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Review: Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood (Patch 4.1)

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The Legend Returns

Final Fantasy XIV has now entered its "catch-up state." Whereas 4.0 was all about catering to the hardcore side with a four-level raid tier and new item cap to work toward, 4.1, known as The Legend Returns, doesn't shake up the formula in any monumental way until its single "Ultimate Coil" battle drops in a few weeks.

While catch-up patches aren't quite as exciting, I'm still going to be actively playing until 4.2 hits -- so Square Enix did something right!

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

Ala Mhigo has been saved, so what's next? Zenos Yae Galvus left a big hole in the story, and now the campaign has to deal with the aftermath and all of the unresolved plots therein. I'm still invested in seeing where the whole reconstruction effort goes, bolstered by strong new leads like Lyse and Raubahn. An impressive solo boss fight with Lakshmi caps it all off, and makes a great case for AI-controlled dungeons and boss fights (which is something you can do with the enhanced Squadron mechanic).

4.1 introduces only one new dungeon, the Drowned City of Skalla, which follows the same linear pattern since 2.0. That's not always a bad thing as Skalla is going to mix up the expert roulette a bit, but I really do wish there were more to choose from at level 70. While I get the idea of staggering content (4.2 will allegedly get two dungeons), and the dungeons themselves are high in quality, the idea of doing the same three or four locations over and over overstays its welcome by the time I've ran my fourth roulette.

Beast Tribe quests never really engaged me the same way grinding for Exalted status did in World of Warcraft, but it's here if you want it now in Stormblood with the ninja turtles. It's an excuse to visit the Ruby Sea again, albeit an innocuous one. As you start to dig down into the nitty gritty though, The Legend Returns really showcases how masterful Square Enix's XIV team is at making high-end content.

The 24-person raid, while short and mostly a boss rush, is beautiful. Return to Ivalice is sure to turn some heads as Keita Amemiya, film director and illustrator collaborated with Matsuno Yasumi, director of Tactics Ogre, FF Tactics, and XII to create this casual raid experience. As one of the only post-launch confrontations with voice acting and quite a few new mechanics, the mashing up of Tactics and XII works far better than you'd expect it to.

An incredible soundtrack and a decent micro-narrative are also a bonus, making this the best 24-person attempt yet. The whole idea of a mid-grade experience that I can jump into at any time calls to me when my static isn't available to go for parse runs (read: high-score attack) in Omega Savage. One criticism I do have is at a macro-level -- the raid roulette, which shuffles all 24-person raids outside of Ivalice, provides extremely poor rewards and has no incentive whatsoever.

Speaking of raid-level content, Shinryu EX, a remake of the last boss fight from Stormblood's story, is another fun, challenging, and finely-tuned battle. The difficulty is supposed to hit right around V2S and V3S, which I feel is an accurate take from the development team. Shinryu is simply an awe-inspiring setpiece that you'd show off to your non MMO-playing friends, and the constant shifting of mechanics will keep you on your toes. It has a few surprises too, like a really interesting bit where you need to efficiently heal enemy mobs. Shinryu might not be as recognizable as say, Ifrit or Shiva, but based on his FFXIV incarnation, he's more memorable than most of the mainstay summons/primals/espers/eidolons.

You want fluff? You got it with a new housing district of Shirogane. Sike! It sold out in 10 minutes after the servers went up in the wee hours of Tuesday morning! At the very least you can visit it, get an apartment there, or become a tenant in a friend's house. As for me, I'm keeping my beautiful seaside cottage in Mist, thank you very much. There are a few things that aren't coming just yet either, including the Ultimate Savage raid tier (4.11), the Rival Wings mech PVP mode (4.15) and the Bard's "perform" action (4.15).

Stormblood as a whole has kept me playing every week since its launch, and The Legend Returns only builds on that strong substructure. I'm still clearing Neo with a regular cadence on my Paladin, but given the enhanced ability to earn lower tier gear I'm also working on my Scholar, Dark Knight, Bard, White Mage, Warrior, and Summoner. Three months until the next raid tier is a long way away, but I'll be ready for it.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. Patch reviews are sort of a snapshot of the state of the game right now, including all past and present content.]


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Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood: The Legend Returns reviewed by Chris Carter

8

GREAT

Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
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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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