Final Fantasy is arguably one of the worlds most popular video game series of all time. Dating back to 1987, its simple original game grew into a pop culture phenomenon, selling 144 million games worldwide, whilst still releasing its own set of sequels, remakes, spin-offs, movies, music, artwork – you name it, Final Fantasy has found a way to breach into it and make it its own.
In 2010, Square Enix dove into the real of MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game) by releasing the original Final Fantasy XIV. It received overwhelming negative reviews, and as such, a a brand new game would be built. Thus, the new and improved Final Fantasy XIV was born! As of 2019, the new Final Fantasy XIV has a registered total of 16 million players!
A good reasoning for the growing fan base is the element of expansion packs. Yes, those good old sequel style games that were made most popular in the 90s are now most well known for MMORPG games (see World of Warcraft). Final Fantasy XIV is no different, we three expansion packs now released: Heavensward (released June 23, 2015), Stormblood (released June 20, 2017) and now Shadowbringers!
Without further wait, let’s dive in!
The story of Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers sets you off on a journey into a new world: The First. You find a mysterious object and an unknown voice beckons you for aid. After waking up in a new area (Novrandt), you eventually arrive at The Crystarium: a stunning new city, with a huge Crystal structure.
As the city guards question who you are, the owner of the unknown voice appears, calling itself The Crystal Exarch. He reveals that the region is suffering from Everlasting Light, and periodically light-based enemies (Sin Eaters) appear, who’s primal objective is to eradicate all life. Upon meeting a swell of new characters, you retire to your room, only to be greeted by someone known as the ‘Warrior of Darkness”…
GAMEPLAY + CONTROLS
Loading up Final Fantasy XIV for the first time gives a warm, familiar feeling to resident players of the MMORPG. You are greeted with an introductory cut-scene (which is mind blowing!), setting up the story of Final Fantasy XIV. After regaining your real life bearings, because you will forget where you are after watching such an immersive intro video, you are taken to the character creation screen. This is a normality for the MMORPG series, but what Final Fantasy XIV does different is just how much depth it has into creating a character. Gone are the days of limited choices of picking a race, character skin tone, possibly a beard and an attack-based class. With Final Fantasy XIV, you can customize it to a degree never before seen in an MMORPG. The amount of options available really make it feel, arguably for the first time, that you really are playing as someone YOU have made!
Initially, the HUD (heads up display) of the Final Fantasy XIV screen can feel a tad overwhelming upon start. There are a lot of buttons, menus, options and notifications that spam you, to an extent, upon but all of them are helpful. The game does a fantastic job of actually guiding you through the in-game world, updating you upon every new move learnt, character met and story development unfolded.
The story-line information and world descriptions are very text heavy, but that’s to be expected with Final Fantasy. The depth that this game has striven to, comparatively to both its original game and rival MMORPGS on the market really is second to none! Much like the introduction video, you will find yourself completely immersed in this world.
The hustle and bustle of a city, known in-game as a Sanctuary, helps to establish the game’s world so much more than any other game I’ve played. NPCs interact with one another, city dwellers go about their daily routines, all the while you stride in and out of their hometown, making your own mark on the world.
The actions, attacks and movement controls on PS4 are very well laid out, thankfully nothing un-natural like forcing you to hold ¾ of the right side of the controller, whilst you press up. But once more, Final Fantasy XIV will guide you with these every step of the way.
Shadowbringers adds into the world of Final Fantasy XIV with this debut of a large variety of new gameplay features:
- NEW JOBS (aka Class) – Gunbreaker (which is Tank-based role)and Dancer (a range DPS role).
- Fans of Final Fantasy VIII will be excited to see the return of the ‘Gunblade’ in the Gunbreaker job, a weapon that was made famous by that game’s protagonist Squall.
- NEW RACES – Viera (Female gender only) & Hrothgar (Male gender only).
- Fans of Final Fantasy X will be familiar with the Hrothgar race, which was made famous by Ronso.
- Level cap increase to 80
- NPC Trust system: Fight alongside in-game NPCs
- New Game+: Replay through the Final Fantasy XIV main storyline
- World Visit System: Travel to other servers on the same data center
- Battle System Revamp: TP (tactical points) & MP (magical points) are now combined.
- 9 New Dungeons
- 2 New Raids
- 7 New Areas
- 3 New Beast Tribes
Out of the initial 29 jobs on offer (21 provided with basic game, with Heavensward expansion bringing in Dark Knight, Astrologian & Machinist, and the Stormblood expansion bringing in Samurai & Red Mage) Shadowbringers sees the debut of the previously mentioned above jobs of Gunbreaker and Dancer.
Gunbreaker is a new tank based role, meaning that you will be on the front-line, literally in front of the enemies, leading the charge. Besides hammering against monsters to your best intent, the Tank is also in-charge of generating Enmity (for fans of MMORPGs, this is commonly referred to as ‘aggro’). Enmity is an in-game threat / hate level system, which draws NPC enemies & monsters to you. A good portion of the Gunbreakers attacks generate Enmity, keeping the focus on them and thereby saving the lives of the other, possibly weaker armored members of the group (mainly Healer / DPS based jobs, such as the new Dancer job).
Dancers are a new ranged DPS job, meaning that they throw their in-game weapons towards their targets, hitting them from range. Don’t let the Job title sway you, as these guys can really be your best ally or a menace of an enemy. Their role is a hybrid of both attack and support, but each ‘attack move’ being a new step in a dance. It’s quite remarkable to see this job play out on screen, especially once their ability, ‘Espirit’, has been activated causing a buff (boost) to their damage.
For this review I played under the Machinist job, another ranged DPS role. Although not as extravagant and flashy as the Dancer job, Machinist still leave an impact using guns as their main weapon, and turrets as a create-able battle ally. All battle animations are so viciously wild and creative, that attacking enemies almost feels like a movie within itself!
Though most of the features listed above may seem like the ‘common’ additional items one finds in expansion packs, the stand out feature of Stormbringers could arguably be that of the Trust System feature. It’s cleverness lies not only in its mechanics, which ill get into in a moment, but it allows players to have a more story-based approach to these dungeons. Whenever a player (aka you) wants to play a dungeon, the case usually is that you are grouped up (if you aren’t already) with other random online players, and thrust into the dungeon and immediately start. If you are riding solo, then you are placed into a ‘queue’, whereby random other players will be selected to join you, the downside being there is an unknown amount of waiting time before your group gets full.
With the Trust System, you can now choose to have your entire group consist of you and NPCs. This eliminates the ‘waiting for others’ queue sequence, which is arguably the most tiresome feature of all MMORPGs. In the previous Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood expansion pack, you had the chance to fight alongside NPCs in both story missions and taking bit parts in dungeons. Stormbringers takes that concept and makes it their own, by having the NPCs now be able to run FULL dungeons alongside you, commenting on the world, enemies, situations and overall story-driven arch that got you to the dungeon in the first place.
Once more, the depth here is incredible. Each character really has been given that attention to detail, making it feel like you are genuinely doing battle alongside that character, rather than in some other MMORPGs, whereby you have some in-apt NPC filling your screen with lifeless dialogue.
GRAPHICS + SOUND
Knowing full well that the first two words of this game are ‘Final Fantasy’, you can expect the same flawless cinematic cut-scenes, beautifully rendered characters, amazing in-depth world and outstanding soundtrack.
Well, this time you’d be wrong… Kidding!
As is to what has become the somewhat exceptional normality for the Final Fantasy franchise, the game does deliver on all things listed above. Stormbringers brings about the debut of two new fascinating worlds: Il Mheg (The realm of Pixies) & the Rak’Tika Greatwood (Lumbering blue crystal infused trees surround this majestic hidden forest) both of which just ooze beauty. Il Mheg is a bright, colorful world that is just a treat to even walk through.
You’ll find yourself spending time literally just looking around, because its just that immense of detail. It can arguably be said that other gaming franchises will never be able to match the quality of Final Fantasy’s graphical department: Everything graphically and artistically in this game has a purpose, a lore and immense attention to detail. Even for an MMORPG, Final Fantasy XIV cannot be touched by its competition in this department.
Another strong suit for the Final Fantasy franchise is its audio department. Even from the first ever Final Fantasy game, the soundtrack has always excelled to the point of disbelief: How are these miraculous and beautifully written songs in a game?! Their perfectly crafted, orchestral-based music compliment the visual cinematics and in-game moments, helping to both set the tone and compliment the action on screen. Final Fantasy musical mastermind Nobuo Uematsu returns, alongside Masayoshi Soken (who had worked on the original Final Fantasy XIV) & Naoshi Mizuta (who has worked on Final Fantasy XI & Final Fantasy XIII-2) to produce some of the most amazing audio ever heard in a game.
If you are yet to play this game, then do not hesitate any longer! Final Fantasy XIV: Stormbringers brings upon a massive, immersive update to the game. It’s story is incredibly well written, the characters are overwhelming memorable, locations gorgeous and you will be locked into this wonderful world all over again.
- Amazingly detailed graphics
- Deep, immersive storyline
- Beautiful orchestral music
- Very high replay value
- New Races and Jobs make for a whole new approach to the game
- Overall timing of NPC-grouped dungeons will be long
- For new players: initial HUD is a bit overwhelming at first