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Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers Review

Christopher Saxon Posted:
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On the 28th of June, early access for FFXIV: Shadowbringers went live, consequently I lost a lot of time as I dove head first into the latest expansion for FFXIV. As I give my insight this week on a beautiful expansion, please share below your favorite bits of the expansion for us all to enjoy!

The Forthtold Future

As soon as Dancer was announced I swore up and down that I’d be playing it on launch. The prophecy was fulfilled on the 28th when I stepped foot into the game and created my Dancer. It was a certainty that I’d choose this job, as my time from the Press Event in San Francisco only solidified the choice that I’d play one of the most enjoyable jobs brought to the game. Albeit a personal opinion, Dancer has been exceedingly fun to learn and play. Unlike other DPS jobs, it has a more upbeat tempo to it. I don’t feel like I’m sitting around waiting on abilities to cooldown like I have in the past when I tried others such as Bard, and Black Mage. Maybe I didn’t give the other jobs a fair chance, but I found my niche among the healers and kept on healing throughout the course of my FFXIV career. That niche was broken on this day, and now I’ll be not only healing, but also Dancing to my heart’s content!

FATE Brought Us Together; Pun’s Kept Us Together

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the changes to the FATE system. For those that don’t, they not only reward more EXP, but offer a new currency for completing them! These rewards range from materials to minions, but also Riding Maps to improve your riding speed in a given area.

Yet that’s not why I mention them. A friend, Jaertal, brought it to my attention that the expansion has brought upon us a ton of puns in the form of FATEs across the map. The one he pointed out has an important meaning and brings back a huge nostalgia feeling to a lot of players. Granted I wasn’t one of the ones that knew about this, so I’ll share it with you!

Back in 1996, Square published a game by the name of Tobal no. 1. This was a fighting game, and while it had a quest mode, shared absolutely nothing with the Final Fantasy series. You might be sitting there wondering what this has to do with anything? Frankly I thought the same, until Jaertal told me the game launched with a demo disc, like most games of that era, that featured the first demo of Final Fantasy VII. Mind blown, seriously, that’s a serious throwback to a pillar in the Final Fantasy series!

Yet this FATE is one among many spread out throughout the world, including a One Punch Man fate called One-Punch Mantis. You’ve also got The Amity Village Horror. It’s awesome to see these all over the place! But it doesn’t stop there, it’s even included into the main story quest.  SPOILER ALERT: One of the main story scenarios you enter in the Ratika Greatwood has you solve Mayan like puzzles like you’d find in an Indiana Jones movie. Up to and including a small Owl statue you have to place, and a giant boulder following you down a hallway.  The puns are numerous, and good fun to boot!

Tugging At Heartstrings

The story this time revolves around saving the First. In doing so you bear witness to several atrocious situations, living conditions, and even difficult decisions that not you, but your comrades must decide. This isn’t something I can easily go in without spoiling the entire story for you, it’s a mixed bag of emotions, some good, some bad, but all worth it.

One key point of the entire expansion is reuniting with your friends. Each new area is opened by you seeking out a specific person, whether it be Alphinaud, Alisaie, Urianger, Y'shtola, or Thancred.  Slowly working your way through the story, seeing familiar faces along the way.  I’ll be honest, Y'shtola being the bestgirl that she is, I pushed onward just to find her and figure out the one question even Yoshi-P wouldn’t answer for me: Why did Urianger call her Master Matoya?!?  Spoiler:  You find out.

One awesome feature that I’ve seen thus far is more emphasis on voice acting for the MSQ chain. You’ll now see more characters being voiced in cutscenes than you would have in the past. Those minor characters standing by? Many of them will now have a voice of their own, not simply standing there nodding their heads in agreeance.  It’s good to see they’re expanding the voice acting, as it brings a lot more depth to the story in general.

Simply put, the story is phenomenal this go-round.  I’m not putting Heavensward or Stormblood down, I still think Heavensward was an outstanding story itself, but I think to date this is the best story they’ve come up with. One can argue, however, that the fact that it is so good relies heavily on Stormblood’s ending. Without the setup that was given, would it be as great as it is?  Who knows, I just know I’m thoroughly enjoying it every inch of the way!

It’s A Beautiful World

If it’s one thing I can say, it’s the world design is simply beautiful. While the First is supposed to be a mirror of our world, you truly can’t tell. Each area is designed with a distinct feel tailored to it that sets it apart from the rest. Going from the Crystarium over to Il Mheg, home of the Faire folk, the beautiful colors all over, down to the desert of Amh Araeng, and even into the Ratika Greatwood, they’re all distinct and beautiful in their own way. The areas feel designed with purpose and not simply punch-stamped into place. Not to mention the flow of the story took you to every part of the map you needed to be in, it simply works.

The areas are not only beautiful but functional, and that includes the two cities I’ve been to, the Crystarium, and Eulmore.  Granted, the Crystarium could learn a thing or two from Idyllshire and let us use our mounts, I’m just saying.

Not only do we get new areas, we also received two new races, as well as two new jobs! The long awaiting Viera and Hrothgar have entered the game, along with Dancer and Gunbreaker jobs. Among all the hype for these races, I have honestly seen maybe one Hrothgar to date. I’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds of Viera, but only one Hrothgar.  Dancer and Gunbreaker on the other hand are a dime a dozen. Which I can’t blame anyone for playing. As I stated earlier, I simply enjoy my Dancer. My friend Jaertal loves his Gunbreaker. They’re just fun jobs to play and bring a new flare to the game that filled the void for some players like myself.

Not All Fun And Games

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been all fun and games. While I cannot blame the game, or Square Enix for this, there were some minor issues that effected my experience through early access. Most notably was the DDoS attack that precipitated major server queues. Granted it happened on Friday and effected Saturday, it’s a far cry from previous expansion launches. One only must look back to Stormblood to see the absolute horror someone put upon the servers with massive influx of DDoS attacks constantly strickening them. Compared to that, this is a very smooth launch.

Outside of the DDoS attacks, we have several emergency maintenances that caused queues to be extended, which again, you can’t fault them on this. One reason for these emergency maintenances was to resolve an issue revolving around DirectX 11. There was an issue with the FPS cap they placed on the 5.0 launch at 90 FPS with certain Monitor / GPU configurations. This issue caused issues with launching the game, and by all appearance it is fixed.

I want to point out that these server issues are merely talking points. I cannot and will not judge a game based on issues outside of the developers control. I judge a game based off gameplay, it would be unfair to say I scored this launch on a handful of issues revolving around the server.

I think every job got touched, even ever so slightly, for this expansion. Some are considered major nerfs, while others are more balanced and received a much-needed facelift. A prime example is the Machinist, they were completely rehauled for the better, and everyone loves the changes. The same can’t be said for other jobs, however.  I’ve seen plenty of complaints coming from Warriors, who got smacked with a huge healing nerf. Yet you’ve got White Mage, that needed a huge buff, who now does more AOE damage than a pure DPS. Let’s also not forget the fact that Square’s fix for the White Mage balance was to nerf the healing of Astrologian and Scholar so that the White Mage feels more powerful. Let’s not address the problem, let’s just nerf the other two healers, perfect!

One key note that should be mentioned is it seems there is a huge emphasis on AOEing in general now. FATEs tend to throw numerous mobs at you at once, which leads to nothing but an AOE fest with dozens of players AOEing at once. Dungeons aren’t much different. I’d like to see content tuned a little more away from the whole group everything up and AOE to death mechanic. It’s not fun, nor engaging.

These tunings aren’t perfect, and we can expect them to change again in the near future. We can only hope they’re for the better, and not just blanket nerfs or buffs with no real meaning behind them.

In Summary

Shadowbringers brings a lot to the table. From a great story, to amazing areas to discover and explore, Square Enix has truly outdone themselves this time. With many changes not only to the Jobs system, but also FATEs and just general gameplay, it’s more than enough to bring new players and returning players alike to the game.  Unfortunately, it’s not all perfect, but the flaws are mostly revolving around issues not related to actual gameplay. Still, some will find the content boring, as per usual, but to me, it’s pure fun!

Score: 8.5/10


  • Amazing Story
  • Beautiful New Areas
  • New Jobs and Races


  • Healer Balance, WHM is now a DPS job?
  • AOE Focused Content

What do you think about Shadowbringers? Do you love it, hate it? Give us some feedback, we want to hear from you!


Christopher Saxon

Nurse, Gamer, and Freelance Journalist. Saving lives in game and out, nerding it out along the way!