The plan was to fan a spark into a flame, but now it’s getting dark, so who’ll remember your name? (Apologies to Lin-Manuel Miranda for that.) Yes, it turns out that we are indeed getting another new expansion for Final Fantasy XIV (not a surprise) called Shadowbringers (also not a surprise), but the keynote for the 2018 Fan Festival still featured tons of surprises and excitement.
So we’re covering a lot of ground.
Of course, we didn’t get anything held back shortly thereafter; we were immediately told that the expansion is planned for release in early summer of 2019 as version 5.0. From there, we moved into a discussion of the transition; starting in 4.5, we’ve got the obvious tension of six nations standing against Garlemald and bringing the fight to the Empire. Until, that is, a fateful confrontation takes place between the Warrior of Light and Zenos yae Galvus, or more accurately Elidibus using his body.
Elidibus and Solus yae Galvus (the first Emperor and confirmed Ascian) are both playing a crucial role in what unfolds. And we’re told that much of this will be coming to a head in 4.5. (Pay close attention; this may be very important.) Because the trailer alone makes it clear that the Warrior of Light will no longer be, well, the Warrior of Light. To avert a potential catastrophe that might bring about the eighth Umbral Era and the end of the world, we must become the Warrior of Darkness.
What does that mean? We don’t know. We know that it involves learning the truth behind the Ascians, behind Hydaelyn, and behind Zodiark. But we don’t know if we’re going to truly be storming the Empire’s gates just yet… especially when the emphasis was so frequently placed on these conflicts in 4.5.
Beyond that, we started to have the expansion laid out in ways we know. Multiple new jobs, although exact numbers and nature have not yet been disclosed; Yoshida stated that there may be a hint in the trailer, but his customary shirt was teasing something else. (A close look revealed motorcycle logos and Bugs Bunny.) The level cap will raise to 80, and the battle system will be reorganized, re-examined, refined, and improved.
Perhaps most notably, Yoshida promised that in 5.0, MP and TP will be merged into MP as a single resource. No word on how this will affect jobs which use both, but it may simply be that TP in general is being deprecated. (It’s not much of a cost for most jobs who use it in the first place.) Healers can also look forward to a visual display of the remaining barrier strength in 5.0.
Of course, there will also be new areas… but curiously, unlike the first two expansion reveals, there was no new continent specified. This could be quite relevant, as it seems to be a deliberate omission of information.
Players will be exploring the Rak’tika Greatwood, which has a very different visual feel and some settlements nestled in the treetops. (There are also some trees reminiscent of Sephirot’s furnishing decor, for what it’s worth.) Players will also explore Amh Araeng, featuring the ruins of a heretofore unknown civilization.
There will also be new beast tribes, and the first one revealed is an old favorite, the Nu Mou of the Ivalice games. Yoshida also mentioned pixies and dwarves, though it seems those are meant to be categories rather than race names.
Nine new dungeons are planned for launch with Shadowbringers, along with plans for anew high-end raid and Alliance raid (neither one was revealed today). There are also plans for new endgame content for crafters and gatherers, focusing around the Restoration of the Holy See of Ishgard; the developers know players want to go back to Ishgard (and, he teased, even live there), so crafters will be responsible for helping to reconstruct the city following the end of the Heavensward story.
Of course, there will be new recipes and gear. And new systems, starting with the new “Trust” system. This will not be exactly the same as Final Fantasy XI’s system of the same name, but it will allow NPCs to team up with players to take on story content. The twins (Alphinaud and Alisiae), Y’shtola, Urianger, and Thancred were all pictured for this, but an exact list was not revealed.
Players can also re-challenge old content with the New Game+ system, revisiting old scenarios at current strength. There’s also a new world visit system to alow you to hop to another world on the same datacenter if you’d like to adventure with friends elsewhere. And speaking of datacenters, the North American and European regions are both having another datacenter added, with servers being reorganized and regrouped accordingly. (Yoshida apologized profusely for issues with the centers and with Stormblood’s launch.)
The launch of 5.0 will also bring an end to 32-bit Windows support. And Yoshida made it very clear that his shirt was hinting at the seventh (and probably final) new race to be added to the game, which all but confirms fan favorite Viera being added. (There should be hints in the last part of Return to Ivalice, which makes it even more clear.)
With that, the keynote drew to a close… before CEO and president of Square-Enix Yosuke Matsuda hollered at Yoshida from offstage and marched out in a blue cape and blue mask. The presentation here was, as always, high-energy; it turned into a little skit with Yoshida protesting that he couldn’t reveal any more and Matsuda outright stating that as president, he can do whatever he wants. Like revealing Blue Mage right then and there.
Blue Mage will be a new limited job releasing in… patch 4.5, not Shadowbringers. What’s a limited job? We’ll have to find out tomorrow, which will offer more details, but we know that when the job is added it will be capped at level 50. We also know that it will have no associated class and no actions learned via leveling, so you’ll have to seek out and learn everything to expand your lineup. There will also be a new BLU-only duty introduced in 4.5, The Masked Carnival.
To speculate a tiny bit, it sounds with the Trust system and the nature of BLU that this may very well be a job intended for solo players to party with NPCs via Trusts if it wants to engage in proper duties. It obviously is going to be limited in some way, hence the name, but more details will be unveiled during the live letter on Saturday.
As in previous years, the keynote managed to drum up lots of energy and excitement while also offering teases about things left unsaid. We’ll learn more about 4.5 over the weekend, but likely we’ll have to wait for the next installment of the festival to learn more about the expansion… but there’s a lot being hinted without being said. So we should keep an open mind.