If you’re the type of person that goes cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs at the idea of a gorgeous MMO to test that new rig of yours, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn must just be the game for you. It’s been a crazy road for Final Fantasy XIV, what with a critically maligned first attempt that was pretty much lacking in every respect shifting into a game that players sink hundreds of hours into. Heavensward, the newest expansion for A Realm Reborn, feels almost triumphant in a way. It’s a wonderful gift to those who have been willing to give this strange MMO their time and effort, with gorgeous environments, highly-demanded new classes, and a fresh campaign about a thousand-year conflict. If ever there was a chance for Final Fantasy XIV to stand tall in the wake of a bizarre development cycle, this is it.
When treated to some downright stunning gameplay footage, I couldn’t help but be amazed. Final Fantasy XIV shifted from something that wasn’t worth paying any mind to, to a graphical powerhouse loaded with fantastic fan-service. Yes, there’s definitely a bit of weight that comes as a result of that last word, but bear with me here. I couldn’t help but marvel at the detail put into environments that fans have desired for months on end. As an outsider looking in, this was the type of game that convinces people to upgrade their PC in order to view it at its maximum potential. Consider how strange it is that a title that everyone ran away from is now a game that could convince you to shift systems. Yes, Heavensward will be available on PlayStation 4, but even Sony’s powerful system can only render its visuals at roughly the same level as the “High” settings on PC. That brings up another interesting thought, one of the major numbered titles in a series that has forever been associated with PlayStation is better on PC. Yeah, chew on that for a second.
Say what you want about the three new jobs that are taking a center role in the new expansion, though to be fair, the Astrologian’s hovering card-holder is an incredibly interesting item to build a card-based character class around. To be perfectly fair, the steampunk-attire-clad Machinist does look like a Grade A badass, and I can totally get behind any character in a high fantasy setting that wields guns. Hell, even the fact that the Au Ra are now a playable race after a long-teasing campaign, complete with mysterious hooded characters. All of this content is extremely interesting, but on a level based solely on pure hilarity, the fact that Chocobo flying mounts are now available is the coolest thing since sliced bread. Wait a minute, sliced bread isn’t actually that cool. Oh well, you know what I mean.
I’m a huge fan of the nonsensical, the humorous and the ridiculous. We often lose sight of how damn ridiculous video games truly are, so it’s always exciting to peel back the curtain, remove all of the context and laugh at how stupid this medium truly is. Think about flying Chocobo mounts outside of any semblance of context: your bizarrely dressed high fantasy character is essentially the same size as these weird chicken beasts, so flying on them looks inherently ridiculous. Forget about the fact that flying around the skies of a gorgeous realm with dozens of your friends and strangers is a phenomenal way to get around a vast world, the sheer amount of weight on the backs of these pathetic creatures makes every moment in the skies hilarious. If ever there was a dumb feature that will convert an outsider to the ways of Final Fantasy XIV, this is it. Though, to be fair, it seems a bit irresponsible to set up a new rig just to see flying chocobos on max settings. Actually wait, no, it’s not at all.
Sure, I could write something about the lesson everyone could learn from Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward. I could write over a hundred words of how Square Enix has shown its ability to triumph over adversity, but that wouldn’t that fun, would it? From its stunning vistas, deep combat and seemingly endless content, this is the type of MMO that balances depth and accessibility best. With all of the additions in Heavensward, the sheer amount of information is a bit overwhelming, but if you’re looking to take the deep, deep dive into the world of MMOs, you could definitely do a whole lot worse.