Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood – Initial Review

It’s hard to imagine that it’s been 4 years since Final Fantasy XIV’s A Realm Reborn came out. What started off as a disaster way back in 2010, Final Fantasy XIV reboot in 2013 has managed to make it one of the hottest MMO’s to come out in recent memory. Now with its third expansion, Stormblood, it’s safe to say this MMO is not going anywhere.

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But what makes Final Fantasy XIV so good? For one it helps bridge the gap between the classic RPG we’ve seen in World of Warcraft with more recent flashy/hack and slash interpretations such as Black Desert Online. But what’s more enjoyable about FF XIV has to be its story. Typically MMO’s expansion are followed by mundane fetch quests (which is still here) except in in XIV’s case we get more narrative, cutscenes, and characters who join you on your quest. What happens in the previous expansion plays a big role in how you will play the next one. It’s so important that up until recently, Square Enix did not allow players to skip straight to the expansion. And even then it’s asking for a hefty $25 which is basically the same price you’re paying for the expansion itself. Short answer, it’s not worth it. If you are indeed coming into Final Fantasy XIV then it’s best to enjoy it from the beginning otherwise a huge piece of what makes Stormblood good will be lost on you.

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While Heavensward took you to the northern parts where dragons sleep, Stormblood goes to a whole new continent. Featuring a more Asian inspired take where Samurai’s and martial art masters reign. Unlike the previous expansion the plot really starts to get more complicated with multiple tribes and politics involved. It actually gave me a nostalgia trip during the early parts of Final Fantasy XIV but here it tends to go deeper with a huge emphasis on war.

New to Stormblood is the ability to swim. At first I was excited at the idea of underwater battles, something more akin to Final Fantasy X but alas that was not the case. Instead swimming ends up being just a feature like flying which only serves of taking you from A to B.

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But let’s face it, the biggest addition to this expansion aside from the plot has to be the two new jobs: Samurai and Red Mage who serve as DPS or combat classes. Many online have argued that the decision not to add more variety with healers or tanks is a missed opportunity which hopefully will be rectified in a future patch or expansion. But since Final Fantasy XIV allows players to switch jobs on the fly this shouldn’t be that big of an issue especially thanks to a more recent update that makes it easier. Previously players would have to stop mid-way through their leveling to specialize in another job. For instance my Gladiator would have to reach level 30 and learn to be a mage at level 10 before I could become a Paladin. Now players would only need to take one quest to become a Paladin. It completely eliminates the unnecessary padding which makes players more open to try more classes. Of course you could always opt for a level boost for $25 but where’s the fun in that?

Visually speaking Stormblood is gorgeous. Huge temples, mountains, and ancient Chinese cities are among the many places you’ll visit. What makes it stand out is the simple, sort of clean look mixed with small details of the texture work. It may lack the Witcher-esque detail found in Black Desert Online but it certainly manages to stand on its own. I mean considering this was a game designed to run PS3’s the game manages to hold quite well by today’s graphical standards.

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Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn started as a celebration of FF games and Stormblood continues that tradition. The idea of being able to fight Ex-Death (the main villain of Final Fantasy V) is something that fans would truly appreciate. It almost feels like the smash brothers of Final Fantasy games, except if Smash Brothers was an MMO—now that’s kind of an interesting idea.

If you’re still on the fence of whether or not you’d want to get into Final Fantasy XIV then Stormblood may be the one to convince you. It’s one of the few MMO’s out there that still use a monthly paid subscription model and that’s only because it manages to prove its value through its rich content. I’ve played plenty of MMO’s in the past few years and none of them managed to capture the magic that Stormblood offers.

9/10

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