Yesterday I finished the Main Story Quest for Stormblood expansion – the major part with credits and stuff, completed Dragoon quests until 70 and unlocked all flights in all expansion zones – that is, exploration. Patch stories to go yet, I have something to share.
First of all, I liked the story more than Heavensward. Mainly because Heavensward was experimental in motives – I dwelled on this before. Surely the Dragon War in Ishgard was logical and motivated, but this quick change of mind of the whole dragon race was not. They remember everything, they were all offended and enraged by human treachery in the days of yore, and yet the expansion made it seem like it was only Nidhogg’s rage that fueled this war on the dragon side. The whole thing was rich with twists and turns, and most epic moments, but this drawback is something that still itches me.
Stormblood is much better in motives: it’s a simple story of evil empire/lovable rebels which worked perfectly. Characters, heroes and villains, were written perfectly: the gruffy but good-hearted rebel leader Conrad, an excellent Lord Hien, the whole bulk of Steppe nomads, Lyse’s personal journey, all the minor characters, and of course villains – troubled and cruel Yotsuyu, hilarious Grynewaht, fierce, mentally scarred Fordola, and of course, the local Arthas/Vader Zenos yae Galvus who definitely took some inspiration from those two, but managed to shape his own distinctive path in villainy (and insanity) not to be mixed with them.
All in all, you totally believe every minor and major character in the story, and understand, if not support, why all of them are behaving like this, how their mind and perception bends according to the happening events, and that’s what makes the story so interesting to follow, and that’s what makes it a good writing. Seriously, I have nowhere to poke the writers no matter how hard I would try here.
Plotwise, after an initiate and unexpected disaster when the major rebel base was razed to the ground by the Empire, it develops in a pretty standard way. We come, we prepare a rebellion, convincing local people to join it, and then perform a continent-wide series of gradual attacks on Empire’s strongholds and finishing with the main castle, chasing the big bad into a corner. Rinse, repeat on two continents, two parts of the world. It is so simple and traditional that it works very well, and here’s the proof that you don’t have to be too creative when it comes to basic story plots, because they work.
We always knew the Empire is evil, met them before, met dozens of Empires in other media which proclaim “order” values to cover and justify their oppression/occupation regime. And yet we get to see enough episodes of their behaviour in person to stay motivated and fight not just because we’re told to, but because we care for the oppressed and the atrocities they encounter.
Well, I could go on and on, but you get the idea: Stormblood main story was epic, motivated and shines as one of the greatest examples in media about how story and characters should be properly written and done.
Zones are a certain improvement from Heavensward (which in turn was also an improvement from A Realm Reborn areas), but alas, the visuals are still lacking to an extent. I really like how they learned to paint grass and trees and water, but rocks and buildings are still on the downside, and they are the majority of the terrain. All in all, the visuals improved compared to previous expansions, but of course, still nothing too close to WoW or other games.
Talking about zones: unlocking Aether Currents (visiting chekpoints to unlock flights in a zone) was done worse than Heavensward. In Heavensward, you visited about 8-9 points out of 10 by normal questing, simply on the way.
In Stormblood, there were too many points for which you had to cross half of the map with no other incentive, and some were so ridiculously hidden that I had to address not just a wiki page, but also YouTube videos to even get the idea of where they might be.
You see a checkpoint on the wall above you – well, you spend half an hour trying to find a path up the mountain, then you must cross the whole map to find an entrance to the cave which in turn takes you the whole map back, and that’s how you reach it. Not cool, guys. It’s like IRL you see a grocery right behind a fence, but you need to cross half a town to find a gate in the fence and then cross half a town back. That’s not exploration, that’s a disaster.
The Dragoon, or class-specific questline, was ok. It narrated a story of a small dragon which sought his mother, and drew upon the Heavensward theme and characters. Moving enough, it was… well, fine. It was nice to reminisce the previous expansion’s motives, a sort of nostalgic prick (why, look at me already talking about nostalgia in FFXIV).
Raids and dungeons – never cease to surprise me. Emanation was such a wow, this “Indian” goddess, and the final raid was one of the hardest battles I’ve ever met in the game so far. We wiped about 5 times, I wiped this much only at Ramuh extreme level, and this was a basic difficulty.
Finally, music. I was so confunded when they showed us the Garlean anthem in the palace scene so early in the expansion, and I was walking until the final cutscene totally confused, why it plays as a theme of resistance in quest jingles, as a theme in rebel base and all. Only in the finale it became clear: it’s actually Ala Mhigo anthem, which had its words changed under Garlean rule, and they had a proper version before. I think this should have been explained waaaay earlier :)
Conclusion: Stormblood so far is so great, and I notice a pattern that expansions in FFXIV are becoming better and better as they roll. I haven’t seen patch content yet, but if the idea of patch stories surpassing the main story continues, I think something good awaits me in the week to come.
Now, it’s WoW reset, and I have lots of things to do there :) So until next time.