Final Fantasy XIV has come an incredibly long way since it’s original 1.0 release. Veteran players will tell you horror stories of the game’s initial version and many more will tell you about how the reboot, A Realm Reborn, recaptured the attentions of many that didn’t think the game was all that great, as well as spurred new interest in many people who took note of major improvements across the board.
From 1.0 to 2.0, we saw a major change in the way the game was played, graphics updates, streamlined much more clear user interfaces, and just a lot of updates that brought FFXIV current as opposed to feeling closer to it’s predecessor MMO, Final Fantasy XI. Final Fantasy XIV was defined as a game with A Realm Reborn and became one of the more successful games in the genre, especially while still working off of the subscription based business model, but Square Enix didn’t stop there. The Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward expansion builds off of the foundation that was set, and continues to develop an epic MMORPG that’s worth your attention.
If you’ve ever played a Final Fantasy game, you know that Square Enix is very capable of creating worlds that are full of splendor and wonder. The world of Eorzea is no exception, and maybe even a little more fleshed out than that of many of the previous installments in the franchise. As it is an MMO, the world is vast and full of content to explore. Sweeping landscapes, ethereal crystal structures, unique takes on technology, Final Fantasy has always been something visually pleasing, and the team at Square Enix hasn’t cut any corners just because it is a much larger game.
The Heavensward expansion is particularly impressive in this regard as it is very strong in how focused it is on one region. This region has a slight variation in theme throughout, but is akin to the lands of say, Skyrim, in the way that it is what you would expect of many things in the northern most areas of real world continents. We are taken through snowy highlands, rocky mountain crags, floating continents, and sprawling hinterlands filled with abandoned ruins. Each area is unique and contributes to the journey that is every second of the amazing story. The world is fully explorable and introduces, for the first time, flying mounts to cover more ground.
Flying is incredibly fun, by the way. Flight is completely free and is only inhibited by the outer boundaries of the zone. Feel free to fly down holes the game wouldn’t let you jump down because you’d get stuck in. Feel free to fly to the top of mountains for that perfect screenshot. Feel free to fly underneath the entire floating continent areas or reach tiny floating islands that you wouldn’t be able to normally. I’ve already found a ton of favorite spots that I’ve shared with my friends myself.
Heavensward is the story of a timeless war, one that has been raging on for over a thousand years between the citizens of the Holy See of Ishgard and the dragons of Eorzea. You play as a Scion of the Seventh dawn, a warrior of light meant to keep order and maintain balance in the world of Eorzea, blessed with the light of Hadelyn, the Mothercrystal and goddess deity, herself. The story picks up right where A Realm Reborn left off in a continued effort to help the realm, this time with eyes towards reconciling the conflict between dragons and man once and for all while attempting to reunite the isolated Ishgard with the rest of Eorzean society. Many complicated aspects to each of the factions and their history with one another over 1,000 years are left not completely clarified as they could branch into many subsequent conflicts and storylines to come. The main story currently is linear and doesn’t offer any real sort of variation, but is an epic that was meant to be told in one way. The 3.0 patch brought us a ton of story quests, but over the course of the Heavensward build, (patches in the 3.X series) the story will only continue to get more complex, as we were left on a few rather exciting cliffhangers. No spoilers here, but it truly was worth it.
Heavensward from a gameplay perspective is definitely the same FFXIV with some new things added in. The maximum level cap was raised from 50 to 60, allowing for a notable increase in power, and item levels have raised from 130 to 190. It’s still your tab target MMO, but every class currently in the game has received 5 new skills that work well with each other, but also in tandem with the kit any player had become accustomed to in levels 1 through 50, allowing for even more job definition and uniqueness to the classes.
8 new dungeons have also been added to the game, 6 of which are accessible through the story and 2 of which are considered end game, level 60 dungeons. There are also two 8-man boss fights called the Primals Ravana and Bismarck with two difficulties. More content is to be patched in soon with the Alexander 8-man raids on the horizon as well as more story, dungeons, and difficulty modes for existing content. If you’re interested in what Heavensward has to offer exactly, please check out my Let’s Play on our Youtube Channel.
The blandest part of the Heavensward experience would probably be the pacing of actually progressing through the story. The cutsecenes and the story itself were both incredibly amazing, don’t get me wrong, but there was definitely no way that I could experience it in it’s entirety uninterrupted. If you followed the main storyline to the letter, you were bound to be level locked at some point, as they don’t give enough experience on their own to keep up with the story. This would force you to then go and complete a ton of side quests, most of which are incredibly simple, unimportant, and forgettable or spam dungeons repeatedly in order to fill in the gap.
Although I understand this is an effective way to spread out content so that players feel like they are really progressing when they finally hit that next 1/10 levels available due to the nature of MMOs and their leveling system, it really distracted from the enjoyment I got out of experiencing Ishgard and it’s surrounding areas. Fortunately, unlike many other MMOs, I never felt that the grind was too much, or a chore, rather I only felt slightly slowed down from my preferred momentum.
The sound direction in Final Fantasy has always been somewhat of a marvel due to it’s new age sound, but Heavensward steps a little away from that and pushes in the direction more fitting of the epic conflict and the enormous zones that it boasts, as well as the theme of the holy might of Ishgard. The video below is spoiler free for the most part, showing off one of the tracks in a dungeon near the end of the game without telling you where you are or why you’re there. Check it out and tell me you’re not ready to save the world.
Lastly, I’ll comment on the graphical update. In addition to the new zones and overall spectacular world to show off, the team at Square Enix also made everything incredibly shiny (if your computer can handle it). Heavensward comes with full DirectX 11 support, changing not only the look and feel of the new areas, but every pre-existing nook and cranny of Eorzea. The screenshots previously featured in this article are all on near max DirectX 9 settings, but the DirectX 11 below is a dazzling improvement.
After playing the game for the past 10 days, I’ve leveled my new extra class the machinist to the old level cap as well as hit end game content and have started to gear out my level 60 Dragoon, effectively experiencing a huge chunk of what the expansion has to offer. Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward is exactly what an expansion should be. For only a $40 standard price, it improves everything about the base game, adds content, adds gameplay options and variance, further defines the world and does exactly what an MMORPG should do, immerses you in that world with thousands of other players all invested in the defense of Eorzea, as heroes, guardians, Warriors of Light!
This one goes down in history as one of the most unique and compelling experiences I’ve had with Final Fantasy as a franchise and personally, any MMORPG out there. I would recommend you all give it a thought. The adventures in Ishgard and her surrounding areas awaits!