So we’re a bit over a month from the launch of the expansion to Final Fantasy XIV, Stormblood. Second expansion, yadda yadda yadda. You know what you’re here for, so I won’t bother too much. The problem for me is that I’m having trouble getting excited for the expansion. Actually let me clarify a bit more: I’m interested, I’m keen for new stuff, but I’m just not hyped. For Heavensward I was choo choo, full steam ahead hype train.
Full dislosure: There will be 2.55-3.56 spoilers
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, about why my feelings are different. To compare, at the end of 2.55 (after around an hour of cutscenes) things had really gone south. All the Scions were presumed dead or missing, the Sultana was believed dead, Raubahn just went full-on rage mode, beat the hell out of Lolorito and got into a grudge match with Ilberd, causing him to lose his arm and get locked up. The Warrior of Light was exiled from the three major nations under the assumption we had poisoned the Sultana. Shit had gone DOWN.
The end of Heavensward is different though, unless there’s more to come. Things have happened, sure. Ishgard saw the end of the Dragonsong War, overthrowing traditions that had been set in stone for a thousand years and calling into question their entire belief system. Ilberd has been pretending to be the Griffin, the saviour of Ala Mhigo, and led a force of Ala Mhigans to Baelsar’s Wall, under Empire control. Dressed as people from the Gridania, Thanalan, and La Noscea, the Empire were led to believe these nations were launching an attack, forcing their hand and causing the Warrior of Light to get involved. Really though, Ilberd was using their sacrifices in battle as fuel to become a giant white Dalamud. To combat this, we joined forces with Nero and raised the Omega Weapon to take on the oncoming primal threat, which turned out to be Shinryu. Those two battle, and then they both head east. Yda in our party turns out to be her sister, Lyse, and Palalymo is dead after sealing the primal for some time.
All of that sounds like a lot, and it is. The problem is simple though; how does that affect the Warrior of Light? Obviously we’re heading east to check out Ala Mhigo and Shirogane to liberate them from Empire control, but it all feels a lot less pressing than before. It’s more like we just see that someone needs help so we’re going to trod off there and give them the ol’ helping hand. Obviously, we couldn’t just get exiled again, that would be incredibly silly. Maybe if it was a bit more of something like Empire saying “Look, we know the Warrior of Light attacked and destroyed Baelsar’s Wall, we’ll stay our attack on your nations if they come to us directly.” That way the nations could just urge us to go, thus giving us a good reason.
Something else that kind of killed my hype is the bluff about Ala Mhigo. All along we were lead to believe “Hey, you’re going to Ala Mhigo, they’ve been under Empire control for ages and it’s time to liberate them.” Cool. Suddenly, Fan Festival comes around and they’re discussing Shirogane as the main hub, and many places coming off it. It’s a big Eastern influence, the housing zones will be there. Oh. Well that wasn’t what I had been led to believe. It’s not a bad thing, mind, just flipped my expectations and took away everything I knew, as Shirogane is a fairly big unknown.
I could go on with things I was expecting, but that didn’t happen. No new tank or healer, I could go either way on but I get their reasoning; no new races I am a bit bummed about, but I guess it means I won’t see a million of the same race as everyone changes to the new one (again); combat changes have been teased, as have cross-class changes, but we haven’t had more information about what they actually are. We know the name of the raid, we know what the new classes are but no idea how they’ll really play other than a small teaser.
All of this isn’t happening in a vacuum though. I know what they’re doing: they’re holding back information so people go into the expansion and actually get to experience stuff. People are likely to buy the expansion regardless; they’re invested in the game and their characters so far. I’m genuinely interested to see if this gamble plays off, but it may bite them in the rear. Player numbers don’t feel like they’ve been increasing insanely. Yoshida-san plays these numbers pretty close to his chest, instead talking about things like “total number of characters”, which doesn’t reflect things like how many active players, or how many aren’t bots, or on trial accounts, or even alts? Looking at that, an expansion is a way to woo back some of the playerbase (which I would argue they’re seeing decease else they wouldn’t be offered things like Free Login campaigns, Invite a Friend Back campaigns, and the continuation of the Friend Referral campaign). If they’re keeping information closer for the expansion, it’s a lot harder to woo back those players until post-launch. That’s fine, it staggers the playerbase. This is a gear treadmill game though, so those returners are instantly behind. Not a huge deal though.
Either way, that’s why my hype for Stormblood isn’t crazy high. I’ll still play it. I’m the same as most suckers; I’m invested in my character and I want to see what’s new (if only to see how they try and balance Scholar and Warrior, two notoriously overpowered classes. I want to see where the story goes, so maybe they don’t have to rely on hype so much. I just hope that the playerbase doesn’t suffer for their gamble.