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.
At a preliminary glance, I think we’ve got about three more weeks of this particular feature, including this column. That sounds like a lot, but hey, I want to give Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward
the space it deserves for a proper evaluation. And to the surprise of almost no one who has listened to me ramble on about this stuff before now, I have a lot to say about the expansion. At least we’re through a good portion of it now!
I’ve also gone back through and re-titled some portions of this series simply because numbering wasn’t doing any favors to the overall structure. So if you’re looking through the roundup, it should be easier to tell what each installment is all about.
The “trials” category is, of course, pretty broad; it covers Alexander, the full alliance content, and the Primal fights. It’s also where we start running into some content where I personally just sort of nod and opt out… but we’ll get to that in the column itself. Onward! We can see the endpoint!
It’s benchmark time, friends! I have, no the surprise of no one, already run the benchmark and played around with the character creator (I scored 11,000 or so on max settings, so I’m not worried). So that’s all the more reason to focus on this week’s look across the whole of Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward
and look at what went right, what went wrong, and why Palace of the Dead is such a cool addition to the game.
Seriously, if I haven’t mentioned this lately, I really like Palace of the Dead and I can’t wait for our next deep dungeon. It’s a really cool addition.
We’ve also got a roundup of all of these columns at the end, if you need to catch up, because fitting in a rundown of everything was getting increasingly difficult as I’d been doing these in-review columns for more than a month now. Last week, I talked chiefly about leveling dungeons and the zones we ran through along the way; this week, it’s time to start talking about things at the top. Start, naturally, with the expert-level dungeons.
At least we’re finally thought the story. While we walk through a review of Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward
in its totality, we’ve taken three weeks covering all of the various stories within the expansion, as well as touching upon a bit of the class design in the last part. Parts one
, and three
cover everything from the main scenario to some of the zone side stories. And now we can move on to the mechanical side of things enthusiastically.
Also, we’re reaching the point where I know I’m going to forget to mention at least one or two things that were really keen from the expansion, but that’s a different discussion.
In terms of sheer volume, of course, Heavensward nearly matched what we got from the base game in terms of patches, and arguably surpassed it in some categories; sure, we only got 10 dungeons from patches rather than 15, but if you didn’t have any interest in Coil in 2.x, you got the entirety of Alexander, which was new. But volume alone isn’t the determinant of how good that content was. So let’s start in on that, albeit not with the dungeons.
Boy, I will be really miffed
if this winds up taking more time than I have until Final Fantasy XIV
‘s second expansion arrives. I will be put out
. But there was a lot of stuff here to review! So far we’ve covered a whole lot of story in the first two
parts of this series, but there’s… still
a bit more story to resolve here! Yeesh. This expansion had some stuff in it.
Of course, it also had other stuff in it, so this time around we can start going into other useful stuff like new jobs and class design. Which is a good thing, since, again, we’ve got a little while longer until Stormblood arrives, but not forever. So enough preamble; let’s finish up talking about the stories in Heavensward, especially as we’re moving into the parts that just unambiguously did not land well.
Here’s a fun fact: I don’t actually know how long this series of columns is going to be at this point. That shouldn’t affect your enjoyment of it, but it’s still true. I just know that I want to cover the entire expansion, top to bottom, and last week we started in by looking at the main scenario quests and story
. I hate scores, so I didn’t assign it one, but it was a pretty positive evaluation, so that’s a good thing for Final Fantasy XIV’s
Unfortunately for the overall evaluation, that leaves us today diving into the side stories… which is a much less positive tale. Because some of these were just weak, some of them were mildly engaging, and several were flat-out bad. But there were a lot of them, so I can’t be too harsh to the conceptual level, even if the execution was… lacking. Severely, in some places.
So let’s start in with the part of the stories that almost everyone seems to have forgot existed.
I never really had a chance to explore Final Fantasy XI
expansion by expansion. By the time the game launched in North America, the first expansion was already out and was bundled with the game. But Final Fantasy XIV
has been worldwide since its launch, which means that I can
look at the game both before and after Heavensward
in something approaching real time.
Of course, it’s also difficult to evaluate expansions as they’re live, simply because you lack a certain degree of perspective. Still, Heavensward is over, and while I can’t put it in the context of the game’s overall history, I can look at it as it stands as a whole. With five major patches and a whole lot of storytelling, how was the expansion? Didi it start strong and then falter? Did it deliver what it promised? Was it fun all the way through?
The answers to those questions are complex. Fortunately, we’ve got a couple of months to examine the expansion before the next one comes out. So let’s get started with the story.
Tomorrow, we’re getting the end of the Heavensward
story quests in Final Fantasy XIV
, which means I need to start looking at Heavensward
as a whole. For now, however, we can look forward to Stormblood
and ask ourselves what we’re not going to be using any longer as healers. And this wrapped up just
before the final story patch, so I feel rather satisfied about how that timing worked out.
I’d say “all according to plan” if I remembered actually planning it this way.
As with previous installments, I’d advise you to take a look back through past articles in this series; the first one has tanks and the general philosophy, while the second column tackles melee damage and the third tackles ranged damage of all flavors. Today, we’re finishing things off with healers. That’s kind of a tangled mess with every option other than White Mage, but we’ll plot a course.
Well, folks, by all reasonable estimation we’re going to have the final story patch of Heavensward
next week. Why? Because there’s no more March for it to exist in after that. So it seems like a reasonable prediction, and it also gives me just
enough time to finish up with these Final Fantasy XIV
skill predictions before I want to move on to reviewing the expansion in hindsight anyhow. So everybody wins, if I double up today.
The first installment is all about tanks, while the second installment is all about melee DPS. As always, the usual disclaimer applies that this is all speculation, not absolute fact; I don’t have a clearer picture than you do about how abilities are actually being arranged. If you think I’m wrong? I might very well be wrong! All I can do is justify what I say and make my case. Let’s move on.
I had really hoped for something a touch more substantial about Stormblood
from this weekend’s event
, but we got what we got. Thus we are still, to some extent, in the dark about ability revisions in Final Fantasy XIV,
which does mean I get to speculate about stuff that’s being removed or changed a bit longer, since last week I managed to get through the tanks and nothing else.
Look, the jobs in the game are rather extensive. And numerous.
If you didn’t catch last week’s column, I go over the general philosophy behind what abilities seem most likely to be turned into traits or outright removed right there, so that should be relevant. Worth noting before we go too far into it, of course, is that on pretty much every single job I’m trying to list more stuff than what will likely be changed. If you think that I’ve got an awful lot of candidates for removal in place, you’re right! That’s literally the point because some of them will no doubt remain unchanged.
launches, Final Fantasy XIV
will be changing some pretty big mechanical aspects. First of all, we’re going to be waving goodbye to our existing set of cross-class skills and having a completely different set of actions to deal with; second of all, we’re going to be losing some skills outright. Naoki Yoshida
has said before that we should have about the same number of skills at 70 as we have at 60, and that means that some of our tricks need to go away.
Personally, I’m happy about this. I don’t have a single job without two full hotbars, one partially-full hotbar, and various side widgets. I can’t fit another four abilities into anything. But the question remains about what we are losing, and how it’s going to affect gameplay.
We should have a reasonably clear picture as we get closer, but what I want to do for a couple of weeks is look at the stuff that we’re likely to lose. I can’t speculate about what we’ll gain, and I’m reluctant to draw too many conclusions about the cross-class system before it’s live or detailed, but I think we can look at the game and say “yeah, this is probably going away.”
Fellow fans of Final Fantasy XIV
, I’m not going to lie to you: The next few months in the game will be rough
. Not because we’ll lack for things to do, of course, but because we’re all going to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. We all know what’s coming, and we’ve even got more stuff to learn about, like the details of the system revision and the exact story transition. But there are a bit more than 100 days left until Stormblood
releases, and we’re all
going to be staring with rapt attention until it actually happens.
That having been said, we are going to have more stuff to do over the next few months. Depending on when in the day you read this, the game might be down for maintenance right now with one of those patches along the way. So let’s talk about the road to June 20th, what we know is coming, what we can reasonably expect, and what we don’t yet know about but might help fill the gap.