Ragar is happy that Square Enix has finally announced a FFXIV expansion.
Hello and welcome to the 26th edition of the Eorzea Examiner, ZAM’s column on Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. For this week’s column, we actually have news to talk about. At their Fan Festival event earlier this month, SE announced FFXIV's first expansion, Heavensward. Currently slated for a spring 2015 release, Heavensward will bring Eorzeans an increased level cap, new zones, additional Job options and more. Since we've got at least five months till that spring release window, let's take a look at what's been announced and what features we'd like to see in the expansion.
Dravania, the Sea of Clouds and Beyond
To start things off, as with most expansions, Heavensward introduces a level cap increase to 60. This means that as you wander around questing in the new lands brought by the expansion, you’ll have to get ten more levels on all of those 50 classes you’ve built up since launch. In addition there will be a new race to entice you to either reroll or buy some Fantasia potions and change your main’s race. No real details on what this new race looks like though – just that it’ll have both a male and female gender to choose from.
So we have a bump to the level cap, but where will we be gaining those ten levels? Besides the generic description of “massive new areas”, we know that players will gain access to previously inaccessible regions beyond the Coerthas Highlands, the floating landmasses above the Sea of Clouds and the land known as Dravania. In addition players will gain access to a new city-state, The Holy See of Ishgard.
Now, most of those new zones sound fine, but how will players gain access to those floating islands in the Sea of Clouds? That’s where one of Heavensward’s other features comes into play: flying mounts. So far we’ve seen pictures of a flying black Chocobo mount and a single-rider airship, but the developers have said that Free Companies will be able to build larger airships of their own. More than likely these flying mounts will be restricted to the expansion areas similar to pre-Cataclysm World of Warcraft. While it’s possible they could eventually allow flying in old-world content, we’ve seen from Cataclysm just how monumental of an undertaking it is to rebuild old zones to account for people flying over instead of riding on the ground.
So we’ve got flying mounts and new zones to explore with them, but now we need motivation to do so. FFXIV has placed a great deal of emphasis on their main story since launch and continued it through each of their patches, so it stands to reason that they’ll continue this emphasis in the expansion. Right now all we have to go off of is two plotline titles: The Dragonsong War and The Wyrmking versus Thordan and his Knights Twelve. Both of these names would certainly line up with the Dragoon-esque character we saw in the trailer and the “Knights Twelve” could be a callback to the old Knights of the Round summon spell from previous Final Fantasy games. There’s no word on if these storylines will be connected to the ongoing plot threads players have followed since launch or if this expansion is completely separate from A Realm Reborn’s story.
There will be some familiarity with the new content though: beast tribes and their associated Primals. At Saturday's London Fan Festival, the developers announced two new beast tribes. The first is the Vanu Vanu, large birdlike creatures who worship the primal Bismarck. The second new beast tribe is the Gnath, humanoid insects who worship their Savior and FFXIV-original Primal, Ravana. This is the first time FFXIV has added their own piece to the list of eidolons/summons/primals given by all of the preceding FF games.
We’ve talked about all of these various new features for Heavensward, but most players are probably more concerned with “what new stuff can I play?” or “what did they add to my class?” Well no real info has been given on class additions other than there’ll be new recipes for Disciples of the Hand and new gear for everyone. There will be multiple new Jobs added in for players to level, though only one has been revealed so far – the Dark Knight. Heavensward’s take on the class is a bit different than the one I went with in an older column. Rather than making the Dark Knight a DPS Job for Marauders, it’ll be a tanking class. In addition the Dark Knight will be a first for FFXIV in that it will have no base class - you start immediately as a level 1 Dark Knight. Considering that in patch 2.4 we're getting Thief for the Ninja job's base class, it makes you wonder whether this is a one-time thing because no base classes work for the concept or if they're planning on phasing out base classes in the future and the expansion adds in some system rework that's necessary to support this.
Additional jobs will be included in the expansion, but so far all we have is a teaser to tide players over until the next info release at the December 20th fan event in Tokyo. During the London Fan Festival, Yoshida removed his Batman shirt (the teaser for the Dark Knight reveal) to show a 007 James Bond logo, then he mimed shooting pistols. We’ve all known there would be a pistol-based class added to FFXIV at some point, given their presence in Limsa Lominsa, but the 007 part of the teaser is interesting. Bond does shoot quite a bit in all of the movies, but he’s far from being the paragon of pistol-wielding fighters as he spends most of his time trying to charm people or sneak around doing spy-type stuff. Perhaps they’re hinting at more of a stealthy pistol-wielding job, whether as progression from a new base class, a job with no base class like the Dark Knight or maybe as a ranged job for the new Thief class. Either way it’ll be interesting seeing what other new job options Heavensward brings to the citizens of Eorzea.
Finally for the group PvE-focused players out there, the expansion will bring with it new instanced content. So far not much detail is available other than there will be many new dungeons (“more than 3 or 4”) and new high-end raids for those players who’ve been grinding Binding Coil of Bahamut. That’s all of the detail they’ve provided however. Given their history from ARR, I think it’s safe to assume many of the instances will be gated behind main story progress and that we’ll see Hard versions of at least a few of those dungeons either at launch or in the subsequent patches that come out later. In addition we’ll likely be fighting one or both of those new Primals since those big iconic boss fights are one of FFXIV’s major pulls.
So What’s Missing?
We’re still very early in the press cycle for the new expansion, so there’s a lot left about the expansion we don’t know. They’ve only announced one of the “multiple” new jobs that Heavensward will bring us and teased another, so there’s still plenty to speculate about there. In addition we know there will be flying mounts, but they haven’t mentioned how early we’ll gain access to those and just how integral they’ll be to the story. Will they be more akin to WoW’s flying mounts in each expansion where we don’t get access to them until at or near level cap, or will our first quest in Heavensward be “Here’s your flying Chocobo, have fun!” just to get us to the new content?
For new Jobs all we have so far is a Dark Knight tank and a teaser for a pistol class, likely Corsair or Musketeer. What else could be included with the expansion? Most likely if we’re getting a new tank, we’ll see a new healer option. I’d imagine it would be somewhat tied to the new Holy See of Ishgard city-state. Something with a name like that would imply a more holy-type healer class. Given that we’ve already got Paladin in the game as a tanking class and White Mage for the archetypical cloth-wearing healer, I’d expect a slightly more durable healer - perhaps a chain mail-wearing Cleric or a Templar in full plate. Templar could be an interesting choice, especially since it would give them a good class to provide split-role Jobs as the plate would make them a great fit for tanking or DPS.
I’d expect us to see plenty of new info on combat Jobs and dungeons in the coming months, so PvE-focused players should be covered there. There are a few other areas I’d like to see them add to with the expansion. For one we know they’ll be adding in new recipes for the Disciples of the Hand, but what else will the DoH classes learn in those 10 new levels? Will crafters finally get Job options of their own or simply a few new pages in their crafting logs and new materials to buy? Speaking of materials, what new options will be available for the Disciples of the Land? They’ll have new materials to farm up and possibly a few new skills to help them do so, but will they have Jobs to learn or perhaps some way to differentiate themselves from all the other miners/botanists/fishers out there? They may not be fighting bosses, but if Square Enix wants to claim those classes as full-fledged progression paths, this expansion is a great opportunity to show those players that they’re wanted members of the community.
One thing I’d like to have more info on is how the expansion’s storyline ties in with the previous main story from ARR. In addition to just wanting to know from a lore perspective, the more important question to me is whether it’s all chained. FFXIV players have seen that much of the new content in all of the patches requires you to have completed the previous patch’s main story quests to participate, including the dungeon runs and eight-man instances at the end of the original story. Will Heavensward provide new and returning players a clean break where they can just pick up the new story regardless of their place in the original, or will you be required to complete all of the old main scenario content before progressing to Heavensward material? Hopefully it’ll be a clean break – otherwise I see some extremely long queues for those 8-man instances at the end of the original story for any new players Heavensward brings in.
Heavensward is still months away and few solid details have been given, so for now all we can really do is speculate. Luckily for Eorzeans, patch 2.4 is almost here, which will help serve to pass the time as we level the Thief class, unlock Ninja, and check out the new story content and dungeons. By the time most of us are done getting that new class to 50 and finished the storyline, the December 20th Tokyo fan event will be upon us with more details on the expansion, including that hinted-at pistol class and probably a teaser for a third new job. In the meantime, all we can do is wait.
That’s it for this edition of the Eorzea Examiner. Are you excited about Heavensward? What do you think about flying mounts in Eorzea? Does Dark Knight appeal to you or is there another class/Job you’re hoping to hear announced between now and release? If you’re a crafter/gatherer, would you be satisfied with more materials/recipes or do you want something more substantial like Jobs? Tell us in the comments below. If you've got any requests for column topics, add those as well. Until next time, see you in Eorzea.
Michael “Ragar” Branham