“Become what you must… Become, the Warrior of Darkness!” Look, I don’t know what gets you hyped up, but if you’re anything like me, then epic cinematic trailers with kick-ass lines like that Warrior of Darkness one is a surefire way to get my blood pumping.
You combine that with a bevy of improvements to the game, new jobs to play, new races to choose, and a whole new world to explore, and Final Fantasy XIV‘s upcoming expansion, Shadowbringers, is checking all the MMO boxes for me. FF14 is already known for being an absolutely breathtaking game from a visual perspective, and over the years it has always made a name for itself as a game full of interesting and engaging combat mechanics and raids, the deepest and most involved crafting system in any MMO (and I don’t think it’s close), and an MMO that allows more player agency and choice than most games in the genre as it allows you to level and play any job you want – or you can level all of them and be able to pick and choose depending on what you and your friends are loading the game up to do.
Now, previous expansions have gone a long way to adding new content and improvements upon the recipe that Square Enix and the game’s director Naoki Yoshida, aka Yoshi-P, have expertly crafted since the game’s re-release in 2013, dubbed A Realm Reborn. In Shadowbringers, we see our “Warriors of Light” need to take on a whole new moniker to protect their world as we delve into a literal new dimension, called the First Star, where we become the “Warriors of Darkness”. The basic gist of the story is we must restore balance to the First Star by restoring darkness to a world being overtaken by light. I’m not exactly sure how all that is going to go down, or what exactly it means for us, but I have to say I am intrigued! The storytelling and narrative for Final Fantasy XIV have always been top-notch, and I expect nothing less from the 3rd expansion. But what else will this expansion have in store for us? Well, let’s break down some of the key points!
Jobs, and combat, in general, are getting some pretty significant changes: This is honestly where the lion share of changes have come for Shadowbringers, and the vast majority of them are being incredibly well received by the community as they improve on many of the systems that needed some love, or are adding to the already solid foundation that the game has.
Tank jobs will no longer stance-dance between their offensive focused and defensive focused stances, and instead will simply have a toggleable tank stance to use when they need to have increased threat to get the attention off of someone else. Damage and overall effectiveness have been balanced out for tanks, and I think this will allow tanks to feel much more impactful in the moments where they aren’t the main tank, while main tanking will be as interesting and engaging as ever.
Meanwhile, healing jobs have a similar change of focus and will, apparently, need to be much more focused on pure healing than they have in the past. Up to now, healing jobs have had a balance of healing when needed but filling those gaps in with very meaningful DPS numbers. According to Yoshi-P, the upcoming expansion will be far more demanding of healers, and all the jobs have been designed and adjusted with that in mind.
Finally, most DPS jobs remain mostly unchanged and will simply have new abilities added between level 70 and 80, with 80 being the game’s new level cap. Notable exceptions are the game’s Summoner class which received a number of quality of life changes that are much needed to improve and streamline that playstyle (along with a brand new summon, the Phoenix!), and Machinists have more or less been completely reworked and remade from the ground up and will feel almost totally different, and massively improved upon, compared to its past iteration.
New jobs being added bring some flavor to the ranged physical DPS and tanking roles: Adding to the job changes, Shadowbringers introduces two brand new jobs to the fold that will likely immediately fit into the meta compositions for end-game raiding groups. First off, the new tank job, Gunbreaker, is a more damage-oriented tank that combines a suite of solid defensive cooldowns and buffs with a pretty involved and complex rotation of abilities and weapon skills designed to tear down their enemies with their iconic Gunblade (the weapon made famous in Final Fantasy VIII). This tank will likely fill a void in groups that need more damage from their tanks, especially when combined with the more defensive focused traditional tanks like Paladin.
Next, we’ve got the much-anticipated Dancer job. Initially, rumors floated around that Dancer would be the game’s 4th healer, to go along with Gunbreaker being the game’s 4th tank, but alas Dancer will become the game’s third physical damage ranged DPS but instead of being focused on only dealing damage, Dancer appears to be the game’s first true “support” class, and will predominantly be focused on utilizing their extensive list of supportive and buffing abilities to ensure that the Dancer’s raid group is dealing maximum damage. I think this new job looks incredibly fun to play and is likely going to be a go-to pick for meta raid compositions focused on eeking the most damage possible out of their entire group.
New races, the Viera and Hrothgar join the fray (although not without a small bit of controversy): A new race hasn’t been added since Final Fantasy XIV’s Heavensward expansion introduced the dragon race, Au Ra. For Shadowbringers, we’re getting not one, but two new races this time around. Fans the world over were pumped to see the introduction of the Viera, a race that has been asked for since the game’s launch, and many were surprised and delighted by the unexpected Hrothgar, which is not unlike the Ronso race from Final Fantasy X. Here’s the issue, though… This marks the first time in Final Fantasy XIV’s history that a race has been “gender locked”, where players that choose to play as a Viera or Hrothgar must do so as a female or a male, respectively. While this may not be an issue for some, the community as a whole has expressed some frustration with the gender locking for Shadowbringer’s new races. I have to say, I’m not as bothered by this issue, but I can certainly see why some are – that being said, I’ll likely stick with being my little spell-casting Lalafell self because I’m adorable but also menacing!
The new end-game content looks rad, and includes an unexpected but long-time requested collaboration: As with any MMO’s new launch, you can expect new quests, leveling, dungeons, and of course: raids! End-game raiding has always been my favorite aspect of MMOs, and Final Fantasy XIV’s raids are certainly no exception. For Shadowbringers, not only are we being promised more inventive and gorgeous raids, but these raids are allegedly going to be more complex and difficult than ever – which I am all in for! Granted, the higher difficulty will be tied to the Savage and Ultimate versions of the encounters, but I absolutely can’t wait to see the game’s Eden raid – but maybe cooler still is the game’s 24-man Alliance Raid, YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse. There’s still no confirmation on just how connected these worlds will be, but the game’s first 24-man raid is inspired by NieR Automata, and in fact had guest creators and designers in Yosuke Saito and Yoko Taro, who are, respectively, the Executive Producer and Game Designer for Nier Automata. I couldn’t be more stoked to see this whole new raid, and its NieR aesthetic!
Crafters and gatherers, for the first time ever, get their own sort of end-game content too: Now this one, I admit, isn’t quite up my alley because crafting and gathering has never really been my bag of life, BUT… This is super, duper rad for anyone who is a crafter/gatherer in Final Fantasy XIV. FF14 already had the most robust and involved crafting/gathering scene that I’d ever experienced in an MMO, and I know many people that have continued to subscribe to the game as much for its crafting community as it does for the game’s combat and end-game content. Essentially, crafters and gatherers are tasked with restoring the Holy See of Ishgard to its former glory. This will be similar to what Disciples of the Land and Hand had with the Doman Enclave in the previous expansion, but far more involved and intricate. There are also rumors that the work the crafters and gatherers will see their work come to fruition as the city is built and improved around them, and possibly will end in an entirely new housing district for players to settle down in. I’m not even a crafter person, and I gotta say… This all sounds pretty stinking cool!