Ever since I quit Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn at level 39 shortly after launch, I’ve been inundated with claims that the game gets better in the 40’s. How I could I quit? I was so close to seeing the better side of the game! Yeah, well, I just couldn’t do it. As beautiful as the game was, it was just a drag to play through, so I quit.
After the release of Heavensward, I was urged to give the game another shot. Heavensward was, apparently, amazing. The team at Square Enix learned a ton from the experience on A Realm Reborn and reportedly produced something reflecting those lessons. I It wasn’t just the gameplay that improved, but also the storytelling. Unfortunately, to get to Heavensward, not only would I have to complete A Realm Reborn, but I’d also have to slog through over 100 additional quests, many of which are simply excuses to run around the world and talk to people. I took a pass.
It wasn’t until I learned that Square Enix announced that it would be making jump potions available to boost you to Heavensward (or past it to the new expansion, Stormblood, if you like) that I finally decided to give the game another shot. I figured I’d give it one more college try and if I just couldn’t deal with it again, at least now I’d have the boost option to get past it and finally find out how good Heavensward (and hopefully, Stormblood) was.
With the addition of Palace of the Dead (a randomized dungeon allowing for flexible compositions) and the ease of leveling through PvP, I was able to make it past the normally dragging side quests and finally complete A Realm Reborn. For what it’s worth, ARR’s story is extremely back loaded. You’ll be hard pressed to care about what’s going on until around level 45, when things really pick up towards the end, but it was already starting to dig its hooks into me by then, and things got considerably more interesting in the post-ARR content. Unfortunately, the post-ARR content leading into Heavensward lived up to its reputation for being an incredible slog, to be sure, but the story and storytelling was already improved here by leaps and bounds compared to A Realm Reborn.
I finally reached Heavensward after grinding PvP to 60 to ensure I wouldn’t hit any story gates once in the expansion, and having completed it recently, let me tell you it was well worth it. Heavensward’s storyline is much improved over A Realm Reborn, I could easily count it among one of my favorite Final Fantasy tales. One of the most compelling differences between ARR and Heavensward is the fact that you’re moving through the Heavensward with a party, you know, like an actual Final Fantasy game? Sure, you have the Scions of the Seventh Dawn crew in ARR, but you really don’t spend a whole lot of time with them other than checking in periodically. In Heavensward, you’re teamed up with a party of nuanced, often conflicted characters, with plenty of opportunity for character development and exciting twists and turns throughout.
The best part? I’ve heard Stormblood is even better and I can’t wait to experience it for myself. For most of you reading this, Heavensward is already old hat and you’re probably already doing the new Omega raid in Stormblood. However, I know there are many of you out there who, like me, couldn’t be bothered to try and “get to the good stuff” of FFXIV or have outright shut down friends who begged you over and over to give the game another shot and see what it’s all about. Well, I’ve been converted. Now, I too join the chorus of voices out there urging others to give the game a real shot. Heavensward (and likely, Stormblood) is definitely worth the slog.