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Review: Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood (Patch 4.2)

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Rise of a New Sun

The Final Fantasy XIV team has one hell of a way of dropping a patch on its playerbase. The notes for 4.2 basically comprise a short story, detailing myriad quality-of-life improvements like more bag space, as well as ancillary content like more costumes and mounts.

But 4.2 (titled "Rise of a New Sun") is a lot more than just a cosmetic update -- it's one of the biggest content drops in the history of the game now that Square Enix is giving us the Savage (hard) version of the raid on day one.

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood (PC, PS4 [reviewed])
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
MSRP: $39.99 ($12.99 per month)
Released: June 20, 2017

Rise of a New Sun uses the same "new tomestone (endgame currency), gear up for Savage (endgame raiding)" principle as past patches. For some that's tiring. I'm of the frame of mind that XIV is a themepark MMO, and that as long as what we're given is fun and engaging to play, I'll keep subscribing to it. Over time my interest in FFXIV waxes and wanes depending on the patch (Square Enix still hasn't figured out how to deal with content droughts at the end of each expansion), but 4.2 has re-invigorated the already impressive world of Stormblood.

It's all about how they approach the formula. I don't need every MMO to be groundbreaking, and in XIV's case, it's just a beautiful, relaxing, and often challenging game I can go back to almost every day if I feel like it. Frequent major content drops and an ongoing storyline help, and although I typically go through that transitional campaign content in a matter of days, I appreciate the level of worldbuilding that's going on through high-quality cutscenes. It feels like a real mainline Final Fantasy that's fun to play solo, or with a party of your choice just like any other.

Again, most of those story bits transition into what you're going to be doing long term, otherwise known as endgame. 4.2's dungeons (Hell's Lid and The Fractal Continuum hard) are par for the course, which is both a good and bad thing. They're atmospheric as hell and pretty to look at but are still incredibly linear. Kugane Castle is pretty much the only one I can stand playing over and over, mostly because the royal Japanese palace motif is staggeringly beautiful. This new pair is wondrous in its own way, but not something I want to see every week for a few months on end.

While it's true that Final Fantasy XIV's progression system is formulaic, its encounters are anything but. The actual boss fights in the new dungeons are fantastic, as are the main events -- the new trial and the raid, Sigmascape. Byakko the white tiger is another success in the trial arena (read: straight boss fights), both in terms of its design and its balancing for the extreme difficulty setting. It's part bullet hell dodging, incredibly thematic, and there's voice acting -- which should be standard in trials at this point because it elevates them to a completely higher plane. The fact that the secondary theme (yes, boss fights in Final Fantasy XIV often have multiple songs accompanying them) reminds me of CKY is also a great thing.

Sigmascape is just a win in every category. The entire raid is an homage to Final Fantasy VI, and not in a cloying "remember this!" kind of way. The battles, including the high octane Phantom Train, are some of the finest work of any MMO to date. They have such fantastic production values that are not only worthy of the legacy of the original series, but also stand on their own. I won't spoil the rest of the encounters here but suffice to say there's a clever mix of reverence and originality -- once again the raid team knocked it out of the park.

Having played the savage encounters for the first two fights, I'm already happier than I was with the initial two bouts in the previous raid, Deltascape, and my group shares the same sentiment. In a bold move of sorts Square Enix dropped both the normal and hard (Savage) versions on us in the same day, so you don't have to wait to start raiding. I'm kind of torn as it just spurred a lot of stream talk and a rush for world first on day one when I was trying to enjoy the content, but that dust has settled and now I'm free to take everything in on my own time. I'm not sure if the team will implement this strategy for the next patch but it's an experiment for sure, as most developers don't drop everything on us at once.

As usual the quality-of-life additions knock it out of the park. More inventory space from the get-go is excellent after all this time, and I hope Square Enix continues to experiment with features like in-game video recording and editing (only available for the aforementioned trial at the moment) and the attempt at an overarching glamour system. Naoki Yoshida and his team have made incredible strides with A Realm Reborn these past few years, and I don't see myself stopping anytime soon with what we've seen so far from Stormblood.

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


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Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood: Rise of a New Sun 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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