Sunday, June 21, 2015

FFXIV: Heavensward Early Access

Early Access for FFXIV's new expansion, Heavensward, started on Friday. I had put FFXIV on the back burner for the last couple months, but I jumped in and had a look around with my paladin.

I had already done the Main Story Quest from the 2.1-2.5 patches. FFXIV requires them to unlock pretty much everything in Heavensward, save for the new race. However, I believe they've added gear to the Main Story Line that prepares you for the expansion, so you can skip the gear grind of the 2.0 endgame.

I've mostly been going through the Main Story Quest. I've completed the first zone so far. So far, it's pretty much just FFXIV, just more. Same style of quests and small stories. I did the first dungeon and first new primal. Both were pretty nice and reasonably easy. Thankfully, I'm a tank, so queues are instant. I've heard that queues for the other roles are pretty long. On the other hand, mobs in the expac seem to have a lot of hitpoints, so questing does take longer as a tank.

Heavensward is also extending the Job class stories, and giving out new abilities. I'm running out of hotbar space, though, so I'm not sure how useful this is, exactly.

In addition to the new zones and new stories, there are three new classes: Machinist, Dark Knight, and Astrologian. I haven't tried any of them yet.

The game also got a DirectX 11 version. I'm using it and it seems good. Though honestly, I don't really remember the old graphics, so I cannot really compare. The water looks really pretty now. The DX11 performance is fine for me, and my machine is about 3 years old (GeForce GTX 660 Ti).

Heavensward also introduced flying in the new zones. However, their solution to flying is the same as WoW's compromise. Each zone contains Aetheric Currents which you have to find and attune to. As well, certain quests also reward Aetheric Currents, so you have to complete those. Essentially, you have to finish exploring and questing in a zone before you can fly in it. However, since FFXIV isn't a seamless world, you unlock flying in each zone separately.

If you liked FFXIV before, you'll enjoy Heavensward. It's basically more of the same. If you didn't like FFXIV, I don't think Heavensward will change your mind.


  1. Actually your take on flying isn't completely correct. While you do have to explore the zone to get where they are, not every side quest needs be completed. That is more of a case of no indications. So, it's a bit different from WoW's finish every single thing in the game before you can fly compromise - you don't have to do all your class quests, all of the hunts, all of the FATEs, collect all of the treasures, do all of the side quests, all of the Temple Leves, etc. It's more of main story, explore (and if you know where they are, not explore so hard), and some side quests.

    There are also side quests that don't open until a higher level that you would come back for and you should have flying by then. It's more of an initial once over really with the zone, and more opens up later.

    And, I would say the story in Heavensward is a lot better than FFXIV's with some more interesting ideas put into the quests. The Duties with the Fortemps brothers for instance were nice sequences.

    But, you're right about Heavensward not changing minds...mostly because they have to play the stuff they didn't like first anyway to get there.

    1. I don't see the flight requirements as much different. Treasures is not much different than Aetheric Currents. Some of the AC quests required previous quests to unlock them, so you end up having to do pretty much every quest in the zone.

      As well, the first zone required a dungeon to unlock flying. WoW's flying requirement is entirely solo, with no group content required.

    2. From what I understand, WoW requires Loremaster completed, some sort of reputations, 100 treasures, and something else I can't recall (something about dailies?)

      All you need for Heavensward to do is:
      1) Explore
      2) Do certain side quests - if you know which ones you can skip the other ones.
      3) Main quests.

      Admitedly, there is a dungeon locked behind one of them but I don't really see it as that big of a deal considering most players would do this dungeon either way.

      Most importantly, new side quests do pop up for higher levels which means the zones continue to be used later for other quests. WoW's design is to finish everything then you can fly, FFXIV's is finish the right things and you can fly but there is still more out there.

      That is honestly the biggest difference. Both are gated - I would even say flying in Draenor may be easier for a new player since new players in ARR have to do old content but in the long run, ARR's will be more USEFUL to the player.

      Most importantly, ARR is giving flight pre-patch which always adds more story and will have you going back to the Ishgard zones which means flight will be useful there.

      But, yeah, the problem with flight is there's no way to know which quest or quest chain will be needed without a third party guide.

  2. FWIW, I'm running a 4 year old pc with a GeForce Ti550 and FFXIV is running beautifully for me in DX11 also, so bravo to Squeenix for that.

    I'm with you on the whole "it's more of the same." As I put it in my own post on the 1st weekend -- it feels like it's simply a natural progression of the game. Nothing jumps out as shiny and new, it's just more FFXIV. So I'm with you -- if you liked it before you'll still like it, and if you didn't, it's not going to change your mind, especially since like the comment before me says -- they'd have to play through what they didn't like to get to the expansion anyway.

    1. That's quite true. If you've put in the time to get to the point where you can unlock and enter the expansion, it very likely that you'll enjoy it. Someone who didn't like this style of play would have dropped out earlier.

  3. I see the 'more of the same' as a huge positive all around. For current players, the game hasn't changed on them like WoW is rather infamous for (liked 40 man raids? We cut those to 10/25! Liked open world? We added phasing! Like PvP X, we turned it into PvP Y!), for Square it will work for them as well, given that FFXIV is very likely the largest sub MMO today, and for future players they are more likely than not to have a reason to jump in and get into a better game (more stuff).

    The only people 'hurt' by this approach are those who didn't like FFXIV, but again given the success rate, and the uncertainty of changing the game so that maybe they would like it, I think its a very smart approach.

    1. That's true, but then again, the thing about "more of the same" is that eventually you master it and drop away. Some change is necessary to keep interest. Perhaps WoW changes too much, but I do like seeing their experiments.

      Actually, it might be interesting to argue that, with switching classes, FFXIV makes it easy for the player to change and learn new things. Which in turn makes it easier for FFXIV to keep the surrounding structure the same.