Looking Heavensward – A brief look back at Final Fantasy XIV’s first expansion

About 2 years ago, Final Fantasy XIV received its first expansion, Heavensward. And now in less than 100 days, their second expansion, Stormblood is nearing release. I’ve lived the story, I’ve played all battle classes to max level, I’ve had a taste of the raids, but how has all this stood up over the few years of life it had? I think now, before the transition to Stormblood, is a good time as ever to look back at how this expansion was handled.

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The story of Heavensward began back in the A Real Reborn around patch 2.4 when the threat was no longer about the beastmen summoning primals, but the politics of the city-state of Ishgard coming into question. Except for the Ul’dah segment which went nowhere and served as just a plot device to push the hero into Ishgard, Heavensward’s story was amazing. The story at the release of the expansion felt like an adventure. You’re sent on a quest with your friends Alphinaud and Estinien along with the so-called heretic Ysayle to make peace with the dragons and Ishgardians. Throughout the expansion and subsequent patches, we discover both major powers that perpetuate the war between dragons and Ishgard and put an end to their tyranny once and for all.

Square Enix did an excellent job at trimming the fat from the story missions unlike how A Realm Reborn handled it. There was significantly less fetch quests in the main story and most of that was shifted more toward side quests that most players used for leveling their first job to 60.

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The new jobs introduced in the expansion was, in my opinion, the best addition in the expansion. While at the start, the new jobs were not played well at all by most the players, but that’s just part of the learning process of introducing new jobs. At about the midpoint of the expansion, people started getting a good grasp on the new jobs and they quickly became a solid job to play. While the DPS job, Machinist, was well balanced with others in its role, the tank and healer, Dark Knight and Astrologian, were not as balanced. Fixing the balance between the tanks and the healers is on the wish list of many for Stormblood. Here’s hoping that balance is fixed with the jobs maintaining their identity because Stormblood is not getting a new tank or healer.

As for the actual content of Heavensward, they added less new dungeons each patch than they did but they did work on new content. Aquapolis was a great addition to the treasure hunt. It’s a great casual dungeon that greatly helps capping of weekly tomes and for an additional Gil income. Deep Dungeon, a Diablo 3 Nephalem Rift styled random dungeon, was added as an alternate way to level and as an additional challenge in the deeper floors. Deep Dungeon is one of the most successful piece of new content added as it is still used for leveling other jobs due to its relaxed role restriction.

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I cannot speak entirely about the high-end raids because I never got deep into it until the last tier. What I did experience though were some well-designed fights that needed near perfect coordination. I know the difficulty of the 3 tiers went from hardest first down to easiest, which frankly does not make sense. Square Enix has said they tuned the first tier in response to players requesting a harder raid after the one in A Realm Reborn. What I ran was the most fun I had in the game. I am not sure if it is mostly due to finding a good group or not but the content was the most engaging for me.

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Aside from the job balance, the only big complaint most people had was with Diadem. I honestly still do not understand the reason for it. It was originally pitched to be a new grand zone players can explore and discover the dangers and items and treasures that exist only in that area. Diadem’s first iteration saw a lot of hate from the random item drops that ended up stronger than the casual Anima weapon or the raid gear. The developers took a patch to close Diadem and revamp it to not be an endless mob grind so it’s at least a little more varied. However, they still have random drops that have the possibility of being better than the current raid gear. To me this matters less than the first iteration because we’re just that close to the expansion that no one needs better gear anymore. It’s cool to want but definitely not something people should try to grind out for.

Overall, Heavensward was a great expansion. A lot of quality of life things were added in addition to some outstanding new content. With the next expansion right around the corner, anyone new should definitely take their time to catch up and experience as much of Heavensward as possible before things become outdated and basically replaced with Stormblood. Stormblood definitely has much to be excited about and it looks as if FFXIV is not going away any time soon.

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