Shadowbringers? It’s kind of a generic name, but that’s fine. “Bringer of shadows” could mean anything in the world of fantasy. It could mean that you’re a wielder of dark magic, like a necromancer or warlock, or it could mean that your morals lean toward the evil and corrupt. In this case, it’s referring to the newest expansion for Final Fantasy XIV, which released earlier this year. The earlier expansions set the stage for this one, and they’re also bundled into the same package, which makes it a worthwhile investment for me. I’ve been playing a lot of Final Fantasy XIV recently, even though I’m a ride-or-die WoW expert, because I needed a change of pace from all the monotony of world quests and exploration through WoW. I think having new scenarios and scenery opens up my imagination again, compelling me to continue playing and immerse myself in the game’s deep, complicated systems. Being that I’ve had a lot of time recently to play the game, I’ve been able to invest myself through the initial campaign. There’s nothing like diving into a new, massively huge game and being able to explore it for the first time. It makes me happy to see.
I read this great article from Kotaku recently, titled “How To Get Into Final Fantasy XIV In 2019,” and it helped me get my footing when I was first starting out in the game. It’s important to pay attention to the game’s story, believe it or not, as it reaches “fantastic heights.” I’m interested in what that includes, as the story hasn’t been super engaging thus far. I might even invest in a “story skip” so I don’t have to worry about completing content I’ve already completed a ton of, and whose story I already have a fairly decent handle on.
Aether is paramount to understanding the Final Fantasy story, though. If I were to introduce you to its boundless lore, I wouldn’t know where to start, partially because I don’t have a lot of familiarity with it and partially because I haven’t been paying a deep amount of attention into the lore thus far. Because it’s all still early game progression to me, I haven’t been reading quest text as diligently as I sometimes do in World of Warcraft. Others I know who rarely, if ever, read quest text have said that the Final Fantasy XIV lore is worth getting into, but I still remain unconvinced for the time being. It’s just so much to take on all at once, so much to understand with no real application benefit.
I do appreciate having a lot of lore, though, and I think a great MMORPG requires it in order to function well, in order to feel like a vast, unexplored world to conquer and adventure through. It’s one of the big appeals of World of Warcraft, to me; but also, I know the general lore of WoW and could definitely explain it to someone if they were interested to hear about it. It’s completely buckwild, but it’s fun and it takes up a vast space in my memory regardless. That’s what I get for playing that game for so many hours and days and years of my life.
But sometimes, when you’re playing multiple games at once, the burden of understanding so many different lores and universes and the laws of their individual universes is a lot. Like, for example, I’m currently playing through Fire Emblem: Three Houses as well, and in that game, there are crests, units, kingdoms, castles, so many things to understand about the world. But I can’t simultaneously keep that in my head while also trying to learn about Final Fantasy’s vast, open world, if that makes sense.
Aether, in the world of Final Fantasy, is an advanced form of energy, or magic, that permeates all life. It allows everything to exist in harmony, and with it, all life is able to function.
Common to many fantasy or science fiction worlds, the concept of an all-encompassing life force is not exactly original or groundbreaking in any sense. But Final Fantasy is, arguably, the series that created or at least heavily inspired this concept, and every game in the series, despite different settings, characters, stories, etc., includes the same general rules of nature. Its lore doesn’t precede Lord of the Rings, but not many recognizable fantasy series can make that claim. However, it’s a series I have had little experience with. I have honestly never played a Final Fantasy game beyond Final Fantasy XIV, the MMORPG. While all games in the Final Fantasy series are role-playing, not all games in the series are single-player. There are Versus games, for example.
But, unless you count a close familiarity with the characters of Kingdom Hearts as a decent tie-in to Final Fantasy as a series, I have no connection to it. That’s one of the reasons I was excited to try Final Fantasy XIV for the first time, and another reason why I’ve stuck with it for a bit. On the one hand, I have friends who play the game, and the social aspect of gaming is essential to me. but on the other hand, I have World of Warcraft, another MMORPG that I’ve invested a decent amount of time into already. There isn’t a supreme need for me to replace that with another MMORPG. I guess what I’m saying is, to move from one to another is a big task, and it’s not exactly easy. While the systems might be similar, the flow of the game will be completely different just in combat alone.