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Graphical Score: 9/10

Audio Score: 10/10

Gameplay Score: 7/10

Story Score: 10/10



With the addition of Stormblood, FFXIV saw a lot of changes to a lot of classes, as well as two new ones. It doesn’t hurt to do a new review, right?

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Why, you might ask, does Final Fantasy XIV require a second review on this website? Well in reality it probably doesn’t, but in my defence I have two things to say. The first is that Stormblood, the second expansion of the game and the latest to release, brought quite a few changes to standard combat that would effect the game even if you didn’t actually own Stormblood. The second? I just love the game, to be honest with you.

Stormblood gives Final Fantasy XIV a second review on this website because it also additionally highlights certain aspects of the game overall that I didn’t touch on in my previous review having been behind on content and playing catch up compared to players that had been more active than I. By playing through Stormblood on-content and on release, it gave me additional insight into the game overall and some of the problems it has - as well as some of the benefits that the expansion brought along.

The main problems with Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood - problems since mostly addressed and yet problems that definitely deserve to be spoken about as they will lightly prove to be a blight in the future - is that the game boasts a lot of players. And with a recent change of location for the game servers, Stormblood served to highlight something pretty incredible about Final Fantasy XIV… which was that these servers really aren’t good enough when it comes to dealing with the huge amount of players the game boasts.

Infamously, players that were trying to play through the story of Stormblood for the first week of release found that they had their progress entirely impeded by a special story “duty” - a single player instance that acts a bit like a private dungeon or boss battle. Much like running a dungeon or a raid, the servers create an individual ‘instance’ of this encounter for the player that other outside players cannot get into. Sadly, the amount of players that were trying to get through Stormblood’s story overloaded the servers of the game. The entire game was plagued with spikes of lag, continuous disconnection errors and total inability to access the instance servers.

This didn’t just make progression through the expansion impossible, but it made playing the game outright an impossibility too. Dungeons couldn’t be safely run without the risk of getting disconnected from the game, the lag spikes would render the regular overworld content of the game unplayable, and in general the whole thing was a bloody mess. It was also the first time I had ever personally witnessed queuing in an online game - many servers tried everything they could think of to reduce the chance of getting kicked out of their special story instance by forming actual, literal queues to the NPC.

That wasn’t the only problem with Stormblood, either…

The game’s overworld showed clear problems with dealing with players, too. In particular, a crack in the woodwork was displayed in the game’s FATE system. FATEs, in this game, are special timed events that can be anything from killing a certain amount of monsters to gathering items to killing bosses. Most FATEs give generic rewards of no real note, but two FATEs in Stormblood became very noteworthy very quickly. The first was a special boss FATE in one of the maps roughly half way through the expansion, called Foxy Lady. The FATE had no specific spawn timer, and was additionally part of a FATE chain, meaning specific FATEs had to be done before this one in order for it to even spawn at all. The FATE gave out special rewards that could be traded in for exclusive items not available anywhere else, and has a unique achievement tied to it too. The second infamous FATE was one that spawned in the final map of the expansion and was by far the most problematic of the two FATEs for an otherwise similar reason. This FATE also dropped special tokens you could trade in for exclusive items - one of which was a mini version of the boss of the FATE itself that you could ride as a mount. The problem with this FATE was that you had to do the FATE multiple times in order to get the mount.

To be precise, on release originally, you needed to do this FATE at least six times, assuming you got the highest rank of participation (which was gold) in order to get the mount. If you got silver participation each time, you would need to do the FATE twelve times. Bronze participation got you no tokens at all and meant you wasted your time.

Why is this a problem at all, you might ask? There is, after all, nothing inherently wrong with having special events that require multiple runs to get rewards. And normally I would agree with you - if Square’s servers could handle the amount of players that swarm for these rewards. You see these FATEs suffered from three distinct problems: the first was that the server lagged terribly whenever they spawned and could not handle the amount of people that came to the maps to complete these FATEs. In turn, the second problem was that the extreme amount of lag made it very difficult to dodge the attacks of the boss and left you very likely to get killed, which also ran the risk of resetting your participation for the FATE. If you got totally disconnected, it absolutely reset your participation for the FATE, and pretty much guaranteed you wouldn’t be able to log back in until the boss was already dead and people left the map. The third and final problem was that these FATEs were especially rare, with a minimum window of 36 hours between their spawn times, and they could spawn in random locations on the map. Combining all three problems together not only made these FATEs painful to try and farm for their rewards, but showed that Square Enix themselves don’t really understand how to balance their game to make it fun to play and rewarding without making it exclusive.

If you don’t believe me about how bad the whole mount thing was, by the way, I should point out here that the company had to keep three separate versions of the map that the FATE spawned in open for an extra month to try and deal with the lag that was caused (and the fact that the maps wouldn’t let people in after only 100 players or so got into them, which in turn blocked player’s progress for the story in those maps if they needed to progress their story still.) Additionally, Square eventually had to adjust the rewards for this FATE in particular so that you got 6 tokens on gold instead of 2, meaning you only had to do the FATE twice instead of six times to get the mount.

The gameplay changes to combat also brought changes to gameplay that some could say were undesirable. As Square Enix felt that their game was unapproachable and too difficult to play (while most players would argue that classes were easy to pick up but hard to master for the most part) many classes saw huge changes to the way they behaved. The balance of power hugely shifted between classes of many kinds, and frankly, it’s still something of a mess to this day. Samurai and Red Mage, the two new classes, were initially grossly overpowered and required serious toning after their release to bring them more in line. Summoners were flat out broken because their pets were taking additional damage from things they were previously immune to - this was actually a bug instead of an intentional change - and they were not fixed for months after Stormblood’s release. Dragoons had their rotation changed to be a little more relaxed and flexible, but they were also given one of the most unrewarding set of level 60-70 skills that were later changed to be more worth actually using. Dark Knights were suddenly made redundant because of a lack of party utility in comparison to the other two tanks available - something they remain to this day. White Mages were given an unrewarding level 70 mechanic that still goes widely ignored and uncared for due to how fundamentally useless it is.

While the combat of the game is definitely still very fun, and Stormblood did a lot of things right with its release, it also did a lot of things wrong. Most prudently, it showed that Square Enix was out of touch with their player base… and that they continue to be so. Several changes seen since have shown that they often balance classes based on the performance of the top 10% of players, which in turn means the game for the rest of the 90% of players is a bit of a strange and sometimes very unrewarding place. It can sometimes make you feel like learning your class just isn’t worth it any more, or even make you feel like your entire class has no place in the game for certain content (such as White Mages or Dark Knights not really being considered entirely optimal for most end game raids because of their lack of party utility.) The game is still good, make no mistake, and some changes definitely made a lot of sense to see - but other changes made considerably less sense and, in some cases, actually made things worse for several classes in turn. Together with the problems patching out bugs in reasonable time periods, problems with the servers not being able to run at full capacity and crashing out regularly, and rampant reports of players being blocked from finishing their story or doing certain content because of the bugs to their classes or the aforementioned server issues, and the hard reality is that Stormblood’s release was less than ideal.

Make no mistake, Final Fantasy XIV is still a very good game. I would still recommend it to my friends if they wanted a game with fun combat, a good variety of classes, the ability to focus on one character and unlock every class on them rather than feel forced onto alts to try new things, and for players who like a game that has a relatively low skill floor but a considerably high skill ceiling. I’d still recommend the game for how pretty it looks and how amazing it sounds, how fun some of the encounters are from both past content and current content, and the improvements we keep seeing to previously out-dated systems like the glamour and the dye system (one of which is being rehauled for the second time in two or so months, in fact.)

The game is a good game. It deserves high praise and it deserves the success that it sees. But one cannot have critical success without also accepting some critical failure, and Stormblood went a long way to highlighting a lot of the problems that Final Fantasy XIV not only suffered from in the past, but still suffers from when it releases new content or when it re-balances the classes it has. For all the things Stormblood got right for this game, it got a good number of things wrong, and worse the things that it got wrong are problems that impact a game’s sales and are problems that definitely need to be learned from so they don’t happen in the future. Players having story progress impeded for over a week are dire problems that need to be addressed. Servers failing to handle maps at capacity or deal with the amount of players that play the game are dire problems that need to be addressed, especially when they happen so soon after a server move. Developers being out of touch with the majority of their player base and leaving bugs unfixed for months that make some classes borderline unplayable are, quite obviously, dire problems. The game remains a fantastic game, but Stormblood acts as a very good lesson for the future in how to deal with everything from server load to class balance to how to structure rewarding events without punishing players.