Nine years ago we saw a game release in a pretty abysmal state. I didn’t stay around long for 1.x as I just couldn’t bring my self to play it. That is not to say there weren’t dedicated fans that played the game all the way up to the servers being brought down in 2012 to being reopened a year later with a more then successful relaunch. These fans probably help shape Final Fantasy XIV to what it is today.
Let’s fast forward to July 2nd 2019 and the next installment of Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers. Following Stormblood’s success wich was a slower expansion from its previous Heavensward, which at times had slower moments but kept a good pace. Incomes Shadowbringers set out to bring FFXIV to a whole new world where the light is our enemy and we will find solace in the shadows. From the opening video to the role of the credits, Shadowbringers is a non-stop roller coaster of emotions, amazing battles, a beautiful sound track and well worth the play through of 106 MSQ’s. Not once did I find myself board in the game, the story was always gripping you and have you wondering what is going to happen next.
In the story you can’t but help but fall in love with all your beloved characters, and this time Thancred is probably more bad ass as he has ever been, with picking up the role as Gunbreaker, if there was a battle Thancred was there and he was showing our hero and the villains how a battle should be fought and won. There were moments where you didn’t know what would happen and if someone you loved was going to make it and the story writers never disappoint. The character development over the years has only gotten better, each character having gone through so many dramatic events and their own trials and tribulations. Have grown and become stronger personalities, leaders and just amazing heroes always willing to put everything on the line to save what they believe in.
This time around the choices you were given to choose in story points felt they were trying to give our voiceless protagonist more of a personality. There were times it felt like it worked and other times answers did not really match up to the conversation or the answers were forced. I did like the addition but felt like it could use more work as it at times disrupted the flow of conversation and felt no matter what choice you chose, the character(s) you were talking to would always going to answer that way. But, overall the story was nothing less then what you would expect from SquareEnix, ShadowBringers is really on its own level.
Combat, its your basic tab targeting system with a little bit a combo attacks thrown in. Press X button to make X button flash to make next button do something bigger. But you can tell the developers have spent their time on the combat system. FFXIV combat has always felt clean, polished and down right fun. Slower than most games with a 2.5 GCD, which is ok with me because there are many abilities OGCD that keep the battle going and making sure you are always casting. In ShB things got a little more stream lined. All Tanks/DPS/Healers get their own set of role abilities, some are shared among the jobs, like swift cast available to all the mage roles. Other abilities were removed (RIP Shadowflare) some redesigned or combined into one (Jolt II now giving the DualCast Mechanic for RDM). Overall the combat in ShB has gotten a nice over haul and the mechanics even on the simplest rotations are complex. Not to mention the dungeon / trial designs which always seem to get better and better with each addition.
Great segway into dungeons and trials. Great designs thus far, the new nine dungeons, seven during the story and two post 80. Have been an absolute blast to run, farm and listen to once again the amazing sound track. The boss fights as most FFXIV are not that hard on their normal modes and really just paying attention to your surroundings, tank busters and mechanics will get you through the dungeons. This time around however, you can choose to use the Trust System allowing you group with with merry men and women of your party instead of using match making, this great for DPS classes that don’t want to wait 20-40 minutes for a dungeon queue. It should be noted, using this while leveling does reduce EXP earned and item drops from bosses and dungeon loot. But is a great way to learn to tank/heal/DPS without having to annoy other players. Another item to point out, with the trust system while leveling the characters you have with you will always be level appropriate. However, post 80, you will need to grind out leveling the characters through the trust system to level 80. (Did you really think they were going to hand over the trust system, with full level 80 NPCs?) This again is great for DPS roles or just taking it slower and leveling alt jobs. Over all the dungeons have been great and with the trust system it adds a new way to experience them and elevate those pesky DPS queues. *Trust system does not work for Trials or Raids.
With Shadowbringers came two new jobs and races. I have not dabbled much into the two classes yet so I will save those for a different review another time. But being in the group with them is pretty intersting and I look forward to jumping into more in the GNB, I am a tank (PLD main) and this looks to be PLD friendly. The DNC being a physical ranged DPS has some interesting mechanics going on and I really don’t have much to say except I can’t wait to Step Up. The Viera and the Hrothgar are an awesome addition to the races. FFXII fans are I am sure out of their minds happy. Because lets be honest, Fran was a sexy bunny with attitude, cross her and well… you will wish you didn’t. The Hrothgar remind me the Ronso from FFX and are a welcome addition, except they can’t wear helmets… Other that that, Hrothgar have been my favorite race added to FFXIV. Both other wise look amazing and have some good animations.
All in all ShadowBringers keeps to what makes Final Fantasy XIV lovable and amazing. A story that is gripping with characters that you become emotionally attached too, find ways to relate and just fall in love with. A combat system that is easy to learn but can take a while to master, SAM, I am looking at you. 5.0 story was amazing, and with 5.1 on the way and the Nier cross over raid to follow, there is going to be so much content to come, I cannot wait to see the next part of the story, and continue our fight with the Empire. If you are just beginning, push through the A Realm Reaborn, Heavnsward and Stormblood, because ShB is an expansion and story you are not going to want to miss. I give Shadowbringers an 9/10.
** I did not cover the Eden raid as I have not been able to run it yet. Once I finish normal and savage I will write a review.