I’ve heard about a thing in Final Fantasy XIV called the “Trust System.” I didn’t pay any attention to it. Why would I? It’s called a “trust system.” Typical of most things in Final Fantasy, there is nothing within the words of that name that even remotely implies what it actually *is*.
If they had called it what it is, which is apparently “AI Party Members For Completing Main Scenario Quest Dungeons Solo,” then boy would my ears have pricked up fast. I might have even bought the Shadowbringers expansion and played it. Alas, it’s too late now, as the launch wave of hype and the FOMO danger zone is pretty much over. Everyone has already finished the story and maxed out their mains and stopped talking about it. But I might pick it up later, when it goes on sale.
Mainly because of this one feature. I can’t understand why this Trust System didn’t get top billing over the last six months as the single greatest new feature in Shadowbringers. New races? Okay I guess. New jobs? Fine, sure, whatever. New zones? Pretty standard. Super-duper Final Fantasy storyline that only people who have lived and breathed Final Fantasy for 20 years will understand or appreciate? I mean, if that’s your thing. Not having to do MSQ duties with PUGs of strangers just to see the story? HOLY CRAP THAT IS AMAZING WHERE DO I SIGN UP.
This is the one thing that keeps coming up over and over and over again as the biggest hurdle for players: Forced grouping to play the Main Scenario Quest and unlock progression. Now it’s apparently gone (in the latest expansion only, unfortunately). I just can’t believe this one thing hasn’t been hyped through the roof. It’s almost like they’re trying to keep it secret. Which of course makes me worry that it either doesn’t work or doesn’t work the way I think it will.
I’ll admit that I just went to YouTube to watch the remainder of the Stormblood story cut scenes from where I left off in 4.3. It wasn’t very good. They pushed the “just put in all the cliches” abort button, it seemed to me. For example, what happened to Fordola, the best character and voice actor in Stormblood? Totally vanished. Anyway, the setup for Shadowbringers did not in any way make me excited to see the story continue into the expansion.
I then went on to watch about two hours of YouTube video of someone playing Shadowbringers, without any commentary. Again, the story didn’t seem that great to me. I didn’t see any evidence of what is generally described as the best story in the history of the universe. No new characters of any interest in the first two hours. They seem to be making the classic story mistake of starting with volumes of explanations before any real story begins. The first zone looked bland and unappealing to me, a mistake I thought Square Enix had learned to avoid after Heavensward’s miserably depressing first zone. I have a feeling that after the new-expansion-smell wears off, people will start to evaluate Shadowbringers a little more realistically. Everyone loved Stormblood at first too, but now it seems to rank worst in the overall list (not counting the base game of course hehe).
But one good story thing is that Shadowbringers appears to be a great place for new players to jump in and begin. It seems to be a nice “reset” point. A sequel that doesn’t require reading any of the prior books, if you will. Unfortunately you can’t jump in anywhere in Final Fantasy XIV. You jump into the beginning of A Realm Reborn and commit to hundreds of hours of catching up, or you don’t jump in at all. Unless you want to pay a lot of money, that is. Still not sure about the wisdom of that business decision. For all its other faults, letting everyone play at the start of every new expansion is something that World of Warcraft does well.
Back to the Trust System, my biggest worry is that it won’t work when it really counts. There is usually a point in the Main Scenario Quest where you need to gear up before you can continue, and simply equipping the quest rewards isn’t enough. (Admittedly it is usually in the .1 through .5 versions of the expansion.) Those are the times you need to grind in optional dungeons or one of the alliance raids for the newest, hottest gear sets to raise your item levels. As I don’t think there *is* an alliance raid yet in Shadowbringers (assuming they continue past expansion traditions), which is where *I* usually grind out upgraded gear sets without the hassle of PUG dungeons, that presents a significant problem. There is also the issue of upgraded weapons, which almost invariably only come from raids or trials, where this Trust System would probably be useless.
Still, it’s tempting to try it out. I’ve been looking for any kind of excuse to get Shadowbringers. Just *anything* that will be some kind of hook that appeals to me directly, that overcomes at least some of my objections, and the Trust System might be it. PUGs are by far the most tedious thing in any MMORPG, even as easy as FFXIV makes it, and any way to eliminate them is huge.