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Review: Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward (Patch 3.4)

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Soul Surrender

Finding myself overwhelmed by keeping up to date with an increasing amount of MMOs and other MMO-like games, I've been taking a break from Final Fantasy XIV for the past six months or so.

I still logged in from time to time to partake in the festivals and the like (especially the Yo-Kai Watch event), but my hardcore raiding days were on pause. The beauty of XIV is that Square Enix is working around the clock to add new stuff into the mix, so I had a lot to come back to with the latest patch, Soul Surrender.

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward (PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed])
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
MSRP: $39.99 ($12.99 per month)
Released: June 23, 2015

I've been consistently impressed with Final Fantasy XIV's ability to tell a story. Not only is it full of a lot of wit that shines in the localization (a rarity these days), but it feels like a fully-fledged mainline entry at this point when you combine the Realm Reborn and Heavensward campaigns. I sincerely hope that one day, years down the line, the subscription requirement is waived so staunch "no sub" supporters who would have otherwise checked it out can experience it.

That said, playing on PS4 has its limits, and each grandiose patch after another has taken its toll on the system. In many areas, including the hub area of Idyllshire (which has undergone incremental structural updates in line with the story), the framerate has slowed to a crawl at this point. I occasionally would log in on my PS3 in another room just to see how that port was going, but the lines are starting to blur on consoles. Whether this can be addressed with a PS4 Pro update or some more optimization is yet to be seen.

The dungeons are still beautiful, and better looking than any other MMO on the market. And the bosses? Man they have this thing down to a science. Both Xelphatol and the Great Gubal Library (Hard) offer something new, especially the last boss of the latter that brings out different books and even summons the classic Behemoth (which has been used as a raid boss, a hunt target, and world boss and still hasn't gotten old). But perhaps "science" is the best term here, as things have started to get formulaic.

Gone are the days of extended side paths and open-ended dungeons like Haukke Manor from Realm Reborn. Everything in Heavensward has been linear, and Hullbreaker's hard mode last patch was a comically bad example. Anecdotally, I entered Gubal for the very first time with my Paladin, told my matchmade group, and pulled the first group instinctively like a speedrun to the gate. I was solicited with "I thought this was your first time?" messages. It was. I've just been doing this since Brayflox's Longstop (infamous in the eyes of old-school Zodiac chasers), and the strategy for trash pulls hasn't changed much since then.

But again, the actual fights, the thrill of hunting again on the world map with active groups, the new EX trials (even hard mode) -- unmatched. Following up on the Final Fantasy VI theme of the Warring Triad bosses, it's a proper EX with new mechanics to learn, and forces a constant requirement of staying on your toes. The removal of the item limit from the Lost City of Mhach (my favorite casual 20-person raid so far) is also a nice bonus.

The main event for dedicated, always-on players though is Alexander the Creator, a worthy third wave of the main Heavensward hardcore raid. Naturally there's a normal mode with options to PUG groups, but statics (read: people who log in at the same time and play together) are salivating at the chance to have a relevant Savage (hard) mode to tackle. What I've played is par for the course, which is to say that there's very little wasted time pacing-wise, and the fights are challenging and require everyone to do their part.

Then there are the hundreds of other changes I can't possibly cover that arrived with 3.4. Dueling is now in by popular demand (but can only be done in the PVP zone), and the housing market has improved with the addition of apartments (I bought one for 500,000, it's great!). There's also fish tanks, jukeboxes, a massive expansion of the Triple Triad card game, and lots of other quality of life and controller changes. Sidequests are light this time around but there's an unusually touching one in the mix, and the extension of Grand Companies (including Final Fantasy Tactics or more recently, WoW: Legion "excursions" to send troops on) is long overdue.

The Final Fantasy XIV team is tireless, and having played MMOs for roughly 20 years, I haven't seen this level of dedication when it comes to major content patches in a while. But with its commitment to theme-park sensibilities, the game needs a shakeup in the near future -- we're still on Heavensward time after all, which was released over a year ago. The formula is starting to show its age, but it's still near the top of the MMO pile.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward: Soul Surrender reviewed by Chris Carter

7.5

GOOD

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures


 



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