There are many ways to play through Final Fantasy XIV’s Shadowbringers expansion. I am playing as a goggle-wearing Viera Dancer, dancing and damaging my way toward the finish line. I can’t cover all of the job class changes, role-based questlines, and side content before my review drops. But other FFXIV players can certainly tell me all about them.
Viera Dancer Clan Destine is in the home stretch, barreling toward the grand finale of Shadowbringers that Heather Alexandra praised highly last week. I’ve taken to utilizing the game’s glamor system to reset my appearance after every new piece of visible equipment I collect, so Clan looks the same in every cutscene. That’s how wrapped up I am in the tale of the First and the battle against the light.
I would like to shout out the group that ran me through the game’s level 79 Trial last night. As I mentioned in my post about the game’s Trust System, which allows players to run dungeons with NPCs, I get nervous grouping with humans for new content. I worry I will screw up, or tempers will flare and everyone will be tense. Last night’s party, which formed on Goblin 50 minutes before the servers went down, was filled with nothing but pleasant folks encouraging each other to do their best. No one had been through the Trial, an intense two-stage battle against one of the expansion’s most sinister figures. We wiped twice on the second half of the long battle. Each time we discussed what we’d done wrong, sharing words of encouragement. Each time we got a little further. When we finally killed the boss, I wanted to hug everyone in our party. The community that’s flocked around Final Fantasy XIV remains the top of the MMO-playing crop.
With each new story beat comes a surge of anticipation, mixed with dread that the tale will be told and I’ll have to wait for content updates for more. The end of Clan the Dancer’s journey won’t be the end of my Shadowbringers journey, however. I have plans for the moment when the credits roll.
For one, I need to check out the Machinist. I spent most of my time using the ranged damage class when it came out in Final Fantasy XIV’s first expansion, Heavensward. My original character, Back Clawtooth, is still sitting in Ishgard with a rifle on his back, waiting for me to return and take control. He’s going to be waiting for a while, possibly forever, as in order to fully experience the sweeping changes to the Machinist job that were made in Shadowbringers, I’m just going to have Clan grab the quest and start from level 30. Sorry, Back.
I want to play with crafting and gathering a little bit, see how those are going. There are a lot of things to gather and build, so I’ll probably just focus on one of each. Suggestions are welcome.
Other than all of that playing, I’ll also be talking to other players. I am interested to see how healing and tanking jobs look after the changes to those mechanics. I’ve heard from a few Bards that their job has lost much of its utility, with a lot of it going to the Dancer class instead. I’ve got a 60 Bard that I could level up, but time is not on my side, so I’d love to hear from players.
Ultimately, my review is going to be based on my experience, but Final Fantasy XIV is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and other players are part of that experience. If I have to play with a bunch of unhappy Bards (as opposed to the Spoony ones), that’s part of the experience.
So feel free to share your Shadowbringers woes with me in the comments. Tag your FFXIV-playing friends. Sit down and have a chat with your parents about how to heal or mitigate damage, and return here with your findings.
It’s not just Heather. It’s Heather and the countless other players who’ve managed to get ahead of me since Shadowbringers’ launch. It’s the people in my Free Company who hint at the cool things I haven’t seen yet (looking at you, Syg). It’s the people running by me in-game who are level 80 to my level 78. It’s folks on Twitter who respond to my screenshot tweets with posts like, “Oh neat, you’re getting near the end,” Brant.
I don’t hate these people. I could never hate them. We’re all playing and enjoying the same game. They’re just playing it faster than I am. And that should stop, somehow. I haven’t quite figured it out yet. Maybe progression servers where no one can play more than two hours a day? That seems reasonable.
I don’t get jealous when others progress faster than I do through single-player games. Hell, I never finished The Last Of Us, and I’ve never once felt like throwing heavy things at people who have. But when I am surrounded by living, breathing evidence of my personal lag, I get testy. It looks like my little World of Warcraft gnome is running through Mechagon Island having the time of her life, but behind the keyboard, I am loudly cursing at people who’ve gotten new mounts and equipment before I have.
All that these poor people are guilty of is having more free time than I do. Maybe I should be happy that I have such a full life that I don’t have as much time to dedicate to a massively multiplayer online game. That seems healthier than combining curse words with body parts that don’t go together, calling players that can’t hear me things like “shit elbow” and “fuck neck”.
Ultimately, my anger and frustration is with myself, and it eventually subsides. In a week, I’ll have finished Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers’ story, and I’ll stop wishing serious internet and/or power outages on my friends and co-workers. Love you, Heather.
It’s ridiculous. Every time I log in to work my way through Final Fantasy XIV’s latest expansion, I find more things to gush over. Rather than spam my Twitter followers with GIFs and references to Shadowbringers, I’m using the third leg of my journey towards a full review to get all the goodness thus far out of my system.
Having converted to the new Dancer job, which I love, and changing my character from a cat person to a bunny-like Viera, the new player race that’s slowly growing on me, I’ve spent the past week diving deep into the continuing story of Final Fantasy XIV. Shadowbringers takes the player’s level 70 hero and transports them to a whole new world where they’ve got ten more levels of heroism to do. I’m currently at level 77 out of 80, having performed many heroic feats such as defeating massive beasts and finding a nice pair of goggles for my character to wear.
While I will do my best to avoid spoiling major plot points, there will be images and events in this log that could spoil elements of Shadowbringers’ story. Here is a warning so I don’t feel too bad about it.
Spoiler warning received? Excellent. Here are the good things so far.
Final Fantasy XIV is very good at storytelling. Maybe not the first 20 levels or so, while the player is being introduced to basic information like Eorzean geography and who the bad guys are. It takes time for the full story to unfurl, for lovable characters to be loved and hateable characters to be despised. But once a player starts approaching level 50, the game’s original level cap, they’re fully committed to their role as the game world’s greatest hero, the Warrior of Light. By the time they’ve caught up to where Shadowbringers begins, the level 70 hero has saved the world multiple times and freed two countries from the grip of the evil Garlean Empire.
Then, just as players are beginning to learn of the connections between the Garleans and an ancient race of chaos bringers called Ascians, who’ve been plaguing characters since the game’s 2013 launch, the Warrior of Light is transported to a different world with a whole new set of problems. Called The First, it’s a planet that’s on the brink of being engulfed by the power of light. With all but a few landmasses wiped out of existence by a surging flood of light, the regions that remain haven’t seen the night sky in over a century. Mindless creatures called sin eaters roam the land, driven by a ravenous hunger for the ether within living bodies. This is what happens when the balance between light and dark tips dangerously in light’s favor.
It’s an outstanding stage for a Final Fantasy adventure. Players travel The First’s different regions to restore the balance by taking out massive boss Sin Eaters called Lightwardens. Were a normal person to kill a Lightwarden, they would take on the light and become one themselves, but the player’s character possesses the ability to absorb and contain the light. When a player kills a Lightwarden, it stays dead, and the day/night cycle is restored. Hooray!
As awesome as those massive battles are, they aren’t the best part of the story. There are plenty of dramatic story beats, narrative twists and turns that will certainly catch seasoned players off-guard, but it’s not those either. It’s learning about the little people living in The First’s remote towns and villages. How they’ve dealt with never-ending light. Where they find comfort and succor in the face of their world’s impending doom. How they react when the light goes off and, for the first time in their lives, they gaze upon the sunless sea of the night sky.
I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it. Best move on, so I can go back to finishing up the story.
The Horror And Sadness
How do I explain the moments of heart-breaking sorrow and stomach-dropping feelings of terror and disgust evoked by Shadowbringers’ story without mentioning specific events? This expansion does not shy away from endearing players to a person, place or thing and then stripping it away in the blink of an eye. Nor does it flinch at taking an already dystopian society and dialing the suffering and injustice up to “oh god, I think I’m going to be sick.”
(Hello from Final Fantasy XIV’s version of Rapture/Columbia)
Hrm, I think I just did.
Old Friends, New Looks
Over the past six years of Final Fantasy XIV, players have made many non-player character friends. Particularly members of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, a group of powerful heroes to which the player has belonged since very early in the game’s initial story. Fortunately for players, the entity responsible for their being transported to The First was a lousy shot and managed to bring over a good number of Scions before bagging the Warrior of Light. And since time conveniently runs differently between the player’s homeworld and The First, the Scions have been wandering about the new world for upwards of three years. The most important implication here is that each of the NPCs gets a makeover.
It’s nice to see old characters in new clothes. Sometimes very nice. For example, here is the quixotic elven sage Urangier before Shadowbriingers.
And here is Urangier as he appears in Shadowbringers, having switch job class to Astrologer and become everyone’s elven daddy.
This entire section was mainly an excuse to drool over Urangier’s makeover. It’s a very good thing.
Final Fantasy XIV looks good. It’s always looked good, and it continues to look good. But there’s something about the art direction in Shadowbringers that feels a step above older content. Take the GIF that tops this post, for example.
The framing, the textures—it’s such a wonderful moment, I had to grab it and save it. In the game, it’s just a few seconds of incidental animation during a much longer cutscene, but it stole my breath.
Here are a few more of my favorite images, presented without context.
Imagine riding along in your favorite online game, grooving to the orchestral soundtrack. You cross the line into a brand new area, and hear this.
The song is called “Civilizations,” and it is everything. The chanting, the vocalizing, the woodwinds, and the beat come together into something magical. The expansion’s soundtrack is filled with music that stops me in my tracks whenever I hear it. “Civilizations” is just one example.
And This Other Song
This is another example. It’s the new battle music. This plays when players fight random creatures wandering the lands of The First.
That’s metal guitar and some operatic singing. That’s music to kill by.
The Strip Club
This one’s for the role-players in the audience. Atop the tower town of Eulmore, there is an establishment called the Beehive, where the upper crust go to enjoy the fine art of pole dancing.
It’s not as classy as some of the game’s player-run brothels, perhaps, but it has a certain purple charm. It’s sure to be a go-to location for roleplay of a more risque nature. Or maybe that’s just me.
Things I’ve Already Covered
Some things about the Shadowbringers expansion are so good they got their own posts. These include:
I’ve not found a lot to complain about in Final Fantasy XIV’s Shadowbringers expansion. The new races, rabbity Viera and lion-like Hrothgar, feel a bit tacked on, which I’ve covered. Login queues are in effect, but not particularly obnoxious. On my home server of Goblin I’ve normally got between 20 and 40 players waiting to log in ahead of me, and the wait is only a couple minutes. Oh, the new Gunbreaker job class has led to a lot of people dressing up as Squall from Final Fantasy VIII, standing around and trying to look cool with their fancy gunblades. That’s bad, right?
Look, I still have three levels and a chunk of story to work through before I reach the end of the expansion’s initial content. Surely I’ll find more to not like by then. Wish me luck.
With their distinctive cactus appearance and signature pose, Cactaurs are one of Final Fantasy’s most iconic creatures. The top-heavy Gigantender, introduced in Final Fantasy XIV’s latest expansion, is doing the best it can to live up to that legacy, bless its giant plant heart.
Cactaur are called Sabotenders in Final Fantasy XIV, using the Japanese name to differentiate them from the endless parade of cactus-shaped creatures and summons that have appeared since the creatures debuted in Final Fantasy VI. Garden (rock garden, I suppose) variety Sabotenders are a common sight on the MMO’s continent of Eorzea. Gigantenders are native to the Shadowbringers’ expansion’s land of The First and are adorable enough that I just want to sit in The Fields of Amber and watch them nearly topple all day long.
I spent an hour grabbing the perfect animated GIF of the large, awkward creatures in their natural habitat. I initially misjudged the distance between the Gigantender and my character due to unfamiliarity with the first-person camera. I was too close, and a battle commenced.
Battle did afford me a close-up look at the creatures.
But I could have done without the heartbreakingly-cute squeaks and squeals the Gigantenders make when they die.
These big cactus boys don’t deserve to be on the receiving end of my Xena-style Dancer weapons. We should preserve them and their kind, so they may flourish and perhaps, one day, perfect that Cactaur pose.
Except for this giant red one. It’s a Maliktender, which only spawns every four to six hours and rewards players with a bunch of goodies. That one has to die. The rest get very careful hugs.
Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers launched in early access this morning, and as it is with every FFXIV expansion, players are of two minds. Half are flooding into the expansion’s new area, The First, eager to begin their journey as the Warrior of Darkness. I’m with the other half, a rolling horde of Gunblades and Dancers, rapidly levelling the expansion’s two new job roles before tackling the new lands.
After a couple of years as a Miqo’te (kitty person) Red Mage, my character, Clan Destine, is reborn once more. My first stop after launching Final Fantasy XIV this expansion morning was the city of Limsa Lominsa, the starting point for the quest to become a Dancer. Unable to handle the pressure and responsibility of tanking as a Gunblade, I opted to stick with my specialty—causing damage from afar. The Dancer is a job that mixes buffing party members with ranged combat using circular, Xena-esque throwing blades. Becoming a Dancer is as simple as watching a cutscene and saying yes to a revealing gold and maroon dress.
Along with two new jobs, Shadowbringers adds two new playable races to Final Fantasy XIV, the rabbit-like Viera and the powerful lion-like Hrothgar. Both races are gender-locked, meaning Viera can only be female and Hrothgar can only be male. This bothers me, but I spent the $10 in the Square Enix online store for a potion to change my race, and it would be a pity for it to go to waste.
Behold, my new bunny Dancer. Note the she isn’t wearing the hat she was before I changed her race. That’s because the two new races don’t have headgear modeled for them yet. Every other race in the game can wear whatever on their head, but it was too complicated to do all that for a pair of rabbit ears. That’s ridiculous. I mean, they could have at least made the hat for the new job fit, right? Bah.
Rather than starting over at level one, like some of the other classes, Dancer and Gunblades start at level 60. Unlocking a whole new job at such a high level is daunting. When playing a job from level one, players slowly unlock new abilities. New skills unlock gradually, giving players a much greater sense of how everything comes together than, say, dumping more than 20 fresh skills into a group of hotbars and letting them have at it.
From what I have figured out through playing a couple hours and running through a short tutorial battle, Dancer combat has two phases. First there’s the actual dancing. That starts by hitting the “Standard Step” skill. There are (initially) four additional dance skills that activate at random once the Standard Step is pressed. This mid-steps amplify the effects of the dance. The “Standard Finish” ability ends the dance, doing damage to the player’s enemies and a 60-second damage-increasing buff to the player and their chosen partner. A partner is a party member designated as the recipient of the Dancer’s buffs using a skill called “Closed Position.”
In between dances, which each have a 30-second cooldown, the Dancer uses combat skills to do damage from afar. There is a chain of combat skills for single opponents and one for groups of mobs. It seems pretty clear cut, but I might be missing some nuance. There are some utility skills I’ve not used yet, like a group shield and group buff, and there’s a nifty dash the Dancer can do to maneuver out of danger quickly. I need to get some more dungeon time in, but for now I’m cautiously pleased with my leaping lapin.
As I said, Dancers start at 60. The new story content for the expansion starts at level 70, leading players to the new level cap of 80. That means in order to enjoy the new content as one of the two new jobs, players have to grind 10 levels. The best way to do that looks like this.
Some of the fastest experience point gain in Final Fantasy XIV, outside of running random dungeons, is participating in FATEs (Full Active Time Events). These are special events that pop up across adventuring zones at regular intervals, requiring large groups of players to complete and rewarding large amounts of experience points. Players can form parties and travel from one FATE to the next.
In situations when a substantial fraction of the game’s player base finds themselves at level 60 needing to make to level 70 as fast as possible, the organized chaos is gorgeous. Enemies spawn in massive waves only to be rapidly wiped out in a hail of special effects. Pulling the camera back a bit reveals it’s not quite as hectic as it seems.
But where is the fun in that? Look how beautiful this mess gets.
That’s where I am as I embark on my Shadowbringers adventure. Or that’s where I was before I disconnected and tried to get back on and started getting lobby connection errors. I managed to make it halfway to level 62 in my rolling mob of Dancers and Gunblades. I’m sure it’ll still be there when I get back on.
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
One minute I’m a gnome warlock, delving deep into the naga-infested ocean of World of Warcraft’s Azeroth. The next I’m a red mage with cat ears and a tail, trying to remember my spell rotation in Final Fantasy XIV before the Shadowbringers expansion comes out. There’s brand-new content in both of my favorite massively multiplayer online role-playing games, and I’m having trouble keeping up.
I’ve been playing MMORPG games since the days of Ultima Online, but normally one at a time. I can juggle non-MMO games all day long. I’m currently playing a retro platforming shooter on the Switch (Gunlord-X), a monster truck racer on the Xbox One (Monster Jam Steel Titans), and a tactical fighting game (Samurai Shodown) on the PlayStation 4. There’s no danger of me mixing up those three.
MMORPGs are a different story. I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for nearly 15 years and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn since its relaunch in 2013. Both games take place in unique fantasy settings. Both feature rich storylines I’ve become heavily invested in over the years. In both games I am part of an expansive community. I’ve got friends on servers and friends in guilds. I wish I could play World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV more.
Except for right now. Right now, World of Warcraftjust released the Rise of Azshara expansion, adding two massive new zones full of quests, gear, and adventure. Meanwhile, in Final Fantasy XIV, the Shadowbringers expansion launches in early access on Friday, and I’ve got a couple of dungeons to complete before I’ve caught up with the game’s story, which I have to complete before I can enjoy the expansion’s new high-level content.
I am hopping back and forth between two very different characters on two structurally similar but mechanically unique games, and I am getting dizzy. Here are some of the fun things I’ve screwed up in the process of playing both.
After a few months away, I’ve finally remembered the button sequence I use to efficiently perform my Final Fantasy XIV red mage’s spell rotation…in World of Warcraft, where it is far from how I play my warlock. I have died several times.
I keep forgetting to summon my demon in Final Fantasy XIV. I have no demon in Final Fantasy XIV.
Did you know that red mages in Final Fantasy XIV often handle rezzing duties in multiplayer trials against powerful boss creatures? I forgot, and I got yelled at last night, and it was completely my fault.
I keep trying to message linkshell members from Final Fantasy XIV in World of Warcraft and WoW guildies in FFXIV.
It’s not always like this. During less busy times, when the lulls between new content grow long, I can slip between the two with ease. But now, standing at the crossroads between brand new Azeroth stuff and becoming Final Fantasy XIV’s Warrior of Darkness, I kind of just want to curl up and wait until the traffic is clear. I won’t, as it is my duty to collect and report on that sweet MMORPG booty. Just forgive me if I mix up my verstone and corruption spells.
Streaming music service Spotify is generally hit-or-miss for video game soundtracks. That’s not so for Final Fantasy anymore, as official soundtracks for all the main games and many of its spin-offs are now available for your listening pleasure.
There’s been Final Fantasy music on Spotify previously, but not to this extent. Noticed yesterday by Twitter user RickyWinsKO, the service’s FF catalog is now quite extensive. Soundtracks from the NES original on up to Final Fantasy XV are available. Multiple albums cover MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV and its expansions, including music from the original release, before it relaunched as A Realm Reborn. Record Keeper, Dissidia, Tactics—I am in soundtrack heaven. They’ve even got the soundtrack for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a movie no one cares about.
To access the soundtracks, open up Spotify and do a search for “Final Fantasy Original Soundtrack” and click on Albums. It beats the hell out of listening to FF tunes via YouTube vids.
In March of 2018, a group of role-players from Final Fantasy XIV’s Balmung world published the first issue of Wark!, an in-character magazine that explores the world of Eorzea through news, interviews and articles. Now 12 issues in, Wark! is a cute and clever chronicle of a year of online adventures.
One of the problems with massively multiplayer online role-playing games like EverQuest, World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV is that, eventually, the adventures end. Servers close. Guilds disband. Special events come and go. One day other players are your best friends and adventuring companions; the next day they’re gone, rapidly fading into memory as new adventures rush to fill the void. There’s no permanence unless you make it. An FFXIV Free Company called Chocobo Dreams has found a creative way of doing that through Wark!
From the first issue’s forward:
WARK! is a project by Chocobo Dreams – a Free Company with glory in mind, but not the type granted by battle or adventure. Instead, we want to leave our mark on Eorzea with a different kind of legacy by spreading the simple joy of creativity.
Project by project.
Picture by picture.
Word by word.
The first issue of Wark!Includes an interview with a local in-game business owner, a fashion “photo” contest, an article on some in-game characters, chocobo racing forms and more.
Every issue is a lasting memory for the players who experienced the interviews, wrote the articles and gathered those chocobo racing stats. At the same time, it’s something for players in the Balmung community and beyond to enjoy outside of the game.
Speaking to Kotaku, Wark!editor-in-chief Q’Tahldi explained that the magazine is a labor of love. “To us it’s a creative outlet (as there’s little room for that in our day jobs for most of us), a reason to learn skills that we otherwise have no practical need for at the moment but are still fun to have (like design, creative writing, and photo editing), and a different way to interact and engage with our server/community and the game itself.”
Engaging with online games outside of the game itself—by making a magazine, doing a podcast, or streaming an in-character radio show—can make memories that last far longer than that one time I raided that place with that guy. Oh man, he was great.
When a new rabbit-eared race called Viera was revealed for Final Fantasy XIV’s upcoming Shadowbringers expansion during last month’s Paris Fanfest, only female versions were shown, but players were hopeful that the male version of the Viera would be announced at the Tokyo Fanfest this past weekend. Instead, Square Enix added a whole new race, the exclusively male Hrothgar. So, now there are two gender-locked races instead of one. Great.
Introduced in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and popularized by Final Fantasy XII’s Fran, the Viera are a race of tall, lanky bunny people. According to lore, male Viera exist but they live in separate settlements and do not appear in public. In a recent interview with GameSpot, Final Fantasy XIV producer Naoki Yoshida cited this lore as the reason why playable Viera can only be female.
But the lore hasn’t stopped players from clamoring for and anticipating the reveal of playable rabbit boys. When asked about the possibility of male Viera during a Q&A session at the Paris Fanfest last month, Yoshida said he could not comment and that players would have to wait until this weekend’s Tokyo event for more information. Many took that comment as confirmation male Viera would appear. They did not.
Instead of playable male Viera, Yoshida introduced the male-exclusive race Hrothgar. Modeled after the bestial Ronso from Final Fantasy X, the Hrothgar are thickly-muscled cat men, some of whom sport horns à la FFX’s Kimahri. While Final Fantasy lore features both female and male Ronso, in Final Fantasy XIV they will be a male-only race, included as a counterpart to the female-only Viera.
This is, frankly, some bullshit. First off, adhering to the lore only matters for the Viera? Players cannot be male Viera because of lore, but they also cannot be female Hrothgar because, what, it wouldn’t be fair to everybody who wanted to be a male Viera? Nonsense.
Secondly, Final Fantasy XIV already has a humanoid feline race in the Miqo’te. Ironically, when Final Fantasy XIV first launched back in 2010, the Miqo’te were a female gender-locked race, a counterpart to the male-only Roegadyn. After the game was shut down and rebooted as A Realm Reborn in 2013, male Miqo-te and female Roegadyn got added, thanks largely to fan outcry.
Now fans are outcrying again. Reddit threads about the new race reveal (thanks to reader Connor for bringing these to my attention) are filled with angry comments. There’s an extensive fan-created poll gathering data about how players feel about the gender-locking, and how it affects their feelings about July’s Shadowbringers expansion.
Fortunately, director Naoki Yoshida told GameSpot the team is taking player feedback under consideration. The developers have a good track record when it comes to dealing with players’ complaints, like their approach to fixing issues with player housing, or their response the first time Final Fantasy XIV had a pair of gender-locked races. Let’s hope players don’t have to complain too loud and long, and I can get my bunny boy on sooner rather than later.