So, life comes at you fast. When I originally planned this column out, this was going to be the week of Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker entering early access, which would have made this week the perfect time to go all gaga for the next expansion that would be in our hands later this week. Then the expansion got delayed two weeks, and now it’s perched here because, well, we’ve got our end-of-the-year stuff starting up right afterwards and so it’s got to go sometime.
That being said, it’s not as if there’s going to be a gigantic change in the feature list for the expansion at some point between now and when early access actually begins, so it’s still the same basic list. After all, we’re about to have the game’s fourth expansion here, and I’ve made no secret of the fact that I really like the game and think it’s pretty keen. So I’m just going to gush for a bit about what I’m excited for, even if I’ll be waiting a couple more weeks to actually play it.
1. The conclusion to the story
FFXIV has been telling the same story now for a decade. That’s a long time, and it’s resulted in a real long-term sense of building action and continued plot development as we moved from the earliest days of minor local conflicts to the current stage of existential engagement with the Ascians and Zodiark. And now, instead of being locked in an endless series of rising actions that just bring us another twist, we’re getting an actual conclusion and a wrap-up for this particular storyline.
Naoki Yoshida has been quick to point out many times that this isn’t the same as the end of the game, but at the same time it’s worth noting because so few MMO stories really wind up coming to a solid and unambiguous ending. It’s especially notable because this ending is going to be right in the base expansion rather than in a couple of patches, which means that we’re making it a very definite and final conclusion. That’s exciting to me.
Look, I like being in melee. It’s my personal preference, and I make no hash of this fact. Having Reaper added to the game as this weird, complex, wildly stylish job that feels at once distinct and contiguous with our other melee jobs is exciting to me, and my time playing the job just made me more excited to play it more completely.
3. Island Sanctuaries
We actually don’t know much about Island Sanctuaries at this point beyond the fact that they’ll give players a space to run around in a relaxing area with minions and the like. What will the gameplay loop look like? What sort of rewards, if any, will players be chasing? What the heck were those hints about this being sort of pseudo-housing? We just don’t know yet, and that is maybe a touch worrisome, but also… enticing?
Like, it’s kind of nice not being told everything to expect from this content just yet. It’s going to be different, it’s going to be low-impact, and it’s going to be there. That’s enough!
4. New areas
Hot take central here: Shadowbringers is pretty darn attractive. But we’ve also been exploring the First now for a really long time, longer than the prior expansions. Yes, we all understand why this is the case, and no one can really blame the developers for it, but it’s still going to be nice to not be roaming in the same old maps just as an a priori good for exploring new areas.
Plus, the new areas we’re actually getting look… weird. Garlemald and Thavnair are the most “normal” zones we’ve seen so far, but our other zones include an underground sanctuary, some weird floating islands, and the freaking moon. Also, we know from experience that there’s probably another zone as yet unrevealed, and that’s going to be something else, too.
5. New abilities
If you read through my full media tour lineup, you’ll note that a lot of the jobs I described as not really changing all that much in terms of rotation or design. That remains entirely true. However, new abilities are new abilities just the same, and getting new tricks is always welcome. I mean, as long as we’re leveling up again, it’d just be silly to not have new abilities along the way even if they’re somewhat minor additions, right?
I freely admit that healing is not my primary skill in this game. Or any game, really; the lone exception was how much I healed as a Bounty Hunter when it was possible to heal people by shooting them. But I also like how Sage is occupying a new space for healing, in no small part because it feels as close as we’ve gotten to a more tech-based healer instead of the other healing jobs already in the game.
Plus, you know, it’s a close to a canonization of the existing meta of healers doing DPS as you could hope for. So that looks pretty neat, too.
7. Rebalanced old content
I wouldn’t say I’m exactly excited by the prospect of downscaled numbers; after all, they’re supposed to be pretty invisible in actual practice, so if I could notice the changes, something will have gone wrong anyhow. But I am always interested to see how older content feels in practice when a new expansion makes it no longer the current endgame, and FFXIV is both consistent and welcome in the way that it ensures you still get something out of old content.
Plus, you know, it’ll be easy to gear up some alt jobs with a quick dose of tomestones once the expansion is patched in.
Not everyone is going to like dungeons. Not everyone finds them fun. But I do like them, and I find them fun, and they’re my primary form of content in this game. And I’m also strongly of the mind that FFXIV does dungeons pretty wonderfully and better than most of its contemporaries. So this is going to mean a new batch of dungeons with new mechanics and new stuff to do, and let me make no bones about it: I am here for this.
If you’re not here for this, well, that’s valid, but this is a list of what I’m excited for. When you write your own installment of this column, you can list something else.
9. New mountains to climb
As someone who really enjoys this game, I’ve been pretty much done for months now. I’ve gotten the gear for my main job, and then my secondary jobs, and then my tertiary jobs, and then just the stuff that might be nice to have. And that was back in June or so. There’s been a long chunk of time this year spent waiting for Endwalker, not because I don’t enjoy the game as it stands now but because I’ve accomplished most of the things I set out to finish up when I originally planned out my path toward the expansion.
In the not-too-distant future, that changes. I’ll have new jobs to level, existing jobs to level, new quests to do, new stuff that requires attention. I’m very much not in the “there’s nothing to do” camp. There’s a ton to do; I’ve just done all of it that I care to. But soon I’ll have new things to do again, and for that I’m excited.
10. What comes next
Oh, and let’s not forget that with the conclusion of a story arc and all those other endings, that means there’s a wide-open map of new stuff to explore and all sorts of new possibilities moving forward. I’m not saying I’m less than excited about what happens in this expansion, but once 6.1 rolls around we’re starting into a new world of content updates. And I am here for this.