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.
There have basically been two attitudes throughout the past weekend with Final Fantasy XIV’s early access to Stormblood. Here, we’ll run it like a Tumblr meme; tag yourself appropriately in the comments:
- “Wow, all of this stuff is really cool!”
- “A system error occurred during event movement.”
I spent Friday and Saturday stuck in the latter, but Sunday I moved on the the former. But I can’t really talk about this early access period without talking about the server errors, what may have been causing them, and what should be considered when discussing them.
Because, make no mistake, this was not a fun weekend to be trying to play FFXIV much of the time. It was often dizzying in its frustration, and it was made all the worse because there’s always a communication gap with the game despite the best efforts of the staff. This in and of itself is something I really should write a column about, but that’s not today’s column.
Tomorrow morning, Final Fantasy XIV
players will be able to start moving through Stormblood
, exploring new areas, leveling the new jobs, clearing new quests, and so forth. As a result, the enormous patch notes
for the expansion are now here, and reading through all of them will take a while. Even when you include the fact that the simply massive number of new items added into the game means that you won’t be sitting through that
Both Red Mage and Samurai will have their initial job quests in Ul’dah, so if you logged out in that city, you get full marks for prediction. The next part of the Main Scenario will start in the Rising Stones, and players will want to stop by Revenant’s Toll anyhow to exchange all Heavensward tomestones for Allagan Tomestones of Poetics, which now serve as the all-purpose stones for prior expansions. This also means changes to the roulette structure, changes to the UI, and… well, the point is that there are a lot of changes. Luckily, you have all day to read through the notes before the game comes back online tomorrow.
Friday, folks. Friday is when Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
enters early access, which means heading to Gyr Abania, heading to Othard, unlocking Red Mage and Samurai, and trying not to discuss spoilers. As always, I can promise this will remain a spoiler-safe space in the intro and the article itself, so you needn’t fear coming across something untoward here; in the comments I cannot make promises, although we do try to keep an eye on these things.
But all of that’s in the future. Right now we’ve got a couple of days left, and I’m here to tell you that it’s your last chance to get everything ready to go. If you’re pumped as heck about this expansion – and let me tell you, I certainly am – you’ll want to make sure your last few checklist items are taken care of. So let’s give a last-chance checklist for people to accomplish over the next four days, yes? Or, well, three and a half now. It’s the noon slot, you see.
Whew. All right. Last week had a big old release of news
about Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
, and now I’m far more relaxed because I can actually talk about all of the things I saw. This has been gnawing at me since I got back from San Francisco, and while there’s a certain amount of fun in knowing things other people don’t, it’s much more fun to talk about how utterly cool pretty much everything looks. Even the jobs which I’m not specifically more excited about look like they’re getting lots of cool toys along the way.
Unfortunately, we’ve already started seeing people crying that the sky is falling and that Stormblood will be the worst thing ever, because now we know about the abilities. And… yeah, that’s downright bad.
Look, you all know how much I love speculating about things. I speculated about which abilities various jobs were losing or getting compressed (and wound up at about 65% accuracy, which I think is pretty good), I’ve speculated about what we’d hear at the various fanfests, I’ve speculated about jobs we’re likely never to get. But there’s good speculation and bad speculation, and your speculation about what the jobs will look like in terms of performance at 70 right now? It’s bad. Let’s talk about why.
Whatever you want to accomplish in Final Fantasy XIV
, you had best do so before the servers go down for maintenance for 24 hours on June 15th
. That’s a fair bit before Stormblood
releases, but it’s also timed to coincide with early access for Stormblood
pre-orders starting on June 16th. So what takes place during early access? Why, the first wave of players getting into the expansion, naturally. So you’d better be prepared, which means that it’s a good thing a full breakdown is available on the official site
Players will be able to access all of the expansion starting on June 16th with no restrictions on content or discussing content, although it’s considered polite to refrain from spoilers. You will need to finish the MSQ through Heavensward to take part in most of the Stormblood content, although any character at level 50 or above will be able to access Red Mage and Samurai. Your early access code will also enable play of the game through June 23rd, at which point you’ll need to register the full expansion code to continue playing. So start counting down; you’ve got about two weeks left to get ready.
It would be wrong to say that Final Fantasy XIV
is the work of Naoki Yoshida
alone, but it’s sure easy to make the mistake. The director and producer of the game has a near-legendary status among fans due to his intense personality, his friendly demeanor, and the single-minded dedication to the game. In the time since the game’s relaunch, he’s become the face of the entire development team, and that seems unlikely to change any time soon with the release of Stormblood
Obviously, my focus during the media event was finding out as much as I could about what was going on with the actual mechanics of the expansion, but I also got a chance to pick Yoshi-P’s brain a bit regarding more specific reasoning behind existing changes and what changes were yet to come. But as someone who played Machinist extensively, my first question was both obvious and straightforward: Why the big change to castbars just to revert it in the very next expansion?
Yoshida laughed and said he was quite familiar with the associated “Bard Mage” jokes, lest anyone be unsure.
One of the core parts of Final Fantasy XIV
is dungeon crawling. I’m reluctant as heck to say that it lies at the very heart of the game – after all, there’s acres of content and gameplay which never involves setting foot in a dungeon, and that’s even if you count the other instanced content which is technically not a dungeon under the same header – but it’s sure somewhere near the heart. One of the lungs, perhaps. Or the aorta. It’s important, that’s the real takeaway.
So it only makes sense that as part of our hands-on look at Stormblood, we would get to dive into a dungeon. I can’t tell you the story behind Shisui of the Violet Tides here, but I can tell you it was synced to level 63 and it was very visibly part of the aesthetics of Othard. It was time to take on the challenge of the dungeon with nothing more than pluck, determination, and a large number of role skills and class changes pretty much none of us had yet acclimated to!
And thus I took Red Mage as my job in the dungeon, because I hadn’t made it hard enough on myself yet.
I have to say that the Live Letter was a wee bit frustrating in places. How great would it have been to reveal that there are no more cast bars for ranged DPS in the expansion? I mean, probably about as great as it actually was for Final Fantasy XIV
players, but I would have been the one to do it. Ah, well.
Much like melee DPS, ranged DPS is near and dear to my heart simply because one of my main jobs is ranged DPS. I play a lot of Machinist, although part of that admittedly derives from the period when no one could tell the difference between a good Machinist and a bad one. I was looking forward to Stormblood just because I wanted to see what was coming next.
The answer, in short, is that ranged DPS has probably received the biggest overhaul of all the roles in the game. Rather than having its support role kind of cobbled together based on what players should want, it now has a whole lot of abilities players actually will want to use. And all of the fun gun-or-bow action you’ve come to love regardless.
The second expansion for Final Fantasy XIV
is bringing more than just new abilities; it’s also bringing an extensive set of changes for existing abilities and classes. Yesterday’s live letter
covered the changes in brief, including the various job gauges for each job and the new role-specific actions for tanks, healers, and all three types of DPS. But perhaps you’d prefer to see these things in action? You can do exactly that with the latest job ability trailer and screenshots of the same just below.
The letter also revealed that PvP will be changed to have specific job layouts for PvP, with a small selection of traits and abilities replacing the existing system of PvP ranks and improvements. Players will also have access to jumping potions starting on June 16th, with one potion allowing you to level a specific job to 60 instantly and another allowing you to flag all of the MSQ as cleared up through Heavensward. Both will cost $25, so you can use them to speed your way to being ready for all of the new tricks shown below in Stormblood.
Here we are, then, at the end of this particular road. We’ve had enough time to look back over Heavensward
as a whole, the things it did well and the things it did less well, and where do we stand? Was it a good first expansion for Final Fantasy XIV
? A pedestrian one? Or did it make the game significantly worse than when it launched?
All right, the answer to the last question there is pretty transparently a “no,” but let’s not derail the opening preamble here too badly. We’re considering here.
The biggest problem with evaluating any expansion at this point is that until Stormblood releases, we don’t really have a great deal of context, just the base game and what came afterward. Context matters a great deal, but it’s easy to speculate about whether Heavensward will go down as being one of the best or one of the worst expansions. But we can at least look at it in relation to the base game, and what it changed.
By the time you read this, I’ll be up in the air flying across the country. Assuming you read it on the day it publishes, anyhow, and odds are that you will do so since you certainly won’t be playing Final Fantasy XIV
today. Which makes for a good day to take a closer look at the odds and ends of Heavensward
, doesn’t it? I sure hope so, because that’s what I’ve got lined up, it’s going to cause problems if this is a bad time.
We’ve covered the majority of the game’s battle content, but there’s still a bit more stuff to cover, and I could probably go into more depth on a few areas if I wanted this to be even longer. But let’s start by covering the content that, arguably, flopped pretty badly on launch, to the point where the whole system got yanked, revised, and returned in a much more tolerable form. Which has its own problems, but hopefully provides a good template moving forward.
If you’re worried about the overall health of Square-Enix, a glance at the company’s most recent financials should assuage any concerns, since the past financial year was quite good for the company. That’s with an extraordinary loss in the company’s yearly evaluation, even. But if you’re worried about the company’s health when it comes just to online games, that’s… also just fine, according to the same report. It’s not as good as it could be, but it’s fine.
The report states that ongoing revenue from the company’s online titles (Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy XIV, and Dragon Quest X in Japan) was steady and reliable, although actual sales and operating income were lower due to the lack of an expansion disk during the year. Considering that the point of comparison was the previous financial year and the release of Heavensward, this would fall under the “unsurprising” header. With Stormblood on the way later this year, it’s good for fans to see that the company continues to post solid results for its various online offerings.