I officially started the Stormblood Expansion on Monday night, by which I mean that I’ve finally started into the Stormblood Main Scenario Quest.
I’m trying something I’ve never done before: I’m recording my MSQ adventures. I very rarely record MMORPGs, because frankly I find MMORPGs are among the least interesting kinds of games to watch. I constantly wonder why people stream them. (Most of what you see on the screen is just the UI.) The only thing I can figure is that there is so much idle downtime that it leaves the streamer plenty of time to chit-chat with the audience.
But I had this idea that recording would get me more involved in the story. It would force me to go slow and avoid trying to rush through the expansion just to get to level 70 as fast as possible, which might possibly result in getting frustrated and quitting early (see: Heavensward). It would make me read and pay attention to all the quest text and not watch television or something in the background. And as per usual, I’m making my videos entertaining for myself, which generally means rambling aimlessly in ways that would be socially unacceptable in the normal course of life. :)
So look for that on my YouTube channel. If you like seeing people make fools of themselves trying to imitate foreign accents, you might enjoy it.
As for what I think of Stormblood so far? The story doesn’t really start with a bang and frankly the first several hours aren’t all that exciting. It’s not surprising, though, since it’s a logical continuation of where events left off in Heavensward and it’s mostly just getting to know the new zones.
But just when you think things are settling into a long boring routine, bam! An inciting incident! Conflict! Tragedy! Characters that you care about suffer a catastrophic setback!
Once again I’m pleased to see that the story doesn’t necessarily revolve around me the player. My character isn’t driving the plot. She’s just tagging along with the principle characters and lending muscle when it’s appropriate. This is the right way to do overarching MMORPG quests, in my opinion.
So far I’ve been ignoring side quests and exclusively following the MSQ. (Except side quests that unlock something.) I started Stormblood roughly 95% of the way to 61, so it didn’t take long to level up. I figure I’ll be a bit ahead of the curve for a little while. As of this writing I’ve reached level 62, and I think we’re about to head to Doma.
I saw Raubahn’s infamous Cold Steel quest. I don’t know what all you early access folks were complaining about, it worked fine for me on the first try. :)
I like the forested part of The Fringe zone around Castrum Oriens, but I’m less thrilled about the dusty desert areas that seem to dominate the rest of the zone. It’s similar to large swaths of Thanalan, so it doesn’t feel very “new” to me. Also I hate dust. I would hate living in that kind of place. There are lots of opportunities for great screenshots, though.
I was impressed by all of the new types of mobs in the first zones though–almost everything is a brand new kind of monster. There are treants, spiders, one-eyed owl things, giant bee-things, giant chicken-dinosaur-eagle things, and giant red fire-breathing moth things. The usual weird assortment of FFXIV monsters. :) It’s a big improvement over the beginning regions of Heavensward which didn’t seem to have that many new mobs.
I did two FATEs in The Fringe, and I completed both mostly solo (someone joined in at the end of the second one). I got a pretty sizable chunk of experience on the first one and picked up the “Twist of Fate” bonus, so I did the second one and got even more experience. Unlike Heavensward, it was a) possible to complete by myself and b) didn’t feel like a complete waste of time.
In general, I feel like they’ve tuned the difficulty a lot better for this expansion. I remember the beginning of Heavensward being somewhat frustrating, but the beginning of Stormblood seems “just right.” Not easy, but not overly difficult, either. I can kill things without my chocobo DPS companion, but it goes a bit easier when I bring out Peeps to help, which seems like right where it should be.
Thusfar I haven’t found myself getting tired of endless running, like I did in Heavensward. It seems like they are making an effort to confine the early quests to a smaller area before you are able to fly. It might be my imagination, but the first two zones look smaller than the ones in Heavensward, too. (Perhaps it’s too early to judge this–I didn’t start whining about too much running until around level 53 in Heavensward.)
Rhalgr’s Reach is a neat little town, although I have to admit I don’t much care for the theme music. It’s a brass orchestration of what sounds like a church hymn, something you might hear on the Titanic while it’s sinking, and it doesn’t resonate with me in a high fantasy setting. It’s probably just my personal taste. Overall the music in Stormblood so far has been good, if not terrifically noteworthy.
I wrote that paragraph before the “inciting incident” I mentioned earlier. After that incident, the music in Rhalgr’s Reach changes significantly, and I like the newer, more somber music much better.
There actually is a hymn for one of the cut scenes. A choir sings praises to the Empire in a scene that disturbingly smacks of fanatical Nazism. It leaves little room for doubt that the Garlean Empire is bad and we should rejoice in killing them whenever possible. FFXIV is definitely not much into shades of gray or ambiguous enemies.
One other minor change I noticed is that there are often multiple pathways to be taken in the MSQ. You can choose whether to go this way or that way first, which I don’t think we’ve ever seen before. It’s a nice little touch, though I suppose it could also be viewed as more busy work, too. :)
Overall I’m enjoying it. Definitely worth the money.