Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

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Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood box cover.jpg
Collector's edition cover art depicting Lyse
Developer(s)Square Enix Business Division 5
Publisher(s)Square Enix
Director(s)Naoki Yoshida
Producer(s)Naoki Yoshida
Designer(s)
  • Naoki Yoshida
  • Nobuaki Komoto
Programmer(s)Hideyuki Kasuga
Artist(s)Hiroshi Minagawa
Writer(s)
  • Natsuko Ishikawa
  • Banri Oda
Composer(s)
SeriesFinal Fantasy
Platform(s)
ReleaseJune 20, 2017
Genre(s)MMORPG
Mode(s)Multiplayer

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood[a] is the second expansion pack to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed and published by Square Enix for Microsoft Windows, macOS, and PlayStation 4. It was released on June 20, 2017, just under two years after Heavensward, the previous expansion. Like for its predecessor, Naoki Yoshida served as director and producer and Masayoshi Soken composed the soundtrack, with Nobuo Uematsu contributing the theme song. The expansion pack was released as a standalone product for current players; for new players, the "Complete Edition" of Final Fantasy XIV that originally launched with Heavensward was updated to include both expansions. In order to make necessary engine improvements, service for the PlayStation 3 game client was terminated with the expansion's early access period. A special upgrade campaign allowed affected players to obtain the PlayStation 4 version for free.

Stormblood marks a shift in the ongoing conflict with the Garlean Empire. Players lead rebellions in the imperial provinces of Ala Mhigo, an Eorzean city-state conquered twenty years ago, and Doma, a Far Eastern nation with a proud ninja tradition. These regions are administered by the emperor's son, Zenos yae Galvus, whose brutal oppression of the conquered imperial subjects impels the player to act. Traveling these diverse lands, players join forces with the Ala Mhigan Resistance and the deposed Crown Prince of Doma. In addition to adding new areas, the expansion pack increases the level cap, adds two new character classes, revamps the battle system for existing combat classes, and introduces swimming gameplay.

Stormblood was well received upon release and earned nominations for "Expansion of the Year". In August 2017, Square Enix announced that the title had reached a cumulative total of 10 million accounts.[1] As with its predecessors, major content patches were scheduled for every three months. The first one—"The Legend Returns"—was released on October 10, 2017 and premieres a storyline written by Yasumi Matsuno that features his signature Ivalice setting, as well as a special "Ultimate" difficulty battle, designed to be the most challenging content in the game.

Gameplay[edit]

A dramatic overhaul of the battle system accompanies the level cap increase to level 70.

The gameplay and quest structure of Stormblood largely match that of its base game. As with many MMORPGs, players interact with each other in a persistent world that responds to their actions. A dramatic overhaul of the battle system accompanies the level cap increase to level 70.[2] The changes fall into three broad categories.[3] First, battle abilities were redesigned to eliminate redundant actions and improve the flow of combat. Second, a new set of "role actions" ensures that all players can access critical abilities to their role—tank, healer, or damage dealer. Finally, all classes gained a "Job Gauge" that displays all class-relevant information in a more visually distinct way.[3][4] Two new job classes were introduced as well—the katana-wielding Samurai and the versatile Red Mage, both damage-dealing classes.[5] These jobs begin at level 50 with their own storylines connected to the new settings. Unlike Heavensward, they are accessible to any player with a level 50 class, regardless of story progress.[5]

In addition to new dungeons and raids, Stormblood introduces a new player versus player (PvP) mode called Rival Wings. Two teams of 24 players face off in goblin-run war games. Points are earned by destroying opposing bases and robot minions. Players are able to call down and pilot giant mecha after achieving certain objectives. The mode has been compared to multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games.[6]

Finally, a new area called "The Forbidden Land, Eureka" debuted with Patch 4.2. Its gameplay is inspired by "old school" MMORPGs, including Final Fantasy XI and others.[7][4] In Eureka, players must use an elemental wheel to exploit monsters' weaknesses and increase their own Elemental level. Unlike the rest of the game, players lose experience points if defeated and can even "Level Down".[8] Later sections of Eureka permit the use of Logos Actions, which are unique spells and abilities that players craft using materials found in the zone.[9] Eureka culminates in a high tier raid called the Baldesion Arsenal that challenges 56 players to work together to overcome it.[10]

Plot[edit]

Setting and characters[edit]

The main characters of Stormblood, clockwise from top: Lyse, Fordola, Yotsuyu, the Warrior of Light, Raubahn, Yugiri, Gosetsu, Zenos, and Hien

Stormblood takes place in the fictional world of Hydaelyn, a planet filled with multiple environments and climates covering three large continents. This expansion focuses on the Garlean imperial provinces of Ala Mhigo and Doma. The Garlean Empire is dedicated to eradicating primals—summoned deities who deplete the land of aether, the planet's lifeblood. Their brutal expansionism is motivated by a desire to protect the world from this threat. Ala Mhigo is a city-state in Gyr Abania, the easternmost portion of Eorzea, the region in which much of the game has taken place. As it contains a land bridge to the other continents, this region holds strategic importance to Eorzea as a buffer state.[11] It was conquered by the Empire twenty years prior in the aftermath of a populist uprising against the corrupt Ala Mhigan monarchy. Gaius van Baelsar, the legatus who led the invasion, had intended to continue his campaign through the region, but was rebuffed by a massive army of dragons. Instead, he built his namesake Wall dividing Ala Mhigo from the rest of Eorzea and bided his time. Gaius also established the Skulls, an irregular unit composed of Ala Mhigan youths who aspire for Garlean citizenship. Following van Baelsar's defeat at the hands of the player in A Realm Reborn, the new Garlean Emperor Varis zos Galvus instates his son Zenos yae Galvus as imperial viceroy. Zenos, a particularly harsh and sadistic tyrant, stands in contrast to van Baelsar's relatively meritocratic rule. Zenos' bloodlust drives him to seek and kill worthy opponents for sport.

Doma is a nation on the other side of the world which had been conquered by Zenos on a previous campaign. Once home to a proud warrior kingdom, the imperial occupation has driven its Crown Prince, Hien, into hiding and its people to despair. Upon his appointment as Ala Mhigan viceroy, Zenos promoted his lieutenant, Yotsuyu, a Doman turncoat, to acting viceroy. The developers based Doma on the cultures of ancient China and Japan.[12][13]:0:27:17 The Azim Steppe, which lies to the north of Doma, is the home of countless tribes of nomadic Au Ra. The tribes hold an annual Naadam to determine which one will serve as ruler of the steppe for the year, based on the Mongolian festival of the same name.[12][13]:0:27:17 The island nation of Hingashi lies across the Ruby Sea from Doma. An isolationist nation, Hingashi has only opened the port of Kugane to foreign trade and does not otherwise involve itself with international affairs. Hingashi and Kugane are pastiches of Edo-era Japan and Nagasaki, respectively.[12] The Ruby Sea is home to the turtle-like Kojin tribes as well as the Confederacy, a pirate organization that administers a tithe to "protect" ships that pass through their waters. Of the four nations of the Eorzean Alliance—Gridania, Limsa Lominsa, Ul'dah, and Ishgard—only Ul'dah plays a major role in Stormblood, as its military commander Raubahn is an Ala Mhigan refugee.

In the lead-up to the expansion, a rogue faction within the Ala Mhigan Resistance attacks Baelsar's Wall while posing as Eorzean Alliance soldiers with the hope of forcing the Alliance's hand and escalating the Garlean conflict. The player's character—an adventurer hailed as a Warrior of Light for defeating van Baelsar—and the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, a peace-keeping organization, are dispatched to handle the situation, but one of their leaders is killed in the operation. This prompts their traveling companion, an Ala Mhigan orphan named Lyse, to renew her dedication to free her country from Garlean rule. Her comrades, the twins Alphinaud and Alisaie and the Scions' bookkeeper Tataru, assist her in this effort. The Alliance ultimately captures the Wall and their leaders begin to fortify the position, expecting imperial retaliation. Meanwhile, Gosetsu, one of Lord Hien's retainers, arrives from Doma to recall his compatriot Yugiri—the Doman refugee leader—to their homeland. The Alliance establishes contact with the main Resistance force across the Wall, led by Conrad and his lieutenant M'naago. On the other side of the conflict, Zenos mobilizes to crush the growing rebellion, with aid from the Skulls' commander Fordola.

Story[edit]

As Stormblood opens, the leaders of the Alliance are sympathetic to the cause of Ala Mhigan liberation and eager to cast the Garleans out of Eorzea but hesitant to commit to a large scale military offensive. Raubahn dispatches the Warrior of Light, Lyse, and the Scions to rendezvous with the Ala Mhigan Resistance on the other side of Baelsar's Wall and gauge their ability to support an Alliance incursion into Gyr Abania. They meet with Conrad, the leader of a large Resistance faction, and agree to cooperate. However, Fordola leads a surprise attack on the Resistance headquarters and decimates their forces. Zenos attends the assault as well and handily defeats the adventurer. Unimpressed, he withdraws the attack and leaves the Resistance to lick its wounds. The Alliance is thus unable to confront Zenos' legion head-to-head. Alphinaud suggests fomenting revolution in Doma, Zenos' other imperial charge, would divide his attention and sap his military strength.

The Scions accompany the Warrior of Light to the Far East. In Kugane, they reunite with Gosetsu and cross the Ruby Sea with the aid of Blue Kojin tribe traders. On the way, they convince the Confederacy to drive the Empire out of the Ruby Sea by breaking the Garleans' contract with the Red Kojin mercenaries. The party finds Yugiri in Doma. Prince Hien has tasked her with gauging the will of the Doman people—if they yet yearn for freedom, then he will return from his exile to lead them in battle; if not, then he will offer his head on a platter to the Empire to spare his people further misery. In another encounter with Zenos, he crushes the hero again in single combat, but this time before withdrawing, he bids the adventurer to get stronger so he can better savor his hunt. Some villagers that Yugiri had rescued earlier return to drive off the imperial retinue.

Inspired by the people's will, the Scions travel to the Azim Steppe to hold Hien to his promise. They find him living among the Mol tribe who had nursed him back to health after a failed Doman rebellion. He plans to win the upcoming Naadam on behalf of the Mol, which would give him command of the Steppe tribes, and use their might to bolster the liberation army. By passing the Steppe trials, Hien and his allies gain the Mol elder's blessing to participate in the Naadam. The adventurer succeeds in bringing the Mol tribe to victory and the battle-ready warriors eagerly join Hien's cause. Returning to Doma, Alphinaud presents Hien with a Far Eastern alliance comprising the Confederacy, numerous Doman villages, and the Blue Kojin tribe. Along with the Steppe tribes, they launch an assault on Doma Castle. Hien confronts Yotsuyu in the throne room. Defiant, she tries to trap the party in the crumbling edifice but Gosetsu holds the ceiling up just long enough for the others to escape. He and Yotsuyu are consigned to the depths of Doman waters. With the acting viceroy gone, Hien reclaims his kingdom and pledges to repay the favor in kind for Ala Mhigo.

As the Scions return to Eorzea, word spreads of Doma's freedom, stoking the fires of rebellion across various imperial provinces and stretching the Empire's military thin. The Ala Mhigan diaspora and citizens liberated from labor camps converge to swell the ranks of the Resistance. Raubahn and Conrad press this advantage to capture a key bridge on the route to the Ala Mhigan capital. This operation gives the main Alliance armies access to Gyr Abania proper. During the next engagement, Fordola fires an artillery cannon at an imperial watchtower on Zenos' orders, killing the remaining Skulls tasked with defending it. Conrad, too, is caught by the blast and is mortally wounded. With his dying breath, he passes leadership of the Resistance on to Lyse.

The full Alliance and Resistance push into the Lochs surrounding the capital and establish a forward operating base. Under the cover of the Alliance's frontal assault, the Scions execute a stealth operation into the research facility where their comrade Krile, who had been captured earlier in the war, is being experimented upon. Garlean scientists succeeded in artificially replicating her Echo, a magical ability that allows the user to manipulate aether. They imbue Fordola with this power and she uses it to stand toe-to-toe with the adventurer for a time. The Scions manage to capture her and rescue Krile when the power falters. Hien arrives during the main charge with a flying cavalry unit to provide air support. The Warrior of Light breaks through the battle lines to challenge Zenos directly. At the top of the palace, Zenos unveils a captured Shinryu, the mad primal that precipitated the conflict at Baelsar's Wall. With the power of the artificial Echo, he fuses with it and resumes the attack. However, the hero overcomes him and Zenos takes his own life, his bloodlust sated by their final contest. The liberation of Ala Mhigo is thus complete.

Rebuilding two nations[edit]

Lyse calls a conference of refugee leaders, village elders, and tribal representatives to debate the shape of the new nation. A tribal faction summons their primal Lakshmi in an effort to disrupt the proceedings. Lyse urges Fordola to come to her people's defense. With her Echo, they defeat the primal and she returns to her prison cell. The conference concludes with the attendees drawing the charter for a parliamentary republic. Meanwhile, Sultana Nanamo of Ul'dah arranges for Ala Mhigan refugees to be repatriated. Her plan is to fund the Saltery to indirectly provide work and wealth to the fledgling nation. She also convinces Raubahn to leave her service and return to his homeland, promoting his son Pipin to Flame General.

In Doma, Hien and Yugiri are shocked to find Gosetsu alive. By some miracle, he survived the collapse of Doma Castle. By another, Yotsuyu did as well, losing her memories in the process. At Gosetsu's insistence, Hien spares her life due to her mental affliction. Another complication arises when Asahi, a Garlean ambassador, arrives in Doma with an offer of peace. He claims to represent the Populares, a reformist party that seeks to end the policy of expansionism. As a gesture of good faith, Asahi suggests a prisoner exchange—Doman conscripts for Garlean prisoners of war, including Yotsuyu, whom he reveals to be his step-sister. He also asks that Doma ensure no primals are summoned in the region. Hien readily agrees to the latter condition but cautions that as an amnesiac, Yotsuyu cannot be considered a Garlean citizen. If she fails to regain her memories by the time of the exchange, she will remain in Doman custody. When Asahi returns with the Doman conscripts, he brings his parents with him. The shock of seeing the people who abused and sold her into prostitution as a child rekindles her memories. Yotsuyu murders them in the cover of night and flees to Asahi. At the appointed hour of the prisoner exchange, Asahi manipulates Yotsuyu into summoning the primal Tsukuyomi so she can take her revenge. He uses this as a pretext to call off the deal. The adventurer dispatches the primal and Asahi gloats that Doma will never know peace. With her dying breath, Yotsuyu stabs Asahi and ends his mad plot.

In the aftermath of the battle, the Warrior of Light discovers that Asahi was acting on the orders of Zenos—who has mysteriously survived his suicide—in order to discredit the Populares and advance the goals of the Optimates, a war-mongering faction within the Empire. Maxima, Asahi's second-in-command and a true Populare member, completes the prisoner exchange and promises to present the Doman peace treaty when he returns to the capital. Alphinaud volunteers to accompany him, hoping to learn more about Garlean politics. On the way, their airship is shot down by Zenos' personal guard but they are saved by a Garlean who calls himself Shadowhunter. Meanwhile, the remaining Scions investigate the possibility that Zenos' corpse has been possessed by a member of the Ascians, their immortal foes who seek to cause chaos on Hydaelyn. At a summit to welcome Ala Mhigo to the Eorzean Alliance, the leaders debate how best to respond to the renewed Ascian threat. The meeting is interrupted by a psychic disturbance afflicting the Scions which leaves half of their membership in comas.

Maxima and a group of Populares defect to Ala Mhigo. He shares that Alphinaud has gone with Shadowhunter to investigate the Ascians and that the Empire is mobilizing to retake Ala Mhigo. As the Alliance moves to defend, Hien assembles his own Far Eastern Alliance including the Steppe and Kojin tribes, the Confederacy, and a number of resistance groups in imperial provinces. By repurposing ancient technology, they erect a great aetherial wall that is capable of repelling aerial threats from the Empire. The barrier is proven effective when it stops the Shadowhunter's vessel from crossing. He comes bearing Alphinaud, who has also fallen into a mysterious coma. The adventurer recognizes him as Gaius van Baelsar, though he has discarded his title and dedicated his life to eradicating Ascians. He informs them that the Empire resumed production on chemical weapon called Black Rose and deployed in the providences on the orders of Elidibus acting through Zenos’s body, revealing that Elidibus and Lahabrea are two of the three leading Ascians with the third yet to reveal himself. Gaius departs to destroy the production facilities and pursue leads on Ascians in the Garlean capital. Hien joins the other Alliance leaders in Ala Mhigo to parley with Emperor Varis before the ground invasion.

Varis reveals that the Garlean Empire was established by the Ascians though one member who assumed the identity of his grandfather Solus zos Galvus, revealing that their Calamities serve to merge the Shards back into the Source. Varis offers an alliance with the Eorzeans to allow the Calamities to continue so they destroy the Ascians once the reunification of the fractured dimensions gives them the strength to fight them. The Alliance leaders refuse Varis in disgust and thus the battle begins, Alisaie falling into a coma after the Eorzeans win the first engagement. The Warrior of Light manages to drive off Elidibus and leave the frontlines in a stalemate. The psychic disturbance returns to impart a message to the hero: seek out a beacon at the Crystal Tower to avert a ruinous future. Meanwhile, having cheated death by possessing another, the real Zenos seeks to reclaim his body.

Development[edit]

Planning for Stormblood began well over a year prior to its announcement with a "scriptwriting retreat" involving producer and director Naoki Yoshida and the main scenario writers.[4] Full development began in October 2016 with the team size ultimately reaching over 250.[12] The process for developing an expansion involves laying out the progression from main game to expansion in detail, and categorizing these elements so that developers would not get confused between patch content and expansion content which were being created simultaneously.[14] Yoshida emphasized in his design philosophy that an expansion to a MMORPG should have as much content as the base game.[15] Having explored the skies in the previous expansion, Heavensward, Yoshida made the seas a focus of this expansion and included swimming gameplay.[16][17] For the setting, Yoshida felt that players would expect Ala Mhigo based on the direction of the story so the designers pushed to include an entirely new area to surprise them.[18] The art team deliberately drew a contrast between two different types of Japanese aesthetic for Doma and Hingashi, rather than simply replicating the Edo Japan of the popular imagination.[4] The expansion was announced at the Las Vegas segment of Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival 2016, which took place in October of that year.[19] Further details about the expansion were released at the Tokyo and Frankfurt events, including the release date, new jobs, locations, and raids.[20][21]

"Story skip" and "level boost" items debuted with the launch of Stormblood.[22] These were created in response to complaints about the long story questline that might be daunting and inhibiting to new players. Yoshida explained that they were deliberately priced to be as expensive as the game itself to discourage players from using them too freely, instead urging prospective players to experience the story from the beginning.[22] The developers responded to criticism of the PvP system by dramatically overhauling it in Stormblood. All jobs gained dedicated PvP actions that are balanced separately from the rest of the game.[23] The changes were aimed at paring down the number of actions to produce a smoother experience.[24] They are also designed to support a potential PvP tournament scene, including the "Feast Regional Championship" series which was held as a part of Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival 2018.[25][26]

Yoshida brought on Yasumi Matsuno, director of Final Fantasy Tactics and other Ivalice games, as a guest collaborator to work on a series of large-scale raids for the expansion.[27] Yoshida met Matsuno, an avid player of Final Fantasy XIV, at a work dinner and was surprised by his request to be allowed to write something for the game.[28][29] Matsuno wrote the scenario for the "Return to Ivalice" raids, which involve uncovering the ruins of the ancient Ivalician civilization and exposing the truth about the Zodiac Brave Story, based on the fable of the same name in Final Fantasy Tactics. He made an effort to integrate the story into the existing Final Fantasy XIV setting and ensure that players who were not familiar with previous games set in Ivalice could still enjoy it.[27] When Matsuno saw how enthusiastic the development team was about the first part of Return to Ivalice, he felt compelled to expand the story and design for the later parts.[28] Keita Amemiya, creator and character designer of Garo, was invited to contribute monster designs for these raids.[30][31] In exchange, armor and weapons from Garo were added to the game as part of a collaboration event.[32]

Stormblood also features collaboration events with Monster Hunter: World and Final Fantasy XV. The seeds of the former were planted during the development of A Realm Reborn in 2011.[33] When Yoshida took the job as producer and director of the redevelopment efforts, his friend and Monster Hunter series producer Ryozo Tsujimoto tried to warn him away from the project, fearing for his career trajectory. When Yoshida persisted, Tsujimoto offered assistance from Capcom and Monster Hunter to promote the game. Yoshida declined this as well, wanting Final Fantasy XIV to succeed on its own merits. Remembering this gesture, Yoshida and Tsujimoto reconvened during the development of Monster Hunter: World to finally make good on the latter's suggestion with the goal of celebrating Monster Hunter's newfound global audience.[33] The collaboration consists of a boss battle against Rathalos in Stormblood and a Behemoth hunt in Monster Hunter: World.[34][35] The collaboration with Final Fantasy XV was also long in the making. In the run-up to its release in 2016, Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata and Yoshida discussed working together but wanted to wait for the right time in their respective content schedules.[36] In both games' events, players battle the other title's version of Garuda to win new outfits and mounts.[37]

Support for PlayStation 3 (PS3) ended with the release of Stormblood. The change allowed developers to increase the speed of loading non-player characters, as the PS3 had limited input/output capacity, which in turn permitted faster travel speeds for mounts.[38] A special upgrade campaign allowed affected PS3 players to obtain the PlayStation 4 version for free.[39] Stormblood also updates the game for compatibility with PlayStation 4 Pro. Two modes are available, one focusing on framerate and game performance and the other focusing on graphical resolution.[40] A companion app for mobile phones was released on August 15, 2018.[41] It allows players to chat with friends, schedule events, manage inventory, and sell items using the in-game Market Board.[42]

Patches[edit]

The development team schedules the release of a major update approximately every three months. Each of these free content patches includes a continuation of the main scenario as well as new raids, features, trials, and dungeons. Minor patches that come in between major updates focus on quality of life improvements. With Stormblood, Yoshida reallocated resources to facilitate the development of new types of content (e.g. Eureka, Ultimate raids) by reducing the number of dungeons added during odd-numbered patches.[43] As with previous expansions, Square Enix released five major patches for Stormblood over the course of its two-year content cycle.[44]

Patches and expansions
Patch Title Release date Notes
4.0 Stormblood June 20, 2017 Weekly limited content was not made available on the expansion's launch day in order to allow players to enjoy the story at their own pace. The Omega: Deltascape raid debuted two weeks post-launch with a Savage difficulty mode released two weeks after that. In this storyline, Cid and Nero discover that Omega is actually a biomechanical reality-altering alien. After its battle with Shinryu, Omega creates a pocket dimension in which it organizes a tournament of creatures it has fabricated by observing this new planet. It challenges these strong synthetic life forms to augment its own destructive power. The Warrior of Light enters this tournament to have a chance at fighting Omega, which represents an existential threat to all life on the planet. A cartoonish Chocobo called Alpha, which Omega considers to be a failed experiment, aids the party in this effort.
4.1 "The Legend Returns"[45] October 10, 2017 This patch begins the Return to Ivalice 24-player raid series. Players travel to the Royal City of Rabanastre in search of Jenomis, a Garlean playwright who has gone missing. His children, Ramza and Alma, are named for characters in the Zodiac Brave Story, a fable about the lost civilization of Ivalice. Underneath the city, they discover the ruins of Ivalice and find Jenomis, who had been abducted by a bounty hunter named Ba'Gamnan. Ba'Gamnan demands a powerful artifact called auracite and Jenomis' research notes in exchange for him. Jenomis' family has dedicated itself to uncovering the true account of the Zodiac Brave Story and they ask the player for aid in this effort. This update also premieres the first "Ultimate" difficulty battle, called the Unending Coil of Bahamut, an Extreme trial against Shinryu, as well as a new PvP mode Rival Wings, the ability to challenge dungeons with AI-controlled Adventurer Squadrons, and player housing in Kugane.
4.2 "Rise of a New Sun"[46] January 30, 2018 The main feature of this patch is Omega: Sigmascape, in which the Warrior of Light challenges more of Omega's creations, including a mad clown named Kefka. Omega tries to understand how the adventurer can be so powerful, hypothesizing that mortal danger is the key. Another threat comes in the form of Koryu, an ancient monster whose seal is crumbling after thousands of years. Genbu, one of the Four Lords, employs the hero to quell the raging energy of his fellow Lords so they have the strength to renew Koryu's seal, starting with Byakko, the White Tiger. Finally, the first section of Eureka, Anemos, debuts in this update, as well as a new map for the Feast PvP arena.
4.3 "Under the Moonlight"[47] May 22, 2018 This patch continues the Return to Ivalice with the Ridorana Lighthouse. Players travel there chasing Ba'Gamnan who has gone mad from the auracite's power. As a former captain of Dalmasca's army, he desired it to take revenge on the Empire that subjugated his land. When the auracite transforms him into the dragon Yiazmat, the party defeats him and reclaims the artifact. In Doma, players begin aiding in the country's reconstruction efforts. This update also introduces another Ultimate trial, The Weapon's Refrain, a venture into the next section of Eureka, Pagos, and a new 100-floor Deep Dungeon called Heaven-on-High. Finally, by popular demand, the "bunny suit" costume was made wearable by male characters.[48]
4.4 "Prelude in Violet"[49] September 18, 2018 The Omega raids conclude in this patch with Omega: Alphascape. After the Warrior of Light emerges victorious in the tournament, Omega challenges the hero directly. After its defeat, Omega reconfigures into a humanoid form, positing that this is the key to the Warrior of Light's strength. This test fails as well and Cid explains that true strength comes from the heart and will, not an experiment. With Omega's death, Alpha is free to explore and learn more about the world. The player may also challenge the next of the Four Lords, Suzaku the Vermilion Bird, and explore a new region in Eureka, Pyros.
4.5 "Requiem for Heroes"[50] January 8, 2019 Released in multiple parts, this patch sets up the events of Shadowbringers. The Return to Ivalice storyline concludes in the Orbonne Monastery. The player enlists the aid of the Dalmascan Resistance to locate the monastery where an ancient evil known as Ultima, the High Seraph, was trapped at the end of the Zodiac Brave Story. Ultima lures the player deeper into its domain in order to break free from this prison. After Ultima's defeat, Jenomis writes a play to recount the true Zodiac Brave Story, including the role of a man named Ramza who was erased from history. The Four Lords storyline culminates in a battle against Seiryu. With all Four Lords calmed, they manage to contain Koryu and repair the seal. The Eureka series also wraps up in Hydatos with a raid on the Baldesion Arsenal. Other features of this update include a new "Limited" job, Blue Mage, that cannot use normal party matching functions;[51] a new map for Rival Wings, the Hidden Gorge; the ability to travel to other servers within a data center using the World Visit system; and the addition of mahjong as a minigame.

Music[edit]

Masayoshi Soken composed the majority of the expansion's score—over 100 tracks—in addition to his duties as sound director.[52] Nobuo Uematsu composed two vocal tracks, "Stormblood" and "Revolutions"; the former is a collaboration with Soken and the latter serves as the main theme for the game. Susan Calloway returned as the featured vocalist.[53] Soken used "militant advance and invasion" as the central idea to the soundtrack, contrasting between powerful military marches and "those on the receiving end" of this encroachment.[54] An example of this is the Ala Mhigan national anthem, "The Measure of His Reach". It has two versions, the original and a version used under the Garlean occupation that has harsher sound and more violent lyrics.[13]:0:38:40 The main musical phrase of "Stormblood" reappears multiple times throughout the soundtrack with different instrumentation and stylings to match the context.[55] Due to the setting, Soken incorporated Asian instruments into his orchestration and chose to pare down the number used in field tracks, such as the Yanxia theme which had only harp and kokyū.[54][55] He is particularly proud of his work on Shinryu's and Tsukuyomi's primal boss battle themes, which include motifs from "Stormblood" and Yanxia's theme respectively.[56] Each phase of the Tsukuyomi battle theme references a different aspect of Yotsuyu's life.[57] This theme, "Wayward Daughter", received the most votes in a player poll to select the track list for a "Best of Final Fantasy XIV" compilation album.[58]

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood Original Soundtrack collects music from the launch of the expansion pack to Patch 4.3, "Under the Moonlight". The album was released by Square Enix on July 4, 2018 on Blu-ray disc and includes a code for an exclusive "Wind-up Tsukuyomi" in-game pet.[52] The album earned praise from Harry Gill of Original Sound Version, who appreciated the increased budget and production values afforded with the new expansion. He singled out the Lakshmi battle music, "Beauty's Wicked Wiles", as his favorite primal theme in the entire game and felt the soundtrack overall was stronger than the previous expansion's.[59] Though he felt "Revolutions" was weaker than previous vocal pieces, Greg Fisher of Video Game Music Online was impressed by Soken's ability to maintain a consistent quality over such a large and eclectic score.[60]

Reception[edit]

Stormblood continued the positive trend set by Heavensward, with many reviewers calling the expansion even stronger than its predecessor.[69][70][71] Reception of the expansion was "generally favorable" for both PC and PlayStation 4 versions, according to review aggregator Metacritic, based on 21 and 15 reviews, respectively.[61][62] Out of 39 reviews on OpenCritic, 92% recommended the game, with a top critic average score of 88.[63] Stormblood sold 33,000 units across standard and Complete Edition versions in Japan in its first week, making it the best-selling video game of the week in that region.[72] It exceeded the developers' expectations in terms of sales, critical response, and player numbers.[4]

Praise for the story was common among reviews. Mike Williams of USgamer commended the game's restraint in unfolding the complexity of the narrative and increasing emotional investment into the characters, calling it a "slow burn".[69] Mike Fahey of Kotaku thought the game did a good job of keeping a fast pace and maintaining the player's motivation.[71] Simon Parkin of Eurogamer appreciated the influence Yasumi Matsuno had on the story's tone.[70] Many reviewers singled out the game's themes about the nature of war and colonialism for particular praise.[65][67][69] Others, including Williams and Sam Prell of GamesRadar+, noted that the excellent writing for the villains were a boon to the story.[66][69]

Reaction to other aspects of the game's pacing was more mixed. Most critics agreed the new side quests were still lacking, although Fahey acknowledged their variety as an improvement on the previous expansion's.[69][70][71] Because of this, Prell felt the balance of the level grind between story missions was off, a criticism also lodged by Leif Johnson of IGN and Steven Messner of PC Gamer.[66][67][68] On the other hand, reviewers recommended players to avoid the paid "story skip" and "level boost" items in favor of playing the story for themselves.[66][68][70]

Various aspects of the gameplay and battle system received near universal plaudits. Chris Carter of Destructoid described battle encounters as "stylish and engaging" and Prell and Messner were impressed by the Susano boss trial, the latter comparing it to Metal Gear Rising.[64][66][68] The system-level changes to combat were also well-received, including the streamlining of role actions and job unlocking,[71] the consolidation of underused stats,[64] and the Job Gauge user interface.[67] Another consistent feature of reviews was praise for the two new job classes, Red Mage and Samurai. Red Mage's interweaving of melee and ranged attacks earned a glowing response, Samurai was lauded for its combo system, and both were commended for providing unique gameplay experiences.[64][65][68][71] Finally, Carter and Messner took time to extol the improvements to PvP, with Messner calling it "one of my favorite activities in Stormblood".[64][68]

Reviewers applauded the artistic and environmental design of the expansion.[66][71] Ginny Woo of GameSpot felt that the Asia-themed zones were "well-integrated" into the story.[65] Johnson saw "new heights of creativity" in the wild plains of the Mongolia-inspired Azim Steppe.[67] Carter noted that the 4K resolution mode on PlayStation 4 Pro was an impressive feature.[64] Reception for the addition of swimming gameplay was less enthusiastic. Although Fahey found the underwater environments to be visually appealing, he concluded that it was "woefully underutilized", a sentiment echoed by Carter.[64][67]

Overall, critics praised Stormblood as an improvement over Heavensward.[69][70][71] Fahey observed that the game is "one of the few [MMORPGs] able to maintain a monthly subscription model".[71] Carter concluded that the expansion followed the "same routine as the base game", but admitted "that routine is a winning one".[64] During the 2017 awards cycle, the expansion won "Best MMO" from Game Informer,[73] Bleeding Cool,[74] and RPGamer.[75] It was also Editor's Choice for "Best Post-Release Content" at PlayStation Blog.[76] In the 2018 cycle, the game won "Best MMO" from Massively OP.[77]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In Japanese: ファイナルファンタジーXIV: 紅蓮の解放者リベレーター (Hepburn: Fainaru Fantajī Fōtīn: Guren no Riberētā, lit. Final Fantasy XIV: Crimson Lotus Liberator)

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External links[edit]