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Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Review

Final Fantasy XIV has become a fairly popular title for Square Enix, and for good reasons. Heavensward is the first expansion for the MMO, and is by no means a small one. Come join us as we fly ever Heavensward.

Heavensward Logo

When Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn came out, I greatly enjoyed it. I even eventually went and got the platinum trophy for it, something that wasn’t an easy feat. After coming back from an extended break due to other reasons, I reading myself to be able to head into Heavensward. To access the new content from the expansion, you must have completed the storyline up through patch 2.55. There’s no way around it.

Besides Final Fantasy XI, my only other MMO I have experiences with for expansions if Lord of the Rings Online. None of the expansions in there ever required having completed the story – they just had a warning that this would be further in the story (granted I didn’t play Helm’s Deep so I don’t know if that was any different). While the model Heavensward took for needing story completion works all well and fine for a first expansion, I don’t feel like it will hold for future expansions. Even if you did just have the warning, or you just couldn’t access the Main Scenario, at least letting people access the Heavensward content would be good.

Well, okay. There are some things you will have access to should you buy Heavensward before you complete the storyline for 2.55. You’ll gain access to the increased level cap of 60 which will let you keep earning experience even once you hit 50 in the original story. You’ll also be able to access the new race, Au Ra. The Au Ra were teased for awhile in the story and now provide players with yet another race to choose from, male or female. While the male Au Ra may have a hairstyle that seems to resemble Goku, the female Au Ra just look beautiful. Needless to say, a Fantasia has been used to change my character from Miqo’te to Au Ra.

Au Ra

Unfortunately, something things that might seem good on paper don’t actually end up being that great overall. With the rise of the level cap to 60, something had to be done with all of those level 50 dungeons. Generally, this old “end-game” content starts to grant experience again for non-level capped characters. That wasn’t the case here.

When I read the patch notes, I read that “level 50 dungeons will only grant experience in roulettes”, or something along those lines. To me this meant you would still gain experience for kills, so long as you entered with a roulette. Well, went to go do a Main Scenario roulette and what’s this? No experience off kills. I only got experience from the roulette rewards. I would have barely been okay with this decision if enemies actually gave experience for kills, but they don’t.  This gives anyone 50+ pretty much no incentive to actually come back and redo these dungeons. Sure, you can do them once a day to get your little bonuses, but after that, what’s the point? The choice to make level 50 dungeon/raid/trial content gives no experience feels extremely poor, and one I hope to see changed in the future.

Speaking of new dungeons, Heavensward has an abundance of them. I’m talking one every two levels plus new primals. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the dungeons, at least the ones while leveling – I haven’t touched the post-game ones yet. Do keep in mind, however, that some old raid mechanics have been brought into these dungeons, both from the Binding Coil and from the Crystal Tower.

These mechanics have also been brought to places outside of dungeons. Some of the new FATEs have enemies similar to the raids. While I haven’t participated in many FATEs beyond the low level ones, I have heard some about them. While it’s interesting to bring in old raid mechanics, it’d be great if they weren’t in FATEs. It’s okay though – FATEs are pretty worthless right now after 50. They give practically no experience. In fact, some people have found it better to go back to the lower level ones – namely the ones in North Thanalan – as they give better experience than those found in Heavensward areas.

Bard Ability

A fair few general changes were also implemented alongside Heavensward. Some abilities saw some nerfs, such as Flare for Black Mages. Some saw complete changes, like Barrage on Bard – now lets a shot hit three times (excluding certain abilities such as Misery’s End and Bloodletter) instead of making your auto attack hit more, and Perfect Dodge into Shade Shift on Ninja. For most of the changes, when it comes down to it, they don’t really change much overall. Sure, Flare being nerfed isn’t that great, and the Barrage change takes a lot of adjusting to get used to – I still mess it up. However, generally with the new abilities they tend to make up for what was changed.

I say generally though. Some classes benefitted more than others when it came to the new abilities past 50. From what I’ve heard – I didn’t have the time to test it myself – Paladin’s Clemency sounds absolutely fantastic. Bard’s, on the other hand, got the shaft a bit. Their new Wanderer’s Minuet song is extremely lackluster compared to just not using it. The cast times it adds to your shots are just far too long, even if they hit harder, and even if that song grants you access to some of the new skills. Unfortunately, they seem to be going the wrong way in trying to make it be useful again, despite saying they acknowledge it’s “not where it should be in damage” right now…

Along with adjustments to the old jobs, three new jobs were added in this expansion. To access them, you have to have access to the new areas – in other words, you have to complete the story of patch 2.55. The three new jobs put into place one new job for each type – Dark Knight is the new tank, Machinist is the new (ranged) DPS, and Astrologian is the new healer.

Dark Knight

Dark Knight is a MP-based tank. Your abilities, along with the TP, tend to use your MP. DRK’s tend to have fairly decent DPS, especially when you take into account that Darkside seems to drain very little MP compared to the damage boost it gives. I was able to adjust into playing it fairly fast, even though I hadn’t played a tank in a very long time. You just need to know how to manage your MP well. Oh, and at the time of writing this, you have to apparently watch out for Regen. I wasn’t able to test it myself, but I’ve heard that Regen doesn’t mix with DRK’s well… as in it drains your MP instead of healing your HP.

Machinist is Heavensward’s new DPS, and like BRD it’s a ranged DPS. MCH’s big thing is ammo management to pull off their combos (more reliably), and managing their turret. The turret can either be in an attacking mode – it will attack your target, and switch whenever you use a weapon skill – or a sort of healing mode that recovers TP/MP. I’ve been really enjoying Machinist so far, though in the earlier levels it feels a bit weaker offensively.

The new healer, Astrologian, is the one I’ve spent the least amount of time with. You can pull from a deck of cards a variety of effects, and you have to remember what they all do to apply them correctly. With the whole thrown-into-the-job-at-level-30 thing, it’s extremely overwhelming. As I said though, I’ve spent the least time with it, though some of the AST’s I’ve partied with did impress me.

One of the biggest features in Heavensward was the addition of flying mounts. To be able to fly in areas – which, for the time being, is only the new Heavensward areas – you need to attune to the Aether Currents in the region. These will send you all over the maps, sometimes in hard to reach places, to get them all. And then you ALSO need to do certain side quests in those areas, some of which are in a chain of quests. By the time you actually unlock flying in an area, you’re pretty much done with quests there. At that point, you may as well have just unlocked flying to make it easier to do things like Hunts.

Speaking of Hunts, they make a gigantic return. As in, their return is so large you pretty much need to do them to access Alexander at this point. Last year, I wrote a large post as to why I think this system is awful so I won’t repeat that here. This is one of my biggest disappointments in Heavensward though – the forcing of Hunts on people for end-game content, when at least in 2.x you could ignore them…

The Vault

The main scenario is absolutely fantastic in Heavensward though. For newer players just coming in from 2.55 cutscenes you may be a bit off put by the voice acting changes. Pretty much the entire voice cast has changed for Heavensward, many for the better and some not so much. As for the quests themselves, you’ll find that they flow really well… right up until you hit those pesky leveling barriers that send you off to spamming dungeons or doing quests.

The main scenario feels like it flows so well because it doesn’t have nearly as many fetch quests in it. No, instead those fetch quests are reserved for the side quests which you’ll likely end up needing to do your first time through just to help with how much experience you need. I eventually just hit points where I was like, okay, I’m just going to spam some dungeons. I just got tired of running around without flying (because it was gated by a main scenario quest I wasn’t high enough level for), ESPECIALLY near the end.

To me, it felt like the experience curve was far too steep. 50-60 felt like 1-50 all over again, and that’s not how an experience curve should work in my opinion. I’m looking at how much experience I need to even level a second job, and even with the boost from having a level 60 it looks extremely painful. Perhaps it’ll become better whenever they decide to let enemies in those level 50 dungeons actually give experience. Right now though, that curve feels way too steep for a first job to 60, let alone a second one.

One of the biggest upsides, and yet still a minor downside, is the music in Heavensward. It is absolutely fantastic and yet at the same time so repetitive. You’ll hear so many of the same songs over and over again, and regardless of how good I thought that piano version of Dragonsong was I did get a bit sick of hearing it. The overall music in Heavensward is really good though, so I generally forgive that it does start to feel a bit repetitive.

While Heavensward does many things right – the dungeon design, the music, what the new jobs bring to the table – it does have some hiccups. How steep the leveling curve is, the fact that by the time you unlock flying you have pretty much no use for it, the extreme focus on hunts all bring down what is an otherwise amazing expansion. Also the fact that the first job I leveled is lagging so far behind on damage and they’re going the wrong way in trying to fix it back up. Well, glad I’ve been working on leveling Ninja!

Heavensward

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Review Score

4/5

This review is based on the PS4 version.

I would like to thank Square Enix for providing me with a copy of Heavensward for review.

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward is available now on Amazon.