Shadowbringers: The Best Final Fantasy Game In Ages (And Possibly… Ever)
It’s a tale as old as tales themselves.
The Warrior of Light quests across the realm to vanquish the Darkness that has overtaken the people. Good triumphs over evil, and the hero/heroine rides off into the Sunset having done their good deeds for this adventure.
Except… it’s not. It’s a world where Light is over-taking, and the sinners are the survivors. It’s a world where the overall story culminates with Light and Darkness melding into a gray moral ambiguity. It’s a story where the player asks themselves at the end, “Was that really the right thing?”
Shadowbringers is the third full expansion of the Final Fantasy XIV series – a series which has brought itself from the brink of defeat – a fitting origin story for a game which focuses on storytelling and world-building. What was once a disaster of epic proportions is now poised to overtake World of Warcraft as the number one MMO on the market.
I finished up the main story quest (MSQ) and leveled my character (an Astrologian) to level 80 over the past few days during the Early Access period for Shadowbringers. I’ve brought the story to its epic close (no spoilers here, don’t worry), unlocked the two Ex dungeons, and am currently leveling my second class to 80 – the new Dancer class.
Let’s get one thing out of the way, first thing: Shadowbringers has THE best story of any of the Final Fantasy XIV expansions. Heavensward was a hard beast to top, and Stormblood (while great) just didn’t have the punch that was expected. But the FFXIV team came out full-throttle with this expansion. Every little detail seemed to come right into place, even as the player transitioned into this upside-down “light-is-bad-darkness-is-good” world.
The story is powerful, and touches on a lot of themes (wealth vs. want, moral ambiguity, and even sacrifice). The ending of the main story quests actually had me wondering if I’d done the right thing, even if only for a split second, and has me very excited for the next bits to come.
One thing I do appreciate is that quests (even mundane ‘fetch quests’) serve to build the lore of the world in new and exciting ways. I didn’t feel like I was doing ‘chores’: I was actively helping in the efforts to keep the peace.
MMOs have a problem sometimes with the ‘casting’ of characters – NPCs can be forgettable and one-dimensional if the writing isn’t carried through properly. But from the first moment you step into the first town, you meet characters that are deep, emotional, and worth ‘getting to know’.
Trusts, the new dungeon system, explore this further by allowing you to take these characters into the dungeons with you. It allows you to hear conversations, insights, and other little musings from them you wouldn’t get to hear outside of the thrill of battle.
Oh, man. Where to begin. Masayoshi Soken has outdone himself. Every note, every phrase, every song has been meticulously crafted for the area in which it is featured. The boss battle theme is striking in and of itself, but every track is solid and stands alone as a masterpiece of music.
Please, PLEASE go play Shadowbringers. If you aren’t currently playing, I can get you some bonus swag for trying it out – there’s a free trial (and you can carry everything over from it): Head over to https://sqex.to/CLp and then use the code CYEPVE9N in the Mog-Station once you’ve started).
If you are looking to get into a great MMO, then Final Fantasy XIV is for you. If you are looking for an amazing story and great visuals/audio, then Final Fantasy XIV is DEFINITELY for you.