It is not an exaggeration that Final Fantasy XIV has come a long way since its badly reviewed inception, when it opened its servers to the world back in 2010 with patch 1.0. Ever since a Realm Reborn was launched as patch 2.0, Square Enix has managed to perfect this game and each expansion, including the Shadowbringers expansion, each time. Each addition to this now extensive game continues to awe and impress. It seems that the preceding expansions, Heavensward and Stormblood, set the standard for grand storytelling and having an interesting cast of characters, but Shadowbringers takes the telling of a story to the next level.
For newcomers to the whole concept of MMOs, e.g. people who haven’t tried Final Fantasy XIV, it’s a great time to get started. You can start now and play all the story content from the original game to the end of Heavensward for free. This free trial version goes above and beyond what you would expect in a trial game, it includes leveling your characters to level 60 (the current max level is level 80) and being able to enjoy the story like everyone else who loves this game has done before you until Stormblood’s story. Unfortunately, with a free account, you can’t send messages or trade on the marketplace. (It’s a good thing too, because you don’t want to get overwhelmed with all the content. Plus for other players, we don’t want bots and scammers taking a hold in the game.)
For me, I don’t subscribe to the monthly subscription for the game. I just purchase the pre-paid 60 day cards and try to get as much done within the time allocated. Trust me, I only needed half that time, and I spent around 3 to 4 hours on average a day, to finish the whole main scenario quests from patch 5.0, which is when Shadowbringers starts, to patch 5.3. I have not been a fervent player, but getting back into the game after about two to three years later for 2 months was fantastic.
First things first, with Shadowbringers, I am amazed that you can experience an entire Final Fantasy game in just one expansion. The length of the main quest is about 40 to 50 hours. This is very comparable to other main line Final Fantasy titles. It’s almost like playing Final Fantasy X again with the same awe and constant fascination about what is happening on screen.
Shadowbringer’s story is strong. It introduces the notion of class warfare and struggle in a world that is slowly being engulfed by the light. With the scarcity of resources and an ever diminishing land to live, the people of this world need a savior. What makes the story excellent is that the characters are believable and the story telling, including its writing, is topnotch. Believe me, I really enjoyed reading and listening to the story elements. (I didn’t skip a scene. Side quests and side content was a different story.)
In this world, light is the enemy and dark is embraced as an ally. Your task as the Warrior of Darkness (instead of Warrior of Light) is to restore the night skies to the First (this alternate world is literally called the ‘First’). While the initial story moments may seem confusing, you have a trusty guide in the Crystal Exarch who you first meet at the Crystarium and is your guide for most of the story lore.
The story of Shadowbringers is easy to pick up, even though there are a cast of characters like Alphinaud, Alisaie, Urianger, Thancred and Y’shtola were introduced in the base game. There are cast of allies and villians who are introduced in this expansion that are the main focus of the story. Each character plays an important part and often appear in more than one scene. Final Fantasy XIV does a stella job with its character building. The mysterious Minfilia of the First, the powerful Ran’jit and the loathsome Lord Vaultry. Even the couple Chai-Nuzz and Dulia-Chai are a joy to watch and add some of the lighter moments to the story.
Some of the fights with Ran’jit are tough. They didn’t make him look formidable for nothing. He is no joke of an opponent. In total, you fight him about four times, with the first three times being fights where he will come out on top one way or another. (Move aside Lu Bu.)
The story takes you to various beautiful locales from a green plain that the pixies reside, an enchanted forest where the Viera live to a long forgotten recreation of an Ascian city.
You should take the time to soak in the sights. There are a lot of really nice visuals to screenshot and share. The world of the First is vast and if you can, you should make a goal to uncover all the Aether Currents in each zone, whether by visiting a current in the field or completing specially marked quests. It is much easier getting around by flying. By doing this, you are likely to get a good understanding of the zone’s layout.
All main scenario quests are locked behind a level lock, meaning that you can’t progress the story unless you reach a certain level. This can be frustrating when you just want to keep going with the story content. Unfortunately, I had a few moments where I needed to level grind to the next level before I could accept the next quest. I recommend taking advantage of the Challenge Log and the Duty Roulette to earn some bonus experience. (I find it frustrating when I am in the middle of something like a FATE when the pop-up appears to say that my Duty is ready…)
The Shadowbringers’ story picks up just after two thirds of the way through when you reach level 76. After beating a number of the Light Wardens plaguing the various lands of the First, things will start to unravel before your character’s eyes. The truth may or may not shock you. So pay attention to the story. (Unless you watch too many movies and one of your wild guesses happens to be right.)
The boss to the end of Shadowbringers is menacing and will require some skill and patience. But it is a farcry from some of the difficult raid content in the base game. I say, enjoy the final boss, its theme song and the cutscenes. There is some finality when you beat the final boss, but there is still more unfinished business.
You aren’t truly through the Shadowbringers content until you reach the end of all the patch 5.3 main scenario quests. By the end of the game, you will be well set-up for the next expansion. You know there will be another expansion. A fallen foe makes their returns and it is all speculation on what will happen next.
If time permits, I think Shadowbringers extra content, the raids missions involving Eden (from Final Fantasy VIII) and FFXIV’s excellent rendition of Force Your Way (probably one of the best boss tracks in Final Fantasy, thanks to Uematsu Nobuo) and the 24 man raid that collaboration with Nier: Automata are excellent and heaps of fun. With the Nier raids, I noticed my computer was struggling with some of the 24 main raid content, because literally everyone was lobbing level 80 skills, which are all flashy and explody, and can be overwhelming for a computer to process. (It’s more my problem, than the game’s problem.)
I have played World of Warcraft, Guild Wars and a host of other MMOs, Final Fantasy XIV easily knocks it out of the park with an excellent story, beautiful visuals, masterful soundtracks and a vibrant community. I recommend playing with friends to make the journey easier and memorable, however you will need to decide who is the tank, the healer and the two DPSs are.
If you can, I highly recommend getting into Final Fantasy XIV if you are a Final Fantasy fan. You’ll definitely enjoy it. And it will help get you hyped for Final Fantasy XVI, because this game’s director, Naoki Yoshida, and main music director, Soken Masayoshi, will be on board for the sixteenth main line game. You can read more about Final Fantasy XVI by clicking here.
If you need some inspiration about whether this is suitable for a father and son, you can also watch the Netflix series, Dad of Light, which is based on a son wanting to connect with his dad by playing Final Fantasy XIV. The show uses actual footage and sounds from Final Fantasy XIV.
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