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Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Review – An Eye for an Eye

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Two weeks ago today, Square Enix released the first true expansion to their highly successful MMO, Final Fantasy XIV–Heavensward. The expansion comes after almost two years of gameplay, though several massive updates to the story and content have done well to hold players over.

Moving from the last major update at 2.55 (Before the Fall Part II), Heavensward picks up right where the story left off. It forges onward and upward with the Warrior of Light, Alphinaud and Tataru seeking refuge in the Holy See of Ishgard–a city that was previously closed off to all visitors.

The expansion added a ton of new content, including moving the level cap from 50 to 60, 8 new dungeons, 5 new trials, 6 new massive areas, 3 new jobs, flying mounts, a new city, and more. Heavensward, like any good expansion, has tons of new stuff to see and do, with new content everywhere you look.

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Now, to get the review rolling, let’s discuss story. There will be spoilers for the story up through 2.55 here – you have been warned.

MMOs, by and large, are notorious for their poor stories. They often range from nonexistent at worst, to campy and acceptable at best, with few exceptions. FFXIV’s story suffered from this until about update 2.3, where the narrative began to move away from typical cheesy fantasy movie fare to something that felt more like a strong Final Fantasy storyline.

This change seemed to reach a head in 2.55, where shit truly hit the fan. With the assassination of Sultana Nanamo being pinned on the Warrior of Light and the betrayal of a large faction within Crystal Braves, the Scions are all forced to flee Ul’dah, with each and every one trying to cover the Warrior of Light’s retreat – and each one presumed dead – the conclusion of 2.55’s story left the remainder of the group with virtually no where to turn to.

Heavensward picks up right from there, and the story doesn’t lose its trajectory. While the majority of Heavensward focuses heavily on the Dragonsong War and its background, it also deals with and wraps up some loose ends from 2.55 – like what happened with Raubahn, Nanamo and Ul’dah.

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Heavensward’s plots also keep the darker, grittier feel that the later updates had, with some great twists and turns, and even some rather emotional parts. There was even one event in particular that was severely upsetting following a really awesome dungeon. All in all, I would say that Heavensward’s story is the strongest part of FFXIV’s narrative to date–with one of the scenes after the final story battle hinting at some very interesting things to come.

Moving on, let’s discuss graphics and music. To start, alongside Heavensward, the new DirectX 11 version of the client was launched as well. The new graphics from the DX11 version aren’t like looking at a whole new game, but they do noticeably improve some textures and other minor graphical bits that help to make what’s on screen look better overall. While the PS3 and PS4 versions remain unchanged in the graphics department, the game still runs fine on both (with PS4 running head and shoulders above the PS3 as always) and looks great on the PS4.

The new music in the expansion is great. Several battles and dungeons have really fantastic tracks that seem right at home in a Final Fantasy game, while others seem to be a bit of a departure from series standard, though still awesome in their own rights (Great Gubal Library, I’m looking at you and your strangely awesome jazz). The final battle from the main story quest line has fittingly epic battle music to go along with one of the most visually impressive fights in the game to date.

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Now let’s talk content. Heavensward brings a lot of new things to the table with a good 30 or 40 hours of content at bare minimum. There’s tons of quests to help get any class from 50 to 60, as well as plenty of dungeons along the way to help classes get there after the first. Even better, once you have a class at 60, the armory bonus for classes under 60 is boosted significantly to help players get subsequent classes leveled faster. This is especially helpful with those three new jobs added with the expansion.

The dungeons that have been added are all fun experiences, though some are much better than others. There are new boss mechanics floating around everywhere, keeping you on your toes throughout most of your experience. A few especially fun dungeons include one where a boss has you moving totems outside of Area of Effect attacks to prevent them from coming to life, as well as several that are truly AoE dodging dance parties. They all offer new experiences that are a blast to run through.

The new trials featuring Primals Ravana and Bismarck are both enjoyable as well, though while Ravana is truly a blast (especially when playing the EX version), Bismarck can be infuriating, as it is virtually a single giant DPS check, similar to the way that Odin’s trial was set up. If your group can’t put out enough damage, there’s no way to clear it. However, the fights are both well designed and are enjoyable when they work.

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Along with the previously announced Primals, the conclusion to the Heavensward story is also a trial, as mentioned above. While not particularly difficult, the fight is insanely fun, and one that I’ve actually found myself running more than any other trial just for fun. I don’t want to spoil the fight, but it does pit you up against a rather iconic Final Fantasy summon in one form or another.

Also added was the ability to go into dungeons utilizing the Undersized Party option. This allows you and a group of already partied up friends to enter a dungeon at your actual level with your real equipment, rather than being synced down. While it’s not particular useful beyond looking to power a friend through some forced story content, or gathering gear for glamour purposes, it does lead to the potential for a lot of fun. Running through Primals solo or duo is silly and nigh-useless, yes, but loads of fun.

Also added, as of today (July 7th), is the newest Raid, Alexander. A huge mechanical Primal summoned by the Goblins, this is the latest offering to the more hardcore crowd, requiring high end gear to enter. Furthermore, shortly down the line, the Savage version of Alexander is planned to be added, giving the hardcore crowd even more to do. While they haven’t given an exact date for that addition yet, it seems to be coming fairly soon.

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The new content also brought 3 new jobs to the game – Dark Knight, Machinist, and Astrologian–as well 10 new levels and 5 new skills for all of the existing jobs. These have been well regarded for the most part, though Bard and Machinist’s damage has been widely discussed due to one of their skills being a rather hot topic right now, as well as the target of a hotfix included in today’s patch.

The three new classes are all interesting, however. Dark Knight falls somewhere in between Paladin and Warrior, the two existing tanks, while exceling at dealing damage and tanking at the same time. Machinist is a crowd control master, many of its abilities having additional effects like silences and stuns, while also being the second non-magic ranged DPS class alongside Bard. Astrologian is a healer that has access to a wide range of support buffs for the party, centered around tarot cards. However, they give up solo damage potential for these buffs, making them significantly less viable on their own (even with Cleric Stance), but great in a party situation.

There are tons of other additions, though most are not huge impacts on the overall game. Flying Mounts have been added, and they are a blast. Flying around the new areas really show off their size, but you’ll have to walk around the area first and finish the story quests before you’re given the ability to fly in it. Flying is faster than walking mounted, though, so it is still useful.

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A new playable race, the Au Ra, have been added, though as racial abilities aren’t a thing here, it’s really just aesthetic. New weapons and armor have been added, of course, as is par for the course with any new content. New housing items were added, including a Triple Triad board, allowing you to (finally) play Triple Triad in houses. Limit Breaks have all been adjusted to be more class focused, as well as giving Bard a damaging attack rather than having it utilize the healer’s 3rd level Limit Break.

All in all, Heavensward made for a great expansion for the game, and is a great springboard for things to come. The story has never been better, and the new content is fun and gives players plenty to do. Lots of minor issues were fixed and addressed, while a few new ones have cropped up, though they’ve already been getting targeted with hotfixes. As far as expansions go, Heavensward definitely delivered. It expanded the game in a way that no simple update could, and felt like a sequel to the original game, more than just another part of it.

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Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward was reviewed on PC using a code purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 8.5

Pros:

  • Great new dungeons and trials
  • Tons of new content
  • Three new fun classes
  • Lots of little quality-of-life improvements

Cons:

  • Some skills are unbalanced
  • Plenty of grinding is required
  • Mac client reportedly has issues (No experience with Mac client on my part)
  • Just about all Heavensward content requires players to clear 2.55 before being able to access it
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Chris Gregoria

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I'm a pretty chill guy. Huge video game fan, but a bigger anime fan. I also love to write - obviously.