Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s sixth year is the Shadowbringers high

Get thee within, ye of victories forsaken.

Let’s look back at the sixth year of Final Fantasy XIV since its relaunch, shall we? Six times we’ve had a Rising celebration to commemorate the game’s return from the ashes, and there’s a lot to talk about over the past year. Except there totally isn’t and it doesn’t matter because quite frankly the reception of Shadowbringers functionally renders the majority of the past year completely irrelevant in terms of how people received things.

I’m only exaggerating a little bit. Shadowbringers feels like a real sea change, an expansion that was such an immediate slam dunk in terms of execution that it’s easy to forget that there were any controversies leading up to it. Even now, there are some members of the community who seem loathe to critique it even a little, as if saying “okay, maybe these parts were less than ideal” will break everything. But there were controversies, and I think that’s where you have to start framing this past year.

The year in review

I'm in danger!Here, let me start with this footage of Tonya Harding’s 1991 performance at the figure skating championships. Go ahead and watch that performance, it’s five minutes long. Actually, you should probably go ahead and watch I, Tonya because it’s a fantastic movie, but that’s a fair bit longer and you don’t need all of that for context. What you need is just to realize that every single time that woman went into the air, there was the very real chance that she would come down and stumble… and that would be the end of her performance, full stop.

She might have gotten up again, sure, but going up for the triple Axel jump was a real risk. She was the first American woman to successfully perform one. The list of women who have done those successfully still sits at 10 as of 2019. The point here is that flubbing that jump would have been bad.

The run-up to Shadowbringers felt like the FFXIV team preparing to do a triple Axel at full speed without having warmed up. And we were all holding our breath.

It’s not that the last two patches of Stormblood were bad or anything, but Shadowbringers had one hell of a lift going into it. It needed to be better than Stormblood, yes, but it also kept setting the bar higher. First, we weren’t being told where we were going. Then we were shown Viera without any men, a rumble of the controversy that was coming when we found out that they were indeed gender-locked. Then we found out we were getting a new tank but no new healer. Then we found out we were heading to the First, and then we saw all of the changes coming to existing jobs like tanks and healers.

All of this felt like it could have gone so badly. And then it didn’t.

That’s not to say nothing that happened with Shadowbringers didn’t still bring controversy. The changes to healers were indeed something that’s still being debated, the gender-locked races are still brought up as a bad choice (including by me, I’ll note), and there are still disagreements over some of the pre-patch elements like Blue Mage. It’s just that Shadowbringers on a whole is good enough that those elements were additions to the conversation, not the entire conversation. A sideline, not the focus.

So, yeah. Shadowbringers was tricky to pull off. It could have gone so wrong. It went right, though, and to a certain extent all of our collective fawning comes down to letting out a breath of relief. (Not hardly all or even most of it, mind you. Just some.)

Some people will burn themselves in hopes that their tormentors will relent.

The year to come

We’re going to start getting patch 5.1 hype soon. That’s just the cycle. We’ll find out about YoRHa, about the next dungeon, and perhaps most importantly about where the story intends to go from here. There are a lot of potential angles for exploration, and nothing that’s pulling too strongly just yet; it doesn’t feel like we quite have the political dramas that kept Stormblood going, but I tend to doubt that we’ll not be heading right back into matters of sorting out the First.

Since 5.1 is almost certainly in October, that places 5.2 in late January/early February and 5.3 in June, which lines up nicely with when we can expect things like the next fan festival and so forth. There’s a lot of life left in this game yet, without a doubt, and I’m curious to see where the story can go, especially since our zones are pretty decidedly limited and there are pretty hard boundaries on the world at the moment.

Not that we couldn’t be surprised by a new zone, of course. It definitely feels like there’s a question of where we can go now, and since we know of no plans for Eureka-like content with the next patch, it feels at least faintly plausible… but we’ll just have to wait and see. 5.1 will give us a much clearer sense of the game’s next year, especially when 5.0 was such a resounding success.

What the next year needs

You make me feel like hopping.Honestly, Shadowbringers raised the bar for the game’s future content. It’s all going to be judged on the basis of how well it does or doesn’t live up to this expansion, and that’s a tall order at the best of times. It becomes a little taller when the luster starts to fade from the new content, as we all begin to look to the next year and a half with a question of what we’re going to be doing now that the impact has landed.

We currently don’t have a sense of the next series of trial bosses, the new Deep Dungeon, how we’re handling Relic-style weapons, where the plot is going… lots of things, in other words. And while the expansion’s base content was good enough to push that from immediate thoughts, I feel like September kind of needs to establish what the next set of goals are and where we’re going.

This is especially true with the discussions about no sequel in development right now for FFXIV. The wording of that is somewhat more ambiguous in German; it could mean “we’re not working on another MMO” or “we’re not working on a direct sequel to this game,” and without having been in the room it’s hard to be sure. Heck, Yoshida loves to gently nudge at meanings anyhow, so if there’s a way for him to gently troll the community with a response, he will.

I also feel like we could use more experimental stuff. At the end of the day, the reason that Shadowbringers worked so well was that it actually played it pretty conventional; for all the hiccups it has, it did manage to basically stick to exactly the stuff that the team has consistently proved that it has on lock. Expanding the content for Blue Mage definitely helps broaden the experimental side (and let’s be clear, I wouldn’t be surprised if the panel at PAX West includes a nod to more of what comes next for Blue Mage), but I’m curious to see what the next year holds in general for our content within the game. There are lots of blanks, and once we start learning more I think we’ll all feel more assured that the future looks better than ever.

That’s the hard part with landing a good jump, after all; you still have to do something afterwards.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, let’s look at the game’s current healing state and ask whether or not the goals of changing things for healers really hit the intended mark, now that we’ve got some time with the expansion.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.

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Toy Clown

Tanya Harding’s amazing talent in that video is quite overshadowed by the fact she knee-capped ice-skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan. I think the acknowledgment should go toward Nancy for earning a Bronze after that injury. You could have used a better example, Eliot. :3

The story in Shadowbringers has been so gripping. They’ve really outdone themselves with that, the music, introducing memorable characters, aesthetics that are more in line with fantasy rather than Far Eastern attire on nearly everything that we saw in Stormblood.

When leveling for SB, I ran into the problem of capping out my character before finishing the story. This time I leveled White Mage and Dancer side-by-side and been taking my time running through the story. I’m still not finished. I’ve had to stop reading FFXIV forums and not participate in Discord discussions around it, but I’m been holding strong!

The one thing I absolutely have come to dislike about this expansion is how they turned nearly all the classes into whack-a-mole gameplay. My hands hurt after doing dungeons and I limit myself to a handful a week. I fully returned to my White Mage after experiencing things being more difficult to keep track of on DPS classes.

I’d really like to see developers start taking note of how the gameplay they’re creating is destroying peoples hands over time. Being that I mainly RP, at least it’s easy to get a break from in that regard.

Overall, I give the expansion a huge thumbs up, except for the combat redo.


I’ve been taking it slow, finally just got to 80 on my main finishing Extinguishing the Last Light. Now I have to decide if I do what I did at the end of SB, abandoning my main (since there’s no xp to be gained) and switching to one of the others.
As much as I’ve enjoyed ShB, I have to admit that I might be burning out on FFXIV a tiny bit now after a year. I’d gotten all the healers to 70, pld 64, nin 55, and some other assorted jobs leveled before ShB, now I find I have no interest in completionism – I’ll probably bring a tank and a dps up to cap and then maybe I’m done with it?

David Blair

You did far better than I. I loved the story concept of Shadowbringers but once I got my Pally to Lord Vauthry I just felt so burned out and looking at everything ahead of me; leveling other jobs, doing fates over and over, crafting and gathering over and over, tanking raids over and over….. I just walked away. That was three weeks ago. My house gets demolished in two days and I’m fine with letting it go. I’m hoping I come out of my slump and jump back to the game to enjoy it with a different role, but I’m also questioning if it’s over for me…

Ruby Lancer

I was kind of hoping for some more news about 5.1 to come out of Gamescom myself, honestly, cause it just seemed as if they were holding off some info specifically for it.

Granted, we did get some interesting tidbits from Gamescom about things, such as the YoRHa raid going to have Nier characters guest starring, and the bombshell of a drop that the team is actively looking at how they can do cross data center play, but overall we didn’t really seem to get much to say what is coming.

And yeah, for all the amazing things Shadowbringers has done, it has also done quite a bit of missteps itself, if not in the way folks were expecting. It landed that triple axle, but it feels like it slipped up on some of the more simple things.

Ninjas are one of the biggest signs of this, with the fairly small changes having completely upended their old rotations and placing them firmly in the same spot Machinists were in back in ShB, having to work harder just to do the same DPS as others with a play style that even Ninja mains were finding hard to enjoy. Summoners are in a similar spot too, it seems, though its one of those things that is slowly coming out as time goes on.

And while Machinists do play a lot better now than they ever have before, they and the other two Ranged Physical Damage Dealers do kind of need some potency buffs. While they can still clear content and all, its sounding like groups are starting to trend away from having them in their parties.

I’m still on the edge in regards to the changes to healers as well, on if they’re ultimately good or bad. On one hand, it feels like the heals I do have are really weak and at times can barely keep the tank alive in a trash pull. On the other hand, it also feels like there are many healers that seem to be prioritizing doing more damage and letting the tanks sit at dangerous HP levels in the same pulls. Its hard to say if that’s a failing of Shadowbringers itself, or just people continuing to try and push using every GCD for damage regardless of things.

I should note that’s also pretty much in dungeons alone. In raid content, its been fairly well from what I can tell, both from doing the normal raids myself and watching a lot of the savage stuff.

Anyway, Shadowbringers did come out strong, and has been one of the best expansions to be released in a long time, and I suspect will end up winning several awards at the end of the year. It does, though, have its issues which have been acknowledged and seem as if they will be worked on. Its just a matter of hoping for more information about what’s to come to be released soon enough.