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Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers: The Kotaku Review

Shadowbringers, the latest expansion to Final Fantasy XIV, released two months ago, and I cannot begin to fathom the amount of time I have spent in the worlds of Eorzea and Norvrandt. Shadowbringers is one of Final Fantasy’s finest stories, buoyed by powerful music and sweeping gameplay changes that make job classes sleek and enjoyable. If you’re gonna expand a massive role-playing game, this is how you do it.

Final Fantasy XIV is a slow burn, having had one of the strangest redemption arcs in recent memory. Initially released in 2010, it was met with disastrous response as clumsy and slow systems failed to grab player attention. It was a ponderous beast in the vein of its predecessor Final Fantasy XI, which released eight years prior into a very different ecosystem. After World of Warcraft’s release in 2004, the pace of online role-playing games moved to something faster. Final Fantasy XIV couldn’t keep up and so, under the direction of former Dragon Quest team member Naoki Yoshida, Final Fantasy XIV was rebranded into Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Even that took time to find itself, slowly establishing an identity through its first two expansions, Heavensward and Stormblood. With the release of Shadowbringers, that growth is arguably complete. This is one of the most well-made, confident, and enjoyable Final Fantasy experiences that can be had today.

Shadowbringers takes players away from the world they’ve previously known, Eorzea. The player character is pulled into a parallel world called Norvrandt. Also called the First, Norvrandt is one of the many “reflections” of Eorzea. It takes familiar features and remixes them into a more mystical and fantastic form. Ravaged by a cataclysmic “Flood of Light” nearly a century ago, it is a world of perpetual day where creatures called Sin Eaters wander the land to feast upon the populace. The player is drawn to this world by a mysterious ally in order to slay the Sin Eaters and, in solving the plight of Norvrandt, prevent a cosmological catastrophe that threatens the multiverse. Doing so sends them on a quest to reassemble their scattered allies and face powerful beings called Lightwardens. All the while, a scheming villain accompanies them, providing insight into a grand and tragic history, the revelation of which shatters all previous beliefs about how the world of Final Fantasy XIV worked.

Thanks to the supervision and writing of scenario lead Natsuko Ishikawa, Shadowbringers is one of the most enthralling Final Fantasy stories written. Within its sweeping framework, Shadowbringers manages to tackle themes of parenthood, death, apocalypse, and more. Shadowbringers is a concept of a world after the end. Scattered pockets of civilization fight to restore life to normal. Meanwhile, the decadent city of Eulmore employs a caste system that rigidly holds on to wealth and plutocracy. It is a nation of hoarders locked behind guarded walls, led by a petulant child of a man. And while Shadowbringers stumbles with Eulmore, veering into unflattering commentaries about fat bodies as an all-too-reductive shorthand for greed, its baseline social critique remains evocative. Even after the end, the wealthy will seek to continue their comfort. Or consider the late-game revelation of a time before known history where a utopian republic of mages once ruled, crafting marvels with a powerful creation magic until the day that a strange natural force warped their creative impulses into an uncontrollable deluge of beasts and fire. In these moments, Shadowbringers’ story rises to capture very real and powerful sentiments.

From time to time, Shadowbringers’ story loses track of itself. For example, wading through the dull relationships of a mining town or spending multiple hours constructing a massive golem were painful. This padding is the narrative’s one significant flaw. The story takes place over the course of the 70-80 level range and offers a variety of dungeons and boss fights. These high-quality challenges help offset the moments where the narrative comes to a screeching halt, making it far easier to push through to the game’s spectacular finale. In those final moments, I watched strangers pause in the middle of awe-inspiring dungeons and felt my heart race as we faced the final boss before anyone knew what the fight mechanics were.

The expansion brings new systems and job classes that enrich the experience. Chief among these is the Trust System, which allows players to enter story dungeons alongside computer-controlled companions instead of other players. Your companions have unique dialogue and behaviors that bring charm to encounters, and their availability throughout the main campaign means that even solo players are able to engage with content more easily. The system falls apart in the post-game, resetting your companions’ levels and forcing you to grind out dungeons in order to power them up, but for the duration of the main story, it does exactly what it sets out to do.

The Trust System comes alongside sweeping changes to job classes that removed skills and reworked how many classes function for simplicity’s sake. The overly complex Summoner class, whose attack “rotation” took minutes to summon their most powerful minions, can bring out the big guns faster and now summon a powerful Phoenix to light foes ablaze. The White Mage, whose unique “lilly gauge” previously did little more than allow them to cast spells faster, can now be used for powerful healing and attack spells. As a result, many classes are more enjoyable to play and easier for new players to learn.

It’s not all good news, though. In removing complexity, there’s been some loss of job identity. In particular, tank classes—defensive roles focused on absorbing damage from enemies—lack some of what made each unique. The Astrologian class, whose magical cards once gave a variety of effects, now use them exclusively to increase their team’s attack power. Shadowbringers’ changes have made things easier to understand and play, but not without some sacrifices.

Breathing additional life into the play experience are the expansion’s two exclusive job classes: the Dancer and the Gunbreaker. Dancers are damage dealers who can also buff their allies with a variety of defense- and attack-boosting spells. It is a complicated class whose nuances take some time to master. Attacks trigger random “procs” that allow Dancers to execute attack combos. These combos, in turn, have a chance to grant a resource that can be spent on additional attacks. All the while, it is possible to dance and trigger a sort of rhythm game where hitting the right buttons increases the potency of your buffs. The Dancer brings a welcome complexity to Final Fantasy XIV, even if it sometimes feels at odds with Shadowbringers’ beginner-friendly mindset. It is dynamic, asking players to pay close attention, but its randomness holds it back from time to time.

Gunbreakers are a tank class. Wielding iconic gunblades, they have a furious playstyle that revolves around lengthy combo sequences. At lower levels, Gunbreakers feel woefully inadequate. They do not have the powerful healing spells of their Paladin peers or the exciting defensive mechanics of gritty Dark Knight comrades in arms. As they level, gaining access to more attacks, the class start to find itself. Playing as a Gunbreaker is a fun and aggressive process later on, but the aggression comes at a cost. This class cannot hold ground for too long, relying on healers. In spite of this, Gunbreaker is consistently exciting to play. Like Dancer, its flaws add more charm than difficulty.

Shadowbringers’ endgame content is limited at the moment, but what exists ranks among some of the most interesting encounters you can have. The expansion introduces the Eden raid tier. With four fights currently available, a team of eight players can face off against tough enemies for the highest-quality loot. The monsters are designed by Final Fantasy veteran Tetsuya Nomura, taking inspiration from Final Fantasy VIII’s various summons while also offering hardcore remixes of old Final Fantasy XIV bosses. The Eden raid fights have a playful sense of difficulty, enough to challenge skilled players and dazzle with spellbinding attacks. In addition to these raids, the dubiously named “savage” variants of story bosses bring never-before-seen mechanics and culminate in a terrific challenge that only the most organized groups will pass. Their luster has worn as the weeks have passed, but Eden started strong and will continue to grow with new fights. A larger, 24-player series of raids influenced by Nier: Automata and created in cooperation with director Yoko Taro will be arriving within the next month.

Under all of this—the story, the revamped gameplay, the difficult endgame challenges—is Shadowbringers’ secret weapon: its music. Composer Masayoshi Soken’s pieces have always run the gamut from traditional fantasy marches to intense industrial rock. Grand battles against ice gods started with powerful piano laments before breaking into pop rock. Muted battle marches exploded into operatic triumph. Shadowbringers continues this tradition but ups the ante considerably. Soken’s score is a lightning strike, bold and beautiful throughout. Releasing yesterday on iTunes, the soundtrack surpassed artists like Lana Del Rey on the popularity charts. There’s good reason for this; Soken has come into his own to stand proudly besides series composers like Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu. Shadowbringers’ highest highs and dramatic lows would not be the same without Soken’s powerful scores.

Shadowbringers is a fantastic experience by any metric. That it triumphs within the complicated frame of an online RPG feels almost miraculous. I spent weeks of my life immersed in Eorzea before Shadowbringers and gladly continued after its launch. I have made fantastic friends and formed connections with some of the most important people I’ve known. I’ve embarked on countless adventures, learned the intricacies of numerous jobs. I found a community, a world of vibrancy that brought renewed color to my life. Shadowbringers’ story is triumphant, the artistry inspiring. There are rough patches—pacing woes and overzealous changes to beloved jobs—but Shadowbringers rises above those stumblings. It cements Final Fantasy XIV’s place within the series alongside cherished titles like Final Fantasy VII, and it marks the absolute redemption of an initially troubled game.

Source: Kotaku.com

The soundtrack to Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers is now live for digital download on iTunes.

The soundtrack to Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers is now live for digital download on iTunes. Masayoshi Soken’s score offers some of this year’s most powerful moments, and it well worth grabbing if you’re a fan of Final Fantasy XIV or good music in general.

Source: Kotaku.com

Final Fantasy XIV Bard Reimagines Performances As A Rhythm Game

Bards gained the ability to play actual music in Final Fantasy XIV near the end of 2017 and have been annoying bar-goers with their covers of “All Star” and “One Winged Angel” ever since (or just beeping loudly like fire alarms). One talented bard had reimagined Final Fantasy XIV as a rhythm game, and I can’t stop watching their performances.

Nicorzea Game Music is a YouTube performer who covers Final Fantasy XIV’s fantastic soundtrack using in-game bard instruments. Composer Masayoshi Soken’s criminally underrated score makes for some tricky performances from up-tempo boss fight themes to moody environmental tunes. Nicorzea goes the extra effort to spruce up their performances⁠—which are played on a controller and not handled by macros⁠—and imagines them as a rhythm game. And damn, I’d love to play this hypothetical game.

Recent covers have focused on the game’s latest expansion “Shadowbringers” and its boss fight music. Soken’s score for the expansion is faster and has a variety of genres, most of which are a challenge to perform by hand. The scattershot “What Angel Wakes Me” or the industrial-edged boss theme “Insatiable” have different tones but are both memorable tunes that Nicorzea nails. They leave just enough of the original music underneath to really give a sense of how faithful the performance is.

Of course, if you’ve spent some time in big cities like Ul’dah, you might hear some less skillful performances of these tunes. Nicorzea’s dead-on pace and imaginative presentation really up the experience and leave me with a lingering question: If we have jump puzzles and Valentine’s Day mazes, maybe Square Enix will give us some better rhythm games than what that strange choir mini-game was from the Starlight Festival? Please?

Source: Kotaku.com

I Helped Some Gaggling Final Fantasy XIV Newbies Best One Of the Trickiest Bosses

Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

There are moments in online games when leadership and authority are thrust upon us. In group-based content, like the various boss fights in Final Fantasy XIV, knowledge is power. If you’re in a group full of helpless newbies and you know the fight’s mechanics, you’re suddenly in charge. Earlier this week, I suddenly became the unwilling leader of a group of fresh-faced players. I ended up guiding us all to victory in one of the game’s tougher fights.

The “Eden” tier of raids arrived in Final Fantasy XIV some weeks ago, offering difficult fights that can still wipe some folks, even though these fights have been out for some time. There are also extreme modes for them, which increase the difficulty of these fights and require tons of coordination. When I logged into my weekly Eden normal mode runs, my groups easily defeated most foes. Then we had to fight Titan.

The Eden version of Titan is a reimagined, and much tougher, revamp of an earlier boss fight. It requires precise positioning to avoid getting hit hard, or else you could get entirely knocked off the platform you are fighting on. This particular run had another layer of difficulty: tons of players who knew nothing about the fight. That was fine; there’s an unspoken etiquette that you should tell folks if you’re new, and most of them obliged. Also, they could keep up with the pace of the fight, at least at first. I played as healer, keeping quiet and making sure folks didn’t die. But soon I found that even quality healing couldn’t carry the group. Eventually, through a process I never understood, the group decided I would be their leader and would guide them through mechanics. After all, I knew exactly where to stand and when in order to avoid massive attacks.

Much like Malvolio says in Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.” Leadership may not always be a form of “greatness,” but it definitely is something that’s thrust upon folks. And for some reason, I had become Mama Bird, guiding these lovely first-timers through a difficult battle.

Responsibility, if I can be blunt, sucks. Most of the time. Despite my many attempts to enjoy life with a diet of books and companionable silence with the folks I care for, I often find myself inevitably put in charge of one thing or another in real life. As so it was in Final Fantasy XIV that I had to lead a gaggle of baby birds through a difficult fight. God bless them, they were trying, and each attempt showed further progress. But there were also the folks that felt were beyond help: the healer who seemed to be actively avoiding resurrecting their fallen comrades, the melee fighters who didn’t quite get that they needed to stand to Titan’s side for some attacks or else instantly get knocked into oblivion. The players who stood next to tanks and ate devastating damage when Titan “cleaved” and hit everyone in front of it. As healer, I had a few ways to help—healers have an amazing ability called “rescue” that can pull players right to them and out of harm’s way— but it was an uphill battle, one that was taking up almost all of the time limit the game allowed us for completing the fight.

Eventually, frustration kicked in. I, like Deus Ex’s Adam Jensen, “never asked for this.” So I made that clear: Hey goobers, I love you all and your dogged grit, but I have two more attempts in me before I gotta get out of this clusterfuck. (Okay, that’s not exactly what I said, but you get the gist.) I meant it; I had stumbled into this group as part of my “daily roulette,” a series of randomized encounters that dole out currency to buy gear. I just wanted to get my tomestones and get out.

After hearing my ultimatum, these bumbling children (all of whom, I will stress again, were good folks trying to clear content that was fresh to them) stepped it up. We added a marker above my head so they could follow me to safe spots. They pulled it off with only a few hiccups and, at last, defeated the boss. I walked away with six player commendations, which are largely meaningless kudos that mean players thought you were helpful. I passed on all the loot (I didn’t need it, after all) and then left the boss arena. It was nice to step up and lead, something that does happen to me in real life, but next time… maybe I’ll just keep my mouth shut and heal.

Source: Kotaku.com

Jumping Puzzles In MMORPGs Are Good, Actually

Games are full of deadly enemies from zombies to dragons, but most share one enemy in common: gravity. Pits, ledges, canyons, moving platforms. No matter what setting players are in, there’s always some reason to jump. Some games even offer tricky obstacle courses. These jump puzzles are both joyous and frustrating. They are unsung juggernauts of fun and fury, and I love them.

Final Fantasy XIV’s latest event, the Moonfire Faire, is live from now until August 26. Among its various challenges is a massive obstacle course and jumping puzzle. It’s a chance to test your coordination and dexterity. Jumping puzzles have a long lineage in MMORPGs as a side activity away from combat or crafting. Guild Wars dots the landscape with hidden paths to cross, and Star Wars: the Old Republic hides stat-boosting holocrons reachable only through complicated leaps and bounds.

Jumping itself is one of gaming’s most common actions. Players have been jumping for decades, and jumping puzzles are the logical conclusion of a pastime that gave us Pitfall, Super Mario, and an entire platforming genre. Part of the appeal is a chance to feel a sense of “embodiment,” a deep feeling of being in your character’s body.

Embodiment is sometimes a contentious topic in game design, since there’s a lot of different ways to make players feel like they’re really inhabiting someone else. For some games like Red Dead Redemption 2, the solution is to take things slow. Lumberous animations take every single frame possible to express actions in their entirety. Arthur Morgen doesn’t just jump: he bends down, plants his knees, arches his back, and lifts up before coming back down with a hard landing. That’s not how you want someone to control or move in a jumping puzzle. You want Mario, not molasses.

In the case of Final Fantasy XIV, the key to a sense of embodiment is giving players just enough control over their body. That means being able to turn fast in the air with the spin of a mouse or control the arc of their jump ever so slightly as they fall. Giving extra control allows players to feel like mistakes are their own, even if they can’t do something as dramatic as change the full direction of their jump once in the air.

That last part is important and key to what makes jumping puzzles so enjoyable. There is a sense that there are rules to the world, and that players can come to understand them. Gravity, speed. Learning how to run at just the right speed to get extra distance, or knowing that it’s best to leap to the next platform at an angle, in case the arc of a jump is too long, imparts a sense of knowledge. Finding little hacks and techniques allows players to experience growth and improvement beyond simply leveling up. It also allows for differences between each player that are visible in multiplayer games. Oh, that’s the guy who can handle corner jumps. There’s the person who takes one step back on each platform. Everyone has their own tricks.

Public jumping puzzles have the veneer of competition, as it’s hard not to compare your progress to other players’. What’s more exciting is how much progress and failure start to feel communal. There’s excitement to be found both when someone finally catches up to folks at the top, or when the whole group witnesses a spectacular failure. Competition falls away and is replaced with a sense of shared struggle, even if you laugh out loud when someone tumbles from the highest point and swears profusely in chat.

The joy of jumping puzzles is both in finding control over your character and camaraderie with other players. They dance the line between a race and a collaboration, sticking to one of gaming’s longest-standing mechanics and using it to great effect. Sure, you might get the same excitement in a match of PUBG or a high-stakes Grand Theft Auto race, but there’s something romantic about how much you can get out of something as small as jumping.

Source: Kotaku.com

I’m Back To Watching Video Game YouTube For Fun: Here’s What I Liked

Life has been a little stressful lately. At first, that pushed me to turn to video games for escapism⁠—something I’d not really done before. This week, I’ve found myself too tired to binge through Fire Emblem. But it still felt weird to be more disconnected to gaming, so I returned to something I haven’t done for my own entertainment in a while: YouTube.

For a time, I was fully plugged into YouTube. I had a handful of popular creators and Twitch streamers whose videos I would watch consistently. In the past, before coming to Kotaku, I even contributed to Patreons and other funding campaigns for my favorites. When you start working as a games journalist, all things game related invariably become work related. When you play a game, you’re on the lookout for angles. See someone on the subway with a Switch? That’s a chance to snoop on real players and their habits. If you’re like me and watched speedrunners and other streamers, you turn that into a beat that you cover rigorously. That’s not a complaint; my job is cool, and I’m lucky to have it. But it also means that the way I consumed YouTube videos changed. It wasn’t something I did for fun anymore.

Retreating to fantasy worlds gave me a buffer from stress over this last rocky month. Sleep has often eluded me. In those moments, I’ve turned to YouTube and found comfort in watching good players and funny people enjoy games on what feels like my personal behalf. For instance, I stopped playing Apex Legends. Like many games that require attention and reflexes, it’s not a great game to play when you’re exhausted. To get my action fix, I’ve turned to personalities like StoneMountain64. Stone’s got great energy and production value. He has channels for edited work and longer stream archives. Watching someone be unabashedly enthusiastic—performance or not—is wonderful. Each match has a story, and you feel the ebbs and flows much like a good episode of television.

Stick with the same creators for a while, and you start to learn the cast of characters they play with. In some cases, you watch less for the game and more for their interplay. I’m an avid Final Fantasy XIV player but have been playing less. I can still get my fix, plus fun chatter, by watching creators like DrakGamestein. Drak and his friends play through all sorts of content, but watching them work through Final Fantasy XIV’s high-level raids is fantastic. His team is skilled but not on the cutting edge of progression raiding, which gives videos a more casual feel than if you were watching day one diehards. Fights are edited to highlight witty banter and jokes. It allows me to enjoy my favorite game, even if I’ve sometimes politely bowed out early when I play for real.

It’s nice to return to an old habit I’d put aside for work. Binging games gave me a sense of escapism that eluded me, and watching YouTubers on my terms has reconnected me to something else I’d lost. I’ll find time tonight for the folks important to me, but I might steal an hour to watch things because it’s what I want to do. No more articles (excluding this one), no sniffing out stories. Just some good videos by charming folks.

Source: Kotaku.com

I Finally Understand The Appeal Of Escaping Into A Video Game To Cope With Stress

Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

For most of my life, I never quite understood escapism. I knew how powerful video games could be, how seductive and wonderful their worlds were, but I never quite understood the idea of wanting to melt through the screen and leave the real world behind. After I’ve had string of rotten luck and high stress, among the most intense in my life, that has changed. I get it now. I get why folks want to fade away into the digital and why it can be so tempting to lose yourself elsewhere.

For example, I recently got very sick, and during that time, I buoyed myself with Final Fantasy XIV’s latest expansion, “Shadowbringers.” My reward was an RPG campaign that was one of the best I’ve played in a long time. That was my first real taste of how powerful it was to push real-life worries away with a game.

Sure, at previous times in my life, I’ve done this type of thing in small bursts. Played Counter-Strike when I was mad. Played Total War or strategy games when I needed to think a little. Then, this past weekend, during one of the hottest heat waves in New York City history, my apartment became unlivable. Temperatures rose to heights of 97 and 98 degrees, and I had to stay elsewhere. When I arrived in temporary homes, there were games. Fire Emblem: Three Houses, with its tangled tactical webs and charming characters, greeted me side by side with the friends who took me in. And I felt it, truly felt it for the first time: that desire to melt into the screen and leave everything behind. Goodbye Brooklyn. Hello, Eorzea. Hello, Fódlan.

I’ve always thought of escapism as a dirty thing, even irresponsible, and in some ways, I still do. It’s a temporary band-aid on a problem. A way to ignore, to mitigate, and arguably defer responsible action. One more match, one more level. Anything to avoid reality. Yet, as my body truly and genuinely failed me, as I traveled from doctor to doctor and fled my home due to the high heat, escapism made more sense. Sometimes, things just fall apart, and one of the ways that people can deal with that is to put buffers between us and the bullshit. Fight a boss and actually achieve victory, command an army and actually have some sense of control. Video games can offer us a very particular solace when everything is crumbling: they make us feel like we have power again.

In becoming a teacher at the Garreg Mach monastery in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, I regained some sense of agency. Even in a simulated space, in a far distant and fake world, that is intoxicating. And that’s what escapism is: an affirmation that you can have control, that you do matter, and that with some effort and trust, there is a path forward.

Of course, you can go in too deep. You can lock yourself in your room, play games and never turn around from your monitor to get back to solving the real-world issues that inspired your retreat into games. You can wade through dialog trees with fake people instead of having necessary conversations with real folks. There is always such a thing as too much. That’s why I didn’t see the value of escapism before. But I think now I can understand the ways that it can be healthy, at least in the short term. Sometimes, shit goes bad. Sometimes your body breaks down, your house isn’t safe, your mood dips low, and everything seems murky. Fuck it, go run your farm in Stardew Valley. Beat up Nazis in Wolfenstein.

Just make sure to come back again, I guess. Complete the quest, slay the whatever, solve the puzzle. Then come back and solve what you gotta do here.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Strange Guilt Of Changing Jobs In An MMO

Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

As I continue to lose myself in the world of Final Fantasy XIV’s latest expansion, writing guides on how new folks can get started and fighting terrifying raid bosses, I’ve also taken the time to experiment with new jobs. I followed my co-worker Mike Fahey’s lead and started the new Dancer job. And oh my god, I think I might have to give up “maining” my other damage-dealing classes. Naturally, this has caused me a lot of unnecessary guilt.

The Dancer is a new job to “Shadowbringers,” Final Fantasy XIV’s latest expansion. It’s a damage-dealing class that can attack at range and buff teammates. While I play a healer primarily, I have another character for damage jobs. Recently, I leveled my character’s Samurai and Monk jobs to the max level of 80. Monk, frankly, needs fixes. It feels way too slow and lost a lot of fun abilities in “Shadowbringers” in an effort to streamline jobs. Samurai can do a ton of big, bursty damage attacks that I enjoy a lot, but it’s a selfish class. You set up, do your big attacks, and repeat. Enjoyable, but not too dynamic. Dancer is astounding by comparison. Your attacks have a random chance of triggering combo chains that can then trigger even more abilities. It’s reactive; you need to see what abilities “proc” and react accordingly. And you need to periodically play a sort of DDR mini-game to keep your buffs up.

Even playing Dancer at early levels, I’m fairly certain I want to make it my main damage-dealing class. I’ll probably make the swap without too much guilt, but there is guilt nevertheless. I play on a role-playing server, and my regular damage character is a Monk narratively. There’s a certain strange obligation to keep that class at a high level and keep their Samurai skills sharp. I’m also already at the max level for them. Do I really want to grind out Dancer to max, suffering through the randomly generated dungeons of Heaven on High in order to get fast experience? The last time I did that, I nearly died…although that was because I was apparently developing a lung infection without realizing it. Go figure.

So this is where I stand: Dancer is amazing. It’s possibly one of the most fun and valuable classes in Final Fantasy XIV at the moment. Every second with it is a delight, but swapping means repeating a grinding process I’ve done twice already and abandoning playstyles that I’ve grown skillful at. That’s daunting, but I need to give myself the advice I’d give any Kotaku reader: “Play what is most fun for you, Heather.”

So I guess we’re back at it again in the Crystarium.

[/backflips, knocks down the nearest weapon shop sign]

Source: Kotaku.com

Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers Log Four: Everything And Everyone Else

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.

Source: Kotaku.com

How To Get Into Final Fantasy XIV In 2019

As Final Fantasy XIV’s new expansion “Shadowbringers” hits, I’ve seen a lot of curiosity from co-workers and friends about how to get started with the game. With hours and hours of content, tons of jobs to choose from, and multiple places to hop in, it can seem daunting, but it’s still well worth the time. Here’s some advice for curious adventurers eager to start their adventures.

Final Fantasy XIV first launched in 2010 to a disastrous reception before being revamped into Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in 2013. It was an immediate improvement, bringing faster combat and a more focused storyline, and the three expansions that followed brought further refinement. The most recent of these, “Shadowbringers,” came out just last week, and there are often fun events that keep things fresh, from crossovers with other games to the sudden arrival of new job classes.

Why Play Now?

The story focuses on the player becoming the famous Warrior of Light and getting involved in political intrigue, massive wars, and grand cosmic struggles. The main campaign is a slow burn that builds to fantastic heights and features some of the most compelling villains and allies in all of the Final Fantasy games. The world of Eorzea is sprawling and gorgeous. There’s always the promise of a new, spectacular area on the horizon. The game’s rich lore makes it both exciting and comfortable to be in. You’ll find yourself completing tricky dungeons, fighting ancient gods, and clearing tough raids with up to 23 other strangers (or friends) depending on the circumstances. Square Enix also offers a variety of purchasable level and story content skips that allow you to decide when and how you jump in and how strong you’ll be.

The game’s large community, numbering 16 million registered players, welcomes all kinds. There are communities focused on fighting tough bosses and completing raids, communities for role playing and crafting player stories, and servers for different languages. No matter what you want to do, there are players who will eagerly help you along.

Buying The Game

If you’re curious about Final Fantasy XIV’s world and early combat experience but aren’t yet ready to buy it or pay the subscription fee, there is a free trial. You can only play up to level 35, but you can still sample the starting job classes and enjoy some of the story, dungeons, and boss fights. Be warned that the early portions of Final Fantasy XIV can feel slow, as the story takes a lot of time to acquaint the player with Eorzea’s various governments and major characters.

If you do buy the game, you have a few options. You can buy the starter edition for $19.99 and play the initial story. From there, you can use a cute little backend service called Mog Station to buy expansions. The first expansion, “Heavensward,” is a requirement for some higher-level job classes. It’s a good expansion which Square Enix sometimes offers for free. I suggest picking it up. If you’re in for the long haul, there is a complete edition for $59.99 that has the base game and all three expansions.

Most of these editions come with 30 days of free game time. Following that, you’ll need a subscription. The subscription is $12.99 per month, which can increase if you buy optional services like retainers who can hold your gear in storage. For some, that price commitment isn’t feasible, which is understandable. That said, I think Final Fantasy XIV is worth the cost. I’ve met some of the most important people in my life through Final Fantasy XIV, and it’s hard to put a price tag on that.

Choosing A Server

Each server is a little different, but the most important thing to know is that there are four data centers with individual servers that fall into certain time zones or playstyles. Severs on the same data centers can be traveled between using a new “World Visit” service that lets you explore beyond your home server as a sort of guest. Keep that in mind as you select a data center.

For North America, there are three data centers:

  • Aether: The most populated data center. Many of its worlds are “congested,” which means it isn’t always possible to make new characters. Aether’s popularity means you’ll find a little bit of everything. More raid content is cleared here than on the other servers. Really good for hardcore players.
  • Primal: Primal servers are generally laid back, though some are more hardcore than the others. It also boasts a server with some Brazillian players and Australians. You’ll find some memelords from 4chan here and there, but it’s not too prominent.
  • Crystal: Social players, crafters, and role players will be very comfortable here. While there are raiding teams, there are far less than in other servers. This is where you go if you want to tackle the game’s economy or build player-created stories. Some servers have a reputation for erotic role play (think: cybersex) but that largely happens behind closed doors and is nearly invisible for those not seeking it out.

In addition to the North American data center, there are the Japanese data centers: Gaia, Elemental, and Mana. Europe has two data centers: Chaos and Light. These data centers have some of the newest servers, which means you can get in on the bottom floor of new communities, but that also means things like player housing are limited for the moment.

Play With Friends

As with most MMORPGs, if you know people playing Final Fantasy XIV, it’s best to try to play with them. It will make the early experience easier, and even if you’re somehow not on the same server initially, it is possible to visit other servers on the same data center and transfer to them eventually.

This is my White Mage. She’s from a race called the Miqo’te, and a sub-culture called the Seekers of the Sun.

Creating A Character

This will seem more daunting than it actually is. Although each of the game’s eight starting races has different stats, it hardly matters unless you want to min-max to an extreme. Instead, choose what you think looks best or captures your inner adventurer. Each race has two different cultures to choose from, which have slightly different visual designs. Mess around in the creator and see what you like. Trust your gut; Final Fantasy XIV is also about being fashionable and cool-looking. Express yourself!

Nothing is set in stone. There are potions called Fantasia (sometimes given out for free and always purchasable in Mog Station) that let you change your character’s gender, race, and more later on. The only thing that is initially locked in place is your job.

When you choose a job, be aware that they begin in different starting cities. Archers, lancers, and conjurers—the only healing job initially available—start in the cozy forest city-state of Gridania. Thaumaturges, Pugilists, and Gladiators start in the seedy city of Ul’dah. Arcanists and Marauders start in the sea port of Limsa Lominsa. You’re stuck in these areas for a while, and although I recommend choosing the job you like over the city, but it’s still good information to have. Characters have no limit on how many job classes they can take, so it’s easy to dip your toes into the waters to find what you like. Don’t like a job? Just look up where to find a new one and give it a go!

Larryzaur is one of the most entertaining and informative FFXIV content creators out there. Here, he breaks down each class (minus Gunbreaker and Dancer.) Some of the information here is out of date, but this is still a good guide to the jobs.

Know Your Role

Final Fantasy XIV uses the “trinity” of tanks, healers, and damage dealers (aka DPS) for their jobs. Tanks draw enemy attention and guide the party’s progress in dungeons, healers keep everyone alive while tossing out some damage, and DPS mostly hit things with their weapons and sometimes buff the party. There are advanced job classes later on, such as the broody Dark Knight or high-damage-dealing Samurai, but here’s the breakdown for the initial jobs.

  • Tanks: Gladiators, Marauders
  • Healers: Conjurers
  • DPS: Arcanists, Archers, Lancers, Pugilists, Thaumaturge

These jobs eventually upgrade to better version. For instance, conjurers can become White Mages. There are also quest to unlock other jobs like Samurai, the fortune telling Astrologian, and new jobs like Gunbreaker and Dancer. Because you’re able to travel to all major cities after a little bit of story, I suggest experimenting with each starting job. Eventually you will find the one that suits your preferred play style.

Where To Start

With so much story and the ability to buy story-skipping items from the Mog Station, it can be hard to know where to start. You have a few options, each with pros and cons. Regardless of what you choose, I’ve written a handy section following this one that’ll help you get up to speed with the story.

Start From The Beginning: It’s a very good place to start. You’ll have a comfortable introduction to jobs and lore. The onboarding process isn’t too bad, and you’ll start with easier content that will help you learn the ins and outs of playing. This is also the cheapest option thanks to the free trial or lower-priced starter edition.

  • PROS: Comfortable introduction to Eorzea and the game’s many jobs. Less intense initial experience. Lower cost.
  • CONS: The story of A Realm Reborn starts slow and stays that way for a while. You really need to grind through to the end until things start to pop off. The dungeons and boss fights are also much less exciting than what comes after. Wait times for lower-level dungeons might be longer, as the majority of players are mid- to high level.

Start From “Heavensward”: Using a story skip and level boost, you can hop right into the game’s first expansion. This is where the story really starts to find itself, but you’ll lack some important context as a newbie. If you don’t want to press through the slower main story, this is an excellent place to start.

  • PROS: Exciting story with a lot of twists and turns. Jobs and quests are still low-level enough that it’s not too overwhelming. Gorgeous environments and music.
  • CONS: The learning curve will be steeper, and you might find it harder to jump into dungeons or other content. Lack of context prevents the story from hitting quite as hard.

Start From “Stormblood”: With some boosts and skip, you can leap over “Heavensward” and play “Stormblood.” The story is a bit more grounded, focusing on a gritty war between the good guys and the evil Garlean Empire. This is where you’ll get the most context for “Shadowbringers,” the most recent expansion. Attempting to start with higher-level content is a huge risk, though, and this might actually be the least interesting expansion.

  • PROS: Great way to quickly learn who the important characters are and learn the world’s current state of affairs. Dungeons and bosses will really test your skills.
  • CONS: Not really the best of the expansion stories. It will be really hard to leap right in without spending some time learning the job classes.

Start From “Shadowbringers”: It’s also possible to start right at the latest expansion, but without a lot of investment in the prior storylines, some of the magic will be lost. Also, it’s hard, and if you don’t know your job’s abilities, you will get your ass kicked.

  • PROS: Honestly? Don’t do this. You should definitely play it, but don’t start here.
  • CONS: See pros.

The Story Thus Far

Note: If you story skipped, you can watch the story by going to an inn and reading The Unending Journey in your room. It’s not everything you need to know, but you can jump to important scenes from each expansion to see what you missed. If you’re super interested in lore, there are two real-life books called the Encyclopedia Eorzea that outline the story and world history as well.

In A Realm Reborn, players mostly try to stop the rise of creatures called Primals, dangerous godlike entities summoned into the world. Joining up with the brave Scions of the Seventh Dawn, the player thwarts the Primals and learns that a shadowy group called the Ascians is causing everything. The evil Garlean Empire, led by General Gaius van Baelsar, revives an ancient super weapon called Ultima Weapon, which the player defeats. The rest of the story deals with beating up some Acians, a shadowy group causing most of the chaos, and ends with the player blamed for a major political assassination.

In “Heavensward,” players flee to the snowy nation of Ishgard and get embroiled in the scheming of various noble houses and the theocratic clergy. The Warrior of Light contends with the dangerous Archbishop Thordan, who wishes to become a powerful god-king. Thordan is defeated, but the dragon lord Nidhogg, whose kind is in a forever war with the nation of Ishgard, robs the player of their powers. After a quest to earn them back, Nidhogg is defeated in a super-sad but awesome boss fight. Meanwhile, a radical terrorist incites war between the Garlean Empire and the occupied nation of Ala Mhigo.

The war kicks off in “Stormblood.” The player clashes with the empire and face a stunning defeat against the emperor’s son Zenos yae Galvus. Scattered, they slowly build a coalition of rebels and resistance fighters who unite to drive the empire out of Ala Mhigo. We learn that the empire was founded by Ascians for the purpose of causing a world-shaking calamity. The war continues while the empire works to build a dangerous chemical weapon, and one by one, the Scions start to fall into comas as their souls are pulled to another world. The empire and the good guys face off in a huge battle, with each side ultimately falling back. The Warrior of Light nearly falls into a coma, and it’s clear that something else is threatening the world.

This all comes to a head in “Shadowbringers,” where the player is summoned into another world called the First. A massive imbalance of cosmic forces has created dangerous beats called Sin Eaters. This is, of course, an Ascian plot, and the player (along with the other Scions) set off to defeat powerful “Lightwardens” and return the world to normal.

Important Things To Know As A Newbie

  • First, there is a series of tutorial quests called the “Hall of the Novice,” which you can access to learn more about your job once you reach level 15. You’re also able to use a content-finding tool to play whatever dungeons you have unlocked. Playing lower dungeons is a great way to learn your job, especially if you level skipped.
  • When you do run a dungeon, let people know if it is your first time. Most players assume everyone knows the details,but let folks know you’re new and 99.9 percent of folks will walk you through what you need to know. Beyond this, consider watching dungeon and raid guides from YouTubers like MrHappy or MTQcapture. They’re brief and informative, telling you everything you need to know about whatever you are facing. Want to learn a fight and without having to chat? Check out their channels for whatever you need.
  • Know what quests to take. Quests that unlock new content have a blue icon and a little plus sign. These can unlock dungeons, raids, and other neat areas like super fun amusement park the Golden Saucer. Quests with an icon that looks like a flame are main story quests; run through these to level up and enjoy the narrative. Normal exclamation marks are side quests. For a breakdown of the HUD and other markers, consider this official FAQ.
  • To level up, run your daily roulettes. Your duty finder allows you to do “roulettes,” which select random dungeons, boss fights, raids, and more for you to complete. These grant more experience than normal and will help speed up your leveling considerably. You’ll also earn currencies that you can spend to get quality gear. Between this and the main story quests, progress is very easy.
  • If you’re interested in making items, know that there is a high barrier of entry to crafting. Unlike combat job classes, which you can jump into at higher levels via level skips, you have to start from scratch and build up as a crafter, no matter what level you start at. Buying materials is expensive, and you’ll really want to play as a gathering job like a miner or botanist to get what you need, but you’ll still have to trudge through the early stages of crafting. Reaching the levels required to make quality goods and make a huge profit takes a large time investment. Success as a crafter means taking on tons of jobs and leveling all of them in order to produce what you need. Just don’t be afraid to ask for some help.

Don’t Be Shy

Introduce yourself to people! Try new job classes and allow yourself to get swept away by the adventure. MMOPRGs are intimidating, but as long as you’re kind, you’ll receive kindness in return. Final Fantasy XIV offers spectacle, cool player events, tough boss fights, and more. Soak it all in and embrace the chance to really grow, not just as a Dragoon but as a person.

Source: Kotaku.com