Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood is everything you expect (and that’s outstanding)

In my mind, Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood is all about sticking the landing. After a few years of FFXIV being out, the game has consistently earned high praise from people who play it. Heavensward was recognized as a definite high point for the game, improving more or less everything in the game and adding more besides. So the question was whether or not Stormblood would continue down the same road or try to dramatically upend things, break down what once worked well and lose sight of what people enjoy.

The good news, then, is that it sticks the landing.

Everything that worked well in Heavensward has been brought forward and refined, and the parts that hadn’t worked so well have been trimmed away, repurposed, or outright removed. It feels very much like an expansion to the same core game, but in the process it manages to address almost every complaint I had over Heavensward almost incidentally. And it continues on in the high standards the game has set for itself over the years, resulting in an expansion which I’m already in love with after finishing the main storyline.

A hunter must hunt.The premise of the story was pretty clearly established at the end of the prior expansion, of course; in the wake of an unexpected attack, the Eorzean Alliance (newly flush with Ishgardian forces) is pushing across the border into the long-occupied land of Ala Mhigo. The goal, then, is to push through Imperial defenses with the help of resistance forces and take out Zenos yae Galvus, regent of the area and Legatus of the XIIth Legion.

In the interests of not spoiling anything that isn’t spoiled already in the trailer for the game, I’ll just say it doesn’t work out as planned. And players ultimately find themselves heading to the Far East, first to the port city of Kugane, to liberate Doma from Imperial aggression and weaken the Empire on two fronts.

While I greatly enjoyed Heavensward’s story as a whole, I honestly like Stormblood’s more. Part of the reason for that is that it involves none of the usual magical MacGuffins along the way; the story is told almost entirely around political maneuvering, with only a few magical doodads in the background here and there. But it also flows better, with only one or two diversions that seem to be not strictly necessary.

Sadly, one of those diversions includes a Primal fight. You’ll know it when you get there.

It also winds up being an unexpectedly hopeful expansion. Heavensward was very much about cycles, about locking into patterns and how difficult and impossible it could be to not perpetuate those patterns. Stormblood is about finding hope when it seems dead, and it gives you every reason to despair repeatedly… but then the light comes.

When you look at the situation in the game, it’s bleak. Dig deeper, and it becomes even bleaker. Yet despite everything, the conflicts in question can be dealt with. And eventually, hope shines through despite everything.

The polish on the story this time is improved as well; characters move about more naturally, and your traveling companions are both more varied and more naturally moved on and off the stage. Even Lyse, who is probably the most consistent member of the group, has her own thing to do and never feels superfluous. And your antagonists develop into interesting figures in their own right, at turns both tragic and contemptible, often deserving some rather bleak fates while still eliciting some measure of compassion.

I’d be remiss in not noting the voice acting, which is uniformly great throughout. Even the minor voiced characters get a bit more personality from the voice acting, and big players like Alisaie and Grynewaht are well-served by their portrayals.

Mechanically, the game’s story plays out similarly to Heavensward, not improving on a formula that already worked wonderfully. There are five dungeons along the leveling path, starting at level 61 and progressing in two-level increments; you’ve also got two trials along the way. Between that, it’s a bunch of quests, sidequests, hunts, roulettes, and hunting for aether currents to turn on flying.

We make for war.

It is, however, helped along by certain minor tweaks. For example, in each of the leveling dungeons, you’ll be awarded an extra item directly in your inventory that matches your job, so you’ll always get at least one bit of gear from clearing the whole thing. Run it enough times and you’ll be able to acquire most of what you need. The hunts also unlock in earlier levels, so you can pick up hunts when you can start getting that experience boost rather than when you can necessarily clear all of them unquestionably.

FATEs have also seen a couple of minor tweaks. Certain FATEs will be designated with an experience bonus, awarding significantly more experience when completed; meanwhile, enemies will randomly spawn in any FATE to offer a buff upon completion that will greatly increase the experience from the next FATE you clear. These stack together, and they give you some incentive for taking part in FATEs even if not aggressively farming them. There are also still minor event FATEs across the various zones, often with unique little cosmetic rewards along the way.

Ultimately, all of this means you’ll have reason to practice your job – and you’ll need to do so because every single job has gone through some pretty aggressive changes. Even the ones that have largely been preserved have been heavily altered, and some of them feel almost like entirely new jobs like Machinist.

This was, understandably, a point of anxiety when moving into the expansion. Thus, I’m happy to report that some jobs have made it out of the change better or worse than before, they all feel pretty similar. Scholar may not have gotten the same sort of quality-of-life bump that White Mage did (despite people theorizing the exact opposite prior to release), but both of them still come off like the jobs they’re supposed to be.

SWORDThe combat itself hasn’t changed on a fundamental level, but there’s less emphasis on adding in arbitrary bits to behavior and more emphasis on following a natural flow. You don’t just hit single DoT effects, for example; you apply them as part of the combo you wanted to do anyhow. While little pieces have been lost, the overall feel is more pleasant.

As for the two new jobs, while they may have briefly deformed the meta by offering nothing but DPS, they’re also both fun to play. Red Mage in particular is a textbook example of how to make a melee/casting hybrid work properly, as both sides of the job feel equally important and cool. Samurai may be “just” another melee DPS, but it takes the interlocking combos that were once part of Ninja and makes it really work as its own.

In fact, one of the best things about the expansion as a whole is that every job seems to have its own moment of just feeling cool, times when you get to just be impressed by the neat things it can do. Ninja busting out its big Level 70 Ninjutsu combo and then exploding in a flurry of lightning, slashes, and leaps. Paladin creating a defensive bulwark for the whole group. White Mage throwing out a destructive spell before blessing the entire party. Red Mage diving in, slashing away, and bounding back. Machinist unleashing mobile artillery in a flurry of shots. It’s just cool.

All of this is stuff that I could gush about for days, and I’m always half-tempted to do exactly that. I’m in love with the state of the game and the cool stuff this expansion offers. Heck, I haven’t even touched on the soundtrack, which is uniformly brilliant and features at least one musical cue I’ve been waiting for since we learned a name.

You’ll know it when you get there if you’re a long-time series fan.

The zones are better designed and feel more natural and less annoying to navigate. The enemies feel varied and fun while also familiar. Kugane is a much more compact city than Ishgard, but it still feels full-sized. The lore of each zone is spectacular. I can go on for days, even including quality of life stuff like water floating, but eventually I’m just gushing to anyone who will listen.

And I finally have a NIN glamour I'm happy with.

The biggest downside of the expansion, unfortunately, is a purely technical one. This is not a launch devoid of issues; queues on populated servers like Balmung have been persistently lengthy, and that’s even ignoring disconnections that have been ongoing. There were also technical issues sticking people behind a wall in the early main scenario, preventing a huge portion of players from even seeing Kugane due to an instanced quest.

Yes, those issues appear to have been cleared up, and the congestion will die down. It’s still there, and you can’t ignore these facts.

Aside from that, all of the issues are… nitpicks here and there. Little things. Mostly things not even worth mentioning as negatives, like the removal of combat leves; that’s annoying, but it’s hardly a dealbreaker.

The short version is that if you’ve enjoyed Final Fantasy XIV up to this point, you’ll adore Stormblood. The quality of life for players and the variety of options continues to impress, and I was happy to work my way through the story and get into Expert roulettes once again. It’s a fun game with a lot to offer, and the expansion serves perfectly as an improvement and refinement of what works best in the game.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be patiently waiting for Namazu beast tribe quests.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?
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38 Comments on "Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood is everything you expect (and that’s outstanding)"

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Giannis Papadopoulos

Square enix did the obvious: dont change something that is working well, just enhance it a bit and throw 1-2 qol here and there.

Blizzard should have done the same…

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Suikoden

Eliot, you will be happy to know that I resubbed to FFXIV after leaving way back from right before Heavensward came out. BUT, let me tell you what got me to come back. The hurdle, for me, was always coming back to the game after having all the end game on farm, and trying to figure the game out again at that level, while at the same time not wanting to really go through the entire game again on a new toon, and most of my classes were leveled quite a bit, if not max. Also I wanted to re-experience the story, not just re-watch it, because it’s a big selling point to the game.

THEN I heard about the 100% bonus EXP for new characters rolled on preferred servers!!! I figured that was a great opportunity to re-roll my toon, on a new server, and re-experience the game from the beginning, while still progressing at a decent pace. So far I’ve been getting 100% exp from everything since I’ve been back, and playing a class that wasn’t in the game prior to me leaving, while getting sucked back into the story. Well done Yoshida, well done.

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Chris Brown-DeMoreno

FFXIV sucked me back in with RDM, the class I’ve been waiting for since 1.0. I’m enjoying it but I’m actually afraid I’m enjoying it JUST because it’s RDM. All the problems that made me leave are still here. I’m using the term “problems” loosely because they are just personal gripes really; the biggest being the combat. Starting out with RDM at LV50 you have roughly 11 abilities and I find myself using about 9 of them regularly. The other two, such as the refresh, are unnecessary. If you have a good tank, you don’t need it to wipe enmity and there’s rarely a need for MP. This is fine as I understand situational use. The 9 that I do use however are the problem. It’s a constant cycle of the same 3 abilities in sequence over and over and over. When there’s a proc you do that and then you go back to the same sequence. When you have enough gauge to do it, you jump in and do your melee combo which is a sequence of 5 abilities. You’ll do it once, and go back to doing that same sequence of 3 abilities until you fill your gauge for another run at the melee combo.

I’ve always hated this about FFXIV. I contrast it with something like BDO where you have a ton of abilities, it’s your choice which one you pick up as you level, and your choice of when to use them. None of them are particularly ineffective if used out of sequence. You create your own combos. You’re not forced in to scripted ones. Some of the mage classes are a lot more flexible as is Ninja with it’s spells as you’re not forced to use any particular one as a part of your rotation. I just wish they all were.

Again, personal gripes. I still enjoy the game bit at some point it gets a little old.

boredinBC
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boredinBC

I’m glad I jumped back for this one. RDM and SAM are extraordinarily fun.

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Jeff

Loving Stormblood…but it is making me Nostalgic for how WoW use to be with massive populations….before the days of pop culture references and poop quest.

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Chestnut Bowl

Stormblood has been great fun. I especially love RDM (which has been a big surprise for me) and SAM. And the soundtrack is great, as per usual.

“In fact, one of the best things about the expansion as a whole is that every job seems to have its own moment of just feeling cool, times when you get to just be impressed by the neat things it can do.”

It’s clear that you — like the dev team — were not thinking of Monk.

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Reginald Atkins

the first primal fight is just epic as all hell, loved it, I’ve been waiting and hoping for Red Mage since 1.0 and they have not disappointed me in the slightest.

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Jennifer Yaner

I haven’t played in months, I wanted to come back, all I wanted was a new healer class… Guess I’m waiting for a bit on this one.

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IgnisGray

I knew I’d like Samurai, since it’s the class I’d been waiting for since launch of ARR, but I was not expecting to have so much fun with Red Mage. I didn’t find any caster really engaging in this game until RDM. Now I’m trying to decide to main SAM or RDM. :P

Machinist was my jam in Heavensward, and its visual identity is top-notch, but its damage felt so reliant on RNG and luck that I got frustrated enough to quit. I haven’t played it enough post-update to figure out if it’s not such a luck-dependent class anymore.

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Knight Porter

From what I can tell with MCH, the RNG is offset now by there being a positive side-effect to not getting procs with the new heat mechanic.

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Steven Williams

This has definitely not been a good launch for me. One frustration after another hit me since the 16th.

-Couldn’t cancel the preorder of the PC edition a few days earlier, so I had to buy the xpac twice to play on PS4
-This is because my friend’s build didn’t work and after a month and a half of broken parts/incompatible parts/DOA items that needed replacement
-Queues for Balmung being bad even during early access
-Trying to get my friends to switch out of Balmung with me, which worked out after some time
-The solo instance bottleneck ruining my night when I stayed up until 2am to experience the expansion from sheer excitement.
-The PSN code offered on the SE store wasn’t giving the right codes
-Not knowing when my copy will come in and not wanting to play because at the time I thought, who knows when my access will be revoked because the ps4 version was late?
-My copy of the PS4 version came in yesterday. YESTERDAY!
-After all of this I’m on the boat to Kugane and I have to complete a dungeon to pass. Estimated time? More than 30 minutes. Can’t take it anymore, turning game off. Maybe next time they won’t release two of the most requested/fan-favorite classes in the series’ history as f**king DPS.

The game’s gonna be really great when I actually get around to playing it. In a month or so. When I calm down a little. I’m looking forward to it a lot.

As a sidenote, the fanboys on Reddit need to stop defending this, or giving “I told you so-“esque advice like “you should have expected this to happen.” Expecting these kinds of issues feeds into a greater anti-consumerist mentality. I know Yoshi-P’s team is doing their best to fix these issues (and they’ve made great progress), but that should never excuse what actually happened, and what people experienced because of it. Counting Realm Reborn’s sequel/expansion/reboot launch, this is the third expansion-sized update to FFXIV since 1.0.

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Sorenthaz

I haven’t even touched the main meat of the expansion but am already loving it. Red Mage is a blast and feels SO good to play. The PvP changes are also welcome imo as PvP has never been a focus of the game and there was too much cheesy and confusing elements to PvP in Heavensward.

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Dagget Burmese

Wish they would quit changing up LTC (long Term Chars) voices – Tataru’s voice now bears little resemblance to what one would expect from a Lalafel, for example, unlike her old voice.

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Eamil

Tataru had that voice in Heavensward.

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Barry Carpenter

Zones huge and empty, reminds me Rift: Storm Legion expansion. Swimming not so great as some ppl mention – loading screen on dive in and again huge empty underwater cave like zones.
I finished first two dungeons and they same old same old tunnel like instance: trash – boss – trash – boss.
Red mage fun no doubt but again little simple compared to black mage/summoner.
Nice music though…

bereman99
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bereman99

On the note of the diversions…

Spoiler
I really liked how they handled the first primal – I was very much expecting us to be pulled into dealing with an already brewing situation (like usual) and all of a sudden it was “Oops, that’s a primal” in the middle of trying to do something else. Felt like we had a bit of an unwilling hand in it so it was only right that we also help clean up the mess we partially created.

The second was definitely an ultimately unnecessary diversion, but I also appreciated that it was one born out of a situation that was less planned and born of desperation – a theme that can be found elsewhere in the story – and wasn’t exactly treated as a non-event, as some of the antagonists involved get called out on it by others (it’s a minor moment, but appreciated).

It wasn’t necessary, but was still treated as a “thing that happened that should be acknowledged” by both sides of the conflict, which I appreciated.

The not-quite major spoilers there out of the way…

I’m loving Bard, and it actually has little to do with the regained 2.0 levels of mobility. The use of songs and trying to time buffs around them for when they might be the most useful (I think this might be the most difficult part of Bard, thinking about a fight as much as 90 seconds in advance of something so that you have the right buff from Troubadour – judging between increased HP, 10% physical resistance, or 10% magic resistance at either a specific moment or on the fly if the group is having issues), along with targeted buffs for myself or others (AoE pulls? Might want to snag Pallisade for this and give the tank some extra survivability at the start, and keep an eye out for who needs Nature’s Minne for increased healing received, that kind of thing) in the group has me feeling like a proper Bard.

The journey to 68 is a bit rougher, since the fun part of the songs is locked behind DoT crits alone and I’ve got entire songs with one to zero crits, but when I got the trait that causes Empyreal Arrow to generate a proc any time it’s used everything just fell into place.

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Eamil

I haven’t finished the MSQ yet (too busy gathering and crafting) but so far I’m absolutely in love with this expansion.

As you mention, it’s not a big deal, but admittedly I was disappointed when I read that rather than make combat leves NOT garbage XP in the way Ishgard’s leves were, they just removed them. It’s one less bit of content variety, even if leves aren’t necessarily that interesting.

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Brandon Adams

While losing content is a shame, the amount of exp PvP rewards post-60 I think makes up for the loss from a leveling perspective.

That, of course, only really works if you enjoy PvP. Then again, I am happy with all sources of exp in the post-60 content. Everything feels rewarding to do.

Side note: I need to figure out how to access my old login, Mai badges!

Zander
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Zander

Queues seem to be the biggest issue from what I’ve gathered. I’ve read multiple instances where FF players get their friends to buy the game but STILL haven’t been able to roll characters on that buddies server. They ended up getting refunds and going back to their main MMO. Yikes.

bereman99
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bereman99

Queues being a real issue is highly dependent on the server you’re trying to play on – I think some of the EU servers have had some longer ones, but outside of Balmung, Gilgamesh, and maybe Leviathan and Excalibur in the NA data center, queues have been 10 minutes or less, even on the other more populated servers.

Players from those servers have been making a lot of noise over it though, so it probably seems like a bigger deal than it actually is for most players.

I mean, had you done the proper research and fact checking, you’d know that.

Zander
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Zander

Thanks for clarification on that. A few loud players sometimes makes it a bugger issue than it could be. I’m really glad I used the phrase “from what I’ve gathered” instead of saying “I checked and I know”. Makes a huge difference on how it’s perceived.

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Kawaii Five-O

Well, your initial thoughts aren’t wrong. If your friends play on Balmung or Gilgamesh, you can’t join them period unless they’re willing to transfer off. And queues on those servers are still 2 and 1/2 hours long in the evening; god forbid you get dc’d.

I wouldn’t really call that making it a bigger issue than it really is. Both servers are each more than twice as populous as even the next most populated NA server, so they encompass a significant portion of the NA playerbase.

I’m very, very close to transferring off to Mateus myself. I have rl friends that came back to the game for Stormblood and are fed up with barely being able to play because of the queues. I’m just worried about how sustainable RP on Mateus will be long term–especially if Balmung ever opens up to transfers again.

bereman99
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bereman99

They encompass about 20% of the NA population, or at least they did in 2016…that number may very well have gone down since then, and with the servers being locked it’s even more likely it’s lower.

Which is to say that only 20% of the game’s population has been hit with these major queues.

And the “making it a bigger issue than it really is” really comes from the mentality that this is a problem being faced by the majority of NA players, rather than just 20%, many of whom willingly circumvented the character creation block by paying to transfer to the server, a server they knew was packed to overflowing.

Sucks to be them but I have little pity for their situation.

Line
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Line

Looking a it from a distance: swimming is crap.
A loading to dive, another to surface (even if short), and just no point to it. You get an ugly and really, really empty zone with just nothing to do… it may as well be flying at walking speed, with the odd NPC to talk to.
What was the point exactly?

And now that’s you’ve finished the quest, onto the grind.
Three dungeons, and two primals that will be obsolete in two weeks.
“So much content”.

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Leviathonlx

That’s always the thing that gets me. If Blizzard were to release an expansion that’s more or less the same exact thing as the last expansion with only 3 max level dungeons and no new systems whatsoever they’d be blasted to hell and back. For this game to be a actual good release things like Eureka and the new PotD should have been in with release. Instead we’ll get them in patches and even then they’ll probably be terrible developed like Lord of Verminion and Diadem 1.0 and 2.0. Even the new anima weapons will probably be mindless grind 3.0. For some reason Square gets a pass for such a lackluster release.

Sure the main story is alright even if it’s predictable and tropey as hell but it doesn’t take that long to clear and the zone design and side quest design is awful compared to WoW. Hell the amount of easily noticeable copy and pasting in Stormblood zones with the terrain is unacceptable. Obviously every game copy and pastes doodads but at the very least you rotate them and make 2-3 variations of things like trees and rocks.

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Loyal Patron
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kanbe

Glad to hear it turned out so well. The que times on Balmung are keeping from really getting into it but those will die down in time. Last night it was over 3,000 DX

Reader

Yup loging in on Balmung is time consuming… Queue move at approx 1hr per 1K in queue during primetime. Took me 3 hours to log in last night. The Queues will hopefully die down in a few weeks, if not i may have to transfer somewhere else.

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Chris Moss

Fellow Balmung player… hate to say it, but may have to do the npc trick

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Eamil

I saw some bug report threads about that on the official forums and was VERY disappointed to see them marked “Working As Intended.” I don’t blame anyone for doing it, but it’s contributing to the queues and I think it should be fixed. =/

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Chris Moss

Not a fan of it myself. Paid for early access, and I barely played 6 hrs during that time.

Between being booted from dungeons with 90002 errors, and then trying to login during the weekend and having to wait 3-4hrs, I gave up.

Skoryy
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Skoryy

*waits for 4000 other people to comment*
*attempts comment*
*disconnected 90006 error*

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Josh

* Transfers to lower pop realm for free *
* Logs in without queue *
* Has a blast playing *

Skoryy
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Skoryy

Amazing how the other 4000 haven’t taken your advice. Its as if we have friends and communities on Balmung we’re not willing to leave, or something.

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FreecczLaw

The game really is a solo player mmorpg so I kind of agree with this. Just transfer server and skip the queue times. Nothing to lose.

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