Ragar looks at the new announcements coming out of the Tokyo Fan Festival for FFXIV's first expansion
Hello and welcome to the 30th edition of the Eorzea Examiner, ZAM’s column on Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. For this week’s column, we’ve got more news to talk about. This weekend Square Enix held their Tokyo Fan Festival for fans of FFXIV. In addition to all of the concerts, costumes and other events for the fan, this weekend gave us another glimpse into Heavensward, FFXIV’s first expansion coming in Spring 2015. London’s fan event brought us flying mounts and the Dark Knight, FFXIV’s first job with no base class. What could SE have brought to the Tokyo event to top that?
Au Ra: Time to Put Horn Holes in All Those Helmet Models
If you’ve been looking to change up your appearance in-game, Square Enix announced Heavensward’s new player race, the Au Ra. Original to the FFXIV universe, the Au Ra have curved horns, tails and scale-like skin on their shoulders and other parts of their bodies. Au Ra males have large muscular forms while the females have much slighter builds with the horns and scaly features much less pronounced.
While this race may be unique to FFXIV, it’s not completely out of the blue to players. Yugiri Mistwalker, the leader of the Doma refugees introduced in patch 2.2, was revealed to be an Au Ra during the Fan Festival. Her features may have been hidden underneath her cowl and other clothing, but her tail and the visible scales on her hands were enough to indicate to players that she was a unique race and get some to speculate that the new race would have similar characteristics.
While we don’t have many pictures to go off of for the new race, I do like the idea of having a race with some features that are unique. FFXIV’s current race options are nice and all, but in general most of them are just humanoids with different proportions. There are different ears and facial features, but the most unique feature for the existing races is the Miqo’te’s ears at the top of their heads and their tails. The Au Ra will be a nice option for those players who like playing characters with a more striking appearance with the horns and scales. The only part I do question is the sheer size differential in the male and female Au Ra models. Maybe it’s an issue with the concept art and screenshot, but that just seems like far too large of a difference in average height for two genders of the same race. A minor detail that can be solved with the height slider, but still strange at a glance.
Dark Knight Isn’t the Only Classless Job
While we don’t know that the Dark Knight style of jobs with no base class is SE’s plan from here on out, it’s certainly not the only one following that model in Heavensward. Two more classless jobs were announced during the Tokyo Event. First up is a new option for the healers out there. The Astrologian is a cloth-wearing caster who wields a star globe, essentially a fancy floating gyroscope. When it’s time to cast their spells, they do so by drawing cards, which makes sense given the name tie-in to astrology. If DPS is more your style, that pistol-wielding class that they teased during the London Fan Festival was revealed as well. The Machinist wields a single pistol as their weapon of choice. During combat they modify their guns and use mechanical turrets to strike down their opponents.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting the Machinist for the pistol class, but that’s mostly because I’m not quite sure of the connection with 007 at the end of the London event. Sure, James Bond movies have gadgets and pistols, but when I think 007 I’m usually thinking of a spy type character, not Q at the base making gadgets. Regardless this is certainly a welcome addition to the game. Currently if you want to play a ranged DPS but you don’t want to be a spellcaster, Archer/Bard was your only option and Bows just aren’t everyone’s thing. Fantasy setting or not, some people just really like using guns, so it’s great that FFXIV is finding a way to add it in with a class/job where it makes sense. I do still hope to see something like the Engineer class/job I tried to design many columns ago, but if I could at least see some of those features in the Machinist class, that would be enough.
As for the Astrologian job, it’s certainly nice to see more healer options in the game to go with the new tank option of Dark Knight. My only real concern with it though is that other than the tie to astrology, I’m not really sure what makes it unique from the two other cloth-wearing caster jobs, White Mage and Scholar. They may have different weapons and they’ll have different looks for their class armor sets, but I would have just liked to see something a little more unique like a healer that wore a different kind of armor. It would mean adding more items for those armor tiers, but I think it would be worth it just to add some difference to the different healer classes than what weapon they’re using. Of course if the playstyle is different enough, then that would be sufficient. Perhaps the Astrologian could invoke more of that luck of the draw feel by incorporating a heavier emphasis on buffs and debuffs and tying them with tarot card names. You’ve got card names like The Hanged Man, Death, Strength, Judgement, etc. – tying those to positive and negative spells for a healer shouldn’t be too terribly difficult.
Wait, the Raid is Inside the Boss?!
Square Enix also revealed Heavensward’s high end raid and it’s something I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting. Fans of the Final Fantasy series are likely familiar with the summon Alexander – he was always a gigantic robot/fortress-esque being that would smite your foes with his Divine Judgement. The FFXIV incarnation of Alexander is no less massive. Summoned by the goblins and unlocked at the end of Heavensward’s main scenario, Alexander is a massive mechanical fortress. Some of you may be wondering, “So how do I fight a massive fortress? Do I just smack his walls with my sword till they fall down?” Alexander is not your raid boss in this case – he IS the raid. Players will delve inside the mechanical primal to take it down from within. For the hardcore players out there looking for more challenge, the raid will offer both normal and hard difficulties. In addition the Alexander raid will not require clearing the Binding Coil of Bahamut from the original game, so new and returning players will not be forced to go through old content to experience the raid.
I was curious if we’d see Alexander show up in the FFXIV universe. Honestly I was expecting to see him as more of a dungeon encounter or perhaps a Primal Trial during the storyline since he rarely took a front and center place in any of the other FF games. This is actually a welcome surprise and bringing the goblins into it is a great way to give them more of a presence in the story. Of course there’s still the question of who the bosses will be inside the raid and, more importantly, who the final boss will be at the core of Alexander. Will it be some goblin running the show or will it be an environment-style fight against the core of Alexander himself?
The bit they mentioned about Alexander not requiring a Binding Coil clear does bring up a question I’ve been curious about for a while. From the launch 2.0 game through the four patches they’ve released up to this point, the vast majority of the content in FFXIV has flowed in a linear path. If you wanted to do most of the content in 2.1, you needed to finish the entire main scenario from 2.0. Likewise with 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4, you needed to keep in line with all of the story quests and dungeons/raids before if you wanted to do the new stuff. This made me curious about what Heavensward would mean for both returning players as well as any new players joining to play with their friends. While they’ll still need to do at least some of the dungeons leveling up to unlock features and they’ll likely run more for both XP as well as just a break from FATE chaining, I was curious if they’d break the chain and let 50 (or even lower) players move to the new Heavensward zones and run the new content without experiencing the old content. It was difficult enough to get through those two-hour queues for the three 8-man dungeons at the end of the 2.0 content when it was relevant; I can’t even imagine how bad the queue times are now, let alone how long they’ll be when the vast majority of players are off in the new Heavensward content and have no reason to ever queue for those instances again.
Collectors Editions, Dragons and More
There were a few more details that came out during the Tokyo Fan Festival.
- Fans of Nobuo Uematsu will be happy to hear that Heavensward’s main theme song is being done by the man responsible for most of the FF series’ most beloved music.
- Love the idea of flying mounts? Hate the idea of flying Chocobo class or riding in the flying rowboat? The Tokyo event showed off a massive dragon that you’ll befriend during the Heavensward plot and eventually be able to ride.
- For those of you who love collector’s editions of their MMOs, SE revealed the contents of the Heavensward CE. The box will include a figurine of that flying dragon mount (the box serves as its display stand), an art book, and a disc with “class videos”. For inside the game itself, players will get a Dark Knight Baron Helm will be available for players looking to make that Cecil costume set, a “Wind-Up Kain” minion and an exclusive flying griffin mount.
- If you’d like those CE items but aren’t interested in paying for a statue or art book, a downloadable CE will be offered at a lower price.
There’s still quite a few months between now and that Spring 2015 release window they’re listing for Heavensward, so I’m curious what additional announcements we can expect to see for FFXIV’s first expansion. There are three new job options for players to choose between, but will we see any others? If there are any new jobs, will they all follow this new model of having no base class or will some of 2.0’s base classes be getting that second job option they’ve been hoping for? Will the story have any prerequisites from ARR’s Main Scenario questline or will it be completely standalone? All of these questions and more will likely have to wait until the new year before we’ll see any answers.
That’s it for this edition of the Eorzea Examiner. What do you think of the new Astrologist and Machinist jobs? What kind of gameplay style would you like to see from them? Are you excited about Alexander being the end game raid rather than just another boss fight? Are any of you planning on race changing to the Au Ra? Tell us in the comments below. If you've got any requests for column topics, add those as well – we’ve been doing this column for a year now and I’d love to involve the readers more. Until next time, see you in Eorzea.
Michael “Ragar” Branham