Fans of Square Enix’s MMORPG have been waiting breathlessly for this expansion, myself included. With two new classes, two highly-anticipated new areas to visit, and a storyline that would finally bring the Garleans to the forefront, it’s easy to understand why players have become excited.
After having completed all of the Main Scenario Quests for this Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood review, I’ve come to the conclusion that this expansion is definitely for the entrenched player while perhaps not meant for those still on the fence about the game.
And don’t worry, I’ll keep things spoiler-free.
In Crimson it Began
The main story for Stormblood picks up right where things left off as members of the Eorzean Alliance have made their first inroads to the occupied Ala Mhigo, a region that has been under Garlean rule for the better part of 20 years. From there, the story follows your adventures as you and the Scions of the Seventh Dawn attempt to wrest control of the realm from the grip of Zenos yae Galvus, Legatus of the XIIth Legion.
As far as the story goes, this one played out significantly more satisfactorily than Heavensward. There was a noted lack of direct influence from the obnoxiously overpowered Ascians in play for this expansion’s storyline, keeping the focus squarely where I’ve always felt it belonged: the Garleans and their attempts to conquer Eorzea. Things wrapped up in an excellent fashion while still leaving the right cliffhangers to press the MSQ forward with later patches, and the plot offered the right moments all throughout.
With all of this said, I’m offering these opinions as someone who has fallen in love with the setting of Final Fantasy XIV itself. If none of this game’s story was compelling to you from 2.0 and onward, you’ll very likely be ambivalent to everything Stormblood presents.
This sense of “been here before” plays out in the expansion’s content itself. That’s because Final Fantasy XIV knows what it does, and it does it very well. The new battles in Stormblood’s dungeons and Primal fights don’t exactly offer different mechanics for the most part, but they’re structured in such a way that they’re still engaging. The developers are clearly very comfortable and confident in what they can do, and the new battle content shows this perfectly.
Even the two new classes strike familiar beats, with the Samurai feeling much like the game’s current Ninja job and the Red Mage striking Black Mage gameplay notes in certain ways. While this isn’t exactly unwelcome, it still feels a bit like a missed opportunity to shake things up. Still, both classes are great fun and bring a unique sense of flair to the DPS roster.
Perhaps the axiom to consider in terms of everything Stormblood is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This expansion, then, is pretty much what an expansion should offer on the tin: more of the things you love. Of course, the caveat is that one has to love Final Fantasy XIV to begin with for that to work. It only seems odd that Stormblood doesn’t really want to break its own mold because Square Enix seemed to want to make XIV known outside of its circle.
Final Fantasy XIV is not looking to stir the pot other than to make sure its brand of soup remains delicious. It’s tab-target, cooldown-managing MMORPG combat at its very best. The addition of new UI elements to help players keep track of their job’s resources are probably the most welcome introduction here, but that only serves to literally illustrate how little has truly changed. With combat this tight, though, that’s certainly not a complaint.
This is no more evident than in Stormblood’s new dungeons and Primal battles. The fights in these big sets are suitably epic in their spectacle, particularly in the game’s final battle where coordination is absolutely paramount. Even the much-touted combat rework has served less to rock the boat than it has to refine the experience to a comfortable level. It isn’t new, but then, it arguably didn’t really need to be.
While an expansion pack can sometimes be an opportunity to really make things unique, Stormblood opted to avoid that path. For better or worse, this expansion is not going to change the minds of players who weren’t drawn to Final Fantasy XIV’s style of MMORPG gaming.
Sure, the new classes are gorgeous and enjoyable, and the additional zones are beautiful, but neither of those is divergent enough to bring in fresh faces. It’s still the same Final Fantasy XIV stuff you’ve experienced before. That being said, if you already are a fan of Final Fantasy XIV then the new classes should definitely be given a try as they offer enough variation to add a little spice to the same old formula.
One of our Final Fantasy XIV columnists has already detailed how the expansion’s “Raubahn Savage” instancing issues illustrated how players in Final Fantasy XIV react to adversity. There is truly no finer example of how players of this MMORPG operate. For the most part – and in every pick-up-group I entered where I confessed to being utterly new to group content – players were friendly, effective, helpful and welcoming.
If there’s ever going to be a selling point for Final Fantasy XIV to new players, it will almost always be its community. In spite of the expansion’s early launch throes and the saltiness it caused among players, I’m still hard-pressed to know a better MMORPG community.
Once more, there’s nothing new here in terms of graphics, but Final Fantasy XIV is an already pretty MMORPG so there’s not a lot to grouse about here. Instead, I’ll gush about the new regions that Stormblood offers. From long, grassy expanses to dusty, rocky realms and the stunning Japanese-style port city of Kugane to the ageless-feeling ruins of Ala Mhigo, Stormblood’s vistas are a treat for the eyes.
The expansion is a treat for the ears as well, with a soundtrack that coasts along the range of emotions indicative of the finer RPG and JRPG games out there. Emotional themes that play on the areas and moments they’re intended for are absolutely flawless. Masayoshi Soken knows exactly what he’s doing and reaffirms his place among Final Fantasy’s greatest composers.
This will be wholly dependent (once again) on whether Final Fantasy XIV is the kind of MMORPG experience you like. The $40 price tag is not a large asking price for the amount of content that Stormblood offers, and $60 for the base game, Heavensward, and Stormblood is an excellent value for those freshly arrived.
If you’re still not sure about Final Fantasy XIV, then it’s best to take advantage of the free trial to see if this game sets its hooks.
Stormblood is another heaping helping of what Final Fantasy XIV offers the MMORPG genre. It’s set in its ways and is absolutely confident with providing fans with more of the things they already love. With an MMORPG experience this good, that’s hard to find fault in.
+An excellent MMORPG narrative
+Easily the friendliest players in the genre
-Likely unremarkable for those who were bored of the base game
-Server issues during launch