Review of the Realm: Stormblood

Final Fantasy XIV's second expansion, Stormblood, has been out for about a month and with the expansion finally in full swing, the realm is doing pretty well. Without giving away any spoilers, it's safe to say that most players are happy with the Ala Mhigan and “Far Eastern” inspired expansion.

However, all was not well with the release. Some North American servers had to deal with incredibly long queues - sometimes as many as 5000 players trying to access the game at once. Of course, the stress on the servers was made worse by periodic DDoS attacks, and players that had found ways around the dreaded AFK kick timer - which normally logs you out after half an hour of inactivity. Whatever the case, players still made their way into their respective servers and hit the ground running. With loads of new story content; new crafts and gathering logs; and so much more.

In what has been described as the best writing yet for Final Fantasy XIV, the players engage in a new story that is able to tug heavily at the heartstrings. In the past, players may have felt as though they were a minor part of the plot, despite being called on to solve most of the realm’s problems. In this expansion, you step into the limelight to deal with main antagonist, Zenos yae Galvus and his schemes involving the Warriors of Light.

In something rather unprecedented, but perhaps necessary with an increasing level cap, Square Enix decided to get rid of some of the more “useless” or under-used skills, like Miasma II for Summoners, which only ever had one or two niche uses. This seems to be part of an effort to let players play more efficiently, as the UI has been revised and now makes it easier to understand what buffs they currently have applied.

These changes were fairly well received, but the talk around who does the most damage, who holds the most hate, and who has the worst heal-nerf are still circling even weeks after release. With changes to how stats work, as well as some changes to skills, and the addition of shared actions across similar roles (healer, ranged DPS, melee DPS, etc.) the gameplay has certainly changed to be more friendly toward newer players. The introduction of patch 4.01 and 4.05 was meant to address these concerns by some veteran players, by buffing and nerfing some certain skills, but perhaps there is still work to be done before all players can feel confident about their respective classes once more.

An expansion is not an expansion without some new jobs to play as well. The classic red mage and samurai jobs are here and they make quite an impact. Red Mage is an incredible utility caster that is all about being speedy, bringing damage, and looking good while doing it. Meanwhile, samurai gives all the damage-dealers a run for their money with some big-number damage and some flashy sword flourishes. Of course, each job is not for everyone, but they are certainly worth a try, especially for those who have played older Final Fantasy games and want to see how they implemented these classes.

Perhaps what is most interesting about the current state of the realm is the raiding scene. Recently released with 4.01 and 4.05 is a raid known as “The Deltascape” where players delve into the strange machine known as “Omega”. Long time players of Final Fantasy titles will immediately get hooked by the nostalgia factor of some of the fights, as all of the bosses are from different Final Fantasy Worlds. The fight themselves, however, are much different compared to the Alexander raids of the 3.x series, as developers seemed to deem it necessary to do away with “trash mobs” this time around.

Trash mobs are those small-time lackey-monsters that block your way to the boss and prolong the overall raid. Avid MMO players will know exactly what a pain trash mobs can be, and removing them has made the experience feel shorter. This has lead to players feel that the Deltascape is more of a “trial” rather than a raid, but most players agree that it is not necessarily a bad thing. Fewer trash mobs mean less time fighting and more time learning the mechanics of the boss. Not to mention, fewer trash mobs mean less time spent getting back to the boss if the team fails.

Perhaps it is simply the nature of the Deltascape to cut to the chase, or perhaps the developers simply didn't want to include any added, unnecessary fights. Whatever the case, the change seems to be welcome among hardcore raiders.

4.05 has also introduced an updated, “near-eastern” inspired version of the Aquapolis known as The Lost Canals of Uznair. The Aquapolis, for those who haven't been back to the game in some time, is an instanced area that appears sometimes when high-level maps are dug up and completed. The maps lead to treasure, always, but there is a chance that the maps will open a magical portal that leads to even more riches. Whomever Uznair was, they sure were loaded, and their treasure is for the taking. That is if the party can reach the 7th chamber successfully, and fend off some pretty decently powered monsters while doing so.

The Aquapolis has always been content that kept people busy. A chance to earn some money for, what is essentially, a smaller, less focused raid. The Lost Canal of Uznair ramps up the difficulty a little bit but has been very popular since its arrival last week, with small eight-player parties.

Without giving away too much, it is hard to say what is to come in patch 4.1, how the story will continue, and perhaps most importantly, what jobs — if any — will be getting nerfed or buffed. No doubt players are excited to see what the 24-player raid will be, but, there are still about two months to go. In any case, the expansion journey has been a welcomed one, no doubt, problems aside, and it is sure to only get better.

Have heart, Eorzeans! The fun has only just begun!