A Quick Thought on the Early Access Launch of Shadowbringers

I haven’t played yet, since I thought it would be out at 1 AM my time but servers are still down for another hour, and I have to work.

So, anyways, to say that I’m hyped for Shadowbringers is an understatement. The cycle of Final Fantasy XIV expansions has always been that they come out at points in my WoW fandom where it has waned enough that I get really into them.

Well, at least Stormblood did that.

When Heavensward came out, I was barely level 30 on White Mage, and I had much leveling left to do in just my first job. I planned to switch to Astrologian, and ended up not doing that until Stormblood.

Because I never passed A Realm Reborn content during Heavensward’s active window.

I got into ARR late, compared to others. I had the taste of XIV 1.0 in my mouth, a game I played for two months near launch and absolutely despised. The early experience of ARR was pretty cool, and after friends talked my ears off about it for months, I bit the bullet and played. It was pretty good! But it never quite got the hook in early on. Those who have played FFXIV can attest to some of what I mean here – the early questing, while good, is of a much lower quality than what comes later. The dungeon design in early ARR is downright simplistic and even a bit boring at times – all the fun of the early dungeons comes from figuring out your rotation on each job, and since you only have about 4 buttons max at that point, it is rough.

Heavensward’s theme also didn’t appeal to me much, which makes me the weird one in the bunch of FFXIV fans, apparently. I did end up really liking the story content, the dungeons were great, and the zones had a wide array of climates to offer.

When Stormblood came out in 2017, however, I was grinding slowly through the MSQ barrier in ARR, and I was about to make it to Heavensward, and had! So I…picked up Astrologian and started back at level 30, determined to grind my way through to 50, through Heavensward MSQ, and on to Stormblood! And I did!

Stormblood came out at a fantastic time without knowing it – the Legion patch 7.2 lull was quite harsh for me, as I was not yet addicted to the quest for all 36 Mage Tower skins, and Blizzard’s (somewhat petty but very predictable) counter-release was 7.2.5, unlocking Tomb of Sargeras…one of their worst raids ever. Naturally, I gravitated hard to Stormblood – the far eastern theme is a favorite of mine, the themes of revolution played well with me, and so I played. I really liked Stormblood, and it is the first content set in FFXIV I have thoroughly completed (to my satisfaction, no EXs or Savage raiding done) ever.

I did drop out of Stormblood from 4.1 to 4.5 launch, not purposefully or out of distaste, but the WoW bug had bit again, as Argus was really cool, this blog was picking up a lot of steam, and I found what I liked about the Mage Tower and really honed in on it.

So it is fitting that I sit here now and appraise the current situation – a fantastic looking expansion for FFXIV against the current state of Battle for Azeroth. I admit, a few weeks ago, I had no hype for patch 8.2 and all of my excitement was solely reserved for Shadowbringers. Today, it remains mostly the same.

To be clear, I actually think that 8.2 is pretty great, in its own way. Nazjatar is gorgeous, Mechagon is quirky fun, the sense of exploration and adventure is higher than it has been in-game in a while, and the overall story being told is interesting to me (which I will be touching on in a near-future post).

However, the thing about WoW to me is that it remains WoW. The fundamental structure of BfA remains in place, and while essences are an interesting system, they do not alone encourage me to pick up doing tons of Azerite-granting content aiming to level my necklace ever further. The story, while good, is also something I can catch up on later, like after the next week of coma and grinding to level 80 in FFXIV.

An FFXIV expansion where I can be in the rush of people running to max level the first week? That’s new to me. I’ve never had that experience, while I’ve been on for week 1 of a new WoW patch about…29 times now (I counted everything but x.0 patches, and excluded ones I wasn’t super actively playing). I actually think, all told, that 8.2 is a hell of a petty counter-release to unleash. It is certainly a stronger hand than they had with 7.2.5 for Stormblood, for sure. The new raid launching on 7/9, one week after the formal launch of Shadowbringers, alongside Season 3 and all of the gear farming it brings, is a stronger play. Blizzard knows that Square Enix came to this launch ready to fight, and Blizzard dropped a massive patch one week before official launch and prepared for season 3 to release one week after the official Shadowbringers launch knowing that the best chance they had to keep drifters like me satiated was to unleash everything in one torrent of continuous content, two weeks worth of steady rep grinding and story quests and then the raid as the lull sets in.

Will it work? Well…I cancelled my subscription to WoW today.

Just until I get paid again, so I’ll be lapsed for 4 days.

(I debated not putting that into the post.)

Why? Well, I am eagerly anticipating the story of Shadowbringers – there is a lot to chew on and I want to have zero distractions while I work through it. To that end, I’ve gotten myself to near Honored with both new zone reps so that after renewing next week, I can immediately run full speed at more quests to get my Pathfinder Part Two complete.

But this weekend, and my forthcoming long weekend thanks to the fourth of July? I think I’ll spend that on the First, working to bring darkness back.

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