Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward
I’m going to premise this review with my experience in Final Fantasy XIV as a whole. I have been playing Final Fantasy XIV since roughly October 2013 (two months after the release of A Realm Reborn). I have, for the most part, been a casual player. I played through each patch shortly after release and kept up with the story since the early days. Any changes to Heavensward’s earlier era made after it’s release has likely not been touched by me (as I played at the launch of Heavensward, and at the launch of each patch). I am, though, just a bit behind on my relic weapon in Heavensward.
Note: I also recommend reading Monocle Dan’s A Realm Reborn review prior to reading my Heavensward review.
Developer: Square Enix
Platform: PC, Playstation 3 (until Stormblood), Playstation 4
Rating: T (Sexual Themes, Blood, Use of Alcohol, Language) — *Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB*
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Players: 1 – 24
Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward is a direct sequel (and expansion) to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Heavensward expands further into the story by allowing the player to move into the previously blocked off area of Ishgard and the associated areas beyond it. The player is thrust into the battles of the Dragonsong War, a long-lasting war that has been going on between the Ishgardian people and the dragons that inhabit the lands. The player is introduced to new races of beasts as well as primals that threaten to drain the world of its aether.
Your Individual Character
Branching off from A Realm Reborn, Heavensward reintroduces your playable character. For example, my playable character that I’ve worked on since launch is Miyu Lunaria. She is White Mage (pictured above) and Scholar at level 60 currently, with most of her other fighting classes ranging from level 0 – 53, and her crafting/gathering classes ranging from 20 – 56.
Her Heavensward class of choice is Astrologian.
Heavensward picks up leveling starting at Level 50 – Level 60. You can only progress beyond Level 50 if you have the Heavensward expansion. Your character will learn a new ability every 2 levels, starting at level 52. If you only play the direct story (and some sidequests) without doing any of your daily rewards (roulettes, beast tribes, etc), you will likely run into the level cap around level 56 (where you won’t be able to progress until you hit level 57 or higher), and you’ll end up needing to grind up experience points to unlock certain story missions.
Heavensward introduced 3 new classes to the game: Dark Knight (a tank), Astrologian (a healer), and Machinist (a DPS). These classes can only be unlocked once you’ve reached the Heavensward content (in Ishgard) and you can only unlock these classes if you have at least one class at Level 50. Each of these classes starts at level 30 once obtained.
The Dark Knight class uses more MP than TP compared to other traditional tanks (like the Warrior). They share their equipment (minus artifact gear and weapons) with Warriors and Paladins. There is no prerequisite class needed to get the Dark Knight job. Dark Knights share cross class abilities with Gladiator and Marauder classes.
The Astrologian class primarily focuses on buffing their team using their cards. RNG plays a big role with the Astrologian and what cards the class will draw in a situation. They share their equipment (minus artifact gear and weapons) with White Mages and Scholars. There is no prerequisite class needed to get the Astrologian job. Astrologians share cross class abilities with Conjurer and Thaumaturge.
The Machinist class is a ranged DPS physical DPS class that possesses the ability to call a pet (specifically mechanical turrets) to the battlefield. They share their equipment with Bards (and their accessories with Bards and Ninjas). There is no prerequisite class needed to get the Machinist job. Machinists share cross class abilities with Lancers and Archers.
The new playable race added to Heavensward is the Au Ra. There are two variations of the race, Raen and Xaela, as there are with all races in the game. These races hail from Doma, which is the home of the character Yugiri, revealed during the Realm Reborn story.
Beast Tribe —
The Vanu Vanu reside up high in the Sea of Clouds. Players must complete the level 50 quest “Three Beaks to the Wind” and the Main Story Quest “In Pursuit of the Past” in order to unlock the relationship to start the Beast Tribe quests with this race. There are three variations of this race: Gundu, Vundu, and Zundu. The Gundu and Zundu are the friendly members of the race while the Vundu is the enemy.
The Gnath reside in the Dravanian Forelands. The player must complete the quest “The Naming of Vath” and “Lord of the Hive” in order to unlock the relationship to start the Beast Tribe quests with this race. The Vath, in particular, are the ones who you are able to befriend in Heavensward during the Beast Tribe quests.
On top of the normal transportation methods provided by A Realm Reborn, Heavensward introduced flying mounts. Flying mounts are limited, currently, to Heavensward areas by unlocking aether currents in the area. Once all the aether currents in a particular area have been unlocked, you can use specific mounts to fly in that area.
Heavensward contains 5 dungeons below Level 60 (specifically levels 51, 53, 55, 57, and 59) and 13 dungeons at level 60 (5 of which are Hard Mode remakes of previous dungeons, and 8 of which are original dungeons).
Heavensward contains a total of 14 trials (primarily primals). Only 4 of them, however, are required. The other 10 are either extreme versions of the required 4, or the hard/extreme modes of the Warring Triad.
Heavensward had introduced two new raids to the game: One 8-man raid and One 24-man raid.
The 8-man raid is Alexander, which has three sections: Gordias, Midas, and the Creator. This raid is the Heavensward equivalent to A Realm Reborn’s Binding Coils of Bahamut.
The 24-man raid is the Void Ark, The Weeping City of Mhach, and Dun Scaith. This raid is the Heavensward equivalent to A Realm Reborn’s Crystal Tower series.
Heavensward expanded on the Player vs Player modes that had been introduced in later patches of A Realm Reborn. Two new game modes were released for the 24 – 72 man matches and one new game mode was released for 4 v 4 / 8 v 8 matches.
Seize was the first new mode to be released. Teams are split up by the three Grand Companies and divided into teams of either 8-man or 24-man groups, depending on the demand. The objective in Seize is to locate active Allagan tomeliths on the map and occupy the immediate area around it to extract data. Extracting data gives points to the team occupying the area. The team that accumulates the required amount of data will be declared the winner.
Shatter followed along the same lines as Seize. The objective of Shatter was to also gain the required amount of data to be declared winner. Data could be accumulated by occupying Allagan tomeliths, destroying icebound tomeliths, and defeating opposing players in battle.
The Feast was a game mode released for 4 v 4 and 8 v 8 matches and was the first time that rankings and “seasons” were introduced. Unlike previous PVP modes, The Feast had role requirements (1 tank, 1 heal, 1 melee dps, 1 ranged dps for 4 v 4 / 2 tank, 2 heal, 2 melee dps, 2 ranged dps for 8 v 8). The main objective of the Feast is to steal your opponents medals by defeating you opponent in battle. Players that have been defeated will drop half the medals in their possession. Season 1 of the ranking system started in patch 3.26, and the most recent season, Season 3, ended with patch 3.55.
Just like its predecessor, Heavensward’s graphics are phenomenal. There are, however, some limitations due to how limited the Playstation 3 is. With the upcoming expansion, Stormblood, Playstation 3 support will be dropped and we should see a significant difference in both the PC and the Playstation 4.
I have played both PC and Playstation 4 and I have found the graphics on both to be quite outstanding. The Playstation 4, however, does stick out to be a little bit more since I feel the FPS feels a little smoother and the sharpness is a little more prominent (which is surprising since PC rigs can be modified and upgraded… but it may just be my PS4 vs my current PC build). Overall, I love the game’s visual aesthetics.
I could listen to the Heavensward soundtrack for hours. My favorite tracks are Part II of Bismarck’s theme, the Dravanian Hinterlands theme (day and night), and the Coerthas Western Highlands theme.
I will admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of going to Ishgard after dealing with the ending to A Realm Reborn. At the time, it wasn’t really something I was excited for. I was more interested in the drama in Ul’Dah, and I was seriously disappointed when they wrapped that up within a patch. Additionally, I felt like I’d been jipped of good content after the initial release of Heavensward. The initial expansion, its story, and everything leading up to level 60 was definitely worth it; however, patch 3.1 left me with much to be desired. 3. 2 was a little bit better, but I was already feeling pretty burned by the game.
The game started to pick back up for me around 3.3 and the ending of 3.3. I felt better overall about the direction the story was going in and there were a lot of boring storylines that wrapped up around this time.
There were many gorgeous landscapes once you left all the snow-covered areas. As much as snow is nice, it didn’t really give you much to look at. The Dravanian areas were definitely my favorites, and the flying mounts made it so much easier to admire them as well. Heavensward also had a lot of great music which was its saving grace for me.
Heavensward, however, was the first time that I actually got to participate in major raid content. Back with the Binding Coil of Bahamut in A Realm Reborn, you could only access the coils with a premade group, which meant it’d be impossible for me to really get anything accomplished since I was a casual player and I didn’t really know how to get into those circles. Heavensward made it so I could do at least the normal version of the new raid, Alexander, with the duty finder. I could probably use the party finder to do the savage version of Alexander, but that often required having a decent work schedule that worked with the rest of the world’s (which I basically never had).
All in all, though, I have enjoyed Final Fantasy XIV, both A Realm Reborn and Heavensward, and I look forward to Stormblood coming out next month!