Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
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)
Series Final Fantasy
Platform(s)
Release June 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, Mac OS X, 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.[1]

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.[2] 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.

Gameplay

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.[3] The changes fall into three broad categories.[4] First, many underused or redundant abilities were combined in order to reduce the amount of buttons needed to effectively play each class. 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 are 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]

Plot

Setting and characters

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.[7] It was conquered by the expansionist Garlean Empire twenty years prior in the aftermath of a populist uprising against its corrupt 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. Since Baelsar's death at the hands of the player in A Realm Reborn, a new emperor has instated his son Zenos yae Galvus as imperial viceroy. Zenos, a particularly brutal and sadistic tyrant, stands in contrast to 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 ancient China and Japan.[8] 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.[8] 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.[8] 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 Baelsar—and the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, a peace-keeping task force, are dispatched to handle the situation, but a member of their number, Papalymo, 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—leader of the Doman refugees—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 an irregular unit staffed by Ala Mhigan orphans who aspire for Garlean citizenship, led by Fordola.

Story

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. After tragedy strikes in the wake of the Adventurer's efforts to help the Ala Mhigan resistance, the group travel to Doma to help prince Hien liberate his land from Yotsuyu. Once the liberation succeeds despite the apparent death of Gosetsu Everfall alongside Yotsuyu, Hien supports the Resistance as Zenos reveals to have acquired Shinryu and uses it to fight the Warrior before committing suicide with Lyse leaving the Scions to help rebuild Ala Mhigo alongside Rahbuan as they work to restructure Ala Mhigo's government before joining the Eorzean Alliance.

Soon after, as the group find Gosetsu with an amnesic Yotsuyu, Hien is visited by Garlean ambassador Asahi, Yotsuyu's abusive brother and member of the Populares party, to establish a treaty between the empire and Doma. But this turned out to be a ploy as Asahi orchestrates Yotsuyu regaining her memories and then allows her to transform into the primal Tsukuyomi to discredit Doma. But Asahi ends up fatally wounded at his dying sister's hand, revealed to be acting on orders from a still-living Zenos. Alphinaud travels to the imperial capital as a Doman representative to investigate the matter with Maxima quo Priscus of Garlemald's Populare party before their ship is attacked by elite Garlean soldiers while on-route through the Aetherless wasteland known as the Burn.

Later, Thancred arrives in Doma with news that Yotsuyu's summoning caused a backlash in Garlemald as Zenos tours the provinces to keep them from following Aha Mhigo and Doman's example, the Scions concluding that the prince's corpse is being used by an Ascian. When Thancred reveals that Alphinaud never made it to Garlemald, Alisaise leads an expedition into the Burn and only find 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 to 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' capital Rabanaste, Azyz Lla revealed to originate from the Burn, the group win permission from the Dothari and 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-Se-Senna deduced as the Calling which leaves Thancred, Urianger, and Y'shotla in comas with the Warrior consoling Alisaise before they are joined by Krile, whose attempt to track their comrades' soul with Matoya's Crystal reaches a dead-end.

Summoned to Ala Mhigo which gave the Polares party refuge, the Warrior and Alisaise learn from Maxima that he and Alphinaud were saved from Zenos's asassins by Ascian-hunting mercarnaries led by a man called "Shadow Hunter" who Alphinaud left with, Maxima revealing that Garlemald's forces are gathering to invade Ala Mhigo. Raubahn proceeding to ready a parley while the Scions relay the news to Hien while present at the barrier generator's activation, seeing a Garlemald airship arrives with its pilot emerging with Alphanaud who is revealed to be comatose like the others. The Shadowhunter reveals himself as Gaius Van Bealsar, having survived the Praetorium's destruction and since dedicated himself to kill the Ascians. He proceeds to reveal the Ascians' leadership to consist of the destroyed Lahabrea, Elibdus who possesses Zenos's corpse, and the mysterious Emet-Selch. Gaius explains he and Alphinaud learn of an experimental poison gas named Black Rose and destroyed the plant manufacturing it, learning that Elibdus commissioned the Black Rose and that the facility was using Allagan technology to clone the empire's founder leader Solus zos Galvus.

Returning to Ala Mhigo, the Warrior and Alisaie accompany the Erozean Alliance leaders to parley with emperor Varis zos Galvus himself along the border. Despite a rough start as he questioned their ideals, Varis reveals Garlemald's goal is the reunification of the Source and the restoration of the original race that all denizens of the thirteen worlds are derived from. Eorzean Alliance is in further shock when Varis reveals that Solus zos Galvus is an Ascian and that his kin created the Garlean Empire, the leaders all disgusted as the emperor sees the reunification as their only chance to stop the Ascians together. But the Alliance refuse to aid Varis in his insane plan, quickly preparing for battle against the first wave before Alisaie is afflicted by the Calling while Elidibus leads the next wave into Ala Mhigo.

Development

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.[8] 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.[9][10] 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.[11] Yoshida emphasized in his design philosophy that an expansion to a MMORPG should have as much content as the base game.[12] The expansion was officially announced at the Las Vegas segment of Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival 2016, which took place in October.[13] Further details about the expansion were released at the Tokyo and Frankfurt events, including the release date, new jobs, locations, and raids.[14][15]

Patches

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. As with previous expansions, Square Enix released five major patches for Stormblood over the course of its two year content cycle.[citation needed]

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 an interstellar mechanical life form with reality-warping powers, not an Allagan weapon. After its battle with Shinryu, Omega burrows underground and creates a pocket dimension in which it organizes a tournament of creatures it has fabricated by observing this new planet to crown the strongest one. Omega's only purpose is to explore, duplicate, and battle strong life forms to improve its own destructive capabilities. The Warrior of Light is forced to enter into this tournament to have a chance at fighting Omega, which represents an existential threat to all life on the planet with its unfathomable power.
4.1 "The Legend Returns" October 10, 2017 Ivalice, Unending Coil of Bahamut Ultimate, Rival Wings, Squadron update, 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
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
4.4 "Prelude in Violet" September 18, 2018
4.5 "Requiem for Heroes" January 2019
March 2019
Released in two 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.


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