Final Fantasy XIV Online: Shadowbringers (PC) Review

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 26.03.2020

Review for Final Fantasy XIV Online: Shadowbringers on PC

Originally released in 2010, FFXIV was met with middling to low reviews, as fans slated it as a buggy, no fun and downright messy title. Square Enix acted fast and within a three year period they re-released the game with a fully overhauled system, visuals, and most importantly a much improved story that fans got incredibly invested in. These days this is probably the second biggest MMORPG next to WoW, and it has an incredibly dedicated fanbase. This fanbase has been built upon over recent years with some fantastical expansions which took players further into the lore, and even into other realms each with fantastic systems and entirely unique locales. The developers have done an amazing job bringing the game so far in a relatively short time period for such a large MMO.

MMORPGs are a hard sell. Once a player has settled into one game they are unlikely to jump ship to another - with Final Fantasy XIV this was not the case. After the expanded and fixed up release of A Realm Reborn, it found its niche, and has been comfortably nestled there for a good long time. Stepping into ShadowBringers as a complete newbie was a hard task. The developer have made this as easy as possible with a potion and items that fast forward the player to level 50, and give them access to the powerful Dark Knight class.

However, players that take this route will have to spend what feels like hundreds of hours, looking through the story compendium and following the mainline quest story of the entire game and all other DLC's cut-scenes and story beats. This is not the optimal way to experience these events, as lots of the side quests and other various world context builders are missing, making some things feel like large leaps. That said, synopses do a good job of bridging gaps between the cut-scenes. It's an underwhelming beginning after a really cool setup.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: Shadowbringers on PC

Right at the start, the game does the intro sequence for FFXIV: A Realm Reborn, and lets you design a character. The character builder is a thing of beauty, with tons of options. There are races, genders, skin colour and classes. Naturally it's fun to make the characters that have cool features like dragon horns or the tiny Lalafell. Once this character is created, the game will introduce the player to Eorzea before dropping them in the main game, and when using the Quick Start DLC items the player only needs to play until they have access to the first inn where they can activate the items and read about the events preceding this new story.

Obviously starting from this point there is a whole lot of tutorials needed to get the player kicked into action, and from simply moving around to smashing monsters with basic spells the game has you covered. These are all done in a format that works well for an MMORPG - this teleports players into the 'Hall of Novices' world, where each new move is introduced via text and voice, before one is allowed through a gate to try it out and adjust to the controls. This is all presented in an easy to understand, and workable, if slightly robotic way, with some good old school Final Fantasy II battle music which really did tickle some fancy. The combat system is a typical MMORPG affair, with standard attacks being on the mouse, and spells/ skills being mapped to buttons, it's all animated well, and has some nice flair and action to it. What it lacks however is a particularly Final Fantasy feel. It feels like any other MMORPG.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: Shadowbringers on PC

The plot focuses on an Ascian plan that transports the player character to a new world. In this new realm the player must unravel the mystery of this realm, and help the citizens by balancing light and dark. This is done by defeating wardens of light, and by speaking to a cast of all new and interesting characters and solving their problems. It all culminates in an epic final battle that ultimately leads to a fairly open ending probably to add more stories to this new world. The overall design is really quite wondrous, with big cities, vibrant vistas, and a whole host of varied and uniquely styled areas.

This is accentuated by a main cast of colourful characters, who, while their interactions can be quite dry, to the point of boring, they do give each area and story beat a little local flavour. It will come as no surprise that this decade old game is an absolute behemoth with not just hundreds of hours-worth of content, but nigh on hundreds of days of content.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: Shadowbringers on PC

The Final Fantasy aesthetic is accentuating a more generic fantasy world than your typical FF entries.

Things like crystals, job class outfit references, and character races bring a more unique FF styling that isn't in other MMORPGs, except maybe FFXI which preceded this, and these do a great job of giving the world a FF flavour while letting it bask in it's more typical MMO aspects. For example, the game opens with Chocobos, and there is a smattering of moogles which adds to the Final Fantasy air. Each of the areas and characters has a high level of detail, and the game looks brilliant when played on max settings.

There are lots of performance visual settings available on PC, which can help reduce loading lag, and even on the lower settings this looks like an Xbox 360 or PS3-era title. Most interestingly, it offers controller support, even on PC, allowing for a greater range of accessibility and freedom of choice for players who need it. The controller layout can be tweaked, and the default is a little clunky, especially when compared with keyboard and mouse input. The technical experience was typically lag free, pretty fast loading, and responsive to inputs, so playing the game is actually not bad, even if the world doesn't grasp you.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: Shadowbringers on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Having got to grips with the system and ploughed as many hours as could be afforded into the story it's a shame to say it left nought but the same stale taste as most MMORPGs. The distinctly Final Fantasy feeling began to slip after jumping in and wading through rolls and rolls of forgettable and bland story beats presented in a flavourless, style-less way. The active story events of ShadowBringers are good fun, but due to the grinding nature of the genre, it suffers from some terrible pacing issues. If you are invested in FFXIV, this DLC will probably excite and please you. It's a fun but forgettable romp that runs just the wrong side of boring during its hours-long retelling and bland A-B mission style. If this tickles your fancy, be sure to start and play with a team of friends - it will easily be 10 times more enjoyable, if infinitely longer.


Square Enix


Square Enix





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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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