I’m going to make an attempt here to summarize the FFXIV Stormblood story for my own future reference. There are going to be spoilers ahead if you haven’t played, although I’ll try to keep it fairly high-level and leave out every detail of how everything turns out. (That means I’m not going to tell you who lives and who dies, muhahaha.)
(You can consult any of a wide variety of Wikis if you really need all the details, and may I also suggest the 58 video series I uploaded to YouTube if you get really bored and need to see all the spoilers? I just may.)
I’ve broken the story down into four parts as I perceived them.
For those that don’t know anything about FFXIV, your character is known as the “Warrior of Light,” a hero with special powers and whatnot. By the time of Stormblood, you’ve already saved the world a number of times, and these days you hang out with your long-time friends in the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, a sort of Justice League for Eorzea and beyond. (I have to train myself to think of “Eorzea” as a smaller part of the game world now.)
Part 1 - Gyr Abania (to level 63)
Our story begins with the events at the end of Heavensward: For reasons that are too complex to get into, and which are a little bit fuzzy in my mind anyway, The Alliance finds itself battling the Garlean Empire at Baelsar’s Wall.
The Alliance wins at The Wall, but balks at the prospect of marching north to liberate Gyr Abania from the Empire without the consent of her people. (A thinly-veiled reference to the Iraq War I suppose.) The Alliance requests Lyse-a native of Ala Mhigo with contacts in the resistance-and the Scions of the Seventh Dawn to negotiate on behalf of The Alliance.
We do some errands for the locals in Gyr Abania to gain their trust and their consent to fight the Garlean Empire. But just as The Alliance, led by the Flame General Raubahn, plans to take the Garlean stronghold of Velodyna, the Empire attacks the resistance base at Rhalgr’s Reach and delivers a resounding defeat to the good guys. Even the vaunted Warrior of Light is no match for the powerful Garlean leader Zenos.
Part 2 - The Ruby Sea (to level 65)
While the locals in Gyr Abania lick their wounds, Lyse and company sail far to the East to gain support from Doma and open up a second front in the fight against the Garlean Empire. On arriving in the city of Kugane, we discover that we can’t reach Doman territory until we dislodge the Empire from a little town called Isari.
After some trials and tribulations under the sea, we enlist the help of the Kojin of the Blue (good ninja turtles) and the Confederacy (pirates) and liberate Isari.
Part 3 - Doma (to level 67)
Finally arriving in the Doman territory of Yanxia (pronounced with a two syllable YAN-SHEEUH for those as ignorant of Asian pronunciation as I), we find the people in no mood to fight, having suffered under 25 years of oppression from the Garlean Empire. We seek out Lord Hein (pronounced HEE-IN), the rightful ruler of Doma, to inspire the people.
Hein lives in hiding in the Azim Steppe, a place populated by three warring tribes. By fighting in a ritual Naadham battle, Hein and our merry band build even more allies for the fight to free Doma from the Garlean Empire. Hein returns to Yanxia with his new coalition of the willing to reclaim Doma Castle and his rightful rulership of Doma.
Part 4 - Ala Mhigo (to level 70)
Finished in the East, Lyse and the Scions return to Gyr Abania, stronger than ever, ready to tackle the Garlean Empire once more. We find Raubahn and The Alliance and the resistance pressing the assault into Ala Mhigo territory, and rack up victory after victory against the enemy.
In the end we storm the Ala Mhigo castle and face off in an epic battle against our old nemesis Zenos, who has harnessed the power of a primal dragon.
I enjoyed the first three parts of the story, but I felt like the last part when we returned to Gyr Abania and went on to The Lochs slowed down and lost its momentum. Possibly some MMORPG weariness was setting in, but I think it was more because there were fairly significant gates at 68, 69, and 70 that required you to level up before you could proceed with the story. There were also some diversions that ultimately didn’t matter to the main story (Emanation and the Lupin fight).
Another reason I liked the first three parts is that I felt they established more personal connections for Yotsuyu, the main antagonist in the East, than they did with Zenos in the West. I never liked Yotsuyu, but I understood her character. I never felt like I “understood” Zenos. I think they could have done more with Fordola, too (another adversary). Supposedly she was fighting for the same freedom as Lyse, but I didn’t quite follow her logic. I hope they explore that more in the patches because I feel like there could be a good story there somewhere.
Overall I don’t think they did enough to sell me on Lyse’s connection with her homeland, either. I would have liked to see more backstory with her father. It actually would have made more sense to me for M’naago to be following the arc that Lyse did. I understood her relationship with Conrad and the resistance more than I did Lyse’s. I liked Lyse as a character, and I liked her tentative steps toward becoming a leader, but it just didn’t seem like she was all that important to the story.
Still, a great expansion. Well worth it.