Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood Review

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: MMORPG
 
Rating: M15+
 
Release Date: 20/06/2017
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
4.5/5


 

Positives


- Excellent campaign content
- Beautiful and varied environments
- Fantastic musical score
- Adjusts combat in a positive way

Negatives


- Voice acting varies in quality
- Side quests can get repetitive


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Posted July 9, 2017 by

 
Full Article
 
 

My first real love affair with an MMO began in high school where, despite only having a dial up connection, I would spend hours every night playing World of Warcraft. While I loved the game, I’d never been a big fan of Warcraft and didn’t have any connection to the lore, so many of the cameos and references went straight over my head. So, when I found out my favourite RPG series Final Fantasy was going to become an MMO, I jumped on Final Fantasy XI. After playing the game for quite a while, I eventually drifted away from the MMO space and hadn’t touched one in years. It wasn’t until Final Fantasy XIV released that I got back into the genre. While the launch was rocky, the relaunch in the form of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was fantastic and scratched an itch I’d forgotten I had. The story content was great, and the returning character classes and monsters were excellently nostalgic. The world of Final Fantasy XIV is expanding once again with the release of Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood, which continues the game’s legacy of great story telling and fantastic world design.

One thing that the Final Fantasy series has excelled in over the years is its memorable story-telling. Even when things get a bit melodramatic or silly at times, you’ll typically walk away with some part of the story having affected you. Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood continues this tradition, with an impactful and well-written story that is thoroughly enjoyable to experience. You’ll meet both new and returning characters as you fight against the Garlean Empire in a bid to liberate eastern Aldenard from their grip. This setting provides for some more serious moments at times, but that hasn’t stopped Square-Enix from including lighter and more cheerful moments to keep your spirits up. The longer I played, the more I found myself becoming attached to the characters in the story and feeling their pain as problems arose. The story is certainly darker than what you would expect from most MMOs, and indeed darker than what has been found in Final Fantasy XIV in the past. While Yasumi Matsuno, famous for his work on Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII, is only credited as writing a small sliver of the game, the tone as a whole matches what we would expect from him. His inclusion on the staff, as well as his work on a new raid based around Ivalice, may have influenced the story as a whole and the game is certainly better for it. This is a story worthy of a numbered Final Fantasy entry and made playing the game that much more engaging.

While the story itself is great, its presentation isn’t always the best. Specifically, the voice acting is somewhat hit and miss, which has been a problem with some Square Enix games in the past. While the majority of voice acting is great, there are the odd moments with grating voices and lacklustre acting. Conversely, the music in the game is fantastic, as you would expect from a Final Fantasy game. Masayoshi Soken has done a fantastic job at creating a score that effortlessly moves between beautiful sweeping orchestral pieces as you explore to more up-tempo pieces as you engage in battle. It’s a fantastic score that perfectly matches the scenarios you’re in and keeps you playing just so you can hear more.

The environments certainly don’t hinder the experience either, with Stormblood continuing to be one of the best looking MMOs out there, while also remaining hugely scalable from a technical standpoint. Character models are still well done, with complex shadows and models, while environments continue to be filled with great and varied texture work. You’ll jump between forests, deserts and even go swimming and diving in the ocean in a series first. Stormblood brings a big variety of beautiful environments to the table, ensuring that you’re never bored by what you see.

Stormblood also brings with it a couple of new adjustments to the games combat, allowing for more streamlined levelling and better cross-class skillsets. Personally, the biggest change is to how cross-class skills work. Previously, the cross-class skills you could use were limited quite heavily, however with Stormblood Square Enix have opened the gate a bit more, allowing you to pick from a larger number of skills. This means that you can customise your characters a bit more, but also gives you more reason to play and level up multiple characters. Another big change is the removal of the accuracy stat, replacing it with a ‘Direct Hit’ rate. Instead of some hits missing, with Direct Hit you’ll find that attacks always land, but do varying amounts of damage. This removes the frustration of having hits outright miss, while also being an easier to understand metric for damage effectiveness. Each job has also had a brand new gauge introduced, which allows for easier tracking of timings and buffs. This was certainly helpful as sometimes tracking the different stacks on my Monk could be frustrating. These changes help keep the game interesting, while also showing that Square Enix is willing to make changes to make their audiences lives a little easier when they play.

While some once questioned Square Enix’s entry into the MMO market, there is no doubt that after Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn that they are capable of making fantastic games in the genre. Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood continues to uphold this reputation, with a great story, wonderful environments and helpful adjustments to the formula. While the voice acting can be hit and miss, if you were disappointed by the surprisingly small amount of story content in Final Fantasy XV and want something reminiscent of classic Final Fantasy you should definitely give Final Fantasy XIV and Stormblood a go.


Andrew Cathie

 
Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting. Also, pugs are awesome. Puglife.


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