Having finished Heavensward, let’s chain with Stormblood New Game+ mode.

Stormblood starts right after the fall of the Baelsar’s Wall conducted at the end of the Heavensward main story line. As the Eorzean Alliance does not wish to engage a frontal a war against the Empire, they send the Scions and the Warrior of Light, who are neutral, to contact the various Ala Mhigan resistance factions behind the newly opened border. Meanwhile, the Domanians Tsugiri and Gosetsu left the Scions and set back to their homeland in order to fight their mutual enemy.

Like Heavensward, Stormblood is split in four main parts and follow exactly the same pattern. The two first parts are the initial story released when the expansion came out and the last two are additional content added until the release of Shadowbringers. Also, just like its predecessor, Stormblood use the same starting narrative pattern for its introduction by following two Resistance representative in the two first explorable regions and then, converging to the next chapters. The two-step exploration of the regions introduced with the Sea of Clouds in Heavensward is more used in this add-on with three of the six new area added using this idea (The Fringes, The Peaks, and Yanxia). Finally, just like Heavensward, one of the leveling dungeons is not a story mandatory. In this case, that’s the second one.

However, Stormblood broke an implicit rule in the exploration established during the previous stories, and the next ones : the secondary city is explored first. In FFXIV, each story line has at least one main Capital and a secondary which is generally the endgame hub (because it hosts the various merchant selling high level gears, the craft and harvesting jobs collectable appraiser, etc). In ARR, we had the three City States that were the starting zones, and the Revenant Toll where the Scions installed themselves during the story and hosting the ARR endgame hub. In Heavensward, the main city was Ishgard and the secondary hub Idyllshire. In Stormblood, we discover and explore first Rhalgr’s Reach, one of the Resistance factions camp and the endgame hub before discovering Kugane, the Othardian capital. As today, Stormblood is the only one who had broke this rule, Shadowbringers and Endwalker having not.

Regarding the cities, there is a common pattern I haven’t explained in my two previous articles. Every time the player discovers a new major city, he will have a tour offered by a NPC character related to this one. At the very beginning of the game, the adventurer discovers its starting city by doing some exposition quests. This pattern was used again in Heavensward when the Fortemps’ butler introduce the various areas of the main capital. Then, in Stormblood, it’s the local NPC host who does this tour again. Of course, this method was used again in Shadowbringers and Endwalker.

Another common pattern since the beginning of ARR is the Headquarter place. At first, when your character is recruited by the Scions, he will meet the other members and the leader in their headquarter in Thanalan, then at the Revenant’s Toll after moving during the first story. During Heavensward the HQ is the Fortemps Manor where the team plans its operations. In Stormblood, it’s the Ruby Bazaar where the characters are welcomed at the beginning of their adventure in the Far East, and later the Doman Enclave. The HQ is an instanced area where the NPC disposition varies according to the story development and several cutscenes are played.

The first part of the story is narrated by Lyse, the member of the Scions we knew under the name Yda who hide her identity by taking her late sister’s in order to fight among the Resistance. The first Stormblood region to be discovered is Gyr Abania with The Fringes and the Peaks and the second city as told before. The beginning of the story returns to a more classical approach of the “I don’t trust you, go kill 3 rats” pattern. Not exactly that, but we arrive in a region controlled by the tyrannic Empire and the Resistance suffered a lot of loss and is now mistrusted by the various villagers because their actions trigger the Empire’s retaliation, which fall over them. During the first chapters, we try to help the Resistance to recruit new members, but after a violent assault over the Resistance HQ by the Empire, the second main chapter begins with the travel to the Far East. There, the story pattern is the same as the beginning, our characters are completely unknown in this region and they want to find the Doma Rebellion Front in order to rally them to fight the Empire together. Because Othard’s people suffered of twenty-years of occupation of the Empire, the recruitment is difficult here too. Despite using the same narration mechanics as the beginning of the game, the first part is using them differently. Instead of being sent to do some house chores, the trust in our character is earned by helping the local people to pull back the Empire occupation forces. The first part end after fighting a second time against the story main antagonist, Zenos. This is also in this chapter where we unlock two new features of the game, the submarine exploration and the aim system where the character has to aim and shoot at a remote target using a magnifier. Another feature added in this expansion, but lately after its release, is the “role play” system. During some specific story parts, we play as another character a specific duty instead our character.

The second part starts by searching the Doma throne heir, Hien in another region and firing up the revolution in Doma. The first chapters were mainly building the new characters back story and starting to develop the background of one of the two secondary antagonists, Yotsuyu, the cruel acting viceroy in charge of Doma. We also discover another tribal population of Doma in the Azim Steppes, a variety of nomadic tribes composed of fierce warriors. Then, the music accelerates and the story continue directly with the liberation of Doma and the begin of the demise of the Empire in the Far East. After this victory, our team returns to the Ala Mhigan region to continue their purpose and free the region from the Imperial domination. These two parallel stories has a common element : the secondary antagonist is a native of the conquered country who fight their kind and are considered as traitors by the resistance and other citizens. In Doma, Yotsuyu is the acting viceroy put in charge after Zenos left the country. In Gyr Abania it’s Fordola, the daughter of Imperial collaborators who gained citizenship, known as “the Butcher” and leading a team of native soldiers named the Skulls. Both of them are cruel and mean, and both of them had been put in place by Zenos who saw their hateful potential as an opportunity. The second parts ends with the defeat of Zenos at Ala Mhigo and the liberation of the city. Then, just like Doma which was under Imperial rule for decades, the country has to rebuild itself nearly from scratch.

The third part starts is a different way, as the two liberated countries are now rebuilding themselves. The Adventurer is approached by another NPC for a treasure hunting venture, a fabled treasure that has been hidden by the last Ala Mhigan king, the “mad king”, hoping this fortune could help rebuilding the country. And that’s fun, because this is exactly how the third part of Endwalker started to years after ! After this introduction, the story continue and reveal the difficulties of the new temporary rulers of Ala Mhigo, as the people asks for revenge against the imprisoned traitors like Fordola. The third part is interesting because it’s main purpose is to develop the two secondary antagonists following the fall of Zenos. Both of them are still alive but one is missing and presumed dead, and the other is imprisoned because the characters didn’t want to arbitrary execute her. We already knew in the second part that Yotsuyu and Fordola had reasons for hating their own kind and being what they became for the Empire. The third part also introduce a new minor antagonist from the Empire, Asahi sas Brutus, another Domanian who took allegiance to the Empire and is Yotsuyu’s step brother. From my perspective, this characters is the most poorly written of the whole game. His treachery in the story could have been better introduced as the beginning of its appearance left some doubts about his motives, but the story preferred to develop this one has a stupid and caricatural character leaving him into some delirious hateful revenge quest. It’s sad to see the Yotsuyu development story line spoiled by this useless character. By the way, if I remembered hating Asahi at the first story run, I was also remembering not liking Yotsuyu’s character. She was just hateful and megalomaniac, too much caricatural too. However, reading again the story show how much it’s a tragic character. That’s one of the good parts of Stormblood’s story : the two secondary antagonists has both the same back story basis, being child of Empire collaborators in an occupied territory, but a different development showing different possibilities for this kind of character. Fordola was the beloved daughter of a minor noble who gained Empire’s citizenship who lost her father because of a riot, while Yotsuyu has been an orphan child mistreated and abused by her adoptive family, later sold to a sordid establishment. Both of them grew hatred for their kind, but not for the same reason. And both of them gained the interest of Zenos, the principal antagonist of this story line.

The fourth part is the transition for Shadowbringers’s story line. It starts by Doma securing its defenses again the potential Empire counterattack. Also, the word of Zenos’ survival is spreading and one of the Scions decide to visit the Empire as a Doman emissary. However, while preparing their next moves, the Scions are suddenly targeted by a strange affliction that made them falling into a deep slumber one by one, leaving the Warrior of Light soon very alone. This narration part is very oriented to the development of the Empire background. Despite being one of the two main antagonists of the story, the Empire remained quite mysterious and its internal affairs were barely exposed to the player. In Stormblood, the Empire is clearly most developed than in the previous campaigns. While I’ve though at first that Stormblood didn’t add a lot of introduction to Endwalker like Heavensward did for Shadowbringers, actually it’s more subtle. Instead of introducing a part of the next expansion story line, this one set the stage for a specific event that will happen in Endwalker. So, the narration will take a lot of time to clarify some back stories and origins making the plot of Shadowbringers and later Endwalker more consistent. Also, some future characters of Endwalker are introduced during the last parts of Stormblood. The “Role play” feature is reused a couple of time and I’ve really enjoyed these gameplay sequences. They provide another dimension to the story where your character becomes a third party event and the player is now focusing on another parallel action. Despite drawing a lot of backstories, the fourth part is apparently shorter than the third. Its story is quickly completed and we can see it’s mostly a conclusion to Stormblood’s story and the startup of Shadowbringers.

One last thing about the two last parts of Stormblood : they don’t have any narrator, unlike the previous chapters. Maybe because the story is developed in a two concurrents branches later merged so it could be difficult to have a specific character narrating it.

This review of Stormblood’s New Game + is quite longer than the previous. To be honest, this rediscovery was actually more a discover than a second reading. Back at this time, I’ve stopped playing FFXIV because I was a little tired by Heavensward and I wasn’t enjoying the game as much I enjoy it now because some gameplay features later implemented were a real benefit. So as I had preordered Shadowbringers, I can admit I’ve a little rushed Stormblood and I can’t say I was receptive to the story. Maybe the Japanese theme of the game didn’t match my mood of the moment. I remember better the last part and now I can say I’ve enjoyed the story of this add-on. Stay tuned for the next part of this New Game + series that will talk about Shadowbringers.