First impressions are everything in this world. In part one of this Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward review log, we’re going to take a look at what you can expect from Heavensward when you first pop it in, through your first five hours. While five hours isn’t enough to judge the expansion proper, it’s just enough time to either hook you in, or leave you unimpressed.
The quickest way to leave a bad first impression in the MMORPG world is launch week server issues. Depending on when you’re reading this, this may not even be a thought in your brain, but it’s worth putting it out there that Square Enix has done an admirable job keeping the servers up during launch. If you’re on a mega popular server such as Balmung, there might be some hiccups such as ~15 minute wait times to log in or the occasional boot from the server, but by and large, FFXIV: Heavensward has avoided the launch week woes. Once the rush dies down, I fully expect even those minor issues to be ironed out.
With that out of the way, let’s dig into the actual content. Assuming you’ve cleared all the 2.X quests, you’ll be picking up right where you left off with Alphinaud in Coerthas and will begin your escape to the newly accessible city-state of Ishgard. Arguably the most exciting part about MMORPG expansions is the exploration of the unknown after grinding the same content for so long. Ishgard doesn’t disappoint.
Square Enix didn’t skimp on fleshing out Ishgard, it’s just as large and prominent as the original three city-states in vanilla FFXIV. It has a Gothic style architecture with Arthurian England-like lore. While played out in media as a whole, surprisingly, FFXIV hasn’t explored this yet, so it feels fresh here. It’s filled with great sightseeing spots both in the city, and around the outskirts looking out into the horizon. You also have your typical seedy neighborhoods housing unscrupulous characters and hole in the wall bars.
After arriving in Ishgard and getting used to the lay of the land, there are two major activities to get you started with the new content. Press on with the main quest, or explore one of the three new jobs. In the first five hours, I was able to rip off a decent chunk of both.
Heavensward’s main quest line will take you through a tour of the new areas and begins the story of picking up the pieces of 2.5’s conclusion, along with the insertion of the main character into the Dragonsong War. Heavensward’s new areas are humongous and awe inspiring. Areas like the Sea of Clouds, portray a sense of wonder with its brightness, excellent music, and unique landscape such as the floating islands that are meant to be traversed via flying mounts. Even snowy areas such as the Western Coerthas Highlands, uses its sheer scale and the brutality of the never ending snow to wow players.
Heavensward’s story is riveting, but still rife with time wasting filler quests. In the first five hours, you can start to see where the story is going. Yourself and Alphinaud are bouncing back and forth between Ishgard’s Dragonsong War and trying to fix the mess back in Ul’Dah. The new characters are very likable and fleshed out, and it’s lovely when returning characters get thrown back into the mix as well. The quests that drive the story forward are extremely well done, but it just sucks that with every one of those, you get two or three filler quests that include being your resident hero delivery man and trying to cheer up soldiers scattered across an area. It’s par for the course as far as MMORPGs go, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying and time consuming. We’ll see whether the drama of the story or the annoyances of the filler quests ultimately win out in future logs.
The new jobs in Heavensward are a bit hit and miss so far. Only the Machinist (DPS) feels completely foreign with its offensive minded gun attacks, ammunition based gameplay, and turrets. The Astrologian (healer) and Dark Knight (tank), feel much safer.
Dark Knights, although their abilities have a different name, have the same basic functions and routine as the Warrior and Paladin. You have your AoE enmity grab, eminity combo, and ranged attack for pulling. Where Dark Knight differs is more on the DPS side of things. Dark Knights must mix in MP siphoning attacks while holding hate in order to maintain their MP draining offensive aura, Darkside.
Astrologian, at least early on in four person dungeon content, feels very similar to White Mage and Scholar with an element of luck via its Draw ability. I chose Astrologian for myself as my main new job (among a crew of friends each touting the other two new jobs), and aside from placing a minor buff on my allies every 30 seconds or so, not much feels new. However this feeling may change once the stance switching Diurnal Sect and Nocturnal Sect starts to enter play. Looking ahead at the abilities, I’ll need to decide if I want to focus on health regeneration or protective buffs. These stances were designed with eight person content in mind, so hopefully I have the opportunity to try it out there soon.
That wraps up the first part of our FFXIV: Heavensward review log! Next time I’ll be focusing on exploration of the new areas, new side activities such as flying mounts, and further update my feelings on the new jobs and the main story quest. See you then!