An Actual Impression of Shadowbringers Early Access – Real Gameplay This Time, I Swear

Quick bullet points after two days playing!


-White mage is now level 75. I’ve really enjoyed playing in the open world – the DPS spell changes at 72 to more fancy things is nice and makes them more enjoyable visually, even if I liked the effect Stone had here and there.

-There is a sharp divide in pre-Shadowbringers and post-Shadowbringers content when it comes to healing and tanking. If you are a healer used to doing lots of DPS, expect that to stop in Shadowbringers content. You’ll still get to fill open moments with DPS, but it is far less certain that you’ll get those moments. WoW healers will feel far more at home in the new model.


-Everyone just takes more damage now. AoE damage in new fights is up, the number of different types of AoEs is up, and the amount of damage the incidental “healer cleanup” spells do is higher.

-Offsetting this, tanks have more defensives overall – they keep Rampart from Role Actions and gain their own job specific ones to fill gaps from lost Role Actions, and the gameplay is more built around them being able to cycle cooldowns. Bad tanks will hurt more since they no longer have the passive damage reduction baked into their tank stances, and Protect no longer exists.

-The new zones are absolutely gorgeous – very high contrast areas and they have my preferred type of layout for an MMO zone (hubs with less dense areas in-between) making the zone layouts memorable. Il Mheg is an absolute treat, and there is some beauty in desolate places like Ahm Araeng.

-The story (no spoilers here) is FANTASTIC. It starts off hot, and the stakes are made immediately clear, with the supporting cast and stage set up rapidly to get you into it. There are some intensely touching moments early on, punctuated with moments of absolute horror that will gnaw at you. There are also great moments of levity, and the story does a good job of pacing and balancing these disparate elements to keep an engaging story unfolding.

-Any fears I had about this expansion taking place on a shard world were quickly demolished by the early moments of the story – The First to the Source is not a WoW Outland vs. Draenor situation, where the game makes it very clear that the world is specifically an alternate history. Instead, it is a “these two places started in the same way, but took their own routes to get to today” and it makes them more interesting than I expected when the Fan Fest reveals were telling us how Eulmore is Limsa Lominsa and such.

-The Main Scenario Quest is excellent overall and the pacing is well done. There are a lot of voice-acted cutscenes early on, so prepare for 70-73 to be a bit slow. By the time you reach the first primal, you’re going to be feeling the acceleration in questing pace.

-The first primal has AMAZING music, which is good, because I would expect to see PUG groups wipe on it for awhile. My clear took nearly the full duty timer!


-Final Fantasy XIV has, at a slower pace to WoW, succumbed to mechanical creep in fights. Since FFXIV does not have boss mods to shout everything at a player and offer precise timers, the fights don’t have to be Uu’nat levels of mechanically dense (thank god) but they are getting more loaded with mechanics. Establish familiarity with when the game wants you to move to intercept certain things, how pattern attacks work, and how telegraphs work, and you’ll do fine.

-While I didn’t get the healer ire in the Live Letter devoted to action breakdowns, I do kind of get it now. As WHM, my kit feels fine but also a little less reactive. I have to plan a lot more for big pulls or bad tanks, and where before I could save a big pull and bad tank scenario, that is much harder to do with the 5.0 toolkit. The enmity changes for healers mean pre-hotting with Regen/Medica II is viable, and sometimes proves to save a fight. The cast time reduction of Cure I to 1.5 seconds base is excellent as well, because it is not just your MP saver now – it has a purpose to being used in more scenarios. The MP changes to 10,000 total MP with fixed spell costs ends up being pretty okay for WHM, all told – Lucid Dreaming is still around as an MP regen mechanic only on a shorter cooldown, and Thin Air still exists at the higher levels to give you an MP-free casting spree. Piety gearing still seems to help mana regen enough to be worthwhile – you can feel a difference in your total number of casts between lower piety and higher.

-The music is a slam dunk with a ton of different styles. Masayoshi Soken is one of the absolute best composers in the game business (if not in music in general) and the wide palette of musical styles means everyone has something to like.

-Expect to see a lot of Gunbreakers and Dancers in groups.

-Gunbreakers are okay.

-I HATE DANCERS. Their animations can mask AoE telegraphs and the majority of Dancer players I’ve run into as a healer make me want to punch them. The class seems cool, but it is definitely ending up the flavor of the month and there are a lot of not-great players running around with them.

-Without as much healer DPS (and maybe some behind the scenes tuning) expect new Shadowbringers bosses to live MUCH longer than prior expansions.

Overall, I am immensely happy with the Shadowbringers expansion so far, and it has validated my decision to ditch WoW for a whole week to play it – thus far. Endgame still looms, as does the back two-thirds of the MSQ, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my playtime so far!

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