Final Fantasy XIV’s Heavensward launches on June 23

Back when it all began.

The expansion releases on June 23rd, early access begins on June 19th, and pre-orders open up on March 16th.Since the original launch of Final Fantasy XIV, the city of Ishgard has waited, inaccessible, present, a long shadow over the entire game. When Heavensward releases, players will finally get to access the city and fly into the lands beyond.

As for what we’ll find there… well, that was the focus of the media presentation I got to take part in on Friday at this year’s PAX East. And as someone eagerly anticipating the expansion, I now feel suitably informed.

While the presentation included a lot of information that will be familiar to those avidly following the various fan festivals, there were still new pieces of information and new visuals on display. I also had a chance to speak with producer and director Naoki Yoshida regarding the expansion and what comes next for Eorzea, from the features available at launch to those planned for slightly down the road.

Happiness is a warm etc.On the off chance you haven’t been following the reveals thus far, here’s a quick recap: Heavensward sends players to the further lands of Coerthas and throws players into the midst of the conflict between Ishgard and Dravania. Three new jobs (Dark Knight, Astrologian, and Machinist) are added to the game, the level cap is being boosted to 60, and flying mounts will allow players to explore the expansion regions at greater literal heights. This is all old information, and while some of it is recontextualized by the most recent patches — it’s quite obvious what the dragon mount represents, for example — attentive fans have seen all of this.

The presentation also walked through the process of designing the new jobs in depth. While the team is very aware of the many requests players have for other jobs, it’s not a simple process, as each new job represents about a year of development time. To add something new to the mix, the team has to consider what party roles the new job will fill while also determining what this new job will bring to the table that the other jobs do not. And that’s before getting into the difficulties of job actions and weapons. We were shown the many concepts that were used for Astrologian before the globe was finally selected, including several various card-displaying tricks that made it to the modeling stage.

From there, we were into new information, and the reveal everyone is waiting for: The expansion releases on June 23rd, early access begins on June 19th, and pre-orders open up on March 16th. Three editions will be available; players can opt for standard or collector’s editions, and an all-in-one package will be available for those who have never taken part in the game to date. Benchmarks for the expansion are expected next month.

The game’s Mac client will also be launching alongside Heavensward, so those of you who have longed to enjoy playing the game whilst handing the Steve Jobs cult of personality more money, there you go.

New artifact outfits for the existing jobs were on display as well. The new Monk set evokes Yang’s outfit from Final Fantasy IV, while other jobs have more radical appearance shifts; Scholar picks up an almost Victorian aesthetic, while Fisher seems plucked straight from Final Fantasy X‘s beachside designs. I quite liked the looks for Paladin and Dragoon, myself.

A video tour of several areas came next. Ishgard is divided into its lower quadrant, the Foundation, and its upper levels, called the Pillars. Both have mock-Tudor appearances for the houses and an oddly radial look to them; the former is crammed into small alleys with airship workshops and visible damage, while the latter is austere and clean. From there, we ventured to the Coerthas Western Highlands, where even more rime has crept in around the edges, even freezing an aetheryte node solid.

The Dravanian Forelands resemble the old version of the Black Shroud in some respects, with great roots and thick trees growing up in a marshland. Meanwhile, the Dravanian Hinterlands have high cliffs and low valleys, looking quite a bit like the original Coerthas maps. There are also several domed buildings in what appears to be a town, though whether it’s friendly or not is hard to say. It’s very clearly not Ishgardian, having an almost classical feel to the architecture.

A rare time when the Old Shroud is not used as an insult.Our last two stops were almost purely aerial zones. The Churning Mists feature elegant castles in the sky flanked by perpetual storms; they’re great sweeping structures along with plains of floating puffballs suspended in the air. The Sea of Clouds, meanwhile, is like an aerial version of Final Fantasy XI‘s Konstacht Highlands, with windmills, verdant grass, and several fat birds lumbering about.

That last one is admittedly new.

Afterwards, I had a chance to sit down with Naoki Yoshida to find out the pressing answers that we need to know, such as how long Au Ra tails can be. Sadly, the answer is “not as long as miqo’te tails.” What we’ve seen in trailers is the average length.

Reward systems for gear in the expansion will remain similar to what currently exists; the team is working to make sure that the players pressing at the furthest edge of difficult content are rewarded adequately without making the rest of the playerbase else feel as if they can’t catch up. Yoshida was somewhat coy about when players might be replacing their current endgame gear, although he did stress that it will not be promptly at level 51 by any means.

All the jobs and classes will be getting new abilities along with new options for cross hotbar users to quickly toggle between pages to account for the new tricks. The team has also heard the requests for more armoury chest space, but due to the database structure of the game and the high number of per-character data, it’s not a simple solution to implement. Players will be getting access to more retainers to help address storage issues, but whether or not more armoury space can be added is still to be determined.

This long would be the correct answer.Beast tribe quests will be returning, although the timeframe is still up in the air; with so much to do on the expansion launch, the team doesn’t want players to be spread too thin. No new housing options will make it into Coerthas, but there are plans to continue expanding the existing districts and make them more vibrant and accessible.

While Yoshida would not reveal the main stats of the new jobs, he did say that you will not be able to start playing one at level 1. As with other jobs, you have to reach level 30 first and do job quests to unlock them. As these extra jobs do not have base classes, the team is still making decisions about what level players will start at with them, although we likely will not be starting fresh from level 1. No, the existing base classes are not going anywhere, but at this point the team is focused on pushing jobs rather than classes for further development.

Those enjoying the Gold Saucer will be happy to know that more content for the attraction is planned, including at least one upcoming system in a future patch at the same depth as chocobo racing or Triple Triad. Heavensward will also include 20 new Triple Triad cards for players to earn, giving plenty of space for players to enjoy the attractions. The old endgame content is not being forgotten, either, as Yoshida acknowledged that no one wants to do content that puts him or her below the level cap. But he floated undertaking specific challenge content or hiring Grand Company NPCs to tackles specific challenges as potential ways to keep the older dungeons relevant, approachable, and interesting.

What is Yoshida himself most excited to show off? Flight. Adding flight into the game allows for a new kind of movement, but it also allows for designs that really make use of all three dimensions rather than root the player in a mostly ground-bound game. It introduces another vector for design, which will be a game-changer for the maps on the whole.

We’re due for a lot of game changes, and we’ll all be able to see them in June.

Massively Overpowered was on the ground in Boston for PAX East 2015, bringing you all the best MMORPG and MMO coverage from GW2, FFXIV, Blizzard, and more!
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