A couple of weeks ago I attended a media event for Stormblood and spent the day playing in some of the new zones, trying out Samurai & Red Mage, checking out the new job gauges, and playing one of the new dungeons which will be coming with Stormblood. I also had the opportunity to interview Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi-P) to learn some more information not only about the expansion but also about some of their plans moving on past this expansion. Of course, since I am going to be covering content from the upcoming expansion it is worth noting there will be spoilers ahead. You have been warned!
One topic I talked to Yoshi-P about was if new players will have to buy the base game, Heavensward and Stormblood because that could be a bit daunting to new players looking to start now. He said they will be offering A Realm Reborn as a “starter set” at a reduced price and all players will need is to have ARR and Stormblood to be able to play. This also helps returning players who skipped Heavensward. Another option for new players which will also be available is the “complete set” which includes ARR, Heavensward, and Stormblood. Both the complete set and the starter version of ARR are currently available in the SquareEnix store.
Yoshi-P also mentioned they are currently working on making the friends list and link-shells work cross world. Which means if you have friends who play on a different world than you do you would be able to have them on your friends list or invite them to your link-shell. However, they aren’t planning on linking the worlds to enable players from different worlds to be able to play fluidly with each other. What they might consider doing is making it so when players teleport to an area they could pick what version of that area they go to and in that way let players from different worlds play together. If they were to do this though it would be sometime in the future and is only one idea being considered currently.
The dungeon we got to play through was Shishui of the Violet Tides which is for four level 63 jobs. Shishui was built by Raen refugees who fled underwater to get away from the constant wars on land. Unfortunately for the Raen wraiths have taken control of the people who live there.
Even though we weren’t swimming, due to being inside a bubble on the seafloor of the Ruby Sea, the feeling of being underwater was very clearly conveyed despite never directly seeing the ocean or bubble edge. This video shows the very beginning of the dungeon and each of the three boss fights. My favorite fight was the last one which has three different phases and they repeat over and over. It wasn’t difficult to figure out but it was quite active and entertaining.
Our characters had every job leveled to 70 and I chose to play as a Ninja because although I am familiar with it, I don’t regularly play a Ninja and I wanted to see how difficult it was to pick-up with the new gauge system. By the end of the dungeon I was feeling pretty comfortable with it and even though I wasn’t maximizing my abilities the best way possible I still felt effective and I didn’t feel completely overwhelmed. I did however completely forget about using the Limit Break during the entire dungeon because I was so busy paying attention to all the other things.
As far timing of patches post Stormblood goes Yoshi-P said they plan to keep the 3 – 3½ month cadence they have currently been doing. He said it seems to be a good rhythm for the players which keeps them from either feeling like they run out of things to do too quickly or feel overwhelmed with content. It is also a good cycle for the developers because they can consistently put out high quality content without killing themselves. The current plan for what these patches will contain is odd numbered patches will have one dungeon and some other new content while even numbered patches will have two new dungeons and QOL improvements.
I also spoke briefly with Yoshi-P about if they might add more older dungeons to the roulette system to help there be more variety because it can be really boring to only have a couple of dungeons as options. He said the problem with adding older dungeons in is the older ones which require a lower level of gear would be much easier to do than the new dungeons. As a result, players would end up preferring the easier/faster dungeons and would drop group whenever they got a harder dungeon and it’s not a mentality they want to encourage.
Red Mage and Samurai
As part of the media preview spent some time on both a Red Mage and a Samurai. Both jobs were a lot of fun and were very interesting though I never was able to reach any level of comfort with the Red Mage. It makes use of both melee and ranged skills and I wasn’t really able to dial into how the skills fit together very well. I feel like it might be the sort of job which really shines and does well in concert with other jobs but isn’t as much fun on its own. It is also possible it just didn’t click with me because I tend to have more of an affinity with melee jobs than ranged.
The Samurai on the other hand clicked with me really quickly and I had an absolute blast playing it. The gauge system for Samurai is fairly easy to follow. Most skills build up the Kenki guage (looks like a katana) while others will expend it for stronger hits. Samurai also has the secondary Sen gauge which has three “flowers” and when they are highlighted they can be expended for a large hit. Obviously expending all three at the same time does the most damage. I felt like I was dealing fairly good damage as well but since things are still being tweaked and balanced it’s really difficult to base any conclusions on the numbers I was seeing.
I also preferred the Samurai’s style to Red Mage because the animations on the Samurai were really smooth and all the skills seemed like they seamlessly flowed from one to the next. Also, there were a fair amount of spell effects on the Samurai but none were really flashy whereas on the Red Mage everything felt flashy and showy which is just not very interesting to me. As I mentioned previously my discomfort on the Red Mage probably is one reason why the animation probably felt less smooth to me because I likely wasn’t matching up the abilities correctly at all.
Since Samurais use swords and there are already a lot of swords in FFXIV I asked Yoshi-P about if any of the existing swords were going to be useable as a Samurai. His response was if there is enough demand for any existing swords to be made available they would definitely do it, but to keep in mind all of the Samurai animations also involve a scabbard so if the requested sword would require them to create a new scabbard to be used with it, it would greatly reduce the speed at which they could make that available. For example, because of the size and shape of the Odin’s Zantetsuken it wouldn’t make sense to use with the default scabbard. So, for that sword skin they would have to design a whole new scabbard before they could make it available.
One of the new features in Stormblood is the ability to swim and dive in water as a new way to explore areas. The way this functionally works is you just run into the water to start swimming. When you want to dive and swim underwater all you have to do is point your camera down and swim forward. This will queue up a transition scene where the screen fills with bubbles and then you are underwater. To resurface you simply swim up and you’ll get the transition scene again.
One of the main reasons diving was added was to add another way of exploring the environment, because of this there is no breathe meter and no danger of drowning. Underwater towns are one of the cool things which can be found while exploring. These are located under giant bubbles on the sea floor and have portals which you can enter and exit through. There’s no underwater combat either so I was really able to just kickback and relax and explore.
I did ask Yoshi-P about if they had any plans to implement underwater combat in the future and he said they were not planning on doing that. The main reasons being he couldn’t really think of any compelling reasons to add it and it would take a considerable about of development time to make it work and he isn’t even sure they could do a good job of it. When I think about underwater combat in other MMOs I really have to agree he has a point because even the MMOs which have done underwater combat well, it still isn’t very fun to actually do. I can understand not wanting to put developer time into something which so often is not particularly fun and doesn’t really add anything meaningful to the game.