Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Nov 132023
 

Two years ago, I beat Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward and found it to be an exciting, enjoyable adventure.

I mentioned at the end of my review that while I’d be taking a break, I was excited to keep playing to see what would happen in the post-Heavensward patches.

But you know what happened at the same time that I finished Heavensward? The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles came out and took over my thoughts forevermore. (NEO: The World Ends With You also came out at the same time, because that was a crazy period of time for great games.) I’d finished Heavensward intentionally to make sure it wasn’t competing with those, but little did I realize the resulting break and Ace Attorney obsession would lead to Final Fantasy XIV once again being relegated to weekly check-ins for the cactpot.

However, the winner of this year’s Celebrating All Things Mysterious contest back in May chose the second Final Fantasy XIV expansion, Stormblood, as the game for me to review, and so I resumed my progress.

The post-Heavensward patches were exciting and wrapped up the Heavensward storyline in a satisfactory way. Then I began Stormblood proper. This time, the story returns its focus to the Garlean Empire, as our characters spearhead a move to free Ala Mhigo from imperial control.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy Stormblood as much as I enjoyed Heavensward, and not just because I prefer Ishgard as a setting.

The biggest reason, which I realized near the end of the expansion, is that it largely focused on a supporting character whom I just didn’t find interesting. Her development throughout the story fell flat for me, which meant it had a lot of moments that were supposed to be epic or emotional that didn’t have much of an impact on me at all. And the second big reason is that the story felt disjointed at times.

Stormblood is supposed to be about the liberation of Ala Mhigo, but the characters eventually conclude that the best way to do that is to free the eastern country of Doma from imperial control first. There is a link there, but the Ala Mhigo and Doma plots felt too separate to me, which gave the overall plot an odd feel.

Now, despite these complaints, the final few parts of the story were actually pretty epic. They made it feel like it was worth going through the rest. I also found a greater appreciation for the villain when I realized there’s some oddball humor to his portrayal.

Click for Stormblood spoilers
For example, partway through the final encounter, Zenos basically tells the player character that he thinks they could be best friends, and if you reject the idea, he says wanting to fight him is just even more proof that you and he are similar. It’s the funniest take on the “we’re not so different” trope, because it comes across like he’s not trying to persuade you of anything, he’s just really happy to find a kindred spirit (even if you don’t see it that way at all).

Anyway, I didn’t enjoy Stormblood nearly as much as Heavensward, but it did have some good moments. I’ve also seen people say it picks up a lot in the post-Stormblood patches.

I do want to highlight one thing that isn’t about Stormblood specifically, but was added with more recent patches to the game – the ability to play through story dungeons with an NPC party. I love this addition. I used to dread dungeons, because the party would always rush through and leave me no time to enjoy the dungeon itself. Now I’m able to enter the dungeon with story-relevant characters, explore it at my own pace, and even get some banter between characters! It’s a wonderful addition that really made that aspect of the game much more enjoyable for me.

I’ll be taking a short break from such devoted Final Fantasy XIV playing to focus on some other games, but I’m looking forward to getting into the patches and eventually reaching the much-praised Shadowbringers.

Now, I noticed while writing this that my Heavensward review began with me mentioning that it had been two years since I beat A Realm Reborn, much like this one began with me pointing out that it had been two years since I beat Heavensward. So… see you in 2025 to discuss Shadowbringers!

Kidding, kidding. I’ll put in my best effort not to let that happen again. In the meantime, if you’ve played Stormblood, how did you feel about it?

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  7 Responses to “Mixed Feelings About Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood”

  1. To be fair, Stormblood is pretty widely considered to be… mid. It’s not *bad*, but it is sandwiched between Heavensward and Shadowbringers, both of which are considered the best, so it looks bad in comparison. I mostly only chose it as my game for you to play because you NEED to get to Shadowbringers, and because it’s pretty ridiculous you pay a monthly subscription for the Cactpot. xD I’m hoping the post-Stormblood stuff makes you desperate to keep playing, because it’s a great hook for Shadowbringers, but if I DO have to win a second contest to get you to play it sooner than two years, then so be it!

  2. I’m still trying to get through NEO TWEWY (not because of any issue with the game but because NaNo has tanked my focus on anything not writing-related). Playing with NPC characters, complete with banter, makes the experience sound a bit more like a traditional RPG than an MMO which is a plus in my book! But… given the time commitment to most MMOs I think I am still staying away from this one hahaha

    • There’s definitely a lot to be said for FFXIV’s potential appeal for players who want to play solo now. You still need to do the major boss fights with other people, but the majority of story content can now be done on your own. But yes, it’s a massive time commitment since each expansion is basically the length of a full JRPG.

  3. I always feel a little biased toward Stormblood, having gotten into the game with some friends around the time post-Heavensward was still fresh in the zeitgeist. Eagerly awaiting a newly-announced expansion to my new favorite MMO was an exciting time. Heavernsward had plenty of new areas and compelling character moments that still have emotional weight to this day, but I consistently find myself looking forward to places like Ala Mhigo and Doma that we typically just hear about in passing. While I understand where people are coming from when they say, “Stormblood is mid”, I’ll always find myself being an apologist for it.

    • Haha, that’s fair. I think it’s mainly the characters that made me feel less attached to it. In Heavensward, I really enjoyed traveling with Estinien and Ysayle, for example, but I didn’t feel much attachment in Stormblood to characters like Lyse or Hien.

  4. […] Last year I finally played Stormblood after the winner of one of my contests picked a Stormblood playthrough & review as her prize, and that same winner won the Celebrating All Things Romantic contest back in February and picked the same for Shadowbringers. […]

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