Last updated on August 7th, 2015
Announcing FINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward!
The 1st expansion for FFXIV set to release in Spring 2015!
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn’s first expansion pack, Heavensward, was first announced at the Las Vegas Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival in 2014 and information has been continuously released since then at the London and Tokyo Fan Festivals. In this article we shall examine what players can expect from this first expansion pack in Square Enix’s MMO reboot which is set to release in 2015. With Heavensward, the setting of the Final Fantasy XIV now fully shifts to the Theocracy of Ishgard located in the frozen mountains and wastes of the Coerthas Highlands. The story of Heavensward will be focusing upon the “Dragonsong War,” a holy war that has lasted ”for millennia” between Ishgard and the Dragons of Dravania.
MMO expansion packs are a very different beast to most modern day DLC packages. A typical expansion pack offers months and months of content, usually by creating a new end-game cycle with hundreds of hours of content. The Changes to A Realm Reborn, Additional content and the crucial Main Concept that hinges everything together in this upcoming expansion pack will be evaluated in this article.
As mentioned above the expansion pack will be a chance for the development team to implement player feedback of A Realm Reborn into the game as well as changes they’ve wished to make to the game themselves for some time. A variety of new features and changes to current systems will be implemented due to this. Before we examine new content we should look at these design changes that Square Enix wants to start implementing in Heavensward.
Changes from A Realm Reborn
The world design was one of the main complaints that players had with A Realm Reborn (and was my main gripe with the title.) The ”Open World” of A Realm Reborn has a lot of design variety in individual areas and as a whole which is nice but it’s far too small, lacks a sense of scale in most areas and worse of all, claustrophobic due to the lack of space. Square Enix has acknowledged this problem and will address it with the expansion containing ”very, very large field areas.” From preview videos and screenshots that Square Enix has provided the areas do seem to stack up to their claims, with areas appearing large, expansive and open. The problems of the design of the world also impacted another important area of the game, exploration and open world content.
Exploration and ‘Open World Content’
A larger and more expansive world, combined with the ability to fly, has allowed Square Enix by their own admission to focus a lot more on areas that were somewhat lacking in A Realm Reborn, exploration and open world content. With specific reference to the ”Sea of Clouds” area (a series of floating continents and islands) Square Enix also claimed to be implementing systems that would allow open world content to become a more legitimate form of progression. It was highlighted that it could become a ”play-style” of progression in the game. It seems natural that the most popular open world content, The Hunt will be included but it remains to be seen what other systems Square Enix has in the pipework.
Level Cap being raised from 50 to 60 for all Combat, Crafting and Gathering Classes
Naturally this can be problematic as balancing this raise in context of all game systems and class’ is incredibly challenging for developers. There are many questions raised from this. How fast will levelling be? How will this impact PvP? What new abilities will all the Classes and Jobs get?
Class and Job system changes (Possibly?)
Currently the class system in place has the player level a ‘base’ Class to 30 along with a ‘sub’ Class to 15 in order to unlock a Job at level 30 that then levels up with your base Class to the level cap. And the player can jump between all the different Classes and Jobs at will. With Heavensward there are no Classes being added but three Jobs that Square Enix have confirmed don’t require any ‘base’ Class have been. It stands to reason that this suggests that post-Heavensward, the Class and Job combo system is being done away with and being replace with just Jobs. Although not much beyond the fact that the Jobs have no base Class has been confirmed. More information has to be released before we can figure out what Square Enix is planning to do with their class system.
The Heavensward Concept: the Impact of Flight
As mentioned earlier in the article, The Main concept will be flight, the ability for the player to freely travel through the air in a variety of different forms and scenarios with no set paths or restrictions.The ability to fly and flyable are a pretty standard MMO and Final Fantasy tradition so it is little surprise that flight is the main focus of the Heavensward Expansion Pack. Square Enix have been very keen to stress that the flight system will not be bound by flight-paths or boundaries. If you can see it on the horizon you can take off and reach it at your own leisure. As mentioned previously it appears that Square Enix wants to utilise this as more than another form of transport or aesthetic choice, exploration and a range of content seems tightly bound to this form of travel.
In addition to this, Free Companies (Player Guilds) will be able to begin constructing Free Company Airships. Little is currently known about this feature
What sort of content will be available?
Three new Jobs have so far been confirmed: Dark Knight, Machinist and Astrologian. Each one will fill in the MMO Holy Trinity: One Tank, one DPS and one Healer. It is unknown if any more Jobs will be announced, although it seems unlikely. However the XIV team are renowned for their surprises and trolling so more could pop out of the woodwork. One Job that definitely won’t be coming with Heavensward is Samurai with Naoki Yoshida confirming it wouldn’t appear until a later expansion pack. But the question on everyone’s lips is what will the three new Jobs be like?
Dark Knight – The Tank
Uses a Greatsword and Dark Magic. Inspired by Berserk and similar to the Dark Knight versions that appear in Final Fantasy II & III.
Machinist – The DPS
Uses a modified Firearm and places ‘Turrets’ of varying types.
Astrologian – The Healer
Uses a ‘Star Globe’ to heal players. Also have a ‘Divining Deck’ to cast buffs.
Little has been revealed beyond this basic information. It remains to be seen if or how much they vary from the Jobs already in A Realm Reborn or how they fit into the party system as a whole.
New Playable Race
A new playable race the Au Ra were confirmed by Square Enix to be coming with Heavensward. They are Dravanian/Elezen hybrids that originate from the continent of Othard, to the East. They have a kinda creepy creation mythos that involves the Primal Shiva which I will not delve into here. The mysterious NPC Ninja Yugiri Mistwalker is an Au Ra (and will presumably reveal her face in the near future.)
New Primals and Beast Tribes
Three new ‘Primals’ (The ‘Summons’/’Espers’ of Final Fantasy XIV) and two new ‘Beast Tribes’ (Tribes of sentient creatures that worship a specific Primal) have been confirmed. These include the Primal Bismark and the tribe, the Vanu Vanu, the Primal Ravana (A XIV original Summon. Insect like creature) and the tribe, the Gnat. In addition to these the Primal Alexander has been confirmed but his role will be radically different to that of most Primals.
New Dungeons and Raids
A large number of new Dungeons have been confirmed. As have new Raids. One Raid in particular has been confirmed with the Primal Alexander being confirmed as one of the Raids in Heavensward. Players will have to enter the body of Alexander itself to defeat it.
So to conclude the Heavensward for Final Fantasy XIV looks set to build upon the solid foundations that A Realm Reborn laid down. By expanding the world, exploration aspects and the level of threat out in the open world in addition to promising a vast amount of content, Final Fantasy XIV continues to expand and evolve its content which is crucial to sustaining the success that Naoki Yoshida and his team have managed, against all odds, to build.