Hello again, adventurous readers! As the site gears up for a few changes, which you will see in due time and which I hope you receive well, I would like to recount an adventure of my own in the recently released expansion of SquareEnix’s much-redeemed MMO Final Fantasy XIV. In A Realm Reborn, the aptly named relaunch of the originally lack luster MMO, I was finally sucked into the world of MMOs having never been given to the idea with the likes of World of Warcraft. But something became immediately clear about this MMO that drew me into it, along with some friends. While I had no prior experience with MMOs, my friends had all been long-time players of WoW at some point, among other MMOs. As I detailed previously here on Lcom, FFXIV seemed much more like a console RPG, in its mechanics and, as I would later discover, in its progression design.
I would become fairly addicted to this game, spending generally more time with it than my friends, who all had been through their own MMO phase years ago. I would learn to enjoy the game at my own pace and, even considering I never got too deep into the end-game content, I still managed to assemble some of the best gear for my main class, the Dragoon, and build up respectable sets for most of the other DPS classes. And now that Heavensward is upon us, I have been able to dive right back in to the world of Eorzea with a whole slew of exciting things to work toward once again. When I last left off, I was in the middle of a very slow and steady grind to gain a few more item levels on my Dragoon’s gear set, but after going through just a few of the new story line quests I was being handed gear well above the previous maximum of 135. Currently my Dragoon sits at item level 141 with a character level of 59, one shy of the new level cap of 60. Of course the update did more than give players better gear to obtain, it added on a full suite of story quests, mounts, new zones, the ability to fly in some zones, and new character skills as well as three new jobs.
The new Dragoon skills, as well as the tweaks to his old ones, have really helped me maintain an interest in executing a rotation that had become complete second nature. When booting up the game for the first time in months, I was a bit worried at first that I would not be able to dive into the newer content at level 50 because I was not sure I remembered how to play. That fear melted, as I should have known it would, once I realized that the skill rotation and general gameplay mechanics were still easily recalled. It would take more than just a few months to forget all my time with this game. As a side note, you can now call up your account’s logged playtime and mine stands at a slightly worrisome 70 days or 1,680 hours. This does include all of the copious AFK time and I do realize that, for an MMO, this time is laughable.
But, back to the new skills, it seems like SquareEnix wanted to make sure every build had some kind of contribution to make to a team besides being a damage dealer for the DPS classes. The Dragoon, previously, had little to offer his group besides being pretty decent at applying damage to his target. He could buff himself, both offensively and defensively, which helped a lot during the solo portions of the game. But for the instanced party content, his role was usually better filled by a Monk that could silence a target or a Bard that could replenish MP and TP. Now, the Dragoon can give damage bonuses to the whole party and his rotation is more dependent on maintaining speed of execution over being very bursty, as he was before. Overall it makes the class feel faster and more relevant, although he must now contend with the shiny new Machinist class. I have only spent enough time with that class (or job, as it is properly called) to get it to level 48, but I feel like I have gotten a good grasp of the intended mechanics.
So far, the Machinist seems like a nice balance between being a very supporty DPS like the Bard and being a ranged utility DPS like the Summoner. The Machinist relies heavily on buffing himself so that his rotation will follow-through, by loading special ammunition into his gun, and allowing his more powerful skills to trigger. He also has access to at least one auto-attacking minion that can be switched to an AoE MP or TP replenishment mode for members of the party. So far, he is not as consistent as something like the Monk or Dragoon, but he has a lot more utility and as a ranged class he is inherently less effected by enemy attacks. I usually give it until about level 45 or so before I can safely say I want to keep leveling a certain class or job, and so far I am still enjoying my time with the Machinist. It is also worth noting that the new jobs, namely the Dark Knight, the Astrologian, and the Machinist, all start out at level 30 with no base class. Starting one of those jobs simply comes with a whole bunch of weapon skills and traits, which I found to be a good move.
So mechanically, the game has seen many compelling improvements, like flying mounts and the newly added jobs, but the story and presentation also have a lot to add. This time, the story takes place mostly in and around Ishgard, which we only got to see a small portion of through the Coerthas Central Highlands. The expansion brings players through the Ishgardian capital city, the Coerthas Western Highlands, new areas in Dravania and the very beautiful Sea of Clouds. The heavy focus on Ishgard, which was always my favorite area throughout 2.0, has helped to open up a lot of the backstory of the world of Eorzea as Ishgard is supposed to be a very isolated country that has observed most the rest of the world from afar for centuries. Even more remote are the peaks of an ancient mountain you travel to in Dravania, which is supposed to be untrodden by man for thousands of years. The history really comes alive in this expansion, so for those invested in the story of FFXIV the quests here should whet the appetite. And with new dungeons as well as the new raids set to open up in a few weeks, the amount on offer is comparable to that seen in the 2.0 relaunch.
My only complaints are that the added music is not quite up to par with what was originally made for 2.0 and that the story questline gets a bit formulaic by having players enter a new area, befriend a local beast tribe and then run favors for them while defending them against an evil faction of their tribe before being given permission to pass through. After three separate instances of this exact scenario in the expansion, I got a bit bored with the dynamic. Other than that, it is all blue skies in Heavensward. If you have played along in the expansion, or plan to, give me your thoughts! And if you can manage to get a spot on Sargatanas, say hi if you see me!