FFXIV: Shadowbringers Review

Expansion and story catch up done, I’m ready for Endwalker, and it’s time to look back at Shadowbringers! The initiate expansion impressions were listed in my previous post, so let’s start from where we’ve stopped last time: Kholusia/main story ending and the patch stories.

Kholusia – part 2 – was a nice example of people you’ve helped before uniting for a common cause. It’s always good to see how your previous actions payed off, and this we got – and not only here, but also in patch 5.3. gauntlet dungeon, and later when saying farewells to the countries and people of the First.

The obvious final villain – Lord Vauthry – was an excellent big bad of the expansion storyline, and it was amazing how he turned midfight. The Japanese are no strangers to turning their big bads for a final showdown to creatures of immense beauty, not your normal disfigured abominations, so I wasn’t that shocked, but still shocked :) It was a climactic resolution for the main story arc, yet with an immediate follow up of Tempest and Amaurot expanded the limits even more.

Tempest and fish people were a crappy arc with little to care about, yet luckily we abandoned benthos very soon for the Amaurot trip, and this payed off big time. Visually stunning megalopolis, populated by weird creature ghosts with weird voices, and expanding our knowledge about the universe – what’s not to like?

Like Scions, I understood Emet-Selch’s motives, yet, like Scions, I had no real pity for him and his actions, and put an end to Evan Peters with utmost pleasure. An Ascian is an Ascian, I was relieved we don’t get friends with him, and despite his entertainig companionship and interactions during questlines, the finale was designed as it should have been: an epic raid encounter with an abomination, yay! It also resolved a twist of too-much-Light for this little cat person which is me, now we can walk in peace for while :)

Like always, the main story arc ended with a perfect climactic resolution, yet some stones were left unturned, namely the problem of returning our fellows back to the homeworld. Normally patch stories of FFXIV expansions are even better than the main story arcs, but Shadowbringers’ version was not so even.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the general development of the story, finished the expansion with spirits up high, got my climax by the end of the final battle, and very eager to see the story of the next season – the next expansion, as adventure continues. Yet there were more slogging moments than you could expect from the otherwise perfect expansion, which again leapt high from its predecessor as a whole.

My first and foremost beef with patch stories was Master Chai becoming a mayor of Eulmore. It was not written well, it was out of the blue. If anything, his story explored a transition from a hedonist to a tinker master, helping people with his craft, and that would be quite ok if only it stayed so. But he did not strike me as a mayor and a ruler – I think he was just the only Eulmore person with some sort of character development, and this clearly was the case of we had no other characters to sort out the leadership problem.

Moreover, the whole questline was such a slog, as we ran after him across the country with a handkerchief to wipe his moaning and whining face, that did not add points too. Not to mention Dulia-Chai’s annoying behaviour and the worst acting voice I’ve ever met in this game. There’s a difference between funny and degenerate, you know, and putting a falcetto male actor to act the ape did not help at all. The whole arc is what I’ll skip through as fast as possible on my alt.

The second slog was the whole deal of finding a way to return Scions back to the Source. No, the idea was great and well-executed, there were no plot holes, and everything clicked as it should have clicked. But did we have to talk to Exacrh after every quest elsewhere: How’s it going? No progress yet. These were always lengthy and pointless conversations, and watching them cutscenes I felt like I wasted my time for nothing, it was so annoying, especially when I had an interesting story going on, I could deal without these distractions.

The third thing was reverting the tempering, or possession of many good people by primals of different sorts. No, by the end of expansion I totally got how important the whole thing was, so we were doing some great and vital things after all. But before it turned epic and we figured out what it means for our future, it was not good. An Amh Araeng infirmary? Ga Bu, for gods sake, when others went to a war council?

Anyways, beyond that the patch story was great and kept up with the high plank of expansion in whole. I was excited to deal with Elidibus this fast, I expected him to be one of the Endwalker big bads. Exhumation of villain and non-villain corpses by Ascians becomes a bit stale move from the writers, yet I can’t deny it’s well justified and helps to shape interesting arcs and see the former characters from a new angle.

Yet patches 5.1.-5.3. due to slogging problems felt like we’ve outstayed our welcome at the First, and I was relieved to finally go through the portal with Scions under my armpit.

Source patches 5.4. and 5.5. saw us back on our home planet, and I enjoyed all of it. Well, it was a bit dissappointing to see the elaborate and intricate Ascian villains Emet-Selch and Elidibus with complex motives and arcs make way for cackling, crazy Ascians with the only motive of reducing the world to ash – as a goal, not the means of achieving a goal.

And now a totally crazy Zenos which mows friend and foe alike, stupid enough to approach him by the length of his blade, but at least we now expect no treachery and stuff: we know our enemies, we need to reach and go for a kill without listening to them.

5.4. and 5.5. stories are probably my favorite out of five Shadowbringers’ patches. An amusing trip with Matoya to yet another lab with Elfman-like arrangement of one of the best music themes in game, a badass, strong Merlwyb/Limsa arc, finding cure for the tempered, uniting beast tribes (I didn’t realize there were so many even if I met them all before! When the Ala Mhigan palace doors opened to let them in, my wife peeked at my screen and exclaimed: and what’s this rabble?), the threat of towers and an exciting final showdown with the primals – vehicle and not fights.

Anyways, the expansion ended on a high note, with our enemies, world threats and course of action well defined, and I’m craving for the next season – which is conveniently just around the corner! Shadowbringers remains the pinnacle of the whole game’s storytelling, easily competing with the strongest AAA-single player titles, movies and series. It has left a very nice aftertaste, and I’m eager to see what’s coming next.

Meanwhile… I’ve got alt jobs to level – samurai and monk as top priority, a TON of content to explore – quests, stories, missed dungeons and raids, crafting, housing and what not. One moment though: I might put off my Lalafell alt for a while, maybe even until after the Endwalker story. I want to replay Stormblood and Shadowbringers when I’d have them forgotten for a bit.

In any case, I’m happy I caught up and now entering the anticipation time frame with the rest of the players.

4 thoughts on “FFXIV: Shadowbringers Review

  1. I agree with most of your assessments, with only a single callout – the check-ins with the Exarch are likely the checkpoints between patches, which works better if you play currently but can feel sort of drawn out and weird if you run through them in quick succession. Even when you play currently, the first few quests of a new patch MSQ has that feeling of preparatory exposition – just there to remind you, catch you up, and set the scene, and it always takes a bit for things to get rolling. Endwalker having a new story from 6.1 on should help that, although I have a fear that 6.1 might feel a little weird given that it has to start a whole new arc!

    The scene setting patches here I loved and totally agree with your assessment on. I really enjoy the sense of closure and problem resolution, that the world is moving forward and there are these moments to breathe and systematically address what comes next. A nice small touch for Shadowbringers as a whole – on the First, we see beast tribes interacting and part of the overall population instead of ostracized and cast out, and then we return to the Source and work to make that happen there too. Coupled with what de-tempering means for future stories (no more Primals), it sets up and pays forward themes and those touches add so much to the story.

    But now you get to be in the waiting room with the rest of us, for a nice short wait!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Interesting, I didn’t realize it was part of reintroducing the story for the next patch. I’ll pay attention when I replay on alt, but it still seems to me that it happened more often than once per patch.

      As for beast tribes, also interesting. Point is, I work with beast tribes as a given. When Amal’jaa are operating the transport network, I simply shrug and say, ok, this is how things are in this city. I don’t think it’s about racism, as it was never addressed as such. If there’s a barbaric tribe which tries to kill you on sight and summons an ultimate threat to everyone, including themselves, it does not matter how they look – could equally be lalafell or miqo’te. We also eagerly work with their more sensible kin, like kobolds or “hindu” naga which are ready to talk and not support primals. Hell, we even have reputation tabs with beast tribes since ARR!

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  2. Fandaniel appears to be straightforward villan, he is mad and he wants the world to burn, honestly i liked that after the scheming Acsians arcs that started from ARR, but there is a chance that he is hiding his true motives, that his madness is not just nihilistic desire for destruction

    Next expansion is not far now, we’ll see what’s going on with him soon.

    Like

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