After its successful re-launch a few years back, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is currently the second most popular subscription based MMO in the market. Its second expansion — Stormblood increases the level cap to 70, adds new dungeons, trials, classes, zones and a fascinating new story that make it well worth the price of admission. You need to have a level 60 character that has finished all of the previously released main content in order to gain access to Stormblood.
The expansion introduces two new jobs — Samurai and Red Mage. While the former is a perfect fit if you want to deal massive amounts of damage up front, the latter is better suited if you prefer a hybrid class. You can unlock them by doing one specific quest each with a level 50 plus character. Both jobs start at 50 so you will have to level them up before playing the new content.
Stormblood is incredibly story driven for a MMO. There are a lot of cutscenes, much more than other games in the genre and many of them are accompanied with solid voice acting. What really sets the game apart is the surprisingly rich cast. Whether it is the endearing optimism of Lyse, or the prideful swagger of Hien or the caring personality of Yugiri; you will grow attached to the cast like any other mainline Final Fantasy game. The story itself is extremely well told, with powerful moments that will stick with you long after you’ve finished the game. The pacing is also noteworthy as it understands the importance of momentum and flow in storytelling.
The design of the new zones doesn’t really stand out though. Everything looks a bit plain except for the beautiful main city of Kugane and the Ruby Sea, which lets you dive underwater. The music in these zones can also be a hit or a miss. Thankfully, the soundtrack used in emotional story scenes, boss fights and other key sequences is excellent.
Stormblood introduces many other improvements and refinements to existing systems. Several skills and abilities have been reworked, while others have been modified only for PvP. Newcomers can play up to level 35 for free and Square Enix is offering various XP bonuses to help you level up. With many older players also returning to the game, there has never been a better time to play Final Fantasy XIV.
My biggest issue with the game remains in the quest structure. While the main story is filled exciting quests that give you this sense of adventure, the side quests fail in generating any interest. Regardless of its faults, Final Fantasy XIV has many qualities that make it the best MMO in the market. The combat and story in particular go far beyond what other games offer. The dungeons, trials and the raid are all well designed and require a lot of teamwork. With the launch of Stormblood, Final Fantasy XIV cements itself as the must-play MMO of this generation....