Why early summer, incidentally? Because Heavensward was originally announced for spring and wound up slipping until June, so the team wanted to make sure it’s on time this time around. Consider it a hedging of bets.
Obviously, players had expected Ala Mhigo as our next destination, but one of the storyline themes that will be explored in the 4.x MSQ isn’t whether or not we can rescue Ala Mhigo; it’s whether or not the people there want our help. It’s been 20 years since the Ala Mhigan invasion, and while we know the refugees and the people who remember the nation before it was conquered by the Empire, a whole new generation has grown up in the area who knows Legatus Zenos Yae Galvus of the XIIth Legion as the only ruler of Ala Mhigo.
In other words, this isn’t like the Dragonsong War. Here, we’re entering a nation full of people who are at least somewhat willing to accept the current state of affairs. As players work with the Ala Mhigan resistance, it’s not necessarily a given that the native Ala Mhigans will be happy to receive us and our allies. We’ll also be finding out more about the woman in the trailer and what her story is in 3.5 and onward.
Moving forward, we might not know much about the story yet, but we do know some of the new features, and of course among them are new jobs. Yoshida did not formally announce the first new job here, but he removed his jacket to reveal a Scarlet Witch t-shirt… and considering the winking revelation of Dark Knight with a Batman shirt, it’s pretty clear that this confirms Red Mage as one of the new jobs to come with the expansion. (It’s also fair to guess that the woman in the trailer may well be a Red Mage, but that’s just guessing based on color schemes.)
There will be indeed multiple new jobs, with the phrasing kept intentionally ambiguous; suffice it to say that Red Mage will not be the only one. But we’ll all be adapting to a new set of abilities in the expansion, as the level cap is increasing to 70 and we’ll be getting new actions to go along with it.
For those of us already straining to fit abilities on our bars, though, the development team is aware of this and will be doing some overhauls to existing battle systems. One change that’s incoming is a revamp of the additional skill system, with additional skills being mapped more as a matter of role instead of class; you won’t need to have an entirely different set of additional skills for each tank job. The development team is also reassessing the skills which are widely seen as useless or superfluous, trying to maintain the feel of each job while trimming down the number of options. There are also plans for UI changes to make job-specific buffs like Blood of the Dragon more immediately visible.
Of course, new areas are coming, and while we don’t have a final count just yet, it will at least be equal to Heavensward in size. These areas will have flight enabled; we already know that Rhalgar’s Reach will be the new central hub of the expansion, the heart of the Ala Mhigan Resistance. Some screenshots and flythroughs were shown of the in-game areas, which featured forests (remember, Ala Mhigo is connected to the Black Shroud), desolate cliff faces, permanent Garlean structures built during the 20 years of occupation, and at least one battlefield strewn with wrecked Garlean vehicles.
We were also promised new dungeons, new alliance raids, new eight-player raids, and new Primals, all facts that should be expected. Yoshida stated that the team is looking into possibly changing the structure of high-end raiding for further patches, possibly including more difficulty levels or altering the release schedules for even harder content.
Players will also be able to explore a new sort of content, the forbidden land Eureka, a new high-end area which is meant to exist separately of the Diadem and reward new sorts of exploration. This content may tie into the next weapon project a la Zodiac/Anima weapons, and it may include some notorious monsters with exceedingly long spawn time.
Naturally, there will also be new gear (including the community-designed contest gear), but players will have an easier time storing all of that with an inventory and armoury chest expansion. How much space are we getting? As much as possible; the team is hard at work rolling it out and making sure the servers remain stable. Similarly, there will be a new housing district added, although Yoshida declined to say where just yet (it affects the MSQ – you know how it is).
Last but not least, Yoshida added two important announcements for the technical side of the game. First of all, the minimum system requirements for the game are going up, mostly to stop covering hardware that you can no longer even purchase; you also might want to look into upgrading to a 64-bit system if you haven’t already. (Stormblood will not require it, but it’s a good idea.) Also, Stormblood‘s release will mark the end of PlayStation 3 support for the game; while PS3 players are important to the game, looking at how many people play the game on the console and weighing the needs of the game’s future development, the choice was made to drop support and move forward. There will be an upgrade campaign for PS3 players to move on to the PS4, though, so those who wish to stick to console play will still have options.
We’ll probably hear a little bit more about the expansion during this fan festival, but the focus will be on 3.5 content; still, the announcement alone is satisfying. As could be expected, the announcement closed off with an entreaty for players to please look forward to it; given the amount of content that looks to be on the horizon, “looking forward” won’t be difficult.