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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 the previous expansion. Like 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" 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.

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

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 link up with the Resistance fighters who fight for Ala Mhigan independence, as well as 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 fight, said to be the hardest in the game.

Contents

GameplayEdit

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 revamp of the battle system accompanies the level cap increase to level 70.[2] The changes fall into three broad categories.[3] First, many underused or redundant abilities were combined in order to reduce the number of buttons needed to play each class effectively. Second, the cross-class system was replaced with a more general cross-role system that ensures that players have all the tools they need even with just one class leveled. Finally, all classes gained a "Job Gauge" that displays all class-relevant information in a more visible and engaging way. Two new job classes were introduced as well—the katana-wielding Samurai and the versatile Red Mage, both damage-dealing classes.[4] 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.[4]

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.[5]

Finally, a new area called Eureka the Forbidden Land debuted with Patch 4.2. Its gameplay is inspired by "old school" MMORPGs, including Final Fantasy XI among others.[6] In Eureka, players must use the Magia Board to exploit monsters' elemental weaknesses and increase their Elemental level. Unlike the rest of the game, players lose experience points if defeated and can even "Level Down".[7] 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.[8] Eureka culminates in a high tier raid called the Baldesion Arsenal that requires 56 players to work together to overcome it.[9]

PlotEdit

Setting and charactersEdit

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. Ala Mhigo is the eastern-most city-state of Eorzea, the region in which much of the game has taken place, and forms a land bridge to the other continents.[10] It was conquered by the expansionist Garlean 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 brutal and sadistic tyrant, stands in contrast to van Baelsar's relatively meritocratic rule. His 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. Doma's culture is based on the cultures of ancient China and Japan.[11] 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.[11] The island of Hingashi lies across the Ruby Sea from Doma. An isolationist nation, only the port of Kugane is open to foreign trade, otherwise not involving itself with world affairs. Hingashi and Kugane are pastiches of Japan and Nagasaki, respectively.[11] 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 task force, are dispatched to handle the situation, but one of their leaders is killed in the operation. This prompts his partner, an Ala Mhigan orphan named Lyse, to renew her dedication to free her country from Garlean rule. 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.

StoryEdit

Shortly after the events of Heavensward, the Warrior of Light and their comrades travel to the war torn region of Gyr Abania, Ala Mhigo's capital which is under the control of Imperial Viceroy Zenos yae Galvus who enlists the Skulls under Fordola and the Ananta of the Qalyana tribe. Following a surprise attack on Rhalgr's Reach led by Zenos in the wake of the Warrior's efforts to help the Ala Mhigan resistance, Alphinaud suggests traveling to Doma to aid the liberation effort and fight the Empire on two fronts.

The Scions secure passage to Kugane where they are greeted and given accommodations by an Ul'dahn merchant named Hancock under orders from Lolorito, despite Alphinaud's objections. The Scions begin their search for Yugiri and Gosetsu, as well as a ship to cross the Ruby Sea. After being double-crossed by a Namazu claiming to have seen both and evading Kugane's law enforcement with help from a Blue Kojin named Soroban, the Scions secure passage to the Ruby Sea and reunite with Gosetsu. Witnessing how powerless the Confederacy is to the Empire as they try to enforce their Ruby Tithe, the Scions make a failed attempt to convince their leaders to aid them before reaching a small fishing village visited by the acting Doman viceroy Yotsuyu goe Brutus with Gosetsu surrendering himself to the imperials so the Scions can reach a Confederacy-occupied village.

When the Scions' attempt to convince the Confederacy leaders to aid them is rebuffed again, Alisaie makes an arrangement to win their support by drawing the Empire's Red Kojin mercenaries away. The Confederacy leaders send them to the Blue Kojin village where they reunite with Soroban, who helps them to better his people's livelihood which the Red Kojin's imperial ties are threatening. When the Scions locate a sacred Kojin relic, Soroban helps the group force the Red Kojin to abandon their post by attacking their treasure vault. During the attack on the vault, the Warrior accidentally summons the Kojin primal Susano when their relic resonates with two other treasures. The Warrior defeats the primal while the distracted Red Kojins' absence allows the Confederacy to liberate the fishing village and free Gosetsu.

The party then travels to Yanxia on the Doman outskirts, finding themselves quickly refused by submissive villagers of Namai while reunited with Yugiri. Yugiri reveals she found Hien, but he refuses to return while requesting Yugiri to see what Doma wishes. Yugiri, aided by Lyse and the Warrior, learn that the Namai villagers have been broken by Yotsuyu's vicious reprisals. A group of imperials arrive, conscripting villagers into repairing machinery too advanced for them in retaliation for the Confederacy's actions, prompting Yugiri and the Warrior to stage a rescue, although the villagers are horrified that they do so. Yugiri, shaken from the revelation, decides to make an assassination attempt on Zenos when he arrives in Doma upon hearing of the events in the Ruby Sea. The Warrior joins Yugiri after the others fail to talk her out of it; the two are overpowered by Zenos who departs when Gosetsu and Alisaie come to their friends' aid with the Namai villagers after they regain their will for freedom.

With the Doman peoples' will rekindled, Gosetsu decides to retrieve Hien with the Warrior, Lyse, and Yugiri reaching the Azim Steppe. After helping a Mol tribe member named Cirina and learning of the Naadam, they find Hien who is adamant to stay to participate in the contest as a champion of the Mol to win the Xaela over as allies. Yugiri returns to Yanxia to make preparations while the party follows Hien to the Mol village, instructed by Cirina's grandmother, the Mol elder, to pass the challenges of Bardam's Mettle to participate in the Naadam. The Warrior and their allies fend off would-be kidnappers and complete the trials, only to be confronted by Oronir warriors and their khan Magnai. After completing a series of tasks and learning of their history, Magnai lets the group go back to the Mol in time for the Nadaam. After the Warrior bests the Dotharl and Oronir tribes in the Naadam and becoming the khagan of the Xaela tribes, they are immediately confronted by an imperial army, who are driven off by the combined might of the Warrior and their new allies.

The group and Hien arrive in Yanxia, finding that Yugiri and the Leveilleur twins have finished their recruitment of the Confederacy, the various villages, and the Blue Kojin. Alphinaud lays out his plans for the siege of Doma Castle, while the Warrior is tasked with certain duties to aid in weakening imperial defenses. After accompanying Hien to view the castle, he resolves to modify Alphinaud's plan to flood it to prevent imperial reinforcements, despite Gosetsu's objections. The next morning the attack commences, leaving the Warrior, Yugiri, Gosetsu and Hien to make the charge into Doma Castle. Ultimately they confront Yotsuyu, who proceeds to tell her story about how she was ignored and abused by her own people and sought revenge on all of them once she gained her power. They realize that Yotsuyu was stalling so that the castle would collapse on them as well; Gosetsu sacrifices himself to allow the Warrior and their allies to escape. Following Doma's liberation, Hien pledges his support to the Ala Mhigan Resistance once he establishes an interim government.

The Scions return to Eorzea, learning from Admiral Merlwyb Bloefhiswyn that Krile was captured in an ambush while transporting wounded from Rhalgr's Reach. Having heard of their efforts in Doma, Raubahn decides to capture Castellum Velodyna, while Conrad secretly confides in the Warrior his intention to pass leadership to Lyse when the time is right. Alliance and Resistance forces begin their operation and are confronted by Fordola, who is once again bested by the Warrior, while the Castellum is captured by the Resistance. Making their way to M'naago's village at the Peering Stones, they are approached by an Ananta of the Vira Tribe who tells the Scions that Fordola accidentally killed the daughter of the Qalyana broodmother. The grieving broodmother summoned her race's primal Lakshmi to revive her daughter, though as a soulless husk, with the Scions dispatching the primal with the Qalyana wanting no further part in the war. Meanwhile, after forcing Fordola to admit her desire for revenge on those who humiliated her while briefing her on her recent failures, Zenos subjects her to experiments using the captured Krile to grant her an artificial version of the Echo as "Resonant".

The Scions make their way to the recently liberated Ala Ghiri to help in the siege of Specula Imperatoris, unaware that Fordola arrived at Castrum Abania with orders from Zenos to fire its main cannon on Specula Imperatoris with full knowledge that her own unit and other Garlean forces are there. While the Warrior and Alisaie search for survivors, they find a mortally wounded Conrad who dies passing the Resistance leadership to Lyse. Estinien, having been searching for Shinryu, destroys Castrum Abania's main cannon before it can be fired again. The Alliance and Resistance realize this and quickly take the Castrum before the cannon is repaired, the Warrior confronting Fordola who wounds Alisaie with aid from her new powers. Realizing that she is outnumbered, she tells the Warrior of Light that Zenos is waiting for them in Ala Mhigo.

Alliance and Resistance forces begin their final push into Loch Seld while the Scions rescue Krile with Thancred's information on her whereabouts. Provided a staff by Urianger based on Moenbryda's designs, the party subdues Fordola while rescuing Krile before they participate in the Battle of Ala Mhigo. As the battle reaches its climax, the Warrior battles Zenos before being lured by him to the palace's Royal Menagerie. Zenos reveals to have acquired Shinryu following its clash with Omega, and uses his Resonant powers to merge into the primal to fight the Warrior. After defeating Shinryu, Zenos commits suicide after finally having found satisfaction in his life. Sometime after, Estinien arrives at the Royal Menagerie and destroys Nidhogg's powerless eyes to end the wyrm's violent legacy.

The Legend ReturnsEdit

With Ala Mhigo liberated, Lyse leaves the Scions to help Raubahn rebuild their homeland and restructure the government into a republic instead of restoring the monarchy. While interrogating Fordola after helping calm down a revenge-driven mob demanding her life, the Warrior's Echo reveals that watching her father's death as a child spurred her to serve Garlemald while Fordola's Resonant abilities leave her dumbfounded from seeing the horrors the Warrior faced, unable to understand why they kept fighting despite numerous tragedies. After the Warrior's visit to Ul'dah to help sultana Nanamo Ul Namo in secretly making arrangements with Lolorito to help Ala Mhigo's restoration in a way that financially benefits Lolorito, they learn that Arenvald captured Ilberd's accomplices Yuyuhase and Laurentius to answer for the Baelsar's Wall incident. The Warrior also learns of Raubahn's intention of returning to Nanamo's side once the restoration is complete. During a meeting among representatives of Gyr Abania's residential races over the new government, the Qalyana broodmother summons Lakshmi again with Raubahn striking her down before her forces attack. In a risky gambit, Lyse releases Fordola from her cell to help the Warrior and Arenvald defeat the Primal while she and Raubahn handle the Qalyana. Fordola returns to her cell after her Resonant powers forces her to see the pain she caused others, Ragnfried thanking her for saving them despite not being able to forgive her. Soon after an agreement to model the new government after Ishgard's House of Commons is reached, a meeting with Nanamo convinces Raubahn to have Pipin Tarupin take over his duties in Ul'dah so that Raubahn can remain in Ala Mhigo without any regret.

Later summoned to Kugane by Hancock alongside Yugiri, the Warrior learns that Garlean soldiers are searching for two travelers matching the descriptions of Gosetsu and Yotsuyu. The group find Gosetsu protecting Yotsuyu when the Confederacy is attacked by Garlean soldiers, Gosetsu revealing that he and Yotsuyu survived the fall of Doma Castle and ended up on a desert island after being swept by the One River's current to the sea. While Yotsuyu survived being stabbed by Hien, the trauma from the collapsing castle caused her amnesia with Gosetsu deciding not to kill her and calls her "Tsuyu" for her safety once they returned to the mainland. Gosetsu is welcomed back by Hien as he decides to keep Yotsuyu in their custody for her safety from those seeking revenge, the group learning a bit of Yotsuyu's tragic history from Jifuya when he refuses to look after her out of fear and guilt for the role he played when her own father sold her to service men. Soon after, a Garlean emissary named Asahi sas Brutus, Yotsuyu's stepbrother and member of Garlemald's Populares party, arrives in Doma under Varis zos Galvus's request to establish a treaty between the empire and Doma. Revealing that the Optimates party, which opposes the Populares, were the ones who pursued Yotsuyu whom he knows is in Hien's custody, Asahi suggests a prisoner exchange as an act of good faith while forbidding any act of summoning. While Hien is tempted to finish off Yotsuyu as Asahi tours Yanxia, Gosetsu convinces him instead to hand her over to the Garleans should she regain her memories by the time of the prison exchange. Hien proceeds to accept Asahi's terms while explaining Yotsuyu's amnesia, allowing Asahi to see his sister, who gives her a mirror in hope it would help her remember. When Asahi leaves, revealed to be fanatically devoted to Zenos since the day the viceroy acquired his katana while saving his life, the emissary belittles the Warrior in private while exploiting his diplomatic immunity. While Hien learns Asahi's true nature, he resolves to continue the prisoner exchange.

But this turns out to be a ploy as Asahi orchestrates Yotsuyu gradually to regain her memories, made worse when she wanders into Namai for permission for Gosetsu as Hien eases the upset villagers to tolerate her while promising no more surprise visits. Asahi succeeds in causing Yotsuyu's memories to return when he introduces their foster parents, Yotsuyu later murdering her childhood tormentors after she secretly flees to contemplate suicide. Yotsuyu then makes her presence known during the prisoner exchange, using the Kojin mirror alongside Asahi's crystals to transform herself into the primal Tsukuyomi whom the Warrior defeats. The whole event is revealed to have been planned by Asahi to discredit Doma under orders from a still-living Zenos, gloating of his victory before being killed by Yotsuyu using the last of her power as she dies peacefully. When the Warrior reveals Zenos's apparent survival while Gosetsu leaves to spend his remaining days as a wandering monk, Alphinaud travels to the imperial capital as a Doman representative to investigate a possible Ascian infiltration within the Empire with help from Asahi's aide Maxima quo Priscus who honors the prisoner exchange. But the emissary ship is attacked by elite Garlean soldiers while en route through the aetherless wasteland known as the Burn.

The Battle for Ala MhigoEdit

Thancred arrives in Doma with news that Yotsuyu's summoning caused a backlash in Garlemald as Zenos is touring the provinces to keep them from following Aha Mhigo and Doma's example. The Scions conclude that the prince's corpse is being used by an Ascian after finding his unmarked grave empty. When Thancred reveals that Alphinaud never made it to Garlemald, Alisaie leads an expedition into the Burn and only finds the crashed emissary Garlean ship and the corpses of the Garlean imperial guard. The group, deducing that the Ascian possessing Zenos ordered the attack on the emissary ship, return to Doma where Lyse requests Hien attend a meeting of the Eorzean Alliance. But Hien requests time to prepare for a potential Garlean invasion by forming his own alliance with nearby city-states like Dalmasca and the Xaela tribes. To ensure that they would not be carpet-bombed like Dalmasca's capital Rabanastre, and Azys Lla revealed to originate from the Burn, the group win permission from the Dotharl and the Oronir to deactivate an Allagan regulator to restore the aether to the Burn while weakening the flow in other areas. During the Eorzean Alliance meeting where Thancred presents a proposal of causing another power struggle within Garlemald to weaken the Ascians' hold, the Scions are subjected to a powerful magic Kan-E-Senna deduces as the Calling which leaves Thancred, Urianger, and Y'shtola in comas with the Warrior consoling Alisaie before they are joined by Krile, whose attempt to track their comrades' souls with Matoya's crystal reaches a dead end.

Summoned to Ala Mhigo which gave the Populares party refuge, the Warrior and Alisaie learn from Maxima that he and Alphinaud were saved from Zenos' assassins by Ascian-hunting mercenaries led by a Garlean man called "Shadowhunter", with whom Alphinaud left, Maxima revealing that Garlemald's forces are gathering to invade Ala Mhigo. Raubahn proceeds to ready a parley while the Scions relay the news to Hien who, while attending the barrier generator's activation, sees a Garlemald airship arriving with the Shadowhunter emerging with a comatose Alphinaud. The Shadowhunter reveals himself as Gaius van Baelsar, having survived the Praetorium's destruction and since dedicated himself to kill the Ascians for manipulating him and his men. He proceeds to reveal the Ascians' leadership to consist of the destroyed Lahabrea, Elidibus who possesses Zenos's corpse, and the mysterious Emet-Selch. Gaius explains he and Alphinaud learned of an experimental poison gas named Black Rose and destroyed the plant manufacturing it, learning that Elidibus commissioned the Black Rose and that the facility was using Allagan technology to clone the empire's founding leader Solus zos Galvus.

Returning to Ala Mhigo, the Warrior and Alisae accompany the Eorzean Alliance leaders to parley with emperor Varis zos Galvus himself along the border. Despite a rough start as he questions their ideals, Varis reveals Garlemald's goal is the reunification of the Source and the restoration of the original race from which all denizens of the thirteen worlds are derived. Alliance leaders are in further shock when Varis reveals that Solus zos Galvus is an Ascian and that his kin created the Garlean Empire, disgusted further as the emperor sees the reunification as their only chance to stop the Ascians together. The Alliance refuses to aid Varis in his insane plan, quickly preparing for battle against the first wave before Alisaie is afflicted by the Calling. During a brief reprieve, the Warrior returns to Rising Stones in Mor Dhona where they inform Maxima and Cid of Gaius's survival and the true origins of Garlemald.

The Warrior is then summoned to Ala Mhigo by Raubahn, who reveals that Varis returned to Garlemald before they learn the Garlean army were stalling for Elidibus to lead the next wave of attack. The Warrior reaches Elidibus after he single-handedly defeated Hien, Lyse, and Yugiri with only his faceplate damaged, defeating the Ascian in battle. But Elidibus rises again and exploits the Warrior's soul being called to land a deathblow, the Warrior finds themselves in an otherworldly plane where they are greeted by the enigmatic figure responsible for the Calling. Needing their help, the figure instructs the Warrior to find a beacon at the base of the Crystal Tower to reach the First reflection of Hydaelyn and save it from a flood of light.

The Warrior awakens in Ishgard and learns from Aymeric that Estinien rescued them from Elidibus, whose departure caused the battle to reach a stalemate, and that Garlemald is suffering unrest due from the spreading rumors of Zenos's possession. The Warrior returns to the Rising Stones as they, Tataru, and their allies commence searching for the beacon with hope that the Scions are with the enigmatic figure. As Varis learns that the production of the Black Rose about to commence, the real Zenos arrives too late to Ala Mhigo after having possessed a Resistance soldier while intending to reclaim what is rightfully his.

DevelopmentEdit

Planning for Stormblood, along with the patches leading into its story, began well over a year prior to its announcement. Proper development began in October 2016 with the team size ultimately reaching over 250.[11] Having explored the skies in the previous expansion, Heavensward, producer and director Naoki Yoshida made the seas a focus of this expansion, including swimming gameplay.[12][13] The team's 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] The expansion was announced at the Las Vegas segment of Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival 2016, which took place in October.[16] Further details about the expansion were released at the Tokyo and Frankfurt events, including the release date, new jobs, locations, and raids.[17][18]

Story and level skip items debuted with the launch of Stormblood.[19] These were created in response to 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.[19] Stormblood responded to another major critique of the game by dramatically overhauling the PvP system. All jobs now have dedicated PvP actions that are balanced separately from the rest of the game.[20] The changes are aimed at paring down the clutter to produce a smoother experience.[21] Yoshida geared these changes toward supporting a potential PvP tournament scene, including the "Feast Regional Championship" series which was held as a part of Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival 2018.[22][23]

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.[24] 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.[25] Matsuno wrote the scenario for the Return to Ivalice raids, which involved uncovering the ruins of the ancient Ivalician civilization and exposing the truth about the Zodiac Brave Story. Keita Amemiya, creator and character designer of Garo, was invited to contribute monster designs for these raids.[26][27] In exchange, armor and weapons from Garo were added to the game as part of a collaboration event.[28]

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.[29] 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.[29] The collaboration consists of a boss trial against Rathalos in Stormblood and a Behemoth hunt in Monster Hunter: World.[30][31] The Final Fantasy XV collaboration 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.[32] In both games' events, players battle the other title's version of Garuda to win new outfits and mounts.[33]

Support for PlayStation 3 ended with the release of Stormblood early access. The change allowed developers to increase the speed of loading non-player characters, as the older console had limited input/output capacity, which in turn permitted faster travel speeds for mounts.[34] A special upgrade campaign allowed affected PlayStation 3 players to obtain the PlayStation 4 version for free.[35] 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.[36] A companion app for mobile phones was released on August 15, 2018.[37] It allows players to chat with friends, schedule events, manage inventory, and sell items using the in-game Market Board.[38]

PatchesEdit

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 development of new types of content and reduced the number of dungeons added during odd-numbered patches.[39] As with previous expansions, Square Enix released five major patches for Stormblood over the course of its two year content cycle.[40]

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 learn from Midgardsormr that Omega is actually a reality-altering alien machine that studies and replicates powerful opponents to evolve, and that he arrived on Hydaelyn after Omega destroyed his home planet. Following its battle with Shinryu, Omega burrowed underground and created a pocket dimension where it holds a tournament of fabricated creatures based on its observation of Hydaelyn. The Ironworks team, led by a cartoonish Chocobo named Alpha, enters the Interdimensional Rift. The Warrior of Light is forced to enter into this tournament to have a chance at fighting Omega, which represents an existential threat to the planet with its unfathomable power. After defeating a recreation of Exdeath, Biggs and Wedge investigate Omega's control room at the Cartenau Flats, but are attacked by one of Omega's weaker creations. The machine forces the Warrior and the Ironworks team to continue its experiments with threats of genocide upon the planet's population.
4.1 "The Legend Returns" October 10, 2017 Ivalice: Rabanastre, Unending Coil of Bahamut Ultimate, Rival Wings, Squadron Dungeons, Shinryu, Kojin, Matsuno ref
4.2 "Rise of a New Sun" January 30, 2018 Return to Doma MSQ, Omega: Sigmascape, Four Lords: Byakko, Forbidden Land: Eureka Anemos, Ananta, Feast update, Glamour Dresser, Duty Recorder, Chocobo Saddlebag

This patch continues the Omega storyline in Omega: Sigmascape. The Warrior of Light continues Omega's trials while Nero is attacked by one of Omega's monitors and hides his injuries from the group. After the Warrior defeats a recreation of Kefka Palazzo, Nero collapses from his injuries and is taken to Rhalgr's Reach to recuperate. Unable to comprehend the Warrior's strength, Omega tries to invoke a new surge by imprisoning and torturing them. They are saved by Midgardsormr, who sacrifices himself to convince the machine to allow the Warrior to continue participating in its experiments, believing that it is the best way it can understand them.

4.3 "Under the Moonlight" May 22, 2018 Wrap up Doma MSQ, Tsukuyomi trial, Ivalice: Ridorana Lighthouse, Four Lords solo battle, Forbidden Land: Eureka Pagos, Namazu, Deep Dungeon: Heaven-on-High, Minstrel's Ballad: The Weapon's Refrain Ultimate, mobile phone companion app, Monster Hunter: World collaboration
4.4 "Prelude in Violet" September 18, 2018 Turn to Garlean Empire MSQ, Omega: Alphascape, Four Lords: Suzaku, Eureka Pyros

The Omega storyline concludes in Omega: Alphascape. Following Midgardsormr's sacrifice, the Warrior of Light continues in Omega's experiments and defeats fabrications of Chaos and Midgardsormr in his prime, as well as Omega itself. Still unable to comprehend the Warrior's strength, it decides to reset testing and close the Interdimensional Rift, seemingly killing Cid and the Warrior, but both are saved by Alpha. A confused Omega believes that the answer lies within the Warrior of Light, and engages them one last time with humanoid versions of itself. After finally being defeated, Cid explains to the machine that Alpha understood the answer by experiencing life and developing a heart, and that Omega would never understand from coldly and passively testing its creations. Satisfied with Cid's answer and finally understanding what makes the Warrior strong, Omega dies and its dimension collapses, but the group are saved by Biggs, Wedge, and Hraesvelgr. Following Omega's demise, Alpha leaves to explore the world with Cid's blessing.

4.5 "Requiem for Heroes" January 8, 2019
March 26, 2019
Released in multiple parts, this patch takes players to the events of Shadowbringers including a new dungeon called Ghimlyt Dark. It also concludes the Four Lords with Seiryu's trail and Return to Ivalice with an alliance raid of the Orbonne Monastery. Eureka Hydatos, Blue Mage, Cross World Travel, Rival Wings: Hidden Gorge.

MusicEdit

Masayoshi Soken composed the majority of the expansion's score—over 100 tracks—in addition to his duties as sound director.[41] Nobuo Uematsu composed two vocal tracks, "Stormblood" and "Revolutions", the former a collaboration with Soken and the latter of which serves as the main theme for the game. Susan Calloway returned as the featured vocalist.[42] 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.[43] The main musical phrase of "Stormblood" reappears multiple times throughout the soundtrack with different instrumentation and stylings.[44] 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.[43][44] 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.[45]

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood Original Soundtrack collects music from the expansion pack from the launch 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.[41] 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.[46] Michael O'Connell-Davidson of MMORPG.com took time in his review to compliment the diverse music in the soundtrack.[47] 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.[48]

ReceptionEdit

Reception
Aggregate scores
AggregatorScore
MetacriticPC: 87/100[49]
PS4: 89/100[50]
OpenCritic94%[51]
Review scores
PublicationScore
Destructoid9/10[52]
GameSpot8/10[53]
GamesRadar+     [54]
IGN9.2/10[55]
PC Gamer (US)92/100[56]
USgamer     [57]
MMORPG.com9.1/10[47]

Stormblood continued the positive trend set by Heavensward, with many reviewers calling it even stronger than its predecessor.[57][47][58][59] 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.[49][50] Out of 37 reviews on OpenCritic, 94% recommended the game, with an average score of 88.[51] 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.[60]

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".[57] In contrast, Mike Fahey of Kotaku thought the game did a good job of keeping a fast pace and maintaining the player's motivation.[59] Simon Parkin of Eurogamer appreciated the influence Yasumi Matsuno had on the story's tone.[58] Many reviewers singled out the game's themes about the nature of war and colonialism for particular praise.[53][55][57] Others, including Williams and Sam Prell of GamesRadar+, looked to the well-written villains as a boon for the story.[54][57]

Other aspects of the game's pacing were more mixed. Fahey noted the variety of the side quests, calling them an improvement on the previous expansion, although most critics agreed that they were still lacking.[57][58][59] As a result, Prell felt the balance of the level grind between story missions was off, a sentiment echoed by Leif Johnson of IGN and Steven Messner of PC Gamer.[54][55][56] On the other hand, reviewers recommended players to avoid the paid story and level skip items in favor of playing the story for themselves.[54][56][58]

The 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.[52][54][56] The system-level changes to combat were also well-received, including the streamlining of cross-role abilities and job unlocking,[59] the consolidation of underused stats,[52] and the Job Gauge user interface.[55] 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.[52][53][56][47][59] Finally, Carter and Messner took time to extol the improvements to PvP, Messner calling it "one of my favorite activities in Stormblood".[52][56]

Reviewers applauded the artistic and environmental design of the expansion.[54][59] Ginny Woo of GameSpot felt that the Asia-themed zones were "well-integrated" into the story.[53] Johnson saw "new heights of creativity" in the wild plains of Mongolia-inspired Azim Steppe.[55] Carter noted that the 4K resolution mode on PlayStation 4 Pro was an impressive feature.[52] Conversely, 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.[52][55]

Overall, critics praised Stormblood as an improvement over Heavensward.[57][47][58][59] Fahey observed that the game is "one of the few [MMORPGs] able to maintain a monthly subscription model".[59] Carter remarked that the expansion followed "same routine as the base game", but admitted that "that routine is a winning one".[52] Michael O'Connell-Davidson of MMORPG.com concluded that Stormblood "thread[ed] the needle" between making critical changes to the formula and staying the course.[47] During the 2017 awards cycle, the expansion won "Best MMO" from Game Informer,[61] MMORPG.com,[62] Bleeding Cool,[63] and RPGamer.[64] It was also Editor's Choice for "Best Post-Release Content" at PlayStation Blog.[65] Finally, it won "Best MMO" from Massively OP in the 2018 season.[66]

NotesEdit

  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 linksEdit