What’s it? A bleak and story-heavy enlargement to Sq. Enix’s good MMO.
Anticipate to pay: $40 + $15/mo subscription fee
Developer: Sq. Enix
Author: Sq. Enix
Reviewed on: Residence home windows 10, Core i7-8700, 32GB RAM, GeForce RTX 2070
Nearly a month previously I wrote that Final Fantasy 14 was my favorite MMO that I hate to advocate. Collaborating in it requires a limiteless funding of time—on the very least only a few hundred hours—and even though I adore it, I nervous that others may in the long run uncover that prolonged journey boring and unsatisfying. Nonetheless after beating Shadowbringers, Final Fantasy 14’s latest enlargement, these worries are gone.
Shadowbringers is the Avengers: Endgame of Final Fantasy 14, an emotionally stirring climax that draws on six years of character development, storytelling, and worldbuilding to weave an epic, dimension-spanning story rooted throughout the relationships of its chief characters.
Paint it black
In the event you occur to’re not accustomed to Final Fantasy 14’s story, it’s troublesome to clarify Shadowbringers’ premise with out spoiling all of the items that comes sooner than. With three expansions and tons of of hours of story beneath its belt, the world of Final Fantasy 14 is so refined and nuanced it’s best to have the power to get a stage in its historic previous. It’s intimidating to newcomers—notably because of the first part of Final Fantasy 14’s overarching story is a sluggish burn—nonetheless as a long-time participant I actually like how rich and large the world and its characters have turn into.
The gist is that, after the events of Stormblood, the world of Hydaelyn is on the precipice of an apocalyptic battle orchestrated by the evil Ascians, immortal beings who want to see the world plunged into chaos as a technique to revive their darkish god. To help tip the first domino, the Ascians are hoping to set off an apocalypse in an alternate dimension that’ll cascade into Hydaelyn itself. My companions and I’ve to journey to this alternate dimension, known as The First, to place it apart and in flip save Hydaelyn. It’s exactly the kind of plot you’d rely on from Brainiac, Dr. Doom, or Thanos, solely wrapped up in an anime-inspired high-fantasy aesthetic.
Nonetheless in distinction to Hydaelyn, the place I’m constantly combating the forces of darkness, The First has the opposite draw back: A century earlier darkness was defeated, giving rise to an abundance of primordial delicate that has practically worn out your whole planet and spawned a navy of divine monsters known as Sin Eaters. To keep away from losing The First, I’ve to swap sides and turn into the Warrior of Darkness, a quest that explores the powers of sunshine and darkness previous whether or not or not they’re merely good or evil.
Shadowbringers’ success is, partially, owed to the best way during which Sq. Enix has fastidiously constructed the world of Final Fantasy 14 over these earlier six years. Though earlier expansions have on a regular basis been a direct continuation of the first story, the scope of Shadowbringers is almost dizzying by comparability. Characters, lore, and story beats which had been left to simmer for years instantly boil over in dramatic narrative twists and turns that make this 50-hour journey an absolute rollercoaster.
When the hero Arbert first appeared all the best way during which once more in Heavensward as a minor character, as an example, I under no circumstances might need imagined the pivotal place he would develop to have in Shadowbringers. It’s these prolonged and meandering character arcs that make my adventures actually really feel MMO-sized, like if Recreation of Thrones was a high-fantasy anime.
No matter being an MMO, Shadowbringers does a distinctive job of emulating that golden interval of JRPGs by well-written dialogue and evocative cutscenes. In the event you occur to hate fetch quests in MMOs, Shadowbringers sadly has these in spades nonetheless I hardly cared because of the context of those quests—and the cutscenes that often adopted—have been so engaging.
The writing and voice performing has been steadily bettering since A Realm Reborn, nonetheless the bleakness of Shadowbringers casts the drama in a far more mature, and at cases disturbing, new delicate. One early quest led me to a sanitorium filled with those who had been contaminated with the sunshine and, in time, would flip into Sin Eaters. And never utilizing a treatment, the caretakers’ solely alternative was to delay the inevitable after which euthanize them. Elsewhere, the city Eulmore is filled with upper-class elite dwelling in additional as they await the approaching apocalypse whereas, merely outdoor the partitions, the poor, sick, and ravenous waste away.
Shadowbringers addresses these heavy subjects correctly throughout the face of Final Fantasy’s intensive melodrama, nonetheless my favorite part of the story is how lots depth it gives to my cast of longtime companions. Thancred’s story is especially gut-wrenching and brings a bittersweet end to one in every of FF14’s longest character arcs.
Even greater was Shadowbringers’ ploy to have the MMO’s grand villain, Emet Selch, tag alongside for lots of the journey. Few tales ever deal with to make me sympathize with a villain whereas nonetheless retaining what makes them detestable, nonetheless Emet Selch could be the proper Final Fantasy nemesis since FF6’s Kekfa. He’s batshit crazy nonetheless so charismatic and likeable that I would like we didn’t should be enemies.
Black in movement
Though its story is the proper goal to play, Shadowbringers gives a number of completely different neat choices. The model new Gunbreaker and Dancer are every pleasant new jobs (FF14 parlance for classes) that each have a particular playstyle and the model new bunny-like Vi and tiger-esque Hrothgar character races are pure additions to the world (though I hate what variety of bikini-clad Vi I’m seeing in all places now).
These choices are a lot much less thrilling solely because of they so fastidiously adjust to the an identical template that Sq. Enix has laid out since Heavensward. As an alternative of overhauling core recreation methods with each enlargement like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy 14 tends to play it safe. Whereas that makes the addition of current jobs, raids, and completely different choices actually really feel significantly predictable, I don’t ideas since all of the items is persistently good and pleasant—notably the model new dungeons, which are just a few of my favorite out of any enlargement up to now.
The story tees up each dungeon and single-boss raid (known as Trials) so correctly, turning every proper right into a climactic finale for each zone-specific questline. After spending so prolonged throughout the barren, gritty deserts of Stormblood’s areas, the dungeons and zones of Shadowbringers are a visual feast. Il Mheg and its accompanying dungeon of Dohn Mheg are my two favorites.
The earlier is an entire house stripped straight out of The Darkish Crystal, a captivating land filled with playful fairies and a colony of talking dog-birds dominated over by a fairy king who moreover happens to be a Sin Eater. To supplant her, I wanted to full the dungeon of Dohn Mheg, a vibrant underwater dreamland dominated over by a top-hat sporting frog spirit.
It’s in distinction to something in Final Fantasy 14, nonetheless in its place of clashing with the terrible story of Shadowbringers’ completely different areas, it ends up being a welcome reprieve capped off with a grueling battle in opposition to the fairy king herself. Shadowbringers continues FF14’s legacy for astounding music and flashy spell outcomes that make each boss battle memorable and thrilling.
If there’s one house that Final Fantasy 14 is struggling with, it’s in job steadiness and design, though. Shadowbringers reworked nearly every job, pruning outdated abilities whereas moreover together with some new ones. Loads of the damage-dealing jobs are improved by these changes, nonetheless as a White Mage it’s disappointing to see just a few of my favorite spells taken away and adjusted with a model new therapeutic system that doesn’t add any complexity to battle. As an alternative, I’m merely prepared for a meter to slowly fill so I can cast the associated spell.
That’s not to say battle in Shadowbringers shouldn’t be pleasant. Shadowbringers’ new raid bosses are nonetheless the proper out of any MMO—demanding great group coordination whereas delivering an explosive spectacle that makes each battle actually really feel tense and thrilling.
Since Final Fantasy 14 relaunched six years previously, Sq. Enix has moreover saved up an incredible tempo of most important updates every three or four months. Assuming Shadowbringers continues that template I’m excited to see the place it goes subsequent. Nonetheless its elementary story is already so good that Shadowbringers is worth having fun with even when in case you don’t have any intention of committing tons of of additional hours grinding raid bosses for loot drops. Final Fantasy 14 is quietly among the many finest video video games throughout the assortment, nonetheless Shadowbringers elevates it even further by telling a bleak and heartfelt story that generously rewards the funding made by its most hardcore followers.