This weekend we saw the finale to the trilogy of Final Fantasy XIV Fanfests in Tokyo, following the two in Las Vegas and London, and wow, Square Enix really had saved some of the best stuff for last. Not only did we get new cool information about the game’s first expansion, Heavensward, but also some major new stuff about what to expect before it hits during the spring. And boy, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this hyped about the game before.
The first big reveal of Heavensward was the new playable race that will be coming with the expansion - the Au Ra. They’ve been a mystery for a long time, especially since the only Au Ra character currently in the game - Yugiri - has been stubborn enough to wear a mask for ages now. They are an odd mix between human and dragon, partially covered in scales, with the male sporting “muscular builds” while the females are described as “elegant and mysterious”. That trope besides, I can’t help feeling slightly disappointed with them - mixing dragons and humans could have created ample opportunity for Square to do something truly creative. Now we just get some pretty humans with horns.
Something that wasn’t disappointing was the new classes being shown at Fanfest. After finally getting to see the Dark Knight, previously announced in Las Vegas, in all its animated glory we got to see the Astrologist and the Machinist - as expected, healer and DPS respectively. The Astrologist wields a Star Globe, pairing it with a deck of tarot-like cards which she’ll use to support the party - probably the same way as the Ninja mixes abilities to create Mudras. As usual, cloth wearing classes in Final Fantasy XIV get some of the game’s coolest gear in my opinion, and the Astrologist is no exception to that rule. We can probably expect its storyline to be related to the Observatorium in Coerthas - fitting, since the Coerthas storyline is deeply woven together with that of Ishgard.
GET YOUR GUN
There’s been talk about a gun class coming to Final Fantasy XIV for ages now, based on the old Musketeer class that reportedly was under development for 1.0 but scrapped when Yoshi P took over the reigns and 2.0 was released. Now we’re finally getting it in Heavensward in the form of the Machinist - a gun weilding, steam punkish engineer class, wielding a gun and summoning drones to aid him in battle. Probably related to the Garlond Ironworks, expect Cid to show up in a prominent role in the Machinist storyline. While the Astrologist soon found its fans, this is the class that got me the most excited, if nothing else just for the gear. As a fan of engineering classes in both Guild Wars 2 and Wildstar, I’m glad we’ll get something similar in Final Fantasy XIV.
What’s confusing for some is that none of the classes introduced in Heavensward will have, or be, a job. While you currently need to mix and match classes to get the job you want, this won’t be the case for the Dark Knight, Astrologist or Machinist. This has led to speculation about what it will take to unlock them, or which level they will start out as, but my guess is that they will simply start at level 1 and just skip the job crystal part of the leveling process. If they are one of the selling points of the expansion, you’ll want them front and center, allowing new players to jump in and start shooting stuff with big guns straight away.
Last but not least, fan-favorite summon/primal Alexander will be joining the fray. The size of a city, and worshipped by the Goblins, Alexander will be the main raid of the expansion - similar to the Coil of Bahamut that we have now. The primal is too big for us to go up against directly. So instead we’ll be fighting inside him, getting a more intimate look at him than ever before. Two difficulty modes will be introduced, with the hard mode being described as even harder than what we’ve seen so far, which hopefully means that even scrubs like me will have the opportunity to experience the raid without too much blood, sweat and tears being spilled.
Square also took the opportunity to showcase the Heavensward Collector’s Edition, a huge box which includes some nice in-game goodies - including a FFIV Kain wind-up doll and a Cecil helmet - and a huge dragon statue to put on your shelf. I’m usually a sucker for boxes like this, but for once I think I’ll skip the physical edition. A dragon is no Darth Malgus, after all. There’s no way I’m missing out on the flying dragon mount you’ll get for your characters in the game, though.
Heavensward does look fantastic, but it won’t be out for a while yet. And just because an expansion is coming doesn’t mean that Square are relaxing their usual schedule for pushing out new content patches. During Fanfest, we got some new information about what’s coming for 2.5, probably the last major update before we go off to fight dragons in Ishgard.
And wow, does it look good. Now titled “Before the Fall” and split into two parts, the second part of the patch will introduce the long-awaited Gold Saucer casino. We got a look at the venue, which will be filled with various mini-games and Chocobo racing, and it looks amazing. That thing is huge. The card game Triple Triad, with 80 cards available to find, is finally coming as well. As someone that wasted way too much time on the card games in both Final Fantasy VIII and IX, I expect to spend a lot of time hunting down a many cards as I possibly can get my hands on.
Three new dungeons - The Keeper of the Lake, Wanderer’s Palace (Hard) and Amdapor Keep (Hard) - are coming in 2.5 as well. The first one is of the most interest, as it will have huge implications for the lore of the game and will be the thing that sets the stage for Heavensward. Hildibrand’s story will “be concluded?” and Gilgamesh will make his return (as teased in 2.4).
Urth’s Fount, the fight against Odin shown in Las Vegas earlier this year, will become available and the developers also mentioned a “mystery trial”. I do wonder if that is related to Gilgamesh as well, perhaps the extreme version of Battle on the Big Bridge with the eight-armed version of him that’s been teased before. The Big Bridge fight is a really fun trial, but it’s also really easy - a more challenging version, which hopefully retains the charm of the current fight, would be a welcome addition.
The World of Darkness, the final part of the Crystal Tower raids, will also open up. That part has me intrigued, since the CT storyline became really exciting at the end of Syrcus Tower. I’m looking forward to experiencing the new bosses before everyone and their grandmothers have them on farm status, so I’m planning on focusing on that part of the patch first.
BRING ON Final Fantasy XIV in 2015
In short, 2015 looks to be an amazing year for Final Fantasy XIV. It’s a solid game already and the new content looks like it might push it to new heights. As someone that was fed up with fighting Orcs after 15 minutes in Warlords of Draenor, FFXIV is always a breath of fresh air - traditional, yet creative where it truly counts. Also, it’s not often that I’m more psyched about a content patch than an expansion proper - I have to admit to looking forward more to Before the Fall than Heavensward. The title alone is ominous enough and I’m sure a lot will come crashing down around us as the story we’ve followed since the release of 2.0 will come to a close (although not literally, as Dalamud at the end of 1.0). I’m especially worried about our beloved Sultana and the situation in Ul’dah, which has steadily deteriorated for a long time now. We’ll also see what certain decisions taken at the end of 2.4 will mean for the Sultanate.
I’m aware that I’ve probably used words like “amazing” and “fantastic” a few too many times this week. I’ll try to make up for it with a more critical column in the future. But right now, the hype is truly real.
A FINAL GOOD BYE
As I wrap up this week’s column, I also want to take a moment to honor Codex Vahlda, who passed away over the weekend. Friends and strangers gathered in a moving vigil to honor him not only on his home server but on others as well. According to a post on Reddit, Codex’s family got to see a live stream of the event in his hospital room, and his FC leader granted him the permanent title of Immortal Siren. In times like this, we’re reminded that all those characters that we spend time with or around are actual people, with families and friends of their own. Godspeed Codex, our thoughts are with you and yours.