Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood Preview – The Most Accessible Update Yeton June 1, 2017 by Oscar TK
Final Fantasy XIV can appear daunting to newcomers. With new updates every couple of months, it’s endless. Stormblood is the game’s second expansion and adds a lot, so you’d think it’d be getting more intimidating. However, the opposite is true. Stormblood is making XIV one of the most accessible MMOs yet.
We were invited to the beautiful Yu Gardens in Hamburg, Germany to take a behind closed doors look at some choice cuts from the still in-development expansion. Even though it still may change, the version we played was fully loaded with all of Stormblood’s tweaks and updates, giving us access to explore some of the new areas and a new dungeon as level 70 characters, the new max level.
Stormblood is making XIV one of the most accessible MMOs yet.
Stormblood is adding a lot of great new features to Final Fantasy XIV, but what might be most notable are the updates it makes to what’s already there. The game’s Producer, Naoki Yoshida, is something of a perfectionist — always talking through tweaks, changes, and difficulties he’s having with what direction to take with press and, most importantly, current fans of the game online and through his livestreams.
There’s been no beating around the bush by Yoshida-san on how Stormblood is tackling “current issues” with the game, and over private and public presentations he’s meticulously made the effort to talk through each one. “The thing we really care about is not confusing players,” Yoshida-san emphasised to us on how he’s making the game more accessible. “We tried to remove all of those obstacles, so players can go smoothly into the game and don’t get stuck.” The gist of these fixes are about simplifying as much as possible, addressing disparity between casual and hardcore players, and what they feel is a lack of synergy between jobs.
Anything deemed too complicated or superfluous has been stripped back. As well as actions and upgraded spells, “additional actions” are being pared down into “role actions”, making it much easier to get your head around the type of build you’re playing and what you should be doing with it. Not only does this make it easier for those new to a job role to get the feel of it, but it also means veteran players can have a better time of optimising their play.
Both Red Mage and Samurai are DPS jobs, but they definitely have their own unique feeling not just to one another
The new HUDs for the different jobs build on those roles, providing specific information for each one. They’re more than just fancy HUD skins, they’re integral in understanding the jobs. So much so, that it’d be hard to imagine playing the new jobs, Red Mage and Samurai, without them.
Both Red Mage and Samurai are DPS jobs, but they definitely have their own unique feeling not just to one another, but to all the other jobs. Samurai is the simplest to understand, focused on close quarters combat, using attacks that dish out some very high damage. The job has three main combo chains to work through, each one lighting up its own “sen” rune on the HUD. Depending on how many of these are lit up, the Iaijutsu move will change — the third and final being particularly devastating.
A second gauge also fills up when dishing out damage — the “keniki” gauge. This can be spent on some of the Samurai’s high level Hissatsu moves. It’s a fun and satisfying rotation that is sure to draw a lot of people to the job for quite some time. There are buffs that more experienced players can take advantage of, but the beauty of the Samurai lies in its relative simplicity. It’ll be interesting to see how players make it their own.
Comparatively, the Red Mage is a little more complex, mixing not only white magic and black magic, but also ranged and close quarters combat. Using white and black magic adds to to their respective bars on the Red Mage’s HUD, and some of the more advanced abilities utilise these, usually in equal measure, for more powerful effects. The idea is to fill them both up equally, alternating between the spells you cast. Thanks to Red Mage’s dualcast ability, spells with long cast times can be used instantly, making it really quick and offensive to play. By powering up at range, you can close the gap using with a special skill, use the powered up melee abilities, then launch yourself backwards again for a powerful finisher.
Not only are the new areas we took a look at in the preview huge, but they’re gorgeous as well. Stormblood will be the first Final Fantasy XIV expansion to drop PlayStation 3 support, and you can really feel the shackles being removed in the approach to the environmental design. Kurogane is a huge, seamless, sprawling Eastern-inspired city. Story and NPC dialogue weren’t active, but we got to explore all the nooks and crannies we wanted — with hot springs, towering bridges, and lower canals leading to sewers, Kurogane has a lot going on all in one loaded area.
The areas feel like a big step up in size, but also in detail with how much has been crammed into them.
We also took a look at The Peaks, an area in Gyr Abania covered in mysterious ruins, spanning all the way up into mountains — again, in a single area; and the Ruby Sea, a luscious tropical area playing home to a large beach with a samurai settlement and an endlessly tall tower, as well as coves and islands that can be reached by simply crossing the water. There’s so much tucked away to discover — the areas feel like a big step up in size, but also in detail with how much has been crammed into them.
The Ruby Sea also features an underwater section, which does have to be loaded into when you dive — with its own town, underwater caves, and different ways to access it from the beach areas. Both of these areas are filled with FATEs that offer quite a challenge, some of which will definitely require some solid teamwork to take down.
It might be the most beautiful dungeon in the game, combining the Eastern aesthetics of the rest of Stormblood with deep sea scenery — a Japanese garden made of corals and seaweed.
But what better test of teamwork than a dungeon? We got to jump into Shisui of the Violet Tides. It might be the most beautiful dungeon in the game, combining the Eastern aesthetics of the rest of Stormblood with deep sea scenery — a Japanese garden made of corals and seaweed. It’s mostly as you’d expect, taking you through fairly straight routes between three boss rooms, ducking in and out of the buildings.
The bosses themselves were all quite interesting and varied, with a lot of different behaviours to keep these longer fights feeling fresh throughout. One has a seduction spell that, when telegraphed, gives you time to run to a box where you can turn into an “old crone”, unable to fall under her powers. The Samurai and Red Mage seemed to work well as part of a light party, with Red Mage being able to adapt to different situations. We weren’t privy to the story behind the dungeon, but Yoshida-san told us it was a riff on a Japanese folk tale.
It feels like a brand new game again, easily vying for that slot as the next, proper Final Fantasy game even after XV.
The new areas and new content we got take a look at is an impressive start for Stormblood, and will likely be even more so when story and character interaction are added in the full release. But, the biggest and most exciting changes coming to Final Fantasy XIV with the 4.0 Stormblood update are tweaks to what’s already there. It feels like a brand new game again, easily vying for that slot as the next, proper Final Fantasy game even after XV. In Yoshida-san’s words: “FFXIV is an online game, but it is still a Final Fantasy game. The only difference to other stand-alone Final Fantasy games is that you need a network cable.”
This is just what Yoshida-san and his team do, and it’s what makes Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn such a strong MMO to this date. They’re fixers, tweakers, and perfectionists.
Stormblood is making it easier than ever for anyone to jump in. Yes, there are the boosters that cost real money that can skip you past the story of the previous updates, and also bring you to level 70 — but, in terms of pure approachability of the mechanical design, it’s never been simpler and easier to grasp. The idea of MMOs as being hard to get into, filled with watching numbers, and the endless grind is being wholly addressed.
Even during the tour for the 4.0 Stormblood release, Yoshida-san still had an eye on future updates, talking about challenges they’d faced looking at VR, the right way to potentially implement Blitzball, how to make sure they’re capturing the interest of new players and respecting the time they put into the game. This is just what Yoshida-san and his team do, and it’s what makes Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn such a strong MMO to this date. They’re fixers, tweakers, and perfectionists. And all of that is coming across in Stormblood.