I don't think Hydaelyn or Zodiark are Primals. Something similar, maybe. Since none of the Primals, as far as we know, could theoretically challenge Hydaelyn like Zodiark could (as the Ascians claim), I think Emet is oversimplifying things so he can prove his Point.
I think they are primals, but not primals. There HAS to be something different, as Hydaelyn isn't eating Aether like wow in the world. But I think they're of the same general class. Kind of like how a housecat and a tiger are both felines, but not the same type of cat. My theory is Hydaelyn is an actual Amaurotine who sacrificed herself with the help of others. Kinda like Proto-Shiva, but better done.
As for the rest, I honestly doubt Hydaelyn is in any way evil. I think 'having split the world' is a gray enough thing in and of itself. And it's an interesting contrast.
Emet was telling the truth, as he saw it, I think. The issue is - as he saw it. He admits right out that Zodiark tempered them all, so his reasoning is very likely heavily skewed. "From a certain point of view" as it were.
Logged in into one of my old characters, immediately saw that some of her actions no longer exist. Shouldn't be surprised that an MMO had a few mechanical changes - last time I played was before Stormblood. XD
Oh yeah. Anyone picking up the game who hasn't played since ARR/HW is basically playing a new game job-wise. Which I mean definitely isn't anything new for MMOs(someone picking up WoW in MoP who hadn't played since Wrath would likewise be 'what?')
Hope you enjoy it again though! It's definitely been a good time to come back.
Now that I can farm cloudsbreath fairly regularly(I crank the seeds out in my personal plot and grow them in indoor flowerpots with Shroud soil which gives two each), I went and made myself a flying chair(pictured: the hat is the new Striking hat, I'm in my mnk offspec job here.) The flying chair is swag.
Reached level 20 as a Gladiator, Miner, Blacksmith, Goldsmith.
...The class quests for two of those require materia (which I understand I'll need to progress some more through the main quest before I can access). I'm also somewhat frustrated by so many blacksmithing quests requiring lumber that I can't just buy from vendors...
Crafting full bore generally, if you want to be 100% self sufficient, requires you be an omnicrafter/gatherer. It's really fun, IMO, but its a minigame in and of itself and does take some time sunk in.
Vendors DO sell quite a bit of stuff you need up to a certain level, but it cuts off eventually. (There's a material vendor in housing districts that sells stuff too.) I forget what level you can buy up to but IIRC it's Elm(need to look again.) But yeah, from 1-60 a lot of the quests require your own mats. From 60-70 in Stormblood, they flat out give you the mats. Shadowbringers(70-80) is a mix(some turn ins you need to farm, and some they give you the mats for.) But the early days yeah you're on your own.
The materia can run fairly cheap depending on your MB(I know some quests didn't require any particularly type, just a Grade X, so you can get the cheapest one.) the melders in the cities can meld it for you if you didn't learn to meld yet(from the goblin in Central Thanalan near Black Brush.) But you can get it early if you use the message board.
Unfortunately, that's going to be a common thing with crafting, so it's probably best to just accept it now. There's a lot of crossover between the crafting classes: weaver requiring leather and leatherworker requiring cloth are the biggest offenders iirc, but hardly the only ones. As much as the devs seem to want to make not being an omnicrafter required, the whole system is pretty much set up around it.
As for materia, I don't think you actually need to do the msq for that, it just sends you that way. Look for a quest called "Forging the Spirit" out by the Bonfire in Central Thanalan.