Final Fantasy XIV Online: Stormblood (PC) Review

By Ian Soltes 31.12.2017 1

Review for Final Fantasy XIV Online: Stormblood on PC

It's been a long time since the launch of Final Fantasy XIV, as it moved from a failed title to a series that not only did the name justice, but surpassed its own modern entries with A Realm Reborn and Heavensward. Now, nipping at the heels of the MMO king itself, the newest expansion comes along. Is Stormblood enough?

It's no small stretch to say that Final Fantasy XIV is currently the best state it's ever been in. Despite its almost fatal start, rebirth, rapid ascent, and wondrous first expansion, it's shown itself to be worth not only playing as an MMO, not just as a JRPG, but as one of the greater Final Fantasy games of all time.

Coming right off the heels of the final engaging dungeon, the fires of war have finally reignited, and the realm of Ala Mhigo is in rebellion against the Empire. However, the latter's grip is so strong that a front within just Ala Mhigo would result in failure. The only hope is to open a two-sided war by causing the land of Othard far to the east to rebel, as well. Just as in Ala Mhigo, though, Othard is firmly under the Empire's heel with its spirit crushed… Or is it? Yes, it is. Not only is it crushed, but the heel of a cruel mistress ensures it stays crushed.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: Stormblood on PC

Two new classes make their appearance in Stormblood. The overrate—*cough* The Red Mage, which balances both black and white magic in battle, and the Samurai class, focused on balancing out three Sen and an energy bar. One is wonderful. The other wears red and can't seem to figure out that the world doesn't revolve aro— …Ahem. Sorry.

The Samurai is a pretty nice class, as it centres on three distinct combo chains and, most importantly, timing. They contain an ability called Third Eye, reducing the damage of the next hit by 5%, which is barely anything. However, if they pull it off, they gain the ability to quickly cast a self-heal or utilize an attack. Getting this timing down is critical for a Samurai.

Red Mages have their own unique abilities, as well, such as "tick off the White Mage by insisting that they can heal through standing in the fire," "belittle the White Mage by claiming their healing is enough to keep the party up and they boast superior damage" and "get laughed at by the White Mage when they are proven wrong on both accounts and die." There…may be some personal bias intermingled here.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: Stormblood on PC

That aside, the story is, once again, top notch. With things constantly moving forward and new facets of all the main players coming to light, it manages to cram into such a short period of time far more character development than some 20-40-hour story-based games manage in their entirety. This includes, in a shocking twist, a villain who is both sympathetic and deplorable.

The zones, once again, are wonderful. While they aren't as visually varied as in Heavensward, they contain an immense amount of personality in their many facets, such as the highland plains with its nomadic tribes full of little encampments and culture strewn about; or the sheer desolation and lack of anything cheerful in contrast to the beautiful forest one zone away to show just how crushing the Empire has been; or the wonderful not-Japanese capital city, which simply reeks of both culture and beauty and fits in despite its alien nature.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: Stormblood on PC

The one thing that seems to tower over all in terms of improvement, however, is the combat. Over the prior two expansions, Square Enix has clearly been learning, and it shows in the form of some truly difficult and amazing skill-based battles in both the story and class quests. Few things prior have been as tense as facing down your master atop a snowy peak as a Samurai before you engage in a battle in which basically every ability learned comes into play and every tactic and reflex is put to the test; or the battles against the new main villain, General Zenos, who is an immensely powerful brute that perfectly gives off the aura of seeking to test you to finally find an equal.

Another prime example comes in the very first dungeon in the zone in which the bosses gladly throw out positional-based abilities where messing up will result in a lot of pain. However, once again, it's not a matter of "learn instant-death mechanics," but, rather, skill. That is to say learning to cope with the new situations, dealing with the new abilities that put the player to the test, and overcoming, as opposed to slamming the head against the wall until everything is learned.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: Stormblood on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Stormblood is simply amazing. Not much more can be said about it. With a very well-crafted story, some tense and epic battles, two new classes, and wonderful zones, saying anything else would ruin so much of the expansion and what makes it great.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

What a game this is now. My only frustrations at the moment are the endgame grind for iLvl300+ gear, which you are practically forced to do to tackle some of the extreme trials, and the arsehole players who don't explain the mechanics of fights to first-timers, instead opting to be sarcastic and insulting when they inevitably do things wrong and wipe out. This is why it's always better to try to play with people from a free company.

I put in for a new month's sub after using the recent free 4-day period to complete 4.1 content, and have just done the Ivalice quest. I should be able to get the 4.2 content done when it arrives this month.

( Edited 04.01.2018 03:04 by Azuardo )

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