Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers hands-on impressions

Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers is the third expansion for the popular MMO and it's bringing a ton of new content to the table for players both old and new.

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In the world of MMORPG games, there aren’t many second chances. Most games live or die on their initial impact, however, there are exceptions to the rule every once and awhile. Final Fantasy 14 is definitely a rare case in which a game initially arrived in shambles and somehow found the courage and strength to face its flaws and come back fighting. Several years after its grand reboot, Final Fantasy 14 is flourishing as an MMO and is gearing up for its third major content update. Shadowbringers is set to take players to a new world full of brand-spanking new content, races, dungeons, jobs, and a ton of small tweaks and updates. We had a chance to go hands-on with Shadowbringers ahead of its release to find out what players can expect from the new content.

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Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers takes place in a brand new world known as “The First.” While most games have players set out on a quest to bring light to the world, this time around players must restore darkness to the First. Overall, there are six new areas for players to explore and a brand new hub area. The Crystarium will act as a safe haven and meeting place for players entering the world of Shawdowbringers. From there they’ll be able to enter purple-leaved forests of Lakeland, the sacred land of the elves filled with the debris of several ancient structures. There’s also the flowery fields and underwater ruins of Il Mheg to explore while questing along with four more new areas that the team at Square Enix was not ready to reveal.

Two new job classes are being added to the roster for the Shadowbringers expansion. The gunbreaker is a new mid-to-close range fighter that wields what may be the most iconic weapon in the history of Final Fantasy: the gunsword. Gunbreakers can hack and slash their way through enemies like they would with a traditional sword or pull off a few longer ranged shots if they need to make some quick space between themselves and their target. I spent most of my hands-on time using the gunbreaker job class since it fit my personal play style and it did not take long for me to acclimate to its moves list and optimize my combat strategy despite being somewhat new to the series.

Dancers will walk the line between offensive and support roles. Basically, there are two dance modes for the job class, one that allows players to combo dance moves together to take out their enemies and another that allows them to buff or heal themselves and their party members. This job is definitely more nuanced than the cavalier gunbreaker and advanced players should enjoy figuring out the best way to make use of the dancer's dynamic skill set.

And of course, what good MMO update would be complete without new dungeons and raids to challenge players? FF 14 Shadowbringers will introduce two new high-end raids that have both been designed by special guests. The new Eden raid is being helmed by Kingdom Hearts Director Tetsuya Nomura and will feature a slew of bosses for players to face off against and a brand new character designed by Nomura himself. The celebrity developer cameos don’t stop there either. Yosuke Saito and Yoko Taro of NeiR: Automata fame will be bringing their YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse alliance raid to the table for players looking to take on an epic challenge. Unfortunately, there weren’t many other details offered up about either raid during the event.

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While I didn’t have an opportunity to go hands-on with the new raids, I did get a chance to explore the brand new Dohn Mheg dungeon. This also gave me the opportunity to try out the Trust system for myself. The Trust system basically allows solo players to take on a dungeon with a group of AI party members that have been optimized to take on a role that isn’t being filled by the player. In all honesty, I’m pretty sure the AI party members were more on the ball than me as far as handling their duties properly during combat and did as good a job as they could keeping me alive and assisting me in making my way through the dungeon.

As for Dohn Mheg itself, it was quite the experience. The new dungeon will task players with retrieving an ancient relic called the Shell Crown by entertaining the creatures known as Fuath with “thrilling sport” aka “dungeon crawling.” Wandering through the fields of Dohn Mheg to make my way to an enchanted castle reminded me of The Wizard a little bit, but with more monsters trying to rip my face off. The road to the final boss wasn’t too rough thanks to my maxed out character and the help of my trusty AI companions, but the final fight itself was really something else. The guardian of the Shell Crown not only packed a punch but used its skills to turn me into all sorts of useless creatures including a frog. At one point the boss made a hefty chunk of the floor disappear and replaced it with a precocious and winding beam that I attempted to walk meticulously across before falling into a bottomless pit just short of the other side.

The new features don’t stop there either. Final Fantasy 14 fans are getting two new playable races: The Hrothgar and the Viera. Both races seem to contrast the other in terms of features. The Hrothgar is an all-male race with a focus on aggression and ferocity while the all-female Viera is known more as protectors. They’re both very different from the other and each will have their own set of race-specific customizable features at launch.

Beyond that, there are almost countless changes being made or updated in general to balance out the gameplay and plan for the future. Level caps will be boosted from 70 to 80 and enemies will now scale to a players level when they accept a side quest. The TP system is being completely eliminated and MP will now have a hard cap of 10,000. Certain moves will now have stacked charges meaning that some abilities will be able to charge then store themselves for multiple uses in a row.

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That’s on top of the all the tweaks being made to job classes, abilities and various features to Final Fantasy 14 with the Shadowbringers update. There’s even a new light skin mode being integrated to the UI for players who want something different from the traditional dark background. All in all, there’s an overwhelmingly impressive amount of new content that’s sure to keep veteran players entertained for quite some time and offer up an even more robust experience for newcomers as well. Players will have a chance to experience all the brand-new fresh content for themselves when Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers launches on June 2nd for PC and PS4.

Reviews Editor

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, www.cartoonviolencemusic.com. If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

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