Before Final Fantasy XIV launched their first expansion, Heavensward, the team announced something that took some players by surprise. In order to progress into the new lands of Ishgard, your character must have completed all of the main scenario quests from start to finish. This means that all content --including new jobs, new lands, new skills and flying mounts -- were all gated behind the fact that you played through the full 2.0 storyline.
This continues to be a topic of debate, even months after Heavensward has launched. Some players are annoyed that they can’t just level to 50 and stroll into Ishgard to do as they please. After all, that’s how many MMO expansions work.
Other players understand why FFXIV has placed this restriction. They see the game as extremely story-orienting and know that jumping into Ishgard without playing through the previous story would be like jumping to the last hour of a good movie and missing all the content in the middle.
However, the devs at FFXIV already acknowledged the fact that new and returning players would want to press forward into the new unknown lands as quickly as possible. Though they don’t allow players to skip the story, I feel they’ve done the next best thing: reward these players and make it much easier to progress.
Making your way through the main scenario of FFXIV for the first time is a combination of completing story quests and low level dungeons. These quests start out by gradually unlocking gameplay elements, such as switching jobs, earning a retainer, travelling between nations, and even getting your first chocobo.
After Heavensward launched, main scenario quests now offer more experience and better rewards. Since you can pretty much rely on the main scenario to level your first job, enhancing the experience helps to speed up a new player’s progress.
Once you hit level 50, you continue to gain experience through the 2.0 story quests, which sets you up to enter Heavensward at a higher level than those who entered and were capped at level 50. This is a significant boost seeing that the level curve starts to get rough at around level 55. The more levels you have under your belt before you start the expansion content, the smoother your progress through Heavensward will be.
The scenario quests were also changed to offer upgrades to gear and weapons. This is pretty significant given the fact that in 2.0, our end game encompassed earning equivalent gear through running dungeons for Tomes or raids for gear drops. FFXIV practically hands this gear out through the main scenario, getting someone new to the game up to ilvl for expansion content without all that time spent.
I see this in itself as a pretty big perk. In fact, I was encouraged to continue playing my low level alt because I’m curious to test out the changes to the main scenario quests and the rewards they give. Knowing that I can smoothly move from the 2.0 story content into Ishgard fully geared and ready for the expansion is nothing to complain about.
Better Dungeon Experiences
As I noted, solo quests are not the only aspect of the main scenario quest line. Players must also challenge a number of dungeons and Primal trials, each which require the use of the Duty Finder to gather a group.
Anyone who plays as a DPS character in FFXIV can tell you the story of the long DPS queues for even the low level dungeons in the Duty Finder. A big chunk of time getting through the main scenario was spent waiting on a group to form for the dungeon you needed.
The FFXIV has improved this experience with Heavensward, as well. The game now recognizes when your character is attempting a dungeon for the first time, in order to progress the story. A character who is new to a dungeon will get priority in the queue, which decreases wait time for the dungeon, and helps get you through the storyline faster.
I’ve tested this out on my low level alt, and it works. Even as a lowbie dragoon, the DPS queue for a new player trying a story dungeon for the first time has never exceeded a 5 minute wait. I recall waiting over 20-30 minutes for the same dungeons pre-Heavensward, so the perk for first timers running a dungeon is pretty significant.
Unsynced Dungeon Running
Heavensward also introduced the unsynced dungeon running feature. Previously, when a high level character entered a low level dungeon, their level and stats were dropped to sync with the level of the dungeon. This was great for allowing high level characters to run daily dungeon roulettes with lower level characters and not blow the whole dungeon away. However, sometimes you might want to do just that.
Instead of waiting in the Duty Finder for a level synced team, you can grab a higher level friend or two to help burn through the lower level dungeons. Sure, you may not be learning a lot of the dungeon mechanics, but hey, a speed run is a speed run! It’s all about getting to Heavensward, right?
Note: I do not endorse speed runs and not learning dungeon boss mechanics. But getting help from higher level friends is still a thing.
Faster Alt-Job Leveling
Sooner or later, you will need to level a second or third job for one reason or another. For example, once your character reaches level 30, if you want to unlock any job, you must level a second class to 15. To perform the best that you can with your main job, you may need to level other classes to a certain point in order to unlock cross-class skills.
Whenever you switch to leveling a class that is lower in level than your main highest class, the game provides an armoury bonus. Before Heavensward launched, this was a 50% experience boost that helped you get those lower classes to the point you needed.
With the launch of Heavensward, this has now been increased to a full 100% experience bonus up to level 50. While this perk is extended to all players, not just new and returning, it most benefits those who have lower level classes they need to progress. I will say that I totally feel the difference in leveling speed when working up a low level class. This is certainly a nice incentive for anyone needing motivation for those last few levels, or to get another job to 50.
Now is the Time
Despite the discussion around accessing Heavensward’s story-gated content, I feel the above perks make now a great time to get into FFXIV for new and returning players. This is especially true if you enjoy a story-rich MMO with a boatload of content already there to play. It’s just never been easier to roll right through the story and dungeons needed to get you to the newest content. Given the fact that the story will only continue to expand with future patches, there’s still plenty more to look forward to even at level 60.