No Calm before the Storm

With a huge overhaul of the original game and a now sizable community under its belt Final Fantasy XIV is the new standard as far as mmorpgs go and one of the biggest out there right now. Stormblood is the second expansion after the successful Heavensward and sees the Hero of Light cross the border into Ala Mhigo territory and into the new continent of Othard.

Final Fantasy XIV is well known for its rich story and Stormblood is no different. While the story of Heavensward is well delivered Stormblood narrates a story on War and Oppression whilst the characters counteract situations with their own desperate measures while throwing some humour into the balance. The cutscenes in Stormblood too are great, some of the story characters have individual new emotions; the anger and sadness in peoples faces can be felt and is much more noticeable also with some characters running as if they aren’t following a scripted play.

The battle system has been given a fresh coat of paint. Every job currently in game has been tweaked. It doesn’t matter which job you play as lining up damage over time abilities is minimum. Stormblood has removed many abilities whilst merging others to be more useful. There is also a Role ability screen which has taken over the Cross Class abilities. One example of this is you will no longer need to level a Thaumaturge to access the Swiftcast ability as an essential part of a Healers rotation. Instead this will be available on all healing roles. You will be able to pick five of these abilities for your current job. The result of this is Classes feeling fresh again due to not being cluttered with so many abilities that were not being used. One of the other big changes was higher level tier abilities; having all variations of Stone on hotbars also made them feel cluttered but was essential as doing lower level duties would lock out the later variations. Instead you are now able to have just one Stone ability on your hotbar; this will change depending on your current synchronised level. All jobs now branch off without the need of a sub class; no longer will you need to level up Arcanist alongside Conjurer to become a White Mage as you will just need to level Conjurer; this makes it easier for new players to keep with a job if they like it without needing to spend time catching up.

Along with two new jobs added into Stormblood comes various User Interface elements; these are gauges which help keep track of job specific mechanics. These are tailor made for each job and not only do they look awesome, they can be scaled to a size of your fitting so it doesn’t take up too much of the screen. The two new jobs which are Samurai and Red Mage can both be unlocked and the only pre-requisites are that you have a level 50 job in one of the other classes and the Stormblood expansion.

The newest way of traveling introduced into Final Fantasy Stormblood is swimming; there is no underwater combat however. Swimming becomes one of the primary ways of traveling on certain maps and all flying mounts are available to use here. I have found using all three Disciples of the Land fun underwater. The Fisher job has also been given a lot of love with the expansion and can Spearfish in new areas giving them nodes much like Botanists and Miners have up until now; along with a vast range of new abilities which make them a gathering class that can now rival the others.

Stormblood is beautiful to look at. The eastern style themed maps are huge; even more than what we have seen in Heavensward. Flying and Swimming makes it even more fun to traverse these areas and why wouldn’t you want to? Swimming is definitely something different in Stormblood as the water effects are short of amazing. There are even waters that can now be traversed in areas of Eorzea. Not only this but the musical score once again is something that is far beyond great; I was in complete delight when I first heard some of the music in Stormblood and listening to it now is as joyful as the first time I had heard it. I have found myself standing in Kugane for this very reason as it is also beautiful to look at as is the Azim Steppe. Being underwater in the Ruby Sea at night time is also relaxing and my prime time for fishing.

The leveling experience from 60 to 70 is less than a grind than it was in Heavensward. This may be due to the expansion being shorter than its previous although for me it hasn’t felt like it as there is always new side quests to tackle easily going off of the Main Scenario track. Quests themselves give a reasonable amount of experience now and there are plenty about. New FATEs give big boosts to experience gained and an experience buff is given if a Crystal Maiden spawns during a FATE and is then defeated. This buff gives a sizable amount of exp to be given on the next FATE. Some will even provide hefty experience at random making it a great way to level. DPS ques have taken a beating somewhat since the expansion release due to the two new jobs being damage dealers. In time this will change but for now ques seem to be very lengthy and dungeon ques for a DPS are unfortunately not fun. Dungeons themselves are super fun and require a bit of focus to get through them with new mechanics we haven’t seen before. The end goal is ultimately the same and there are a few dungeons as-well as a raid to keep interest however those who lost interest in Heavensward very quick will find Stormblood very tedious.

Stormblood being an expansion and the way that it is locked behind completing Heavensward including all its prior patches makes it a long road for those who are new to the game or are wanting to play with friends and catch up. Square have addressed this by releasing new items for sale on the Mogstation which allow players to instantly finish the main scenario in preparation for Stormblood or for Heavensward if they so wish. Using these currently is a one time deal meaning you can only use one per character per service account. By using the item after it is delivered to you in game you will be logged out. On returning in game you will be shown a message and the game will put you in an inn room. The next quest will be the one that takes you into the expansion and you will have access to all pets/titles/mounts/dungeons and teleport crystals that are acquired through the story so far.

The other item is also one per service account and allows you to instantly level to 60 on a job you have yet to aswell as give you a set of gear and unlock all the abilities for that job. It works in the same way as the story jump items but instead when you log in it recommends you visit the novice hall to get accustomed to your new role. It should be noted that these cannot be used on the two new jobs which are the Samurai and Red Mage.

Square Enix have once again done a fantastic job on another expansion to one of the greatest mmorpgs out there. There is plenty more to go back and unlock once you hit 70 provided you haven’t unlocked them first; still the beauty of this game is being able to do things at your own pace. Stormblood is a heavily story driven mmorpg that delivers on so much and players will find themselves absorbed in its majestic world.

A PC Review code was provided by Square Enix