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 few protagonist who’s been left adrift and has to come back to phrases with their identification alongside long-time companions in opposition to the backdrop of a dying world. This harkens again to the type 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 will be exhausting 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 incredible 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, nevertheless, that individual nest of vipers is upended by the use of a compelled jaunt by 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 ingredient that you’ve got chivalrously championed all of your life. Like any erstwhile hero going through the unknown, your job initially is to seek for some readability and a method to save your folks again dwelling 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 typical non-verbal appeal will get you nowhere.The kicker is that any point out of the Light will make you public enemy primary; it is rampaging by the land and leaving demise and destruction in its wake. You’re unmoored and nearly 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 usually really feel like slipping right into a pair of worn footwear which have stood the check 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 method by doing the narrative equal of taking these footwear off your toes and getting somebody to beat you with them. The answer it provides in its opening minutes is easy: Set apart every little thing you understand and develop into the Warrior of Darkness.In observe, that is tougher than it sounds. Norvrandt is dwelling to all method of risks, and probably the most insidious aren’t those that come at you with sharp tooth and sharper claws. There’s a seething undercurrent of wrongness that permeates every little thing, as stunning as the plush forests and the huge, open fields of this realm could also be. These sentiments are felt all through the design of Shadowbringers’ new places 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 instances lengthy destroyed by the Light, to call a couple of. Each new atmosphere is twisted violently ultimately, 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 major story quests ferry you from location to location at a good 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 dwell and die on the Warrior of Darkness’ shoulders alone, and a big a part of the narrative is definitely dedicated to fleshing out well-liked supporting characters from Final Fantasy XIV canon. You’re not the one one who’s needed to make some troublesome changes, and Shadowbringers would not shrink back from robust questions on sacrifice, honor, and obligation (or their more durable solutions).The dungeons and trials are a superb method for Shadowbringers to hammer these factors dwelling, and to cope with essential narrative beats. It’s a credit score to the sport’s growth workforce that the dungeons are way more than only a means to maintain you occupied or to offer you sufficient expertise to maneuver on to the subsequent massive factor on the 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 castles combating 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 ambiance to underscore the urgency of your character’s mission. Every new encounter of this style drives the Warrior of Darkness nearer to their purpose of restoring steadiness to the world, whether or not it is driving a sword by 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 principle 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 instantly within the footwear of those supporting characters, and enjoying 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 circumstances, optionally available quests that share a standard thread can generally be unfold out throughout completely different places on a map and are not signposted any in another way from unrelated ones. This could make you are feeling like you’ll want to slog by each mundane errand within the hopes of discovering a diamond. Luckily, these cases are few and much between; similar to its predecessor, Shadowbringers brings to life a variety of humanizing tales by its facet quests and manages to make you care in regards to the day-to-day lives of recent characters who initially don’t have anything however scorn for what you stand for.It’s not solely about capitalizing on identified components, although. The enlargement introduces loads of unfamiliar delights to sink your tooth into–the Trust system is probably crucial addition for accessibility that Final Fantasy XIV has seen since its rebirth. It permits gamers to take a fully-formed social gathering of NPCs from the principle story quests into dungeons with them, eliminating the necessity to wait 20 minutes within the queue for those who have been attempting to undergo matchmaking. This is the right answer for gamers who do not wish to play with strangers and ensures that nobody is gated from progressing within the story simply because they could have to attend an inordinate period of time to seek out the mandatory social gathering. 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 nice 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 anticipate, 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, suited to an off-tank position that trades in axes and greatswords for one thing rather less conventional. Dancer’s major focus aside from wanting completely enchanting in fight is to offer buffs for social gathering 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 a little bit 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 a little bit antithetical to the tanking philosophy imbued inside the different position choices, the place the thematic deal with survivability and safety is way clearer. Healers particularly 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 exhausting to grasp because it takes a higher-risk method to placing your life on the road on your social gathering members and likewise requires these partied with you to be accustomed to your new methods.Dancer, for all of its magnificence, at the moment lacks some hearth within the injury division. You need to 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 expertise. Pulling off an ideal efficiency will buff the Dancer’s DPS general, and the important thing to doing injury is thru sleek transfer mixtures that finally allow you to unleash AOE assaults upon unsuspecting foes. The energy of Dancer shines by in extended encounters the place their lethal chakram slice and cube at enemies, giving them the prospect to make use of expertise 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 a little bit extra frumpy than flamenco, particularly within the majority of the sport’s legacy content material the place respiratory on one thing is nearly as good as a killing blow.Both lessons have a definite identification, although the streamlining of the opposite jobs has muddied the waters a little bit in respect of the prevailing lessons having fun with the identical individualism. You used to have to select up quests particularly on your chosen job to study new expertise. Now, Shadowbringers has changed these with position quests for DPS, tanks, and healers, and these exist principally to offer expertise and to additional the general narrative than to enhance any present 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 get rid of them completely looks like a waste. Role actions even have been additional simplified, with adjustments to tanking and therapeutic particularly eradicating some bloat but in addition 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 adjustments to the participant expertise are nonetheless inflicting a little bit discomfort throughout this teething section, however Shadowbringers makes a robust case for itself as the sport’s most participating enlargement. It’s not simply the sheer scale and energy 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 prospect to actually really feel the influence of the Warrior of Light’s choices over the previous expansions by 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 largest and the very best that Final Fantasy XIV has ever instructed. Equal elements redemption, vengeance, cruelty, and sassy Elezen, Shadowbringers guarantees a hell of rather a lot if you take your first steps into Norvrandt and delivers a very spectacular end even when it stumbles a little bit alongside the way in which.