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Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers steps into the light today

Thanks to its international nature and the magic of time-zones, Final Fantasy XIV‘s third expansion, Shadowbringers, is out now, defying its listed July 2nd release date. It’s a massive chunk of new story for the MMO-JRPG, this time taking a break from Eorzean politics to drop players into a post-apocalyptic parallel world. Here, the sky always glows with holy light and carnivorous angels prey on the few enclaves of survivors; a bit grim, then. Players who pre-ordered got a few days of early access, but now it’s open to all. From the bit I’ve played, it’s more of a good thing.

Bullet-point wise, Shadowbringers isn’t much to write home about. Two new jobs (Dancer, a ranged caster using chakrams, and Gunbreaker, a tank that uses gunblades), two new gender-locked cosmetic character races (Lion-like Hrothgar dudes and rabbity Viera ladies) and a level cap extended to 80, with a handful of new skills per class. In my experience, the majority of Final Fantasy XIV players play it explicitly for the massive, linear story. What you get for your money is another huge story arc plus a season of five episodic mini-expansions over the coming year and a bit.

So far, my only complaint with Shadowbringers (and I’m not very far in at all) is that it feels like a side-story, albeit with familiar characters. Your hero and the rest of the Scions have been called away to this new land. The stakes are high, but it feels like events in Eorzea are on pause while I’m away on this new trip. Of course, this feels liable to change over the course of the story. Concerns aside, players have a lot to look forward to, with a Yoko Taro-written Nier: Automata story arc, a New Game+ mode and quests to restore Ishgard coming in the next quarterly expand-o-update.

While I’ve only played through one so far, judging by the video above, the ‘dungeons’ (four-player instances with three bosses) are going to be the big set-pieces to look forward to here. What used to be static chains of rooms are now a lot more dynamic and narrative-driven, especially as you can (optionally) bring chatty main story NPCs with you instead of players. That’s only an option for the new main story dungeons, but I hope that the feature becomes universal. The party AI is capable, and when they do get smacked around by a boss, it’s usually to show you how not to do it.

Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers is out now, and costs £30/€35/$40. It’s available on Steam, Humble and direct from Square Enix. Note that keys for the Steam version are not compatible with the Square store or vice versa. Shadowbringers includes both previous expansions – Heavensward and Stormblood – but requires the original Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn to play.

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Dominic Tarason

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