I’ve espoused how much I love Shadowbringers a lot, enough that I’m not going to do it here. You folks get it.
I don’t believe it was perfect, however. It made a few mistakes, ones I’m really hoping do not repeat with Endwalker. So let’s talk about them and exactly WHY they were so bad.
1. The reduction of interesting abilities in Healer DPS kits
They didn’t lose as much as I initially thought they did, for most classes it amounted to consolidating single target DoTs and removal of some AoE DoTs, but there’s a few interesting abilities that I would really like to see return to healers to make DPS opportunities and soloing more fun. Bring back the AoE DoTs, for one. Alternatively, give Scholar Bane back, and give the others something similarly useful.
Also I would like to see Cleric Stance return in its Stormblood incarnation as a healer role action. Anything to make the DPS phase and solo combat more interesting.
2. The requirement to re-level Trusts to use them again
I don’t get this choice. It seems needlessly punishing. The rewards for it aren’t great (the old outfits just aren’t nearly as interesting as the new ones), and it takes far too many runs of one dungeon to level them to the point that you can do another is frankly mind-numbing. It completely took me out of being able to use them.
I really hope they just let you start using them at max when the Endwalker MSQ is completed.
3. General Ran’jit and the idea of “forced battle loss”
I get the point of this, giving us an unwinnable battle to show us just how strong our adversary truly is, but it simply does not work as a game mechanic in such a way that is going to make us, the player, feel good. We’ve already been throught this twice with Zenos in Stormblood, and both times the battles felt like something we could have won with careful playing, only to have whatever efforts we’ve put into the fight dashed against the rocks because the plot demanded it.
It’s infinitely worse with Ran’jit both because he comes out of nowhere with no backstory AND we’ve already been through this WITH Zenos, however. By trouncing us in an unwinnable battle, he devalues Zenos’ abilities and makes all the development we went through in Stormblood feel meaningless. This should have either been handled in cutscenes, or he should have been made a more cowardly opponent who cheated to get through the battle and send us on the run via overwhelming numbers.
At this point, we’ve gone toe to toe with actual godlike beings, we should not ever have to lose against otherwise normal people, ever again. I really hope we do not see this in Endwalker or in any expansion going forward.
4. Hrothgar Customization
I don’t work for Square Enix, nor do I have any experience on any kind of game development. I have no idea how their company operates, nor what the business of running FF XIV looks like. So therefore I will take the dev team at their word that developing new races is challenging and time consuming, and that doing more than what we got would have taken other things away from the game. So I’m not going to fault them for the lack of hats, or limited number of hairstyles, or (in the Hrothgar’s case) having hairstyles tied to faces and thus a limited number of options. I think they should spend some dev time correcting some of this for Endwalker, but that’s not our focus here.
The mistake I feel they made is not making Hrothgar hair available to change within the aesthetician system. Requiring a fantasia to change a haircut when other races can do this with a moderate amount of gil feels exploitative, and as a gesture of goodwill, they should have enabled that as a change option for the Hrothgar. Maybe that would mean that EVERY race would need to have facial options enabled to change at the aesthetician in order to make that work, but frankly, I don’t see what’s wrong with that. We blindingly accept stranger ideas of “realism” in this game, giving the aesthetician the ability to do a little plastic surgery isn’t that strange.
5. The NieR alliance raid narrative failed to live up to the hype surrounding it.
There will be spoilers for the story in here, which is why it’s last. Skip the rest if you haven’t done it and care about spoilers.
I fully admit that this might be due to my utter lack of experience with any of the NieR games or even their spiritual predecessors, but I didn’t particularly enjoy the storyline surrounding this raid series. Using the dwarves as a narrative framing device (and not even the ones we spent so much time befriending) was already puzzling, and they took far too much of the narrative front of the story. I don’t care about these dwarves, heck we spent a lot of the MSQ setting them up as villains, why am I not only helping them, but listening to a pair of twins that are incredibly annoying?
Having 2P be our initial ally, only to betray us out of nowhere was shocking, sure, but it meant we had 1/3 less time than usual to build up any kind of rapport and friendship with the true heroes of the story, 2B and 9S. Perhaps they figured “oh everyone has played the games, we don’t need to spend that time” but I haven’t. I don’t know much about them, and so I had zero emotional attachment to them when the finale of the series happened. I also don’t feel like they made it entirely clear exactly what the antagonists wanted nor who they were supposed to be. The red girl/false idol seemed like she came out of nowhere, no explanation for who she was or any of her motivations.
Again, I imagine none of this is new to those who played the game, but it just left me very confused.
Gameplay wise they were some of the most fun Alliance raids, and I loved running them (well, Copied Factory and Puppet’s Bunker were, Paradigm’s Breach needs some tuning), but they didn’t feel narratively satisfying on their own, nor did they give me any additional hype to play NieR: Automata. I more felt like I was being punished for NOT having done so, and that’s a pretty big strike against that story.