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.
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.
We’ve got less than three weeks until early access starts for Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
. That is honestly kind of crazy. By the end of the week, we will literally be counting down the two final weeks; that is also
crazy. So while the live letter this past week probably whetted everyone’s appetites, we’re all waiting for more information pretty eagerly, since the expansion will stop being a theory and start being a reality sooner rather than later.
Admittedly, that anticipation is likely slightly different for those of us who have more information coming later this week. But that’s a different discussion altogether.
There’s a lot to analyze and unpack from the live letter, but for reasons which I trust are immediately obvious, there are several parts of it I don’t want to talk about right now. Instead, let’s talk about PvP, choices, and pressure. Mostly PvP, because boy, that’s a large-scale rework that’s going to have some impact, isn’t it?
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.