Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward - Soaring Highs Tempered By Tedious Tasks
Square Enix’s first expansion for Final Fantasy XIV is a mixed bag. While it supplies a ton of new content, including some great endgame challenges, new jobs, and a smattering of other fun ways to spend time after you hit the updated level 60 cap, the journey there leaves much to be desired.
Almost everything of substance related to Heavensward is gated behind the story from Final Fantasy XIV, meaning new players must complete a copious amount of story content in order to begin exploring level 50-plus zones, unlocking flying, and taking on new trials and dungeons. I don’t have a problem with that, as it makes sense that new players should catch up on what’s going on first and be the correct level before diving in to new content. What’s puzzling to me is the three new jobs are also gated – you won’t be able to swap to a machinist, dark knight, or astrologian unless you’ve gained access to the new Heavensward areas.
The new zones look great and have a nice mix of monsters, with most of them featuring vertical exploration to take advantage of the fact that players can now take to the sky in Heavensward zones. The catch is that you have to tag a multitude of aether currents and complete some quests in each zone before you unlock the ability. Flight is essential to have in order to unlock endgame dungeons or to complete Heavensward hunts. This wouldn’t be so bad by itself, but having to track down these locations combined with the questing options leave much to be desired in the high level game.
Fates, which are random events players engage in for experience and other rewards, were a popular way to level up new jobs in pre-expansion content. Sadly on release, Fates in the new zones are being ignored by the player base because the reward yield is vastly inferior to almost any other activity. The rote quests that make up the leveling fare from 50-60 range from bland to absurdly annoying, sometimes going so far as to just have the player walk from points A to B a multitude of times to talk to the same characters. Maybe you need to find moogles playing hide-and-seek. Whatever the task on the standard quest front, you’re probably not having a good time. Trudging through this busy work is frustrating.
In stark contrast, the dungeon, trial, and story content is the most interesting in available in Final Fantasy XIV. Square includes some excellent nods for old-school Final Fantasy fans to explore, from Matoya’s Cave filled with curious brooms to an awesome library dungeon clearly inspired by the Library of the Ancients in Final Fantasy V. The endgame content is robust and interesting, and you’ll have plenty to do even with current offerings – two level cap dungeons, two EX (Harder versions) trials, crafting, gathering, a meaty Alexander raid, and hunts for seals to upgrade your gear to prepare for even more content down the line.
The roulette system offers endgame currency on a daily basis for players willing to dive into random content from within the entire game. This is a great way to keep things fresh for level 60 players and ensures that low-level players have people to party with as they come up through story dungeons and trials.
Heavensward offers a ton of content for existing players and has many fun and engaging things to do – once you’re at cap. Until then, get ready to run around looking for lost moogles and, if you’re new, working through a ton of existing content before taking to the skies on your warking chocobo.
Impressions were generated by taking an existing story-complete character as a new job (machinist) through expansion content to level cap (currently item level 168). Gameplay was experienced on PC.
You can check out some gameplay in our Test Chamber or listen/watch us chat about Heavensward in a recent podcast!