|Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward|
|Developer(s)||Square Enix Business Division 5|
|Release||23 June 2015|
Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward[b] is the first expansion pack to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed and published by Square Enix for Microsoft Windows, Apple's macOS, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4. It was released on June 23, 2015, nearly two years after the debut of A Realm Reborn. Naoki Yoshida served as director and producer and Nobuo Uematsu, who had not worked on the title since the ill-fated 2010 launch of the original Final Fantasy XIV, returned to collaborate with Masayoshi Soken on the soundtrack. The expansion pack was released as a standalone product for current players, as well as an "all-in-one" bundle containing A Realm Reborn and Heavensward. The latter was the only way to access the macOS version of the game, which premiered on the same day as the expansion pack's launch.
Heavensward focuses on a millennium-long conflict known as the Dragonsong War between the Holy See of Ishgard and the dragon horde of Dravania. Players seek asylum in Ishgard after being falsely accused of murder and become involved in efforts to end the war. These actions uncover an ancient conspiracy concerning the origins of the war. In addition to the new areas, the expansion pack increases the level cap, adds three new character classes and a new playable race, and introduces flying gameplay through the use of airships and other airborne mounts.
Heavensward performed well critically and earned nominations for "Expansion of the Year". In July 2015, Square Enix announced that the title had reached a cumulative total of five million subscriptions. However, the company suspended sales of the macOS version of the client that same month due to numerous reports of poor technical performance and offered refunds to those who purchased it. macOS sales resumed in February 2016. As with A Realm Reborn, major content patches were scheduled for every three months, though the first one—"As Goes Light, So Goes Darkness"—was delayed to November 10, 2015, to give the development team a break after shipping the expansion.
Main article: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn § Gameplay
The gameplay and quest structure of Heavensward largely match that of its base game. As with many massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPGs), players interact with each other in a persistent world that responds to their actions. The biggest change to the combat is an increase of the level cap to level 60, which allows each fighting class to learn new abilities that significantly modify the flow of battle. Three new job classes are introduced as well—the abyssal tank Dark Knight, the gun-toting Machinist, and the star-powered healer Astrologian. These jobs begin at level 30 with their own storylines connected to the new setting.
Heavensward features new areas which are about three times as large as zones in A Realm Reborn. The reason for the size increase is to accommodate flying gameplay. After completing certain quests and attuning to the air currents in an area, players gain the ability to use new flying mounts, such as airships, in that location. Flying allows access to previously unreachable points in the terrain. Airships built by player-run guilds also have the ability to explore floating islands for rare materials, as well as the Diadem—an open world area where players can challenge large monsters for high level gear and spoils.
In addition to new dungeons and raids, Heavensward introduces three new player versus player (PvP) modes. The Feast is an updated four-versus-four arena in the Wolves' Den in which players attempt to defeat other players to collect their medals. The team with the most medals at the end of the match wins. Unlike the Fold of A Realm Reborn, players respawn automatically in this mode and item boxes appear periodically around the arena which provide offensive and defensive advantages to the team that breaks them open. Players who maintain a high rank in the Feast are awarded with unique gear and trophies at the end of a season. An unranked version also exists for new players which features eight-versus-eight combat. The remaining new modes are for 24-player alliances to confront other Grand Companies. Seal Rock (Seize) is a capture the flag-style mode in which players must occupy and defend randomly spawning resource nodes from other teams. The Fields of Glory (Shatter) involves destroying objects around the battlefield for points.
Heavensward takes place in the fictional world of Hydaelyn, a planet filled with multiple environments and climates covering three large continents. The region in which the game is set is called Eorzea. This expansion focuses on the Holy See of Ishgard in the snowy mountains of Coerthas. The three nations of the Eorzean Alliance—Gridania, Limsa Lominsa, and Ul'dah—also play a role in the story, as does their adversary, the Garlean Empire. The Ascians, an immortal cult, continue to manipulate events behind the scenes. By flying, players are able to explore Dravania, the homeland of the dragons, and islands floating in the Sea of Clouds above the Abalathia's Spine mountain range. In Dravania, the ruined remains of Sharlayan, a city-state which had been evacuated during the first Garlean invasion, have given rise to Idyllshire, a free city founded by goblins upon democratic principles.
The primary conflict of Heavensward is the ongoing Dragonsong War between Ishgard and Nidhogg's horde of dragons. The Ishgardian orthodoxy suggests that this thousand-year struggle originated when the Elezen first settled in Eorzea. King Thordan, purportedly led by the will of the deity Halone, was commanded to build a city upon Abalathia's Spine. This action angered the great wyrm Nidhogg who confronted Thordan and his knights twelve. After a tremendous battle which wiped out many of his knights as well as Thordan himself, Thordan's son Haldrath took up his father's spear and carved out Nidhogg's eye. Nidhogg retreated and his eye became an Ishgardian relic with ties to the Azure Dragoon, a title given to the dragoon blessed by the eye's power. Since then, Nidhogg has waged a perennial siege on Ishgard and her people. This account of the beginnings of the war has been perpetuated by the Ishgardian Archdiocese which is currently headed by Archbishop Thordan VII.
The longevity of the war has engendered a strong isolationism in the Ishgardian government which filters down into the attitude of her people. Ishgard withdrew from the first Eorzean Alliance and declined to participate in the second, being preoccupied with their own war effort. This isolationism also manifests itself in a fanatic persecution of "heretics", i.e., anyone accused of consorting or sympathizing with dragons. In the lead-up to the events of the expansion, Nidhogg, who had been dormant for some time, bellows a great roar to rally the dragon horde to renew their assault on Ishgard. The player's character—an adventurer hailed as a Warrior of Light for fending off the Garlean invasion—comes into the good graces of Ser Aymeric, Lord Commander of the Temple Knights, for the defense of Ishgard during one such attack. When the player is caught at the wrong place at the wrong time during a coup attempt in Ul'dah, the hero flees to Ishgard for asylum from the charge of regicide with Alphinaud and Tataru, the only remnants of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn to escape the fiasco. Nidhogg's roar prompts a change in both sides of the conflict—Aymeric and Count Edmont of House Fortemps open Ishgard's gates to outsiders for the first time in years on the pretext of aiding the war effort. Meanwhile, Lady Iceheart grows her band of heretics and Estinien, the current Azure Dragoon, comes out of hiding in search of his archenemy, Nidhogg.
Heavensward opens with the Warrior of Light finally entering Ishgard proper. With Alphinaud and Tataru, they are ushered into the manor of Count Fortemps, who impresses upon them his progressive views about the role of outsiders in turning the tide of the Dragonsong War. The hero begins by assisting Edmont's sons on missions in neighboring territories. Through these missions, the adventurer briefly chances upon Lady Iceheart, who appears remorseful for the heavy toll on Ishgardian lives in the latest attack. Upon returning to Ishgard, the Warrior of Light finds the Scions accused of heresy by the Heavens' Ward, the Archbishop's honor guard. The player represents Tataru alongside Alphinaud in a trial by combat to prove their innocence. Victorious, they are invited to meet with the Archbishop who apologizes for his subordinates' lapse in judgment. In private, Thordan VII reveals that he accepted the Ascians' offer of power to continue the war effort, as well as his intention to betray them once he learns their secrets.
Meanwhile, news breaks of Raubahn's impending execution. They mount a daring rescue, culminating with intervention by an unexpected source. They discover that the regicidal conspiracy had been thwarted by Lord Lolorito long before the day of the Sultana's supposed assassination. Having switched the poison with a sleeping drug, Lolorito allowed the Warrior of Light to scapegoat responsibility for the coup attempt while eliminating his business rival and the Sultana's plans for democracy simultaneously. Lolorito later personally delivers the antidote to Raubahn and pledges to support the Sultana against the rapidly remobilizing Garlean army.
As the Dravanians prepare to resume their siege of Ishgard, Alphinaud suggests that they entreat Lady Iceheart to broker peace with Nidhogg through negotiation. Estinien offers his lance to aid this endeavor, promising to slay the great wyrm if words come to blows. Iceheart reveals that she too possesses the power of the Echo and used it to glimpse at the truth behind the war. Born Ysayle, she took the name Iceheart after communing with the soul of Shiva, the mortal woman whose love for the great wyrm Hraesvelgr allowed man and dragon to coexist peacefully for two hundred years. Yet the Elezen grew envious of the dragons' power and conspired to steal Nidhogg's eye, the source of his strength. This, she claims, is the origin of the Dragonsong War. Aiming to avoid further bloodshed, Ysayle agrees to take the party to parley with Hraesvelgr for his aid in ending the war. At their meeting, she invokes the name of Hraesvelgr's beloved Shiva, but he rebukes her, calling the primal a mockery of Shiva's memory.
Here, he recounts the true origins of the war, which date back to time immemorial when the dragon king Midgardsormr first arrived on the planet with seven eggs that would become his First Brood. Of his children, Hraesvelgr, Ratatoskr, and Nidhogg settled in Eorzea. The first Elezen to migrate to Eorzea encountered these great wyrms and Nidhogg was initially mistrustful, having seen the grim fate of his brood brother Bahamut at the hands of the Allagan Empire in eras past. However, the love between Shiva and Hraesvelgr forged a peace between their people. To overcome the brevity of her mortal life, Shiva allowed Hraesvelgr to devour her soul so they could be together for eternity. With Ascian urging, King Thordan betrayed the dragons' trust, conspiring with his knights to slay Ratatoskr and devour her eyes to gain unimaginable power. This becomes Nidhogg's true motive for his assault on Ishgard—his undying wish for revenge upon Thordan's descendants. Hraesvelgr ultimately refuses to abet peace, judging Nidhogg's cause just.
Estinien concludes that words have failed and the only deed that will end the war is Nidhogg's death. Using the power of Nidhogg's eye, Estinien weakens him enough to prize out the remaining eye, vanquishing the great wyrm. With the war over, the Warrior of Light and company return to Ishgard to share their revelation about the true history of Ishgard's founding. In confronting the Archbishop, Thordan VII reveals his role in perpetuating the Dragonsong deception, as well as his plan to travel to Azys Lla to gain ultimate power. Azys Lla is an ancient Allagan floating colony that serves as the prison for the Warring Triad, a trio of Third Astral Era primals with limitless strength. By absorbing the Warring Triad, Thordan aims to deify himself into a primal using the prayers of Ishgard's people, gaining the power to wage everlasting war.
In Azys Lla, the Garlean airship fleet approaches, taking advantage of the chaotic Ishgardian conflict to plunder Allagan technology. The flagship Gration opens fire upon the Warrior of Light's ship, but Hraesvelgr approaches with Ysayle in tow, both having had a change of heart since the death of Nidhogg. Ysayle summons Shiva and provides enough cover to land on the floating continent but she is killed by the Garleans' overwhelming firepower in the process. Traveling deep within the Aetherochemical Research Facility, the Warrior of Light confronts Igeyorhm and Lahabrea, the Ascian architects of Thordan's scheme. The adventurer smites Igeyorhm with Hydaelyn's blessing of light and Thordan VII himself arrives to vanquish Lahabrea. He absorbs the power of Nidhogg's eye, transforming into King Thordan, a primal powered by a thousand years of Ishgardian prayer. Making quick work of Lahabrea, he turns to sup on the Warring Triad but the Warrior of Light manages to strike him and his deified knights down.
As the conflict finally draws to a close, Estinien offers to seal away Nidhogg's eyes so their power could no longer be used for evil. However, Nidhogg's rage proves too great and his eyes overwhelm Estinien's psyche, possessing him and transfiguring his body into that of the great wyrm, allowing Nidhogg's shade to escape to rally his horde anew. Returning to Ishgard, the Warrior of Light receives a hero's welcome as Aymeric pledges to reconcile Ishgard's true past with the peace promised by the present. As Thordan's illegitimate son, he assumes temporary rule of Ishgard. Under this uneasy accord, Ishgard rejoins the Eorzean Alliance.
Though open warfare had abated, the revelation of Ishgard's bloody origins splinters the citizenry into populist factions supporting Aymeric and denialists supported by the former clergy who stand to lose their religious influence. Eager to prove man and dragon can coexist peacefully, Aymeric moves to broach diplomatic relations with Dravania, proposing a meeting with Hraesvelgr's daughter Vidofnir. The Scions turn their attention to locating their missing comrades. In the course of their search, they come into conflict with another band of adventurers who identify themselves as the Warriors of Darkness. The party returns to Ishgard in riot—the instigators demand a conclave to elect a new Archbishop. The Warrior of Light aids the Temple Knights in a raid on the insurgents' stronghold, climaxing when the ringleader tosses a hostage child off the battlements. By providence, Vidofnir arrives to catch her in midair, having agreed to act as Dravanian ambassador, which plants the seeds of hope for peace in the minds of onlookers.
The Scions focus their efforts on locating their missing leader Minfilia. Crossing into the aetherial sea, they discover that Minfilia has become the avatar of the Mothercrystal, Hydaelyn, and reveals the existence of thirteen reflections of the planet, remnants of her battle with the dark deity Zodiark. The Ascians succeeded in shattering seven of these alternate dimensions, each furthering Zodiark's revival and sapping Hydaelyn of strength, which necessitated Minfilia's permanent symbiosis. In Ishgard, Aymeric works towards a conference to announce his intentions to end the Dragonsong War not with violence, but peace. The conference is temporarily delayed when protesters urge the crowd not to forget their desire for vengeance. Sensing flagging Ishgardian unity, Aymeric organizes a set of joint military exercises with the Eorzean Alliance to reignite national pride. With the conference back on track, Vidofnir arrives and accepts the Ishgardians' proposal for peace. However, Nidhogg crashes the event with a dire warning—that his next assault will be the last, promising Ishgard's total annihilation.
The Scions race against time to find aid against Nidhogg, asking his brood-brother Hraesvelgr for assistance. After enduring his trials, the adventurer convinces the great wyrm to join Ishgard in the final battle. The Warrior of Light uses Hraesvelgr's eye and the full power of Hydaelyn's blessing to slay the wyrm-shaped shade. The adventurer and Alphinaud manage to pry the accursed eyes from Estinien's armor and release him from his ensorcellment. The horde retreats in disarray, signalling the true end to the war. Estinien recovers from his coma and relinquishes his title as Azure Dragoon, quietly escaping the city to live his post-vengeance life. As his final act as Lord Commander, Aymeric establishes a parliamentary democracy in Ishgard led by both lowborn and highborn citizens, represented by the House of Commons and House of Lords. Though eager to leave the public service, he is quickly elected as chairman of the latter to his chagrin. Count Edmont concludes his narration by penning the last words of his memoir, "Heavensward".
The Warrior of Light and Aymeric's long-delayed dinner date is interrupted by news of Alisaie, Alphinaud's twin sister, arriving injured at House Fortemps. She was attacked by the Warriors of Darkness, having overheard their plot to trigger an arms race of primal summoning. They reveal that their cooperation with the Ascians aims to bring Hydaelyn to the point of destruction to restore their home dimension. Tracking down another lead among Ala Mhigan refugees, the Scions are reunited with Yda and Papalymo, who had joined the Resistance efforts against the Garlean Empire. A man known as the Griffin has captivated the ears and hearts of the refugees, inspiring them to flock to his call to arms. He points the party to an impending summoning of Ifrit, which turns out to be a trap. During the battle, one of the Warriors of Darkness reveals himself as the Scion Urianger, playing double agent. He invokes a ritual to gain an audience with Hydaelyn's avatar, Minfilia. At Urianger's suggestion, she accompanies the Warriors of Darkness to their home world to return the excess Light that threatens to erase it to the Mothercrystal.
The Scions learn of the Griffin's plan to capture Baelsar's Wall, the Garlean base dividing the Black Shroud and occupied Ala Mhigo. By disguising as Eorzean Alliance soldiers, the Griffin's Resistance faction aims to provoke a Garlean counterattack which would force the Alliance into their war. However, the Griffin has a more sinister plot: he slays his comrades and employs their prayers and aether to summon a massive primal. His mad ritual is complete when he sacrifices himself to power the primal's vengeful will—to utterly destroy the Empire. Papalymo calls on an ancient sealing ritual, knowing it would cost his life. His gambit buys time for the Alliance to mount a response to the uncontrollable Calamity-level threat. Nero tol Scaeva, the dishonored Garlean scientist, crashes an Alliance meeting with his solution: an Allagan primal-hunting weapon known as Omega. When the dragon-like primal Shinryu escapes Papalymo's seal, Omega engages it and they seemingly eliminate each other with their final attacks. With the seal gone, Papalymo's last remaining spell also fades—an enchanted tattoo used to disguise the Scion known as Yda. She removes her mask and explains that she is actually Yda's sister Lyse. Her ruse was to preserve the memory of her sister who had died fighting in the Resistance. Lyse renews her resolve to fight for Ala Mhigan independence, now under her true name. With Baelsar's Wall captured, the Alliance and the Scions prepare for the Empire's inevitable response.
Planning for Heavensward, along with the patches leading into its story, began well over a year prior to its announcement. Naoki Yoshida, the game's producer and director, considered the expansion to be a "sink or swim" moment for the Final Fantasy XIV project, its success or failure determining the arc of the game's legacy. For theme, he decided between "Sea" and "Sky", ultimately settling on "Sky, dragons, and knights". The progression from the main game to its expansion was laid out in detail and these elements were categorized so that developers would not get confused between patch content and expansion content which were being created simultaneously. They chose Ishgard as the setting because it was teased in the original 2010 version of Final Fantasy XIV and lent itself well to the gothic fantasy story they wanted to tell. The development team worked within the constraints of existing backstory and assets for Ishgard and elaborated on them. This includes a fictional language for the dragons which Michael-Christopher Koji Fox, the director of English localization, had created during the development of the 2010 release. The expansion was announced at the Las Vegas segment of Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival 2014, which took place in October. Further details about the expansion were released at the London and Tokyo events, including the three new jobs, the new playable race, and the new raid. Yoshida also revealed a data center based in Europe to improve server performance for European players, as well as a service providing optional cosmetic items for purchase.
Unlike A Realm Reborn, the Heavensward storyline is an original story not directly inspired by previous Final Fantasy titles. Instead, it draws influence from real events such as religion-based conflicts around the world and the importance of recognizing the perspective that history is written from. The team chose to require new players to complete the A Realm Reborn story before accessing Heavensward because it provides necessary context for the player's actions. Yoshida referred to Heavenward as "the second season to a television program", remarking "you don’t watch it from the second season, you watch it from the first season so you know what’s going on". The team made adjustments to allow new players to "watch that first season on fast-forward", including increasing experience point gain and adding gear rewards to main scenario quests, alleviating the need to grind to access the expansion. However, for future expansions, Yoshida has stated that previous story completion will not be a requirement.
Heavensward premiered the macOS client at its launch on June 23, 2015. The port was handled by TransGaming. Unlike console and Windows PC versions of the expansion, the macOS release was initially only available in a two-in-one bundle containing the base game and the Heavensward expansion, titled Final Fantasy XIV Online. Current players of other versions of the game, including Apple PC players running the Windows PC install via Boot Camp, needed to purchase this bundle to play using the native macOS client. On July 3, 2015, Square Enix suspended sales of this version because of widespread reports of poor technical performance and offered refunds to those who purchased it. Yoshida attributed the performance problems to difficulties in transposing the game from Microsoft's proprietary DirectX graphical rendering libraries to OpenGL as well as a clerical error resulting in publishing the wrong minimum system requirements, both compounded by the hectic work schedule demanded by the release of an expansion pack. After new rounds of testing and optimization, sales of the macOS client resumed on February 23, 2016, accompanying the release of Patch 3.2.
Another major focus of the expansion is to update the game with DirectX 11 support. The DirectX 11 version of the game includes improvements to water physics, light refraction in water, reflections, and visual quality of shadows and textures over the DirectX 9 client. In addition, the new client is less resource-intensive on the graphical processing unit and may improve frame rates. However, there are no current plans to upgrade to DirectX 12. For consoles, the development team committed to maintaining support for the PlayStation 3 client through the end of the Heavensward patch cycle.
Two new categories of content were introduced during the patch cycle of Heavensward, post-launch: Exploratory Missions and Deep Dungeon. Exploratory Missions are designed to emulate the feel of "first generation" MMORPGs in which players would hunt notorious monsters in the field with hidden spawn conditions. It also fills a gap in the game's content repertoire for huge-scale battles with extremely large numbers of players. However, it was not well-received at launch because of the simplicity of its battle mechanics, the repetitive nature of the gameplay loop, and the randomness of the loot drops which were not tied to skill or effort spent. Deep Dungeon is a roguelike randomly generated instance, inspired by Chocobo Mystery Dungeon. Yoshida wanted to allow veteran players to party with their friends who are just starting out more quickly; as such, characters are temporarily reset to level one upon entering and level quickly back to the maximum over the course of the first 50 floors. The first section is considered casual content but reaching the 200th floor is intended as a challenge for hardcore players.
The development team schedules the release of a major update approximately every three months. Each of these free content patches includes a continuation of the main scenario as well as new raids, features, trials, and dungeons. Minor patches that come in between major updates focus on quality of life improvements. As with A Realm Reborn, Square Enix released five major patches for Heavensward over the course of its two-year content cycle. The final patches serve as a segue into the story of the second expansion, Stormblood.
|Patches and expansions|
|3.0||Heavensward||June 23, 2015||Weekly limited content was not made available on the expansion's launch day in order to allow players to enjoy the story at their own pace. The Alexander: Gordias raid debuted two weeks post-launch with a Savage difficulty mode released two weeks after that. The multiple difficulty settings are intended to allow regular players to experience the raid story while maintaining the challenge for dedicated players. In this storyline, a secret society of goblins called the Illuminati have summoned the spirit of the primal Alexander into an enormous robot that had been submerged under the lake in the Dravanian Hinterlands. The massive primal threatens to drain the region of aether, prompting the Scions to act. The player joins a treasure hunter named Mide on a mission to infiltrate Alexander and steal the Enigma Codex, which is the Illuminati's key to controlling the mechanical beast.|
|3.1||"As Goes Light, So Goes Darkness"||November 10, 2015||After shipping the expansion, Yoshida postponed the first patch to prevent burnout among the development team. In the Shadow of Mhach, 24 players accompany the Redbills, a band of Sky Pirates led by Leofard, in search of treasure on the Void Ark, a ghostly floating fortress that has been spotted around the Sea of Clouds. The crew encounter Diabolos, who aims to free the voidsent queen Scathach from her prison on the ark. The ark's guardian, Cait Sith, explains the ship's origins as a vessel to weather the floods of the Sixth Umbral Era, as well as the dangers posed by Scathach's liberation. The Diadem is a new area of the Sea of Clouds where many parties can challenge notorious monsters for gear and spoils. The patch also features an "Extreme" difficulty version of the final boss, King Thordan. Finally, Lord of Verminion is a real-time strategy-style minigame at the Gold Saucer in which players battle each other using collectable minions. It is based on an April Fools' Day joke parodying Lord of Vermilion.|
|3.2||"The Gears of Change"||February 23, 2016||The main feature of this patch is the Alexander: Midas raid. Traveling up Alexander's second arm, the player manages to defeat the Illuminati leader Quickthinx Allthoughts, recover the Enigma Codex, and disable the second of Alexander's three power cores. However, a strange phenomenon reverses time, restoring both cores and returning Alexander to full power with Quickthinx at the helm. On another front, the seal on the Warring Triad—a trio of ancient primals of immense power—begins to weaken, prompting the Scions to attempt to defeat them one by one. The first is Sephirot, the Fiend, the primal of a tree-like race with the power to enhance its own growth. The patch also introduces the Feast, a ranking-based player-versus-player arena. Lastly, the patch adds a pair of systems designed to help new players: the Hall of the Novice, which provides basic training exercises for each type of battle role; and the Mentor System, which allows veteran players to join a dedicated chat channel to give advice to novices.|
|3.3||"Revenge of the Horde"||June 7, 2016||This patch concludes the Dragonsong War storyline, ending with the defeat of Nidhogg, who serves as the update's boss trial. The Shadow of Mhach raids continue with the Weeping City of Mhach, in which the Redbills travel to the abandoned city in pursuit of Diabolos. There, they find the Nullstone, an ancient artifact with the power to banish any voidsent, which Cait Sith hopes to use on Scathach in the event of her inevitable release. This patch also adds two new types of dungeon content. The Aquapolis is a dungeon that relies on chance to spawn and progress, rewarding rare materials to the lucky. The Palace of the Dead is a roguelike multi-floor dungeon in which players start at level one and power up with items found within the dungeon. Finally, the Fields of Glory (Shatter) is a new alliance-scale PvP mode.|
|3.4||"Soul Surrender"||September 27, 2016||The 8-man raid story culminates in this patch with Alexander: The Creator. Quickthinx attempts to engage Alexander's time-warping abilities to rewrite history according to the Illuminati's plan. Cid determines that the goblin leader's preternatural predictions are a result of reading a journal from the present day left behind when the party travels back in time to witness Alexander's first summoning three years prior. After defeating Alexander Prime, Mide sacrifices herself to join her lover's soul inside the primal's core, which traps it in a single moment in time, safe from the world. Meanwhile, Sophia, the Goddess, is the second of the Warring Triad to break free from Allagan fetters. The patch also expands The Palace of the Dead to a depth of 200 floors, introduces a soldier management system in the form of Grand Company Squadrons, and addresses the lack of housing availability with apartment housing.|
|3.5||"The Far Edge of Fate"||January 17, 2017||Released in multiple parts, this patch takes players to the border of Ala Mhigo both literally and politically. The Shadow of Mhach raids conclude with Dun Scaith, where Diabolos steals the Nullstone from Cait Sith. On this floating island, intended as a Sixth Umbral Era refuge, the adventurers' alliance confronts and defeats Scathach. However, Diabolos consumes her corpse to gain her tremendous void power. Cait Sith manages to pilfer the Nullstone and uses it to banish Diabolos once and for all. Finally, the Scions collaborate with Garlean Legatus Regula van Hydrus to challenge the last and most powerful member of the Warring Triad, Zurvan, the Demon. Regula shields his temporary allies from a mortal blow, bidding the Scions to protect the world from the primal scourge as he lay dying. Satellite patches include a dramatic restructuring of the Diadem to be more objective-based, adding a massive 72+ player boss battle, and an expansion of the Party Finder to allow for cross-server recruitment. An extended crossover with Garo premiered in this patch as well, featuring equipment inspired by the tokusatsu series available through PvP battles.|
Main article: Music of Final Fantasy XIV
Masayoshi Soken composed the majority of the expansion's score—over 50 tracks—in addition to his duties as sound director. On the other hand, Heavensward marked Nobuo Uematsu's first return to the Final Fantasy series since his work on the original 2010 release of Final Fantasy XIV. Uematsu composed the expansion's main theme, "Dragonsong", and Soken used it as a musical through-line which reappears at multiple points in the story and soundtrack. Susan Calloway, who sang the theme song for the original release, reprised her role for this piece. Soken emphasized the music's connection to the story as important to his composition process, ever focused on enhancing the player's experience through sound. He found that Heavensward's "dark" main story is reflected in the pieces he wrote. Each locale's theme features the instruments that might be played there. Piano was used heavily throughout the soundtrack to add character to the other instruments. Soken's favorite track from Heavensward was "Revenge Twofold", a dungeon theme; it was originally intended for the Nidhogg battle but was repurposed.
Heavensward: Final Fantasy XIV Original Soundtrack is collection of music from the expansion pack including both the launch and Patch 3.1, "As Goes Light, So Goes Darkness". The album was released by Square Enix on February 24, 2016 on Blu-ray disc and includes a documentary about the sound production process featuring Soken. The first print run also came with a special "Spoony Bard" in-game pet, referring to the character from Final Fantasy IV. Unlike the previous Final Fantasy XIV album, all of the music was new to the album, though 16 of the tracks were previously released in September through November 2015 as Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward -EP- Vol. 1. through 3. The album was well received by Emily McMillan of Video Game Music Online, who lauded the soundtrack's "brilliant, varied, and extraordinarily fun to hear" themes. She praised the unique atmosphere of the new expansion's music, as well as its integration into the overall game's soundscape. Mike Salbato of RPGFan was impressed by the cohesiveness of the entire soundtrack, owing to the recurrence of motifs from "Heavensward" and "Dragonsong". He also singled out "Night in the Brume" as a graceful, melancholy town theme.
Critics looked to Heavensward as a bellwether for the direction of the Final Fantasy XIV project—if it would continue its comeback story that began with A Realm Reborn or if it would falter and further damage the series. Reception of the expansion was "generally favorable" for both PC and PlayStation 4 versions, according to review aggregator Metacritic, based on 14 and 20 reviews, respectively. Heavensward sold 47,000 units across PlayStation 3 and 4 versions in Japan in its first week, making it the third bestselling video game of the week in that region.
A focal point of praise for the game centered on the story. Pete Davison of GameSpot drew attention to the themes of racism and questioning of religious dogma as well as the dramatic arcs of characters like Ysayle, which he called "among the series' most memorable". Leif Johnson of IGN felt similarly, holding it as "the finest Final Fantasy tale that developer Square Enix has told in a decade". Mike Williams of USgamer took time to acknowledge the care and detail given to the side quests and commended the localization team for conveying their humor.
Many outlets made note of the requirement to finish all A Realm Reborn main story content before being given access to Heavensward. Davison argued that the decision made sense for the story-centric MMORPG and appreciated the adjustment to quests to make this process easier for new players. Daniella Lucas of GamesRadar agreed, saying "to bypass [A Realm Reborn] would be a disservice to a truly gripping tale". Johnson recognized the necessity of the story-based gate but criticized the decision to lock the new job classes behind it as well.
Reviewers compared the addition of flying gameplay favorably to World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. Mike Salbato of RPGFan lauded the choice to lock flying until players had explored each area on foot. Williams echoed this sentiment, observing that it preserves the sense of exploration and wonder in the world. Lucas and Davison were more equivocal about this feature but ultimately agreed with the developers' decision. However, they all agreed the expansive new zones were a highlight of the game, with Adriaan den Ouden of RPGamer impressed by "spectacular vistas that are simply stunning to behold".
Johnson took issue with a particular content gap manifesting toward the latter half of the expansion's leveling progression. Instead of completing a large number of "insipid" filler quests dealing with moogles, he opted to run the later leveling dungeons to overcome this hump. Williams and Salbato experienced a similar slow period during this midgame. Like A Realm Reborn, Heavensward continues the game's strong console feature set and controller support. Lucas maintained that Final Fantasy XIV is the best MMORPG for video game home consoles, though she cautioned that PlayStation 3 players might experience longer load times than on PlayStation 4.
Taken together, the critical response to Heavensward indicate confidence in the game's direction. Mark Langshaw of Digital Spy summarized that "Heavensward feels like a reward for the fans who gave Final Fantasy XIV a second chance after its botched launch in 2010". During the year-end awards cycle, Heavensward won "Best MMO" from RPGFan, Game Informer, and Massively Overpowered. It also earned "Best Expansion" from Hardcore Gamer. The BAFTA Games Awards nominated the title for best "evolving game" in both 2016 and 2017 award years.
Narrator: Hydaelyn: a vibrant planet blessed by the light of the Crystal. Amid azure seas, encompassing the westernmost of the Three Great Continents, there lies a realm embraced by gods and forged by heroes. Her name...Eorzea.