FFXIV: Stormblood Bollywood Boogaloo

Warning: Contains Spoilers for FFXIV Stormblood.

Wow, it’s been a whole week since I last posted about progress through Stormblood. Rest assured, I’ve been moving through story as best as I can. My Red Mage is currently halfway through level 68, and we’ve just cleared Lakshmi, the second primal of the expansion.

Whoo. What to talk about? There’s so much here that it’s hard for me to condense it all down to one post.

Story Supported by Technology

Let me just say, I enjoyed Heavensward. But, so far, Stormblood is heads and shoulders above Heavensward in terms of my story enjoyment.

This was not something I expected. In fact, I came into it with uncertainty as… well… I didn’t know how interesting an expansion themed around Ala Mhigo and war would be. Oh, me of little faith and vision!

What I expected…

I really, really feel like the team has hit its stride with story writing… and they’re now fiddling with how the game’s technology can be used to strengthen and suppliment it. We’re seeing massive use of phasing of the world done well — take Rhalgar’s Reach for example, how the outpost changes depending on what part of the story you’re in.

We’re also seeing increasingly intense and intricate instance battles. I was super impressed by the Naadam trial and the battle that followed that. NPC AI is getting smarter and fighting in large groups alongside your NPC allies is enjoyable. It really does give the feeling of fighting with an army at your side. This bodes well for Squad AI in the future.

What I got…

Enjoyable Content

I have to admit that while questing and story are my cup of tea, I’ve actually found most of the dungeons and trials to be designed for enjoyment as well. I don’t think I’ve run anything so far that I flat out refuse to do over again.

Whereas a number of Heavensward story dungeons just felt… blah… to me, the dungeons in Stormblood are usually active, colorful, interesting in theme, and have strongly mechanics-based bosses. Bardam’s even has a boss that is nothing but teaching dodging and marker mechanics — I had to laugh at this because we needed a boss like this a loooooong time back.

I was very impressed, for example, by the Lakshmi primal. I have never… ever… said that I enjoy a primal fight before (okay, maybe I like Titan for mechanics), but something about the upbeat Bollywood music and the overall design has made Lakshmi a favored battle in my eyes.

The music just makes this fight — I know primal tunes are generally cool and well-liked among players, but this is something different. Rather than the theme being beating the enemy down, subduing or killing, this song is uplifting and inspiring.

I laughed so hard at the cutscene segment that happens in the middle of the fight where all the members of the party are compelled to do this little Bollywood dance for her (seen at about 2:34 in video above). I’m assuming she’s trying to temper or seduce you (and I know if you don’t use the protective skill, it’s an insta-kill mechanic). But it’s still darn funny and enjoyable. I hope we’ll see more things like this in the future.

Massive Scope

Speaking of that cutscene in the middle of the battle, there’s been so many things in Stormblood that put perspective on the player. Namely, how small we are in the scope of the larger world.

Last night, we unlocked flying in the Fringes. Now, the Fringes has not been one of my favorite zones because of the burnt-out, desolate feeling of most of it. But then, you fly over it and… wow. Just wow… the size of this zone is breathtaking… between the huge imperial wall in the distance to the immense canyon below.

Again, this is reflected in battle cutscenes as well. The whole Doma Castle scenario was massive and epic, from the approach to the castle to the dungeon itself. You really do feel as if you are storming into a castle under siege as you make your way through it.

NPC Characters

Another thing that Stormblood has done well is introduce and develop various new characters to the game. This expansion doesn’t focus as much on a traditional traveling group like Heavensward did, but more a variation on this theme. There are some characters who come and go in your “party,” but the overall composition is diverse and you always feel like it’s open to the introduction of more companions in time.

Pirates will be pirates, I guess.

I’ve come to really, really like Hien. His character is well written, and he’s just the calm  and inspiring leader that Doma needs. There’s so many tiny nuances in his expression and the voice acting that makes him feel like a character that’s well thought out.

He’s both fierce and kind, being what he needs to be when he needs to be. It’s a breath of fresh air to have an optimistic character as one of the leads now days.

And these two. What can I say about these two? They’ve got a lot of fan art out there, and for a good reason.

I even like Cirina, though I usually don’t gravitate towards the demure-seeming girls in pink. But there’s a lot of fire and strength in her character, and I’m interested in seeing if Magnai considers pursuing his hunch about his moon maiden. 😉

And of course, there’s the bad guys. I guess I was supposed to feel some sympathy for Yotsuyu, but nope. Even Hien had none for her, and I applaud his ability to take action despite the call for pity. She got everything that was coming to her.

The jury is still out on Fordola, though. I’m not sure of what to make of her, or where this story is taking her. I think she just bit off more than she could chew, though.

You should know better than to wish for something like this in a FF game.

Zenos is just creep-city though. This guy keeps going lower and lower, and it’s really hard to wrap my head around his motivations. I think that’s what the writers are shooting for, though, a character so beyond sadistic that he’s impossible to understand.

Oh, and old friends.

I don’t know what Estinien is doing harnessing the power of Nidhogg…

But if my Dragonfire Dive could take out a giant imperial cannon in one shot, I might not have changed jobs. XD

Yeah, we get that you’re epic, Estinien. We all know it’s a cover up for how you’re just out there secretly keeping Alphinaud safe. Now go sit down before you hurt yourself you doofy Dragoon. <3