Since the beginning FFXIV has set itself apart with enjoyable Class/Job systems, letting players explore a multitude of Tank/Healer/DPS types under one character. This, along with some truly unique dungeons has always given fans a reason to stay hooked. Still, there remained significant room for improvement. Through the Heavensward expansion we saw a few steps in the right direction. The featured jobs were fun and there were some great ways to level, but the story was annoyingly skippable and the environments were drab. It was difficult to push through unappealing content for hours/days on end.
Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood (accompanied by the latest patch) is the expansion that players have been waiting for. First and foremost we have the brand new Samurai and Red Mage Jobs, which allow you to start at level 50. Samurai is a fun spin on the melee DPS style, but I’m partial to Red Mage. Sporting a mix of white and black magic, there is a tactical approach taken with this job that appeals to the support DPS in me. Also they kind of look like pirates, which is always a good thing. The new skill system patch has introduced only good things for each of the classes and jobs. Skills feel less cluttered and more significant. The new battle meters are personalized to each class, and give you an additional mechanic that rewards tactical thought process.
Among the list of quality features is the most decent story line that has ever manifested from FFXIV. Main storylines in nearly any MMORPG aren’t typically something to write home about, and the same stigma has applied Square Enix’s sophomore MMO thus far. After tireless attempts to keep up with the hours of cutscenes and repetitive novel-length dialogues, I was forced to start skipping through the second half of A Realm Reborn and large portion of Heavensward. The instinct to start hitting ESC like a mad man didn’t stick with me very long after starting the Stormblood content. That’s not to say the new content doesn’t come without it’s lulls, but it still compliments the new environments enough to for a deeper connection.
Speaking of environments, the new areas are undoubtedly my favorite addition. From the Far Eastern city of Kugane, Gyr Abania, the Ruby Sea, Yanxia, to Azim Steppe, each of these worlds shows expert design. There is an increased level of immersiveness that come from questing and traversing here. Instead of serving as an open plane to grind quests, places like Azim Steppe’s Dawn Throne, and the Ruby Sea’s Tamamizu, serve as memorable landmarks. The new Dungeons and primal battles have similar appeal. Also, you can swim under water now!
If you’re worried about leaping headfirst into an MMO that has been trucking along for some years now, there are shortcuts available. Square Enix has made it possible to skip the story up to the beginning of Stormblood for $25. This may seem trivial to some seasoned MMO players, but it can be worth it to bypass the less impressive content to get to the good stuff.