How Shadowbringers Came To Be The Best FFXIV Story Ever


Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers was launched in mid-2019 to an virtually unanimous standing ovation from the neighborhood and critics alike. One of the strengths of this enlargement is its reverence for the tales which have been instructed in installments previous. However, it tells these tales not by the sweeping statements about morality and the character of warfare that veteran gamers is likely to be used to, however relatively by a deal with well-known characters inside the recreation in addition to their relationships to the world round them and one another.

Natsuko Ishikawa, the lead fundamental state of affairs author for Shadowbringers, and Takeo Suzuki, artwork group lead, are a number of the minds who have been accountable for reframing established character narratives and refining acquainted programs as a way to perform the above. The design philosophies adopted by their respective departments have been instrumental in permitting this enlargement to have delivered what’s arguably the sport’s most partaking content material to this point. GameSpot spoke to each Suzuki and Ishikawa to realize some perception into their course of.

Natsuko Ishikawa (middle) and Takeo Suzuki (proper) throughout the Shadowbringers Post-mortem at PAX West 2019. (credit score: PAX)

The newest installment in Final Fantasy XIV’s already-impressive canon has been praised for the best way that it managed to weave in years of outdated lore while nonetheless managing to serve up a narrative that’s probably the largest and the very best that Square Enix’s flagship MMO has ever instructed. Stormblood, its predecessor, felt just a little extra like a clear slate by way of enlargement design when it took the Warrior of Light to an entire new continent and to an entire new battle that actually had solely elements of it hinted at in earlier quests.

By comparability, one would possibly wonder if or not the group at Square Enix felt constrained in any respect by the sheer quantity of callbacks within the lore and threads of plotlines from A Realm Reborn that made up such a big a part of Shadowbringers. However, Ishikawa adopted the identical core philosophy in the direction of writing the Main Scenario for this enlargement that she had when she was in command of writing state of affairs content material for Stormblood. “With Shadowbringers, it feels like it’s just a similar approach but on a larger scale. You’re pulling from other elements that have existed and kind of connecting the dots from there, creating one big story from there,” maintained Ishikawa. “We can’t say that there wasn’t any sort of limitation at all, but it was still a really fun experience for me, that I’m able to carry on the narrative that existed for a while and to expand upon it and building another story.”

This potential to attract on the wealth of established lore with Final Fantasy XIV is one thing that the design group at Square Enix sees as a energy. Suzuki, who has been working with the corporate for the reason that Chrono Cross days, agrees with Ishikawa that what they’ve achieved with Shadowbringers is among the nice benefits of the sport and that referencing its storied previous is a boon.

This philosophy that focuses on the constructing blocks and small moments drawn from acquainted reference factors is maybe greatest illustrated by the design course of behind the cities of Eulmore and Amaurot: two new environments so that you can discover in Shadowbringers that conveyed very poignant tales while additionally clearly being quest hubs. This meant that their major mechanical focus was to position gamers convincingly inside the central battle of the sport’s world. Eulmore, specifically, was a logo of the corruption and the antagonism that seethed beneath the floor of Norvrandt for a big portion of the enlargement.

Eulmore is a lavish upper-class utopia with a very ugly side.
Eulmore is a lavish upper-class utopia with a really ugly facet.

In order to precisely convey the unsettling nature of Eulmore and its environment, Suzuki’s group needed to take into account not solely the aesthetic of the placement but additionally to place themselves within the sneakers of the NPCs inhabiting the world in that individual space. After the artwork design group acquired details about the fundamentals of every city, the first step for Suzuki was to consider the kind of individuals who would dwell in Eulmore.

“We do have the poorer individuals residing on the base of that space, and so the background design group would attempt to think about ‘What kind of life do these characters live?’ in that slum space. They then begin to consider what components we wish to place in that world,” he elaborated. “From there, it’s very fascinating, as a result of it goes again to the sport planning group and the sport design group. They see sure components like ‘Oh, they utilize pieces from broken ships’ or ‘There’s a flower they planted there’ and go ‘Oh, that’d be cool in the event that they tied right into a quest we wished to position in that space’”.

This collaborative course of is reflective of the emphasis that Square Enix has positioned on interconnecting components in Shadowbringers, starting from the strategy to creating new in-game lore to making sure character continuity and progress for fan-favorites just like the Scions (who’ve been round since A Realm Reborn). When quizzed on how acquainted faces within the new enlargement have grown and adjusted in an empathetic method, each Suzuki and Ishikawa recognized characters that they’d a smooth spot for.

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Ishikawa famous that Urianger had come a good distance since his introduction within the base recreation. “When he was first introduced in A Realm Reborn you kind of had this Shakespearean feel; you had no clue what he’s saying,” she famous. “But by the time Shadowbringers hit, he’s choosing his words more carefully, and you actually see that he’s trying to choose words that people can “get.” I think the people that he traveled with have impacted him and he’s started to become more considerate about how he’s relaying and conveying what he feels.”

While Urianger’s method of speech and his habits have lengthy been a supply of amusement for followers, the best way that the writing group included these refined adjustments to his demeanor while additionally crafting a completely new private arc for the Elezen gave each that means and nuance to what was beforehand seen as a hammy, over-the-top affectation.

We can’t say that there wasn’t any form of limitation in any respect, but it surely was nonetheless a very enjoyable expertise for me, that I’m in a position to keep it up the narrative that existed for some time and to increase upon it and constructing one other story. – Natsuko Ishikawa

It’s discovering these little pockets of storytelling and capitalizing on them which helps stability Shadowbringers on that knife’s edge between characters being so completely different that they lose their relatability, and characters being so firmly entrenched in outdated lore that they don’t develop with the world round them. The most well-known legacy character referenced within the newest enlargement, Ardbert, may very simply have fallen into the latter class particularly contemplating Suzuki’s enjoyable proven fact that the group had really repurposed his artwork belongings for the enlargement.

“When Ardbert was first introduced, he was the Warrior of Darkness that was responsible for the First falling under the influence under the flood of Light,” mentioned Suzuki, who was of the opinion that Ardbert’s story didn’t initially conclude very properly. “But through Shadowbringers, you talk with him and it feels like he gets a sort of resolution to his regrets and what he felt he was not able to accomplish, so that was very memorable for me.”

Small moments of storytelling were put into the Trust system; Alisaie keeps her composure during tragic events.
Small moments of storytelling have been put into the Trust system; Alisaie retains her composure throughout tragic occasions.

Suzuki and Ishikawa’s observations on the care that went into fleshing out the supporting forged of characters solely reaffirms that Final Fantasy XIV’s newest enlargement is not one other re-do of the Chosen One trope however relatively a narrative that locations immense worth on the ability of friendship within the face of adversity. This is particularly true of the Trust system, which Ishikawa recollects fondly despite the fact that she admitted to combating methods to depict the varied NPCs and their reactions to dungeons to account for participant variability. “I also had to consider where I draw the line in depicting these NPCs and their reactions,” mentioned Ishikawa. “To what point do we want to have these NPCs react to their environment and still make it enjoyable either way, whether you take them to the dungeon or not?”

This deal with adaptability and worldbuilding is among the hallmarks of Shadowbringers. Through fundamental state of affairs writing that focuses on these two components and the sport’s companions, gamers are given the prospect to really feel the affect of in-game selections made way back to A Realm Reborn. This was very true for Ardbert, who is only one of many examples the place lore has been refined over the course of a title in a humanizing method that’s each relatable and significant, and ties into forward-looking content material created particularly for the enlargement like Eulmore and Amaurot. “It’s something that we wouldn’t be able to accomplish with a single standalone game,” says Ishikawa of the inventive course of behind this enlargement, and he or she’s proper. Shadowbringers isn’t shy about embracing all of the lore that got here earlier than; it has advanced the precepts that made outdated content material and characters so satisfying, and it tells probably the most compelling story in Final Fantasy XIV’s historical past due to it.

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