The Final Fantasy XIV Diaries #4 – Heavensward

I had heard quite a lot about Final Fantasy XIV’s first expansion, Heavensward. I knew going in that it was a highly acclaimed expansion and well loved by the community. Because of this, my expectations were set fairly high to say the least. After recently beating it and the post-expansion quest lines, it’s safe to say that it lived up to the hype.

After the tumultuous events that wracked the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, our heroes seek asylum in the beautiful city-state of Ishgard, a place steeped in religion, and a former member of the Eorzean Alliance. However, Ishgard suffers its own problems in the form of the Dragonsong War. This is a conflict that has lasted a millennia between the city and the dragons of Dravania. In a bid to not only repay the hospitality of Ishgard, but to prevent as much bloodshed as possible, the Scions seek to find a way to end the conflict once and for all.

Yes, you heard me right. Heavensward is all about dragons! I used to be obsessed with dragons when I was younger (I still am if I’m honest), so this expansion’s premise is right up my alley. Overall, I thought they really nailed this narrative, as its filled with epic moments, emotional scenes, as well as a number of twists and shocking revelations. It does a good job at showing the dynamics for each side of the war, and highlighting the complexities and reasoning behind both.

The story does go beyond just this war, as it also deals with the abuse of power and religious influence. It’s very easy to make a plot surrounding war and joint aspects quite simple/black & white. Heavensward goes to great measures to not go down this route, opting instead for a narrative that poses questions to both parties.

Final Fantasy is known for its strong characters, and that continues here. Ysayle (Lady Iceheart) was a standout for me. She had such a brilliant character arc that I was fully invested in, and her ties to Shiva make her all the better. Estinien and Aymeric are other brilliant additions that carried the plot. There’s plenty of emotional scenes in this expansion with the characters, and I’m still not quite over them.

I have had a chance to try out some of the new jobs that were added here, although, I haven’t spent nearly enough time to give a detailed critique/opinion on them. Astrologian is a healer class that I spent the most time with out of the three added. It’s an interesting class and its focus on drawing different cards for various effects makes it feel unique. I definitely plan to spend time with it in the future, but as of now, I’m too engaged with the Summoner class to deviate for long.

The new locations are all pretty great, with city of Ishgard itself as the clear standout. Just walking the hallowed streets with the beautiful music in the background gave me chills. It’s such a stunning location. I can’t talk about Heavensward without mentioning the heavenly music (pun intended). The soundtrack is just magnificent. The main theme in particular is so beautifully crafted.

One thing I don’t like is the aether currents needed to unlock flight for your mounts. Each of the new areas requires you to find and interact with these green wisps, as well as complete a number of side and main quests before you can fly in that region. I get why they’ve done it, so you can’t just breeze across the map. However, it’s not long before you’re forced to backtrack constantly. Coupled with the slow mount speed, it drags the pacing down so much unless you always pay in-game currency to fast travel. I feel like flying should unlock a bit earlier to avoid dull backtracking across the same areas dozens of times.

Heavensward is such a brilliant expansion that builds upon everything the base game has. The story was riveting and filled with emotion and drama. The new locations and music combine to make the presentation and experience all the more enjoyable. Yes, it has some dull quest design and periods of time where you’re doing nothing other than moving between NPCs for dialogue and cutscenes. But overall, it’s a stellar experience that lives up to the acclaim it has garnered.

Thank you so much for reading. I’ve recently started the next expansion, Stormblood, and I’m liking it quite a bit.

Have a great day!

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