FFXIV: Pushing Through the Story of Shadowbringers

I’ve made some great progress through the main storyline of the final (yet) expansion in the past few days. Judging by logic and wiki-list of quests, one zone left to go – namely, Kholusia, which holds the final Lightwarden, the fatso big bad, a couple of dungeons and a climactic raid, which concludes the major story arc before patches. Other zones are explored in full, flights unlocked, dungeons naturally done and story done.

Yes, advertising from all the players and bloggers across the internet was completely justified: so far it’s the pinnacle of the game’s storytelling, which was already so great, and improved by every next expansion. Character arcs, plot twists, unraveling the mysteries and our knowledge about the world is expected and clicks right into places, but here we’ve got another vital thread: collection.

That’s right, collection. I’m a sucker for checking out things to make a whole out of parts (parts of key, joining 4 elements etc.), and MSQ provides exactly that. Early on, we learn that there’s a Lightwarden in every zone which naturally sets a course for the whole story, as we know what exactly has to be done: every zone’s arc should have a climax of killing a Lightwarden.

This forms a structure that we can follow, predict, feel confident about, and get the most satisfying feeling of completion with every finished step. WoW had its own successful examples in the past: for example, as we collected pillars of creation in Legion, or warlords/tribes in Draenor, one per zone. You can play with twists and turns within the major story, but we have a set course, a plan and in general know where we are at every next moment, and know that when a warlord/a Lightwarden is down, we made this next step, we can leave it behind, and made progress, and how many more are left to slay/collect.

Zones were not things-in-themselves, but rather a flow in the vein of the major arc, spruced by local quirks and local population.

Il Mheg was a traditional take on a mischievous winged fairy land with Miyazaki flavor (bush people!) and an adorable tribe of marmot puppies. The big wood offered an interesting tribal/shamanic approach rather than your normal elven vibe (although the bunny folk in the second part retaliated in full) and one of the most exciting tomb raiding experiences I’ve ever met in games or otherwise!

Amh Araeng West flushed the previous traditional caravan theme to the toilet and delved into tinkering/mining theme instead. Oh, and I could not pass by without taking a notice and a photo: GNOME.

Gnome. Ahaha, ahaha, NO.

Anyways, all the stories and arcs were super moving and engaging. Like always, major character arcs, local character arcs, the main story and the small stories all weave into a beautiful, strong narrative, but Shadowbringers took it to yet another level – if that was even possible after Stormblood. And yes, I cannot help admiring how Evan Peters Emet-Selch explains the cosmic lore and the past:

Now this is how you do lore, retcons and everything else where WoW is miserably failing recently. You have all the time in the world, take an effort and cobble up a talking quest/a cutscene to explain what is happening now with the world you’re building. Hooks and mysteries are good, but when they’re only hooks and mysteries, period, without a bigger picture, you quickly lose interest. FFXIV not only does a proper explanation, but does not shun charts, diagrams and maps to explain everything, and for that I couldn’t be more gtateful.

One more thing I’ve been itching to share. If you read my previous posts, the one thing I still did not make peace with in FFXIV is the night time. This is almost as in real life: grey characters put across very grey environment, almost to the point of not distiguished. If to compare it with WoW, for example – even during the darkest nights you can easily see NPCs, mobs and characters very well, no matter your transmog or creature’s pelt color and size.

As a keen traveler myself IRL – over 80 different cities across the world and counting – I hate arriving to a new place during night time. You have more trouble with finding your hotel, your station and navigating the streets in general despite gps map apps and immense experience, you don’t really get an impression of city perspective, of what the new city and architecture is and its vibe until you see it in the daylight. The preferable way is to experience the new place during daylight, and repeat the round in night time when you already know what everything looks like, where everything is located, and simply admire the lanterns and the illumination.

I don’t know whether developers themselves have this trouble, or if they were listeningTM to the players, but Shadowbringers offered most elegant solution! By lore, the zones are brightly lit with the artificial, vicious Light, so you are free to get acquainted with the whole zone, finish its story, and only then the night/day cycle returns. This solves my problem exactly, it’s hilarious! Bad thing is: this is not something that would make its way to further expansions, obviously: because lore. But well, if I can have it for just one expansion, it’s already a most welcome treat.

What’s Next?

Obviously, I’m most eager to proceed with the story till the end of the last patch, and I’m not worried at all about what to do next when I’m done.

My list of things to do is nowhere short: I have a 64 MCH, Ruby Sea-abandoned Lalafell to push next which I want to play and will play, because, duh, an alt is a character to me, always been. I have alt jobs to try and level on both Lala and Cat (I’m interested in monk, ninja, gunbreaker, white mage, red mage, dancer, astrologist in addition to my perfect dragoon/machinist/black mage). I have housing to explore – nothing too fashioned, just a flat which I checked you can come and buy, once you have a Grand Company rank. But story comes first.

I’m in a good place: new expansion and story looming, there’s so much left to explore, and I’m excited to do so. I think I’ll be done with my WoW plans before Christmas, and I could let my sub expire in January before the next content patch. So I’m glad I finally found an MMO to be excited about, no less than I ever was about WoW: in these, and only in these terms it’s a match.

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