a far cry from the humble healer I am currently rolling on my personal account so first up, a note on difficulty. My impressions will be naturally skewed toward those of a mid-experienced player, though admittedly one who had no real trouble with the previous Raid in the NieR series. Check out my impressions on that right here.
Following on from the previous two NieR raids, Tower at Paradigm’s Breach sees players bring the ethereal robotic story to a close with a daunting climb up the titular tower. A visually striking void punctuated by digital boss realms, the Raid carries on the exceptional tonal work of the first two, pulling even more references from the Nier series and a cheeky little mini-game for good measure. Closing this chapter of content for the game truly goes out with a bang and while it isn’t entirely as successful as the previous Raids, there’s a lot to appreciate in 5.5’s latest offering.
A Steep Incline
Alliance Raids are generally impressive due to their scope and concepts, both of which remain true for The Tower at Paradigm’s Breach. But several instances during the Raid’s boss encounters feel slightly too large in scale. The visual cacophony of admittedly gorgeous visual effects (more on that later) collides with Area Of Effect attacks that hit brutally fast and wide. Thanks to the Raid’s structure, which does away with smaller interval fights and instead feels like a boss rush, the difficulty was somewhat all-consuming of the experience too.
The balancing act Final Fantasy XIV achieves between complexity and accessibility is something I’ve talked about before. It’s a razor wire tight line to walk and, along with a helpful community of players, is one the MMO almost perfectly pulls off. When I first played the initial NieR content in the game with a high-level account I was overwhelmed, yes, but could rely on my early game training to successfully navigate the plethora of combat options available to me. With Tower At Paradigms Breach, I feel as though I hit my first real limit with the game.
To kick things off you’ll be facing down with the Knave of Hearts, an Alice in Wonderland turned NieR Replicant colossus of a boss who towers over the first arena. The Knave battle introduces several elements that run through the rest of the Raid, including unforgiving AOE moves and platforms in which players can fall or be pushed off, resulting in them being downed. The fight itself is relatively palatable though; alongside his wider moves, he will also target your tanks and eventually summon a copy of himself just to make things extra spicy.
Keeping with NieR Replicant inspirations, the next boss battle sees the squad facing down with Hansel and Gretel. These two beasts work in unison to buff each other meaning you’ll need to work to keep them separated where possible, adding a fun extra element to the fight. Here the AOE’s pullback somewhat, replaced with tandem assaults that are far more manageable. Once you’ve dealt with the twins you’ll be thrown into a small interval fight with some minor enemies before the real climb begins.
The Red Queen
The Red Girl boss fight is mechanically fascinating. The core conceit of this battle is colour coding and arena manipulation, utilising both to stay alive during otherwise devastating moves. The arena will often be obscured by black and white blocks which can divide your squad into a variety of patterns. In order to remove them, you’ll need to use Red Girl’s colour appropriate attacks, black or white, to destroy the blocks or use them as defences against sweeping attacks. It’s a clever bit of game design and is signalled to players far more kindly than other elements of the Raid.
Once you’ve dealt enough damage you’ll be whisked away to tackle a virus inside the machine but this time as small crafts that can alternate between black and white blasters. The music shifts here and it is a genuinely delightful surprise, breaking up the intensity of the core boss battles with a subversive interval that still incorporates elements from the Red Girl main arena. Returning to the main fight, the Power Rangers rule of thumb kicks in as the Red Girl becomes huge and will pelt you with some more AOE and colour based attacks.
It is also worth noting here that several players have taken to Twitter and Reddit to share concerns regarding the use of flashing lights during this and other portions of the Raid. The use of lights is reportedly causing seizure symptoms and you can read the thread and its appropriate warnings here.
Reaching the final level of the tower is now just a short elevator ride away, a relatively brief echo of other boss mechanics from the NieR raid series. Another set of large robotic lads will do their best to knock you out with a variety of AOE and conjoined attacks but using the pattern recognition you’ve learned earlier should get you through this without too much fuss. Finally, you’ll arrive and face down the two-part finale.
The first half is a relatively straight forward confrontation with False Idol, another towering robotic god in the form of an almost porcelain-like figure. This portion of the battle offered the least resistance of the Raid for me and my squad thanks to easily telegraphed AOE attacks and some cute signifiers from the boss’ animations. Once you’ve chipped away the health to the halfway point things take a turn.
The final round of the Raid pits you against Her Inflorescence, a truly formidable foe who nearly wiped my squad several times over. AOE attacks are dialled up to eleven here with increasing speed and animation complexity. It’s a sight to behold but keeping track of the move signifiers can become tricky as the stage often turns translucent for attacks and the visual stimulation is overwhelming. This fight also uses a bunch of different attacks seen earlier in the Raid making it feel like an appropriately all-inclusive showdown, despite the frustrations.
While I did struggle with the sheer volume of visual effects and styles on-screen during The Tower at Paradigm’s Breach, I can’t deny that aesthetically speaking it continues what the previous Raids started. The art direction of the NieR franchise is so distinctly minimal and emotive, which makes for a great sweet and sour pairing with the bombast of Final Fantasy XIV‘s own style. An image that struck me as amusing and wonderful was that of my party’s best healer, styled as Princess Peach, rescuing us from towering fairy tale robots in a vast, empty digital landscape.
It plays well with NieR‘s self-aware style choices, itself being a franchise that coyly plays with video game iconography and tropes. The hacking mini-game mentioned earlier is a prime example of this; cutting away from a large scale MMO Raid to a stylised vehicle shooter while still using the visual mechanics of the main event is inspired. As is the overall art direction of the spaces you’ll explore in the Raid, a minimalist beige in-between place that feels as much Tron as it does existential void.
These elements are all brought together with urgency by the imposing, consistently beautiful score. Lifting character themes and motifs from some deep cut Square Enix titles I won’t spoil here, the soundtrack that accompanies your climb up the tower is a powerhouse of orchestral dramatics and iconic remixes.
It’s The Climb
The Tower at Paradigm’s Breach brings the YorHA: Dark Apocalypse Raids to a satisfying, if slightly uneven conclusion. The difficulty spikes and generally straight forward boss rush of the final Raid can make this one a little harsher in contrast with the others but endings are rarely perfect. As a player with a growing understanding of the game’s more complex mechanics, and a deep appreciation of its community, this was a thrilling way to wrap things up.
My party was often pushed to its limit, an experience I’m seeing shared across community pages, with healers needing to work overtime to keep us afloat against overwhelming odds. The situational awareness demanded by these fights was intense but largely rewarding thanks to animation signals and clever colour coding. I was often frustrated and spent more time than I care to admit downed but I didn’t do it alone and fending off impossible odds with a gang of colourful misfits by your side remains a satisfying gaming experience in Final Fantasy XIV.
With the YorHA: Dark Apocalypse collaboration, Square Enix has lovingly honoured its history while celebrating its present. The Tower at Paradigm’s Breach might be a steep climb, but the view is worth it.