Whereas earlier Final Fantasy XIV expansions grappled with broad-brush ideas in corruption, faith, and imperialism, the trail you tread in Shadowbringers is a distinctly private affair. The central conceit is the battle between good and evil, and between the twin ideas of Light and Dark, however at its core is a narrative a couple of protagonist who’s been left adrift and has to come back to phrases with their id alongside long-time companions in opposition to the backdrop of a dying world. This harkens again to the kind of character therapy that the non-MMO Final Fantasy video games have prided themselves on for many years, however even with the acquainted subject material, the journey right here feels distinctly forward-looking. The query for lots of followers was whether or not the longevity of the sport post-Stormblood would final. When you roll the credit on Shadowbringers, it’s going to be onerous to check a world the place the reply to that’s something aside from a convincing “yes”.Shadowbringers hinges on a revelation. The quests between Stormblood and the brand new content material do an awesome job of laying down a story basis rife with inter-faction politics, intrigue, and shadowy figures pulling strings with hidden penalties. As the brand new enlargement opens, nonetheless, that exact nest of vipers is upended by means of a compelled jaunt by means of time and house. What begins as a quest to save lots of your folks takes a life-altering flip; you are thrown into the center of a battle between Light and Dark that strikes on the core of the hero mythos that the sport has constructed round your character since A Realm Reborn.As the Warrior of Light, you are tossed relatively unceremoniously into the realm of Norvrandt: a world ravaged by the very aspect that you’ve got chivalrously championed all of your life. Like any erstwhile hero dealing with the unknown, your job initially is to seek for some readability and a strategy to save your folks again residence from everlasting slumber. It quickly turns into very clear that your spectacular deeds in Eorzea imply subsequent to nothing right here. No one is aware of of your earlier accomplishments, there is a distinct mistrust from the locals, and your regular non-verbal allure will get you nowhere.The kicker is that any point out of the Light will make you public enemy primary; it is rampaging by means of the land and leaving loss of life and destruction in its wake. You’re unmoored and pretty much as good as stranded in an unfamiliar world the place your values and beliefs might get you killed. Starting a brand new MMORPG enlargement can typically really feel like slipping right into a pair of worn sneakers which have stood the take a look at of time; there is a sure sense of safety afforded to you due to your established Chosen One standing. With the story’s rocky begin, Shadowbringers takes a decidedly discomforting strategy by doing the narrative equal of taking these sneakers off your ft and getting somebody to beat you with them. The resolution it affords in its opening minutes is easy: Set apart the whole lot you recognize and change into the Warrior of Darkness.In apply, that is tougher than it sounds. Norvrandt is residence to all method of risks, and probably the most insidious aren’t those that come at you with sharp enamel and sharper claws. There’s a seething undercurrent of wrongness that permeates the whole lot, as lovely as the plush forests and the large, open fields of this realm could also be. These sentiments are felt all through the design of Shadowbringers’ new areas and dungeons: the debaucherous Eulmore the place the wealthy are willfully ignorant to the struggling of others, the deceivingly harmful riot of fae and fancy of Il Mheg, and the apocalyptic wastelands of occasions lengthy destroyed by the Light, to call a number of. Each new atmosphere is twisted violently indirectly, whether or not it is the presence of monstrous enemies or the merciless ways in which its inhabitants have chosen to eke out a residing.The important story quests ferry you from location to location at an honest clip, although ample time is dedicated to you experiencing the horrors that the Light has wrought in regards to the realm. Having to return to what feels just like the equal of Hero School affords you some respiratory room; it is clear that the enlargement wasn’t going to stay and die on the Warrior of Darkness’ shoulders alone, and a big a part of the narrative is definitely dedicated to fleshing out widespread supporting characters from Final Fantasy XIV canon. You’re not the one one who’s needed to make some troublesome changes, and Shadowbringers does not shrink back from powerful questions on sacrifice, honor, and responsibility (or their harder solutions).The dungeons and trials are a wonderful manner for Shadowbringers to hammer these factors residence, and to cope with vital narrative beats. It’s a credit score to the sport’s improvement crew that the dungeons are far more than only a means to maintain you occupied or to present you sufficient expertise to maneuver on to the following massive factor on this planet. They operate like little pockets of perception into the decayed state of Norvrandt, full with harrowing bosses and crumbling ruins. These dungeons see you racing by means of castles preventing seraphim and diving into fae realms making determined pacts to safe your future. And all of it performs out to a distinctly operatic soundtrack that leans closely into dramatic strings and fashionable vocal frills, creating an ideal environment to underscore the urgency of your character’s mission. Every new encounter of this vogue drives the Warrior of Darkness nearer to their aim of restoring stability to the world, whether or not it is driving a sword by means of the center of a buddy now-twisted by Light or unearthing the origins and primal motivations for this battle. Dungeons have at all times been part of the primary story’s necessities in Final Fantasy XIV, however right here they really feel simply as essential to your enjoyment and understanding of the story as the brand new quests do.Quests place you straight within the sneakers of those supporting characters, and taking part in as them is each a welcome change of tempo and an opportunity for newer gamers to deepen their understanding of the sport’s lore. That being mentioned, not all quests are made equal, and there are some complicated mechanical choices that will frustrate. For instance, the tip of the enlargement requires a participant to have accomplished a max-level quest earlier than selecting up a lower-level one to progress to the grand finale. In different instances, optionally available quests that share a standard thread can generally be unfold out throughout completely different areas on a map and are not signposted any otherwise from unrelated ones. This could make you’re feeling like that you must slog by means of each mundane errand within the hopes of discovering a diamond. Luckily, these situations are few and much between; similar to its predecessor, Shadowbringers brings to life a lot of humanizing tales by means of its aspect quests and manages to make you care in regards to the day-to-day lives of latest characters who initially don’t have anything however scorn for what you stand for.It’s not solely about capitalizing on identified elements, although. The enlargement introduces loads of unfamiliar delights to sink your enamel into–the Trust system is maybe an important addition for accessibility that Final Fantasy XIV has seen since its rebirth. It permits gamers to take a fully-formed get together of NPCs from the primary story quests into dungeons with them, eliminating the necessity to wait 20 minutes within the queue should you have been attempting to undergo matchmaking. This is the proper resolution for gamers who do not need to play with strangers and ensures that nobody is gated from progressing within the story simply because they might have to attend an inordinate period of time to seek out the required get together. These NPCs are drawn from a pool of the acquainted faces of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn and from some noteworthy new acquaintances, so utilizing them within the Trust system is a pleasing nod to the worth that the Shadowbringers narrative locations on friendship and sticking collectively within the face of adversity.On the matter of the brand new lessons and races apart, servers are at the moment teeming with Viera and Hrothgar avatars able to tackle the world. While the brand new race fashions look as spectacular in movement as one would count on, the Gunbreaker and Dancer lessons are nonetheless a relative unknown that gamers are puzzling out at this early stage in Shadowbringers’ life cycle. Gunbreaker packs a hell of a punch as a high-damage job, fitted to an off-tank position that trades in axes and greatswords for one thing rather less conventional. Dancer’s major focus aside from trying completely enchanting in fight is to offer buffs for get together members, and it seems to be attempting to fill the utility ranged DPS position beforehand occupied by Bards who’ve now had their party-wide buffs eliminated.Gunbreaker at the moment feels somewhat an excessive amount of prefer it was initially meant to be a DPS class. It does a ridiculous quantity of harm, managing to carry its personal in opposition to the likes of Black Mage and Samurai. This appears somewhat antithetical to the tanking philosophy imbued throughout the different position choices, the place the thematic deal with survivability and safety is far clearer. Healers specifically should get used to managing cooldowns round Superbolide, one of many key Gunbreaker skills that reduces their HP to 1 while stopping additional deadly injury. Playing as a gun-wielding tank is novel however onerous to grasp because it takes a higher-risk strategy to placing your life on the road to your get together members and in addition requires these partied with you to be conversant in your new methods.Dancer, for all of its magnificence, at the moment lacks some hearth within the injury division. You must handle two class-specific stances–Technical Step and Standard Step–each with its personal set of strikes to grasp. You even have entry to Closed Position, which helps you to select a dance companion to profit out of your buffs and your abilities. Pulling off an ideal efficiency will buff the Dancer’s DPS general, and the important thing to doing injury is thru swish transfer combos that finally allow you to unleash AOE assaults upon unsuspecting foes. The power of Dancer shines by means of in extended encounters the place their lethal chakram slice and cube at enemies, giving them the possibility to make use of abilities from each stances for a big payoff. That being mentioned, establishing these balletic massacres takes time; with out sufficient respiratory room to carry out a routine, the Dancer can really feel somewhat extra frumpy than flamenco, particularly within the majority of the sport’s legacy content material the place respiratory on one thing is pretty much as good as a killing blow.Both lessons have a definite id, although the streamlining of the opposite jobs has muddied the waters somewhat in respect of the present lessons having fun with the identical individualism. You used to have to select up quests particularly to your chosen job to be taught new abilities. Now, Shadowbringers has changed these with position quests for DPS, tanks, and healers, and these exist largely to offer expertise and to additional the general narrative than to enhance any current affinity together with your character’s chosen occupation. While some job questlines have been extra concerned than others (Stormblood launched a very heartfelt Samurai one), to dispose of them totally looks like a waste. Role actions even have been additional simplified, with modifications to tanking and therapeutic specifically eradicating some bloat but additionally making them extra homogenous. While this makes it simpler for newcomers to plug and play, it feels prefer it’s come at the price of the distinctive class identities which previous expansions have been so cautious to domesticate.Some of its modifications to the participant expertise are nonetheless inflicting somewhat discomfort throughout this teething part, however Shadowbringers makes a powerful case for itself as the sport’s most partaking enlargement. It’s not simply the sheer scale and power of the narrative weaving in years of outdated lore with out cheapening the expertise for brand spanking new gamers, or the immaculately designed boss fights replete with spectacular music and thematic touches. It’s additionally the implementation of the Trust system and the possibility to really really feel the affect of the Warrior of Light’s choices over the previous expansions by means of exploring the tales of your companions. For a narrative that begins with a laser focus in your character’s motivations and misgivings, it tells a story that finally ends up being the most important and the most effective that Final Fantasy XIV has ever instructed. Equal elements redemption, vengeance, cruelty, and sassy Elezen, Shadowbringers guarantees a hell of loads whenever you take your first steps into Norvrandt and delivers a really spectacular end even when it stumbles somewhat alongside the best way.