Final Fantasy XIV Online – Heavensward – Review
Follow Genre: Subscription-based MMORPG expansion
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PC, PS3, PS4
Tested on: PC

Final Fantasy XIV Online – Heavensward – Review

Site Score
9.6
Good: Flying mounts, interesting plot, challenging Dungeons and Trials, music, fun new job classes
Bad: Requires the completion of the less interesting base game plot (which only redeems itself at its conclusion)
User Score
10.0
(2 votes)
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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

It took us a long while to get through the content of the original base game. Luckily, after nearly a month of travelling and battling our way through southern Eorzea, we were finally granted access to the brand new content of Final Fantasy XIV Online’s very first expansion: Heavensward. Psyched and absolutely eager to explore Ishgard and the lands beyond, we geared up for the biting cold and dove in. This review focusses primary on new content and might spoil a little of the original A Realm Reborn plot. Those who are looking for spoiler-free info on the general gameplay of the base game, are welcome to read our reviews for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

Final Fantasy XIV Online Heavensward title

Story

The main story of the previous ‘A Realm Reborn’ chapters had a lot going on. The battle against the Garlean Empire, the fight to lay low the false gods of the Beast Tribes, the mysterious plans of the enigmatic Ascians and the troubles of local politics all culminated into the perfect cliffhanger at the end of Patch 2.55. Heavensward takes off right where the thrilling conclusion left the player. Broken and stripped from mother Hydaelyn’s Blessing, the Hero now needs to set out into the cold lands of Coerthas and beyond in search for truth and justice.

Heavensward manages to bring together the more interesting aspects of A Realm Reborn while adding its own fair share of adventure and intrigue. The plot begins rather slow as the Hero takes the time to reflect past happenings while he or she gets acquainted with the visually stunning Holy See of Ishgard. However, once hitting the level 51 main quests (Heavensward starts at level 50) the story quickly embarks on a wild adventure which, amongst other things, sheds a sceptic light on the thorn in Ishgard’s majestic back: the Dragonsong War.

Final Fantasy XIV Online Heavensward 1

The story is being told in about the same way as the base game has done before. This of course means that most quests are completely text based, sometimes accompanied by a cutscene. Main quests feature the very same thing, though are much heavier on actually voiced cinematics.

Graphics

The general look in-game hasn’t really changed between the base game and the expansion. Cutscenes still look badass, character models contain the necessary detail to look appealing and the continent of Eorzea still shows some of the most beautifully crafted locations out of all contemporary MMO worlds. With the release of Heavensward however, Final Fantasy XIV Online offers PC gamers an upgrade to DirectX 11 from DirectX 9 for the very first time. The differences are minimal though and seem to only be visible when looking at surfaces like cobblestone streets, marble floors or bodies or water.

Despite its overall glamour, Final Fantasy XIV Online as a whole still shows the same pixelated textures when looking at hair or certain details of gear. These are usually very clearly seen during cutscenes when a closeup of a certain character is imminent. This of course doesn’t pose a real problem for the game itself, yet a little update of the hair would still have been a welcome addition.

Final Fantasy XIV Online Heavensward 2

Sound

As expected, the music score for Heavensward is absolutely top notch. If you believe A Realm Reborn has a good track, its expansion will definitely blow you away. While perfectly accompanying the general feeling of the different missions you are being put on, the music manages to increase the overall epic atmosphere of both solo and party content with grand ease.

What clearly stands out when first striding into the Heavensward specific quests, besides the altered ‘Quest accepted’ and ‘Quest completed’ tune that is, are the new voices for a great set of main characters. Most NPCs are now voiced by people with a higher affinity for Victorian-like English, ridding Heavensward of the various uncomfortable pronunciations and awkwardly stressed speech encountered in A Realm Reborn. This of course makes conversations sound a lot more fluent and natural than most did in the base game. The drawback however is that these new voices aren’t always close in tone and feel to the original, which may come to a shock for a lot of players.

Final Fantasy XIV Online Heavensward 3

Gameplay

As the expansion to the subscription-based MMORPG title Final Fantasy XIX: A Realm Reborn, Heavensward builds further on the very same game mechanics. As the more specific gameplay features for the base game were covered in the review for ARR, only those that are linked to the new content will be discussed here.

With the arrival of Heavensward, there seemed to be one new addition that had the community speculating for months: the new playable race. Heavensward finally brings the reptilian-like Au Ra and their two separate clans to the table. With the other five kinds having solid roots in the basic design of the player races in Final Fantasy XI, the Au Ra are the first new added species that can be considered unique in the series. As with Hyur, Elezen, Roegadyn, Lalafell and Miqo’te, creating a brand new Au Ra character will put you at the start of the game as a novice adventurer. Though you can of course always use a Fantasia potion to alter the look of one of your existing characters in order to play a cute little Au Ra lady or giant lean and mean Au Ra bloke.

Heavensward treats the players to an increase of the original level cap, from level 50 to level 60, adding a range of Main Quest objectives to each new level. The difference in level cap however isn’t an exclusive feature for owners of the expansion. Thus, while end game players in the ‘old world’ would originally be stuck on level 50, all characters now keep progressing until having reached the new cap. Another fun thing is that anyone is able to buy expansion-related gear from on the Market Board, allowing for players that haven’t reached Heavensward yet to at least dress smart.

 

The level of gear, the so called ‘ilevels’, are of course back and keep on mounting higher throughout the game’s content. Especially side quests and dungeons seem to be good sources for high ileveled wear. Should you wonder, ilevels were first introduced to allow end game players to collect more powerful weapons and armor in order to make a difference in the harder Dungeons, Trials and Raids. This was needed to ensure growth without having to adjust the original level cap. With the level cap now changed, both the regular level and the ilevel now play a role in determining the quality and usefulness of your items.

Sure, these little extras are fun for people that already have reached level 50. But what with new players? Heavensward locations can only be visited by owners of the title that have completed the complete story line for the base game, including chapters added during later patches. Because of this, you can expect new players to be needing a lot of time to finally be allowed inside the sacred walls of the Holy See. Luckily, Square Enix has specifically increased the number of experience points granted by Main Scenario Quests up to level 49, allowing newbies to enjoy the game’s story and reach the gates of Ishgard at an enjoyable pace.

A massively handy feature in Heavensward is the addition of flying mounts. Every new map this expansion brings is littered with high mountains and locations that are relatively hard to navigate. By finding and unlocking all ‘Aether Currents’ in every setting, the player character is however able to understand local air and wind movements and use them to their advantage. This means that a chocobo with the ability to fly will finally be able to take off into the sky and make your trips across these beautiful but treacherous lands a whole lot more fun.

Final Fantasy XIV Online Heavensward 4

We of course can’t talk about Heavensward without mentioning the three new professions. There is one extra job class for every part within the holy trinity. The Astrologian is Heavensward’s addition to the Healer class. These elegant spellcasters use the powers of their tarot cards and their knowledge of the stars to alter the immediate future of friend and foe alike. With tons of healing and buff spells, the Astrologian is clearly a strong addition.

The second job, the Machinist, covers the DPS side of the triangle and sets your character up with guns and rifles. This marksman type demands a playstyle that is a lot more aware of its surroundings than say a Summoner would need to be. Knocking back a foe when he gets too close, timing shots to legs and the heart and taking time to reload are all part of this dynamic DPS job class.

The Dark Knight completes the collection as Heavensward’s new Tank. Fuelled by their own inner darkness, these warriors take matters into their own hands while fighting for justice. With plenty of skills to draw enmity, these frightening Knights are perfect additions to any dungeon or raid. All three can be unlocked within the city of Ishgard and start off at level 30.

Final Fantasy XIV Online Heavensward 5

With the general story of the Main Quest and even that of side missions being a lot more interesting than the one A Realm Reborn originally managed to bring, it is always good to know that the general mechanic for Dungeons, Trials (two new beast tribes means two new Primals) and the new Raid have been left unchanged. This leaves us with just one minor subject to discuss: the Temple Leves. In the original base game, there were Guild Leves and Grand Company Leves. These missions could be started by accepting a Levequest Duty from a local NPC. Upon completion, the game would give you the option of transporting back to said NPC in order to grand you your bounty.

In Ishgard, the Temple Knights now take on the job of offering adventurers these kinds of challenges. Contrary to the original regions visited in the base game, Ishgard has a more lazy approach to handing out Leves. Every single mission now needs to be accepted and exchanged within the walls of the Holy See. The teleport option after successfully completing a Leve is still part of the game. However, it will only bring you back to the safety of the nearest hamlet rather than to the original quest giver. Temple Leves also bring a new idea to the round table: Large-scale Leves. These missions require ten leve allowances instead of one, are (slightly) more difficult and offer greater item awards and 5 times more experience.

final Fantasy XIV Online Heavensward Primal Ravana and Shiva

Conclusion

Heavensward brings a whole lot of new fun to the MMORPG world of Eorzea. With a solid and especially intriguing story, the wonderful sights and the perfect soundtrack, this new expansion for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn clearly hits home. The flying mounts were a brilliant idea for the mountainous new locations while the addition of the Au Ra and three extra job classes offer players a whole new range for customization. The one point of critique however might be that you need to plough yourself through a whole lot of post level 50 patch content in order to even be allowed into Ishgard. This can take longer than expected. However, the conclusion and Heavensward itself totally make up for it and make this expansion a definite must have.

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Final Fantasy XIV Online – Heavensward - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

1 Comment

  1. […] you are unsure of Heavensward, feel free to read our review here, or check out the trailer below. Don’t forget that you will have limited time to add Heavensward […]

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