Final Fantasy XIV has been through quite some trials and tribulations in its time. With its lacklustre original launch back in 2010, the game failed to meet the high expectations of fans that were moving from the highly successful Final Fantasy XI, to the brand new, at the time, next generation MMO. When Square Enix decided to re-release Final Fantasy XIV as A Realm Reborn: Final Fantasy XIV, it was for the better of the series, and it did them well to do so.
The latest expansion, Heavensward, proves just how MMO expansions should be, full of content, feel like something fresh, and keep you busy for at least half the time of the original playthrough. The new expansion has a brand new campaign that lasts around 50 hours, this is the game’s biggest highlight in a world full of lacklustre DLC and content-less expansions.
There are a few thing to note before getting into the game’s new features. Although you can start the new playable class, the Au RA, at any time by creating a new character, the Heavensward content cannot be accessed until you have completed the entire main storyline, plus the story missions added with patches 2.1 and 2.2. This is a grind, but luckily for players, like me, who have been playing the game on and off since its release, I just needed to put in 6 hours to get that done. For new players, I would not see you getting into Ishgard, Heavensward’s main location, for a few weeks.
The same goes for the new jobs, the Dragon Knight, Machinist, and the Astrologian. You cannot access these new jobs until the Heavensward content kicks in. Saying that, the jobs might be new, but they don’t feel massively different and feel more like a variation of other already existing jobs.
Heavensward picks up right after the events of A Realm Reborn, at the get go the land of Ishgard is beautiful. From the cold castles, dark hills, to the lush green floating islands, the game’s visuals feel fresh and instantly sets itself apart from A Realm Reborn. The soundtrack is whimsical and everything we love from a Final Fantasy score. The creatures are fierce and at times you will want to just stand from a distance to take their presence in. This all includes the bosses and the brand new Primal, Ravana, which Square Enix created just for Heavensward.
It is one big gorgeous experience, even if it does not push the boundaries of high-end hardware, it kind of works. One issues I did have was the clunky menus. Playing this on PS4 is still difficult and requires much patience to master through the clunky menus and slow navigation of tabs.
Still, as gorgeous as Heavensward is, it is still an MMO and with it comes the usual disconnected battle system, tedious side quests, and pricey travelling costs. Even though Heavensward introduces new flying mounts, new job classes, and a new race, after a few hours you will be programmed to press the skip button through side quest dialogue, try skip a few enemies, and pay through your teeth to fast travel, because the sheer repetitiveness of the grind is frustrating. Really, the side quests are extremely dull and do nothing for the story. Re-running dungeons a dozen times proved as a more enjoyable experience than completing side quests
Saying that, you have to take your hat off to Square Enix. They created a well-formed battle system, be it in a dungeon with a group of players, or by yourself. Switching to new battle classes at any time to mix things up while saving gear sets to make it all easier.
Dungeons are the game’s biggest enjoyment, facing massive bosses with a group of players gets really intense. Explosions all over the screen, damaging counters, health bars. It is all a very intense experience that is as true to an MMO as anything.
Without spoiling too much, just know that Heavensward has a great story, at times the pace in which it plays out might be questionable, but it is an enjoyable ride. It focuses on betrayal, and catastrophe as you are in the middle of the Dragonsong War, a thousand year old battle against the dragons.
Heavensward proves just how little content other MMOs add in their expansions. Sure the grind is hefty for players who have never played the main game, or just played it for a couple of hours, but the rewards are great. The new jobs classes, race, flying mount, Primal, locations, and main story are a fitting addition to a once tragic MMO.