It’s always an exciting time when a new expansion drops for an MMORPG. Trailers are being released to tease the story and gameplay, while social media is blowing up with hypotheticals about what to expect. As fun as it is to anticipate a new release, whether or not the expansion lives up to the hype is left to the player base to decide.
Final Fantasy XIV released its most recent expansion, Shadowbringers, on July 2, 2019 and some members were able to pay for the option to gain access several days earlier. This greatly-awaited expansion has certainly lived up to its publicity and may have even surpassed it by being one of the greatest expansions for FFXIV to date. Heads-up! If you’ve not played through the Shadowbringers main scenario, you may encounter some spoilers throughout this article. Without further ado, here are 10 reasons why Shadowbringers is the best Final Fantasy XIV expansion so far.
10 The Race to Fantasia
Let’s face it: One of the best parts of a Final Fantasy XIV expansion is when a new race drops. Square Enix decided to spoil players by dropping not one, but two new races that can be chosen in character creation: The bunny women known as Viera and the beastly Hrothgar men.
Not only do you get the option to play as one of these races, but you also get to learn about their origin as you travel through the First. After all, part of the main storyline takes you to the races’ respective tribes and homelands. These new races' incorporation to the game adds to the expansion’s overall appeal.
9 An Incentive to FATEs
Prior to the release of Shadowbringers, the prospect of FATE-grinding was less than thrilling. There really wasn’t a reason to join them, apart from getting that extra experience push you needed. But now FATE fear is a thing of the past, as incentive has been added to make taking part in FATEs much more worth the time and effort put into them.
A new system has been implemented that allows you to gain a special currency, known as Bicolor Gemstones, after each FATE you complete. Just like the other in-game currencies, these gems can be traded into an NPC (the Gemstone Trader) for a plethora of items. One of the best items you can get is a map to increase the speed of your mounts in specific regions of the First. This will not only help you speed off to the next FATE, but will also help with reaching quest markers faster.
8 Into the Faerie
Along with the introduction of the Viera and the Hrothgar, Shadowbringers has brought in a few new beast tribes. One of these tribes, in particular, brings about hilarious scenarios and interesting lore. During your main scenario questing, you will ultimately find yourself in the beautiful land of Il Mheg, the land of the faeries. The more you explore, the more you begin to learn the playful nature behind the childlike Fae isn’t exactly benevolent.
The Fae offer quite a few quest lines that are worth a look but the most important of the Fae – and also why this race makes this expansion great – is your Branch, Feo Ul. You can count on her to bring humor to otherwise emotional parts of the story. When you have more time, definitely hang around Il Mheg a bit longer. Just don’t anger the Fae, lest you end up like the poor Leafmen.
7 The New Orchestrions
If there’s one thing that the Final Fantasy games are known for, it would be the soundtrack. The previous expansions have had beautiful music, but composer Masayoshi Soken has really outdone himself with Shadowbringers. The music perfectly encapsulates the mood of the story and the locations explored. For example, the second you enter the Rak’Tika Greatwood, you’re hit with amazing vocals that tell the story of the land you’re now entering.
Of course, when music is mentioned you can’t forget to talk about the trials and dungeons. During the main storyline, you’ll come to fight the Faerie King Titania, and the background music perfectly fits the playful demeanor of the crazed being trying to murder you where you stand.
6 Know the Mechanics
In any game, it’s important to pay attention to mechanics. But this is even truer for FFXIV. The new dungeons and trials introduced in the Shadowbringers expansion have attacks that may seem reminiscent of previous fights you’ve done before. Don’t let this fool you, however. While the mechanics might be something you’ve already encountered, they’ve been implemented in a fantastic way that makes you need to relearn them all over again. At this point in the story, you are heading into level 80 content and the fights are really starting to reflect that.
One of the biggest additions to these fights is the increased use of multiple mechanics at once. It’s become even more important than ever to pay attention to where you’re standing, what the boss is telling you with its movements, and where the rest of your party is running to. That’s all part of what makes them so much fun!
5 Side Questing
Just like the FATEs, many players weren’t entirely interested in completing side quests unless a level-block was reached and more EXP was needed. That’s completely changed in this expansion, as some of the quest lines hold stories that are very much worth your time. Shadowbringers went above and beyond to ensure the quest lines were actually worth something – even going so far as to add important gear accessories as a reward for completion.
Really, though, the side quests are worth doing merely for the tales they tell. One of the best is certainly the questline following Quinfort and his journey to find the Great Serpent of Ronka. This is arguably one of the best quest lines in the game thus far, apart from the main story, of course.
4 The Actual Act of Questing
Along with the introduction of better side quests, the actual act of questing has seen great improvement, too. Previously, all you really did was run from point A to point B, talking to different NPCs either to gather information or just to deliver items. It really wasn’t anything important other than for storyline progression. Now, there are quests that have different techniques implemented to make the questing experience more enjoyable.
Some of the newer quests introduced in the main story now include situations where you have to remember what you’re being told. There are also some situations where you even have to solve riddles. Other quests have you constantly checking a picture in your inventory in an attempt to find a location without the help of your map. These are more immersive and only serve to add to the action and excitement of the storyline.
3 Good vs. Evil, the Story Eternal
The entire storyline of Final Fantasy XIV has been that of light versus dark, good versus evil ever since it began. Well, Shadowbringers decided it was time to completely alter the views of what good and evil actually mean.
In previous expansions, you’ve encountered a race known as the Ascians. All that’s ever been shared is that they wish to see the worlds destroyed, but no motive is ever given - until now. It is revealed that the Ascians just want their home back, an explanation offered by Emet-Selch -an Ascian himself. You now have a member of this villainous race being portrayed as a real, viable being with human emotion. The Ascians don’t want destruction for the sake of destruction; they just want to go home. For the first time in the story, you’re left questioning what it really means to be good and bad.
2 The Character Cast
Characters are ever-important when games are involved, as they help progress the story along. In FFXIV, the Warrior of Light always has the Scions and some other memorable NPCs that make the story as wonderful as it is. With Shadowbringers, we see the introduction of a few new characters that are more than noteworthy. As mentioned previously, this expansion sees a new Ascian by the name of Emet-Selch. His personality makes every scene he’s in, given his sarcastic nature and wit. Almost everything he does, apart from later events, incites laughter.
Next, we see the addition of the Crystal Exarch. He is the glue that is holding everything together, as far as the main story is concerned. He'ss also become a major source of discussion in the FFXIV community. Many argue that his character may actually be in love with yours, but that is left up to speculation. He has important, memorable moments in the game as well, bringing intrigue to each cut scene he’s involved with.
1 You’re Actually the Warrior of Light
Up until this point, a lot of the game – as fun and amazing as it is – has felt like you’re merely going through the motions. That all changed with Shadowbringers. With the storyline, music, characters, and new methods of questing, you’re finally feeling as submerged in the game world as you possibly can be.
Cut scenes are even giving you multiple dialogue options so you have an opportunity to react to intense moments. With such an involved story as Final Fantasy XIV’s Shadowbringers, feeling like you’re actually your character only serves to make this extraordinary game an even more enjoyable experience.