Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

It’s been two years since the release of Heavensward and SE has spent that time working on the next chapter in the Final Fantasy XIV saga: Stormblood. Well, it’s finally here! I’ve spent the last two weeks playing the new content and I’ve finally completed the expansion. So, as expected, I’m here with a full review!

Stormblood brings Final Fantasy XIV up to version 4.0. With that version bump comes a ton of new content. Stormblood adds two new (long awaited) jobs to the game: Red Mage and Samurai. It also raises the level cap to 70 and adds an entire new continent to explore. The focus of the expansion is the retaking of the nations of Ala Mhigo and Doma from Imperial control. The occupation of Ala Mhigo has long been a part of the game’s lore, reaching back as early as 1.0. In this way, Stormblood finally brings a capstone to nearly every loose-end that is left from the original version of the game.

Whereas Heavensward introduced flying to the world of FFXIV, Stormblood brings about the ability to dive and swim. Even some areas of the original game have been updated to allow players to swim in shallow waters. For many of the new zones, players are able to dive down and explore areas of the deep. Flying mounts are also able to traverse the underwater zones as well.  Currently, this ability is pretty novel and really only comes into play for the new scenario missions. But SE has hinted that more content might be coming that incorporates swimming/diving.

I have to go on record and state that the storyline for Stormblood is absolutely fantastic. At worst, it is on par with A Realm Reborn, but I daresay it even exceeds it. To me, Heavensward was a decent expansion. But, at times it became very repetitive and downright boring. This was not the case with Stormblood. Everything about this expansion felt fresh and interesting to me.  From the storyline, the new cities and zones, the innovative dungeons and even the boss fights, the whole of Stormblood was just spot on for me.

Aside from all the new content, Final Fantasy XIV version 4.0 also marked a major revamp to the core game itself. The whole job system received an overhaul of sorts. Skills and abilities were streamlined, with several actions being revamped or even eliminated. The pointless concept of customizing character ability scores (an old mechanic from the now defunct 1.0 version) has finally been removed from the game. 4.0 also introduces the “Job Gauge”, a job-specific on-screen graphic that is unique to each job and related to that job’s special abilities.

A major theme of Stormblood is that of the Far East. Pretty much any type of Asian flair is represented in the new zones. From the Japanese-inspired city of Kugane, to the Chinese-like landscape of Doma. There are even elements of ancient Mongolia, Turkey, and Slavic inspiration found in the new zones.

At the time of this writing, Stormblood has received one minor content patch, bringing the game up to version 4.01. This patch added the highly awaited Omega raid to the game.

All in all, I cannot say enough great things about Stormblood. If I had to find a complaint, it would not be with the expansion itself, but rather with SE’s recent decision to sell level boosting potions on the Mog Station store. For cold hard cash, players can now purchase an item that will level their characters to either level 50 or 60, and even one that will clear the main scenario content for A Realm Reborn and Heavensward.  I understand the concept behind such items: they allow new players to jump right in and join their friends on new adventures. But at the same time, I feel they cheapen the game play experience somewhat. As a player who has stuck with FFXIV since the early (and often dismal) days of 1.0, I couldn’t imagine spending money to purchase a game, then spending more money so that I don’t have to actually play it. But, to each their own I suppose.

I’m going to continue my tradition of reviewing each major patch as they are released. So stay tuned and as they say in the FFXIV community; “Please look forward to it!”

FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

FFXIV: Version 3.5 Update

The latest update for Final Fantasy XIV has finally arrived. Version 3.5 (The Far Edge of Fate) is here and with it, we see the final winding down of the Heavensward story and the slow build up to the recently announced version 4.0. Playing through the new main scenario quests included in this patch make it clear that the narrative of the game is about to change. It’s being handled very similar to the way the transition from 2,x to 3,0 was presented. As always, Square Enix has proved themselves to be master storytellers.

As the 3.x storyline winds down, this patch provides two new dungeons and one new raid to hold fans over until the big update to 4.0 this summer. Along with this new major content, there are also a number of new sidequests and other activities for players to enjoy.

Breaking down to contents of the patch, we have the following:

New Main Scenario quests and side quests

New Trials

New Raid content:  (Dun Scaith)

New Dungeons

New Limited Time Cross-over Event  (GARO! Anime  PVP-gear content)

New Anima Weapon tiers

New Player Housing options:  (Portrait/Picture frame system, new house servants)

The Triple Triad card tournament refinements  (FINALLY NO MORE CHEATING)

UI Updates

Cross-Server Party finder!

A slew of refinements, big fixes, new items, materials, mounts, minions, etc.

As you see, there’s a lot going on with this patch. One of the biggest core changes to the game involves the new cross-server party finder. This change allows players to seek out party members with players from other servers. This is certainly a welcome change. However, at the time of this writing, (and maybe its just a coincidence) it seems to have affected the overall server stability. I had experienced a number of crashes and connection issues since this patch was released. Something that I’ve never encountered before.

Along with everything this patch has brought to the game, I want to take a moment to mention something that it’s taken away. With the release of this patch, the content known as “Exploratory Missions” is no longer accessible. Exploratory Missions (aka: The Diadem) is essentially a large-scale battleground system. This content was extremely popular in the early days of 3.X,  but it soon fell out of favor with players and became a largely forgotten system. With Patch 3.5, SE has removed the content from the game as they work to refine it and make it more attractive to players. The current plan is for it to reintroduced in an upcoming “3.5 part 2” patch. As a fan of Exploratory Missions, I look forward to see what changes are made to this area. I hope that SE can make it relevant again.

All in all, patch 3.5 is a welcome update to the game. It serves as the last MAJOR patch in the 3.x line before the release of Final Fantasy XIV 4.0.

Filled with content, fixes, and refinements, I give this patch the following score:  A

 

Review: Final Fantasy XV

It is finally here! My full review of the long-awaited Final Fantasy XV! And in record time, might I add.  This review took me less than a month, but unlike those other day-one reviews you’ll find on the web, all of my playthrough reviews are only written after I’ve completed a game from start to finish and poked through every nook and cranny. (Don’t believe me – check my PSN trophies).

As you most likely know, the hype train behind this game was running at a fever pitch. So, let’s start off by talking about about what made this game one of the most anticipated titles in years. Final Fantasy XV began development almost a decade ago. That’s a long time for a single game. Originally announced under the title “Final Fantasy Versus XIII” – it was initially intended to be part of the Final Fantasy: Nova Fabula Crystallis sub-series. (A spin-off of FFXIII) But after several years and management changes, it was re-announced as the next major entry into the main series. Since that time, teasers, leaked footage and interviews caused the game to develop a huge following. Now it is finally here.

So, before we dive into the game itself, let’s do something I dread and take a moment to discuss the various editions and incentives.  For FFXV you basically have three (realistically two) choices; The Standard Version, The Deluxe Edition, and the Ultimate Collectors Edition.  The latter was available directly through Square Enix only and is no longer available for purchase.

  • The standard “day one” edition comes with the game only and a DLC sword.
  • Both the Deluxe and the Collectors editions come with the following DLC perks: A stat boosting costume, the sword from the standard edition and a vanity skin for the in-game vehicle. Both the deluxe and collectors editions also come with a Blu-Ray copy of the FFXV: Kingsglaive motion picture.  – I purchased the Deluxe Edition.
  • The Ultimate Collectors edition also comes with a few exclusive DLC perks that includes in-game discounts, uncommon and exclusive items, etc. But in all honesty, these do not prove to be very valuable. This edition also comes with a playart statue, art book, Blu-Ray copies of FFXV: Brotherhood / Kingsglaive and a special soundtrack.

So now, *Sigh* – let’s talk about the pre-order perks.  Basically, there’s really only three that you need to know about.

  • If you preordered the game from PSN or Xbox Live, you get the Angler set (some fishing-based items from the Collectors Edition), and an exclusive vanity skin for the car… Meh.
  • If you preordered the game from Amazon, you get three exclusive mid-level weapons and three of the four DLC item sets from the Collectors edition. Nice!
  • Finally, if you preordered the game from Gamestop, you get a second Final Fantasy XV mini-game called “A King’s Tale” for free!! … WOW!!!  – I preordered my copy from Gamestop, but I managed to snag an extra copy of the Amazon DLC codes from a friend who received two in error.   

There’s a few other random skins and other worthless freebies given out through contests and promos, but nothing really worth mentioning.

I’ve included a handy-chart below that provides details for every single possible purchase option for the game. (Because this is way more confusing than it needs to be).

*Click to enlarge*

*In a nutshell: If you have the Deluxe Edition and preordered from Amazon to have 99% of the digital perks from the Collectors Edition – If you missed out on any of this, please don’t worry. None of these perks are particularly game-breaking or game-boosting in the overall scope of things, and knowing SE – it wouldn’t surprise me if these don’t appear for sale in the future as individual DLC.

Speaking of downloadable content, the game has a handful of DLC planned in the coming months. These will be available individually for purchase or you can pay the reasonable price of $25.00 for a season pass. At the time of this writing, only the Holiday Pack is available for download. (More on this later).

So. Now that you’ve figured out which version of the game is right for you, I would like to make suggestion. Before playing the actual game itself, I highly recommend installing and completing the free Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo. The demo is a unique scenario that does not exist in the game itself. Not only does it do a great job of teaching you the combat mechanics of the real game, but upon completion it unlocks a special perk within the retail copy of the game. (A special summon).

FFXV Platinum Demo

So… you’ve watched the Brotherhood anime and the Kingsglaive Motion Picture, you’ve played the demo… you’re finally ready to play Final Fantasy XV. Here’s what to expect from the storyline.

The story of Final Fantasy XV takes place in a world called Eos. The majority of this world is ruled by the militaristic Empire of Niflheim. However, to the north, the small Kingdom of Lucis remains free from Imperial rule. Lucis, protected by a magical barrier, has been able to ward off the Empire for generations. Recently, peacetalks between the Empire and Lucis have manifested. One of the conditions in the peace treaty requires that Noctis, Prince of Lucis is to marry his childhood friend Lunafreya, the oracle of Tenebrae (an area under Imperial control). The game itself mainly focuses on the character of Prince Noctis and his three companions as they journey to the nearby nation on Tenebrae, for the Prince’s wedding. However, shortly after leaving the Crown City of Insomnia, their car breaks down – halting their journey temporarily. While awaiting repairs on their vehicle, the news reaches Noctis that the peacetalks were nothing more than an elaborate ruse. The Empire has occupied the kingdom. The King, Noctis’s father, is said to have been slain. Now, last of his line, Noctis undertakes a journey across Eos to claim the magic powers of his birthright and retake the kingdom from the Empire.

Despite having a backstory this epic, a large focus of Final Fantasy is actually on the relationship between Noctis and his three friends. The first half of the game can appropriately be described as the ultimate Bro Roadtrip. Three guys, hanging out.. being guys. The banter between Noctis and his companions really does a great job of making you care about all of the characters on a very personal level.  In the entourage we have; Noctis – the Prince. Gladiolus – Noctis’ bodyguard. Prompto – Noctis’ childhood friend. And finally, Ignis – Noctis’ personal adviser and attendant.  Each character has their own personality and quirks that you’ll grow very familiar with throughout the game. Gladio is a bit rough around the edges, Prompto is easily excitable and obsessed with photography, Ignis is the straight-man and an accomplished chef, often preparing meals for the party when they camp out in the field.

The game is split into 15 chapters. To be quite honest, the main scenario of the game can be completed in just over 20 hours by most players. This is actually a fairly short time for these types of games nowadays. However, there’s way more content in Final Fantasy XV than just what is found in the main storyline. There’s tons of sidequests littered throughout the game. Most of these can be discovered pretty easily by playing the game normally. But there are a handful that can only be uncovered by venturing a bit off the beaten path. With a few exceptions, you have free reign to explore the entire world at your leisure. You can do so on foot, via car, and after a certain point in the game by Chocobo. Most the time, the car will be your main mode for transportation.

When cruising the roads in the Regalia (the model name for the car), you can instruct Ignis to drive to various destinations on the map. After a certain point in the game you will also unlock the ability to drive manually. Driving the Regalia is fun at first, but it does get tiresome after a while. During your time on the road you will treated to banter between the guys and occasionally some important exposition. One neat little feature during these roadtrips is the car stereo. Just like in games such as Grand Theft Auto and Sleeping Dogs, you can scroll through the channels and listen to cool music. Expect in FFXV the track selection can include soundtracks from other games in the series! Tracks can be purchased throughout the game when visiting gas stations and rest areas. I thought this was a nice touch.

The downside to these drives is the time it takes to get from place to place. Thankfully, once you’ve arrived at a particular area, you can fast warp there in the future for a small price. This certainly saves time, but to be honest – the loading times when warping from place to place, or even when loading new chapters and cutscenes in the game seem unusually long. Sometimes, I found myself sitting on a loading screen for well over a minute. (This was my experience playing on the original Playstation 4. Perhaps this is not an issue on the Xbox One or on the new PS4 models… I dunno). But, it’s long enough to be an issue.

Sadly, I was not as impressed with the soundtrack for this game as I usually am with Final Fantasy titles. There are a good number of great tracks in FFXV, don’t misunderstand. But overall, the background music just feels “off”. Even when the songs are catchy… to me they just seem a little out of place. But this could just be me being quirky. My 8-year old son absolutely loves the music. He likes it so much, I had to make a CD of game tunes at his request so he can listen to it when he goes to bed at night… So, take my opinion with a grain of salt here.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous. To date, it’s the best looking console game I’ve played. If you have one of the newer model PS4s, FFXV will take full advantage of the hardware as well. The game can also be tweaked even further for HDR televisions and home theater audio.

Progression in the game is tallied as you complete sidequests and battle monsters. Experience points earned by your characters are paid out whenever you rest in camp or at an inn-room. This serves to level your characters up. Your party also earns AP during their adventures. These points are spent unlocking new abilities.

Combat in the game is a bit of a mixed bag. Especially at first. Starting out, I had a hard time grasping it. The combat controls felt awkward and not very intuitive. But, as you continue to play and unlock more combat skills, it starts to come together. By the end of the game, it felt like second nature.  My biggest complaint has to be not with the control scheme, but with the in-game camera during combat. More often then not, battles take place in dense outdoor areas or in confined dungeon spaces. The camera tends to go haywire and it can be difficult to focus on what you need to see. A prime example of this can be found during the mega-boss fight against the Adamantoise. The boss is so massive that the camera doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself. This is very long fight, and my biggest problem with it was not the battle itself, but dealing with the darn camera angles. This seems like something that might be easily fixed with a patch. Time will tell.

All in all, Final Fantasy XV is a very different type of Final Fantasy game. Square Enix has declared that this entry is intended to appeal to both veterans of the series as well as new players. When I first settled in to play this game, it wasn’t at all what I expected. I think my JRPG-mindset may have kicked in too hard at first and I misplayed the game from the get-go. Out of the 80 hours I clocked in playing FFXV, I’d say the first 40 were spent in the first four chapters alone. I grinded sidequests and hunts like nobody’s business.I was hesitant to proceed with the main story until I completed absolutely every bit of optional content I came across. While this was great in terms of leveling up and getting ahead of the curve, it made for a very slow start.  Once I managed to put this aside and just enjoy the game for what it was, everything fell into place. By the end of the game, it ended up feeling very much like a Final Fantasy title.

Wrapping things up, I want to touch a bit on the game patches and DLC.  At the time of this writing, the game has received an important day-one update and a small bugfix/feature patch.  So I’m going to assume anyone playing is going to have installed these. The developers have expressed a desire to further patch the game – adding some additional cutscenes and possibly making major changes to the 13th chapter of the game itself. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Having already completed the game, I hate to think I might miss out on some crucial story elements. We’ll have to see how this manifests.

To date, only one piece of DLC has been released: The Holiday pack. This comes in both a free download and an special paid-for version. For the most part, there’s not much of value in this package currently. A few random in-game items, and a costume that will be unlocked at a later date. The real gem in this DLC is the upcoming limited-time carnival. Apparently, SE is waiting until after Christmas to open up this event. Details behind what this carnival will contain are still sketchy, and I’m not really sure how I feel about having a time-locked event as part of a DLC package… but we’ll see how it all plays out. As more downloadable content is released, I’ll review them separately on the site.   – But in regards to this carnival, don’t let this pending release stop you from playing the game to completion. Upon finishing the game, you have the ability to continue playing. So anything you may have missed and any new add-on content like this, should be available to experience.  In fact, there’s even a secret optional dungeon in Final Fantasy XV that’s only available once you have completed the game.

All in all, I found Final Fantasy XV to be a solid game and one worthy of the franchise. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly worth a look if you’re a fan of the series. Despite experiencing a slow start, I found my enjoyment of the game to grow the longer I played it. The storyline is second to none, certainly one of the more impactful in the series, in my opinion. I feel that longtime fans will be divided on what to think of the game. But, putting nostalgia for the previous games to the side, FFXV certainly stands on it’s own.  I look forward to seeing what’s to come in terms of the upcoming add-on scenarios.

Difficulty: Variable –  Final Fantasy XV has two difficulty options: Easy and Normal. Easy mode turns down the difficulty of battles considerably. Also, when Easy Mode is enabled, if you do die and you have the Carbuncle summon unlocked from the demo, you get an instant raise. I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that Carbuncle, in fact, only appears when the game is on the easy setting – as I never saw him appear once when playing the game on Normal. I would recommend Easy Mode only for players that want to experience the game story with no challenge whatsoever. Normal mode is really not that difficult as long as you spend a little time grinding and preparing. Plus, you miss out on one of the coolest fights in the game if you play to the end using the easy setting. As usual, most the really difficult content comes in the form of optional bosses and dungeons. These are intended to played post-game.

Story: The storyline presented in FFXV is simply amazing. It stands just fine on it’s own, but backed up with Kingsglaive and Brotherhood, the lore behind game is just fantastic. In the later part of the game, a lot of concepts are introduced at a pretty fast pace, so if you’re not paying attention it will be easy to miss some key elements.

Originality: For a series with no less than fifteen installments, it can be difficult to keep things feeling fresh. But Square Enix always seems to manage to pull something new out their hat, while keeping the elements that make a Final Fantasy game a “Final Fantasy game”.  This is certainly true here for XV where we have a game that is both somewhat hub-based, yet also very open world. Many of the concepts in this game are indeed recycled from previous entries; Hunts are a prime example. Yet, the setting that encompasses the game manages to keep things feeling new. One shining feature here is the social media integration. SE has flirted with this before, but never got it right until now.  Throughout that game, Prompto will randomly take photographs. Every time you rest, you have are able to review the pictures he’s taken and share them on social media… pointless, yes. But fun.

Soundtrack: Don’t misunderstand what I said above. The music in this game is very good. It’s beautiful and well composed when it needs to be, and quirky and playful when appropriate. But, when compared to other games in the series, the bulk of it does not seem as memorable.  The exception to this gripe is the main theme “Somnus” – This is an absolutely lovely track. When it comes to voice acting, the game has it’s ups and downs. Noctis and his companions are overall, very well done, but their banter can become repetitive after a time. The side characters on the other hand… are cringe inducing. (I’m looking at you Cindy and Dino).

Fun: Final Fantasy XV, for me, was very enjoyable. RPG fans should have a field day. Heck, even my 8-year old is in love with the game. But, I feel like large portion of games just won’t “get it”. If you like RPGs that don’t hold your hand, there’s a lot to like about FFXV.

Graphics: Incredible. The scenery and most of the models in the game are absolutely excellent. There’s a few odd exceptions, but overall Final Fantasy XV is once of the prettiest games I’ve ever played.

Playcontrol: This is where the game suffers the most. But, in theory, this is something that could easily be fixed. Number one, as mentioned above, the camera during combat is big a issue. Second, the jump-button also serves as the button needed to initiate dialog or interact with objects. This often leads to you trying to select an NPC for conversation, only to end up jumping in their face for no reason. Annoying.

Downloadable Content:  Yes. Free and paid DLC.

**This section will be updated with links to more details as they become available and are released**

Mature Content: Some language and scantily clad characters.

Value:  The base game retailed for $60.00 new. The Deluxe Edition sells for $80. As recent as a month after release, the standard game has been seen on sale for as low as $35. – To me, considering the amount of content the game offers, it’s well worth the $60. To be fair, considering the $80 version also comes with a Blu-Ray movie as well as additional in-game content, this amount is also justifiable.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Final Fantasy XV is a great game. But, it has it’s share of flaws. Its not a perfect title by any stretch. Considering how long the game was in development, some of the issues are quite honestly, inexcusable. But, none of them are major enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the title.  There’s plenty to enjoy in this game, and the story presented here is absolutely breathtaking.

Available on: PS4 and Xbox One

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

IIIIIIIVVVI VIIVIIIIXXX2XIXII XIIIXIII 2XIII Lightning Returns XIV – XV 

IV: After YearsVII: Dirge of CerberusVII: Crisis CoreVII: Advent Children (Movie)XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s TaleXV: Brotherhood (Anime)XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

FFXIV: Version 3.4 Update

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So, Final Fantasy XIV version 3.4 (aka: Soul Surrender) has finally arrived and I’ve had time to dive in and check it out in full. I apologize for not getting to this post sooner, but before checking out the new content, I was scrambling like mad to finish the limited-time Yo-Kai Watch crossover event. Sadly, I have to admit this event marks the first time I was unable to fully complete a “seasonal” quest line. The event consisted of participating in FATE events, from which you could collect cute Yo-Kai minions, and Yo-Kai Watch themed weapons. Collecting the minions was simple. But collecting all the weapons took quite a bit of dedication. Granted, SE allowed nearly 3 months to get this done, but I had a lot of real world stuff going on so I had to cram most of it into the last three days. While I did not finish the event 100% of the way, I was down to the very last weapon when the clock ran out (and only 2 tokens short of claiming it!) – I hope to see this event brought back at some point in the future, as SE did with some of their other limited time events. But, considering this one tied in to a third-party, I’m not counting on anything. Boo.

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But enough about Yo-Kai… Let’s talk 3.4. So, what’s new in this patch? Well, we’re getting very close now to the final wrap up of all Heavensward content. Later this week, Square Enix hosts the first of the three Fan Fests . It is during these events that fans are expecting a reveal for Final Fantasy XIV 4.0. So, the end of all 3.x content is coming quick! Here’s what’s been added in the latest patch:

New main scenario quests, new side quests.

New PVP content:  Custom matches and player duels

New Raid content:  Alexander phase 3

New Trials

New Dungeons

New Player Housing options:  Apartments, aquarium furniture/collectible game

Grand Company Content:   **FINALLY!!!*  New ranks and a new “Squadron” system

A new “Wondrous Tails” system – Essentially, this is a system that encourages and rewards players for doing older content.

A slew of refinements, new items, materials, mounts, minions, etc.

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So what do I think of the new patch? Well, as point releases go, it’s pretty solid. It balances both refinements and new content pretty well. We can see the pieces coming together for the ultimate conclusion to the 3.x storyline and I feel that breadcrumbs are also being laid for what’s coming next. I feel like SE has things down to a science at this point. The amount of new content was just right to both keep the story line moving along and to keep players busy for a while. With Final Fantasy XV on the horizon, I expect a bit of a lull in the next month or so. It seems like SE is also predicting this and planning accordingly. I feel like the next six months will provide plenty of time for new players to catch up so that they can enjoy whatever 4.0 will eventually have to offer.

The shining gem of this patch for me? The Wondrous Tails content. It’s always difficult to get veteran players to pay attention to older content. This can be frustrating for newer players that need assistance on progression. This new mechanic gives players what really amounts to a “sticker book”. By completing certain dungeons, trials, etc during the week – they earn a sticker. Once the book is full, rewards are available. I found this whole set up to be very well done.

As far as point releases go, I give this patch an:   A

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FFXIV: Version 3.3 Update

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Since completing my post on Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, Square Enix has released the anticipated 3.3 patch. For many players, 3.3 was expected to be a much needed shot in the arm for a game that has slowly been slipping into a lull. So, what all is included in the 3.3 patch? Let’s take a brief look:

*This patch adds new content that continues the main scenario (Heavensward) story line, and makes a adjustments to previous main scenario quests.

*New misc quests added and adjustments to existing quests (Including a new category of daily Beast Tribe quests)

*New Raid added: The Weeping City

*Two new Dungeons, and new trials added.

*Adds a new tier to the Anima Weapon progression

*A new “treasure hunt dungeon” the Aquapolis.

*More Player Housing zones added, new furniture items added and a new “Flower Pot” system introduced.

*New items and mini-game adjustments, new player hairstyles and emotes.

*New “RaidFinder” system added.

*New PVP System “Shatter”

*Misc fixes, balance adjustments, and UI updates

Wow! That’s quite a lot of content. Sadly, one of the announced features that I was most looking forward to, was not included in this update (The Undead Dungeon), so I supposed I’ll have to wait a little long for 3.35 before I can sink my teeth into that one. But aside from that, this was my experience with the 3.3 update:

I played through all of the new main scenario and misc quests in about three days. This includes the new dungeons and trials. By the 5th day I had completed the new raid. Despite having cleared a majority of the new content already, the rewards provided by these new additions certainly make the very re-playable. It’s easy to see that the Heavensward story is quickly coming to a close. I expect soon that SE will make an announcement regarding the next expansion. Once that occurs, I only expect a couple more major patches for 3.x.

All in all, I give this patch a rating of:   B

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Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

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Almost two years after the release of A Realm Reborn, Final Fantasy XIV received it’s first official expansion: Heavensward. This expansion focuses on the long talked-about, but never before accessible Kingdom of Ishgard. Ever since the earliest days of 1.x, players had been clamoring to explore and experience this area, only to have their hoped squashed by the failure of the original game.  Well, finally with release of Final Fantasy XIV 3.0 – the gates to Ishgard were thrown open.

With this new city-state was a plethora of new open-world zones to explore. Including one area that was previously accessible in FFXIV 1.x, but not seen in A Realm Reborn. Aside from new areas, there was a whole new slew of dungeons, raids, side quests, and main scenario missions to undertake. The storyline of Heavensward picks up right where main scenarios of 2.x end. In fact, none of the content from this expansion is available to players until they complete all of the 2.x storyline. (with exception of a new playable race –  but more on that later)

This expansion also increased the maximum level cap from 50 to 60 and introduced a new class of flying mounts for players to use in the Heavensward areas.

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As the name suggests, a big focus of Heavensward is the theme of flying and flight. Aside from flying mounts and open-air zones, SE also added the ability for player-owned Free Companies to build their own Airships. Ships can be sent off on exploratory missions, or used to reach a new large-scale battlefield zone known as: The Diadem.

Also, an MMO expansion just wouldn’t be complete without the addition of new playable classes… or more specifically jobs. That’s right, Heavensward introduces three new jobs, but unlike all other jobs in the game so far, these are not directly tied to character class. The new jobs are: Dark Knight (tank class), Astrologian (healer class), and Machinist (ranged-dps class). Also, interestingly enough, these jobs start at level 30 instead of level one. (A move seen in other games such as World of Warcraft)

As mentioned earlier, there is also a new playable race in Heavensward: The Au Ra. This is a race of scaled, horned humanoids, that some believe to share ancestry with dragons. A player who owns the expansion can create an Au Ra character from the beginning, while current players wishing to keep their current progress can use a “Fantasia potion” to change their existing character.

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I have to admit, that I was initially VERY excited for this expansion. I plowed through the 3.0 content in a matter of days. Only to find myself, at the end of it, feeling somewhat shorted. Yes, there was a great amount of new storyline content to be had – but once it was all said and done, it felt like I had hit a brick wall. There was really nothing new to explore at that point. The 3.1 patch that came out a few months later did little to rekindle my excitement. In fact, around December of 2015, I actually found myself canceling my FFXIV subscription for the very first time. It seemed that while Heavensward did deliver on everything it promised, it turned out that it’s promises were not really all that exciting to begin with. At least, that’s how I felt after conquering all of it. The post-expansion lull hit HARD.

At the time of this writing, Heavensward has reached version 3.2. This most recent version update added a new tier to the Heavensward-exclusive raid “Alexander”, as well as some of large quality of life improvements for new players. I resubbed to check out this patch and I’m happy to report that I’ve been more than pleased. I can’t quite put my finger on it… maybe it’s some of the new content or maybe I just needed a break – but coming back I’ve found myself engaged and having a wonderful time. I’m anxiously awaiting the new upcoming PVP content and looking forward to seeing where the game goes from here.

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Now, for the first time ever since I started this blog, I have to decide how I’m going to handle reporting on future updates to FFXIV… You see, up until now, I’ve always been playing catch up. reviewing things after the fact. But with the publication of this overview, I find myself actually current in a living, breathing game world.  Waiting for each new expansion, than playing for six months before reporting on it is not very exciting…

So, after giving this a little thought, I’ve decided that I’ll be making a post for each content patch that the game receives. Then adding a link to these posts to the FFXIV Hub article. That way, I can stay up to date with the game – yet still keep a link to all the information in a single place. So… stay tuned to future updates.

Patch 3.3      Patch 3.4    Patch 3.5

FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Final Fantasy XIV: 1.X

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Having been an avid fan of Square Enix’s first MMO; Final Fantasy XI, I remember the excitement that everyone in the community felt when the announcement was made for Final Fantasy XIV. The next generation massive multiplayer Final Fantasy title. Having long been rumored, SE finally confirmed it’s existence and upcoming release. To say I was excited, was an understatement.

Lorewise, the game takes place in a land known as Eorzea. Eorzea is the home to four major nation-states (three of which can be starting areas for new players). On the outskirts of Eorzea lies the Garlemald Empire. In terms of the game’s story, the Empire has slowly been conquering neighboring realms, and fear hangs heavy that they will soon push their invasion into Eorzea itself. This certainly seemed like an interesting set up. It was a world I was excited to learn and explore.

FFXIV was built using the Crystal Tools engine, the game engine that powered Final Fantasy XIII, so graphically it was going to be leaps and bounds above FFXI. Also, the developers promised that XIV would be more casual-friendly and less grindy. Yet, the game would cater to XI players, in that the in-game races available during character creation would favor those previously seen in XI. (This way, a player could “re-create” the look of their old XI character if they chose to do so.) The races of FFXIV, while similar to FFXI, have different names. These are as follows:

Hyur – A human-like race.  (Essentially the Hume of FFXI)

Elezen – A tall, elvish like race  (similar to the Elvaan of FFXI)

Roegadyn – A stout, but hardy race – Playable as male only (similar to the Galka from FFXI)

Miqo’te – A catlike humanoid – Playable as female only (similar to the Mithra of FFXI)

Lalafell – A short, cute humanoid race (Similar to the Taru Taru of FFXI)

The game was slated for release on the PC. A PS3 version would be coming shortly after release. XIV would feature a new system for character progression, a new class system that allows players to change character class on the fly, a new quest system, a new imaginative form of crafting, a seamless world, etc. It seems that SE was finally starting to listen to their fans…. except, not really.

When Final Fantasy XIV was first released, it became obvious very quickly that there was a problem. First of all, at release day, there was a shockingly little amount of content. In the entire game, there was only a handful of main scenario quests and a small number of class-related quests. The new “Levequest” system touted by SE as being one of the cornerstones of the game was clunky and restrictive. With players only able to take on a small number of quests per day. As a result it was largely ignored. Players resorted to the old time-tested method to grinding to gain experience points. Only to find that SE had quietly implemented a experience point throttle to slow down players who were leveling their characters too quickly.

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Other complaints included concerns about the combat system, as well as the overall world design and server stability. Players also complained in droves about lag in the UI and a convoluted/overly-difficult player market system. As the weeks went on, the situation only got worse. It was so bad, that SE actually asked the media to please refrain for posting reviews of the game until they could roll-out the first big post-release patch.  Sadly, this patch did little to address the majority of player concerns.

The playerbase fell dramatically in the weeks immediately following release, with most players not renewing their subscriptions at the end of the free-30 days. I have to admit, even though I love Final Fantasy games with a passion. FFXIV was shaping up to be a total mess. As a concession, Square Enix apologized profusely and suspended charging subscription fees while they worked on addressing play concerns. But as more weeks came and went, no relief was seen.

Eventually, a major announcement was made. SE had essentially fired the original producer and replaced him with a new face, Naoki Yoshida. A man, that the community would come to affectionately call “Yoshi P”. The first thing that Yoshi P did, was take as the players to participate in a number polls and questionnaires. I participated and I remember seeing questions like “Would it be acceptable to radically change the core battle system for the game?”. When you start talking about doing things like replacing entire core-game mechanics, you know things are about to get interesting.

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When it was all said and done, Yoshi P did one of the ballsiest things I have ever seen in the gaming industry. This man, who was hired to FIX a broken game, went before his superiors and told them: “Your game is so broken, it cannot be repaired. If you want me to fix this mess, you will have to provide me with the budget and resources to rebuild it from the ground up.”  This statement, uttered in any American game company would have immediately signaled the death and write off of the title as a whole. But perhaps, due to cultural differences and Japanese pride, SE agreed. Thus began the road to Final Fantasy XIV 2.0.

The announcement was made to the public, that the entire game was going to be scrapped and recreated using a completely new game engine. What normally takes nearly 10 years in research and development would be escalated and delivered within a mere two years. In the meantime, a special team would continue to work on improving the existing game as best they could: fixing what could be fixed and adding content to keep players busy. To fund this, the subscription for the game would be returning. But players willing to pay during this time, would be privy to exclusive once-in-a-lifetime content as well as a perpetual discount on the game’s subscription. It was also announced that the PS3 version of the game would be placed on hold until after the release of Final Fantasy 2.0.

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In the game’s world, this translates to what is known as the Seventh Umbral Era. Essentially, the redesign of the game would be rolled into the lore of the gameworld itself. Starting with the next patch after the announcement, a small red star appeared in the sky. Patch after patch, as time went by this star grew bigger and bigger. Over time it became obvious what was happening: A meteor was coming… and it was going to cause havoc in the world of Final Fantasy XIV.

Some of the biggest changes to occur during this time were core redesigns to the character progression system. The “character rank” leveling system was removed and now character progression would be measured on a per-class basis. The very core mechanics of the battle system were overhauled and drastically improved. A new “job system” was added that brought many of the classic Final Fantasy-themed jobs to the game. Until now, the character classes in FFXIV used obscure, unfamiliar names, and as a result, just seemed very un-Final Fantasy like. Also, a new “Grand Company” system was added to game that both served as a segue into the new lore as well as a portal to launching some of the newer dungeon and boss-battle content. Things were actually starting to come together quite nicely. In fact, I daresay I became quite satisfied with the game during it’s final few months.

Eventually, the time came when the original version of Final Fantasy XIV would need to go offline for several months while the team prepared the release of the now fabled Final Fantasy XIV 2.0.   – Character data would be preserved and would carry over to this new world. So now players only had to wait. Would SE be able to pull off the impossible and revive a game that had largely failed in the eyes of the public? Time would tell.

In the weeks before the servers were turned off. Players were treated to amazing content. Swarms of monsters were invading towns, Imperial airships would be seen patrolling the skies. The weather in the game world changed, bringing constant lightning storms… Then on the final night, players were instructed to journey to a remote area of the gameworld known as Mor Dhona to engage the Imperials in a massive ground battle. Once the clock counted down and Final Fantasy XIV 1.x was taken offline, players were provided with a YouTube link to view the final cutscene for the game. From the bright red star of Dalamud, emerged the legendary dragon Bahamut. Who’s megaflare attacked caused what would later be known as The Calamity.

Despite it’s rocky start and terrible reputation, these events ended up making Final Fantasy XIV 1.x a truly fantastic and memorable experience for me. In someways, I almost miss it from time to time.

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FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Hub Post: Final Fantasy XIV

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Finally, we are brought to the most recent entry in the numbered Final  Fantasy series: Final Fantasy XIV. This is the second MMO in the series and one filled with both controversy and success. I’ve been an avid player of this game since it’s release and  I’ve written a little bit about this game before, so for those interested, you can read my initial thoughts here: “A Look Back: Original Release”   –  “A Realm Reborn Beta Test”  – “The Rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV” — But, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the game in the posts to come. Just like with my FFXI hub, this post will serve as a Table of Contents for any future posts regarding Final Fantasy XIV and it’s expansions.

FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Other Reviews In This Series:

IIIIIIIVVVI VIIVIIIIXXX2XIXII XIIIXIII 2XIII Lightning Returns XIV – XV 

IV: After YearsVII: Dirge of CerberusVII: Crisis CoreVII: Advent Children (Movie)XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s TaleXV: Brotherhood (Anime)XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight