Music to My Ears: Return to Oblivion (Final Fantasy XIV)

When I’m working and I need to tune out everything around me, music is the go-to source. NieR Automata had several tracks that fit the bill, and this offering from Final Fantasy XIV’s latest patch is quickly becoming another favorite for something that’s awesome on the surface but can also fade into the background when needed. (Some spoilers for XIV’s story follow, though the image also gives away a bit.)

Return to Oblivion is the theme for the latest fight against Shiva, the boss of Eden’s Gate: Refulgence and the fourth of four encounters in the arc. Back in A Realm Reborn, the Warrior of Light did battle with a woman who could seemingly take Shiva’s form as a primal. It didn’t end well for Ysayle. Fast forward a few years and a few dozen patches, and our new friend Minifilia Ryne has decided that she’s up to the task of being a vessel for Shiva. It’s almost hilarious how quickly that goes south, and it’s worth noting that your character doesn’t have any say in what goes down — your two dialogue choices are essentially “ehhhhh” and “uhhhhh I dunno about that.”

In my opinion, Refulgence is the most entertaining raid battle of the set. Shiva has her usual tricks like turning the platform into ice and knocking people off the edge with Heavenly Strike.  Turns out the price being paid by your intrepid group of heroes for their impudence is bringing about another Flood — you know, the thing that nearly wiped out all of civilization once upon a time. It’s a strong blend of interesting mechanics, multifaceted phases and narrative importance.

Like other fights in this batch of Eden fights, Return to Oblivion serves as a new version of the theme from the first fight with Shiva. (Fast forward to about 1:30 in the second video below to hear the original track’s influence here.) One of the linchpins of Soken’s work on the FFXIV soundtrack is his use of leitmotifs to reference earlier tracks. It’s a technique you see frequently with video game music, but I’m not sure there’s a better example out there than this game. So many themes call back to previous expansions, prior boss fights and overworld areas. It’s truly a phenomenal way to tie together the massive world that is Eorzea. The Ifrit/Garuda track is another banger that I’ll probably spotlight here at some point.

For now, enjoy this haunting, echoed synth, slapping percussion and super cool vocals. No, I won’t apologize for the pun.

Final Fantasy XIV – Return to Oblivion

Music to My Ears covers soundtracks or individual songs from video games. You can view all posts in the series by clicking here.

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