If there’s one thing a good MMO needs, it’s fancy loot. That can mean World of Warcraft’s various class artifacts or Final Fantasy XIV’s relics, some of the best weapons in the game. The latter come with each new expansion, and it’s finally Shadowbringers’ turn. There’s a twist: What used to be a painful and grindy process has been replaced with a compelling story quest that makes it easy for all players to get their hands on these special items.
Relics are unique weapons available to each class in Final Fantasy XIV. Over the years, it’s been a hassle to acquire and level them up. Early relic quests involved grinding repeatedly through dungeons, while the last expansion, Stormblood, forced players to venture to the massive Eureka exploration zone. Eureka was a neat throwback to the open-world monster hunting of Final Fantasy XI, but not everyone enjoyed killing monsters for crystals to upgrade their weapons. Relics are some of the most useful items in the game—they hold tons of slots where you can add stat-boosting materia to your weapon—but I know plenty of players who did not bother with relics in Stormblood. Good news is that it’s a much more straightforward process this time around, even if there will be grinding down the line.
Grabbing your relic means participating in the “Blades of Gunnhildr” quest line, a new series of quests written by Final Fantasy Tactics director and writer Yasumi Matsuno. This quest line moves away from the expansion’s more cosmological struggles for a story of political resistance and insurrection.
After the evil Garlean Empire was fought to a stalemate in Stormblood, resistance in their occupied territories is on the rise. One of these nations is Bozja, the home to the buff, lion-like Hrothgar race. Intent on rallying the populace to fight their oppressors, they form a plan to reforge the legendary Blades of Gunnhildr, magical weapons once belonging to famous knights. There’s a catch: No one really knows the fancy runes that made them so powerful. Good news is that a magical researcher has found a way to dive into memories, so you grab one of the few folks who saw replicas of the weapons before they were destroyed.
That ally is Cid, a recurring character who defected from the Empire. He was present at a research facility in Bozja where scientists tampered with the energy of a powerful moon and brought about a nation-shattering calamity. That moon, Dalamud, later devastated the world again in an event that Square-Enix used to move Final Fantasy XIV into the revamped (and now much more popular) Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Exploring Cid’s memories is a trippy experience that shines new light on those events and calls back to the older version of the game.
Cid’s memories are subject to his biases and coping mechanisms, bending and shifting like an Inception dream. The quest introduces one of the game’s most visually stunning areas, rounds Cid out as a character, and is a much better experience than simply grabbing incomplete weapons and grinding for knickknacks to level them up. It’s also quick. Running this initial quest takes about an hour and a half and grants you the initial version of your relic weapon. If you want relics for your other classes, all you need to do is spend Allagan Tomestones of Poetics, low-level currency that you earn from pretty much every activity in the game. By the end of last night, I had three relics for one character and will easily have all my relics for my healer character by the end of today.
The Blades of Gunnhildr quest line has one more surprise: a new extreme difficulty boss trial that wasn’t advertised beforehand. It’s a fight against a twisted version of Garlean Emperor Varis yae Galvus (a prince here in the flashback). Within the story, Varis was killed by his bloodthirsty son Zenos, so it’s nice to have some type of fight with him after all this time. Extreme trials can offer a great deal of challenge although they never rise to the level of “savage” difficulty raid fights.
Varis can be tricky to start with but is underwhelming compared to previous fights. My group made it within a hair’s length of the end after a few attempts before needing to disband since were doing attempts pretty late. It helped that I was working with possibly some of the best-organized strangers I’ve ever played with, but Varis’ fight simply isn’t as hard as I’d like it to be. The loot isn’t fantastic, either; it’s mostly cosmetic outfits based on the job armor players acquire for free in the main story. Tackling extreme bosses is fun, and I’m eager to finish the fight tonight, but I wish there were more worthwhile rewards.
Still, I walked away from the relic quest line very impressed. It fantastically streamlines a once-convoluted process. The story is strong, and the short length means that even more casual players will have access to the initial version of these high-tier weapons. Upgrading them might be a trickier process in subsequent patches—there is supposedly some type of exploration zone like Eureka on the way—but if the next steps build on the storyline and make upgrading worthwhile, I’ll gladly dive into whatever comes next.