Bring me to life!
Coming fresh from the end of the newest expansion, titled “Shadowbringers”, I feel compelled to say just one thing: this is the greatest Final Fantasy game I have ever played. Yes, I did just say that. And we’re talking about the same massively multiplayer online role-playing game that began as a complete failure so many years back that it needed to be rebooted from the ground up. The same title that I felt compelled to play simply because the title “Final Fantasy” was in it back when it was re-released in 2013 as A Realm Reborn for the PlayStation 3. Geez, it’s been so long since then.
And yet, “Shadowbringers” made me so happy to have actually stuck around with the game for so long. Because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to fully embrace the story for what it is. That was the selling point of this game for me. How this group of heroes that we’ve all known since then and been through so much with comes together and becomes one to battle a common enemy. Yes, the Scions of the Seventh Dawn have always been there in one form or another, some have had their secrets (*ahem*, “Yda”) while others are no longer part of the group (Papalymo, Minfilia), but it was very rare for them to be all together in one place for so long. In “A Realm Reborn” we’re too busy saving Thancred, while Alisaie is nowhere to be found, “Heavensward” is just Alphinaud while “Stormblood” was Lyse’s story to liberate her nation.
I felt “Shadowbringers” brought this group together in an amazing way. They all brought their individual skills that they have spent years developing in Eorzea to this new world, in an attempt to aid the party as best they could. And while you may not be in direct control of them, this actually gives you the sensation of older Final Fantasy titles where it was usually just a small band of vagabond heroes out to save the world. The fact that Norvrandt is an entirely new place where no one’s even heard of the “Warrior of Light” serves to further solidify that feeling. We’re all in this on equal footing. They may know what I’m capable of, but no one else does. Through them, I felt that my character, the one I created, became more believable and more alive. I was able to immerse myself completely, which is a key ingredient of any successful title.
Another thing that enhances the experience of being alongside the Scions of the Seventh Dawn was the new Trust system. I was amazed at how capable the non-playable characters were in the dungeons, to the point where they would serve as my guide sometimes. Usually you would be forced to team up with other random players from around the world. This could easily ruin the experience for me personally because I’m really not be the best player out there and I might lose once or twice. To be put in a position where people get up and walk away the minute you lost was incredibly frustrating and it’s fantastic to be free of that nuisance. This clever little addition has just changed the entire rule book on how mmos are played. But it also felt more suitable to have the Scions there with me rather than some random who I don’t even know. Especially as the story reached its climax. If only they could do that with the raids.
As far as villains go, I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but I did get the feeling that they may have borrowed a little too much from Final Fantasy XIV Final Fantasy XV. The only thing missing from that guy was a hat and he would have been Ardyn Izunia himself! Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that, Ardyn was quite a memorable villain, but maybe a little bit of variety would be good. Not to say that he wasn’t relatable, in fact a large key plot point that was left open since way back in 2013 has finally been explained, but it could’ve been handled by a different character. Plus, it begs the question: with all these threads being resolved, are we heading towards the end of Final Fantasy XIV?
Furthermore, and I cannot expand on this for obvious reasons, I love how they used the whole story arc with the Crystal Tower. Just a small reminder that it was initially introduced back in patch 2.3 in 2014 to serve as tribute to Final Fantasy III. That’s all (we thought) it was supposed to be.
When it comes to locations, the developers once again blew it out of the water and it just makes you wonder how they keep doing it. After “Heavensward” I thought I had seen it all, I really did, but for them to come up with all this, it’s simply amazing. I felt it was an amalgamation of both Kingdom Hearts III and FFXV. All the incredible places and visuals, after a certain point it just becomes too much and then the game comes and pulls even more for you to stare at! All the while, you’re too caught up in the story to have any time to marvel at any of it. Simply breathtaking!
The music ties in wonderfully of course. Masayoshi Soken (the composer of the game) is yet another genius who’s name can go right next to those of Nobuo Uematsu and Yoko Shimomura when it comes to legends of the franchise. There’s calm and relaxing music when you’re in a quiet village, but when something big’s about to go down, you better believe the shift in the tunes will be pushing you to take down all hoards of beasts you see in front of you. The most notable of the tracks of course, is none other than “Shadowbringers” itself. You might not think of it much at first, but if you don’t have it on iTunes (or Spotify, whatever) on repeat by the time this is over, then you’re made of stone!
I also like the fact that the game isn’t afraid to take itself too seriously. For example, you need to do a lot of sub-quests in order to level up and Thancred himself eventually points out that he “can smell a lot of chores coming up”. Indeed, these are chore-like requests (go there, do that) and they seem like a waste of time when all you want to do is get back in to the nitty-gritty of the main story. Yet if you take the time to actually look what’s beneath them, it’s not just about gaining experience points to level up, but it’s about the Warrior of Darkness going around the world and building relationships with people so they, in response, will be willing to help him (and consequently their world) when the time comes. It all ties together so nicely and some of these quests might even be really funny and entertaining. There was a lot of work put into them and that’s obvious.
The story of Final Fantasy XIV will not end here. There will still be more patches, more content, more beasts to slay, more shocking revelations, and so on. But this will definitely be a high point, one that will serve as a comparison for anything else we see from here on out. I don’t know about online games, but as far as single-player titles go, this definitely one of the best I’ve tried my hand at in a while and the best when it comes to the series. Congratulations are due to director Naoki Yoshida and his team for taking this game that was meant to be axed and recreating it into the greatest title of a 30-year-old franchise.
Shine on, Warriors of Darkness…
Originally published at http://sopeoplewhatsup.blogspot.com.