This is a sponsored post presented by Square Enix. Words by Sam Smith.
The first ever Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn expansion, Heavensward, is on the way, bringing with it new classes, races, hundreds of quests, dungeons, raids, flying mounts and more. However, as a long time fan of the series, the thing I'm probably looking forward to most are the new lands and regions to explore. FF XIV is a fantastic game, but one key aspect of any great MMO that tends to be overlooked is the world design, and in this regard I'd argue FF XIV stands above perhaps every other game in the genre. Final Fantasy has always been famous for its incredible worlds, and Eorzea fits right in with a beautiful splendour of its own, as well as paying tribute to past Final Fantasy games through some areas that might seem familiar to older fans. So join me as we take a trip through the wonderful world of Eorzea, looking back to areas inspired by the classics and forward to where we'll be venturing in Heavensward.
This is my dude, Crunch. He'll be your tour guide! He has a stupid little beard because only Highlander Hyur get proper beards and I didn't find out until it was too late and I'd picked Midlander like a chump. I'm sorry about his stupid little beard.
One of the best bits of FF XIV is that you can level up every class on one character. While I'm normally an awesome Paladin wearing heavy armour and head-butting dragons, I'm currently levelling my magic classes so I can cut about in a big floppy hat.
Right this way!
UL'DAH, LIMSA LOMINSA AND GRIDANIA
Eorzea features three great city-states, and your choice of starting class will determine which of them you begin in. Hip people who know what is up and begin as a Gladiator like our fearless tour guide will start in Ul'Dah, a shining metropolis of brick and gold located in the desert sands of Thanalan. Ruled over primarily by the diminutive (and adorable) Lalafell, Ul'Dah is a hub of commerce where money is law. All the cool kids hang out in Ul'Dah.
Limsa Lominsa is a naval city ruled by a conglomerate of sailors and reformed pirates, with beautiful water-scapes that look like they could have been lifted from the aquatic design documents of Final Fantasy X.
Finally, Gridania is likely to be the most popular city. An enclosed hideaway in the forested Black Shroud, it's full of Elezen (read: elves) worshipping the spirits of nature and dedicated to maintaining balance and harmony. It's a pretty chilled out place.
COSTA DEL SOL
Sound familiar? Fans of Final Fantasy VII will recognise Costa Del Sol, a holiday resort famed for its white sands and blue waves! It's back in FF XIV, albeit in a slightly different form from before. Here's Crunch, enjoying the sun! Risqué bathing suit photo!
THE GOLDEN SAUCER
However, if it's returning Final Fantasy VII areas we are discussing, nothing beats the recently-added Manderville Gold Saucer. One of the best MMO updates I've ever seen, the Gold Saucer is once again a huge amusement park full of ways to while away time and spend some hard-earned adventuring money. You can enter lotteries, play mini-games, take part in special FATEs (public quests) and more, but the real attractions of the Golden Saucer are both familiar to fans of the series: Chocobo Racing and Triple Triad.
Yup, you can breed, raise and race Chocobo in Final Fantasy XIV, just as you could in FF VII. The racing mechanic is even eerily similar, and feels like slipping back into a pair of old slippers after a decade away. There's a ton of content here, and if you want to be a hardcore racer, it's essentially an entirely separate game.
Oh yeah, and that other thing? TRIPLE TRIAD? If you've played Final Fantasy VIII, you love Triple Triad (I refuse to believe anyone could dislike Triple Triad.) The Golden Saucer introduced the game as we know and love it, even including that music to make it as authentic as possible. Eorzea has been littered with NPCs to play and cards to collect, again putting what is almost another game entirely within the overall package of FF XIV.
THE CRYSTAL TOWER
Going back further in time, The Crystal Tower series of dungeons is a direct reference to the same area from Final Fantasy III. It features many of the same bosses, albeit reworked for an MMO rather than a 2D NES game. It's a beautiful area full of crystallised architecture and serves as a great visual reward for high-level players with the skill and gear to explore it.
THE GARLEAN EMPIRE
The Garlean Empire are the main bad guys for much of FF XIV, and while you can't actually go there yourself, you still get a good look at the place and the nasty people that live there who want to kill you and take your stuff. The Garleans are very strongly influenced by the evil Empire from Final Fantasy VI, from their gothic armour designs to their “Magitek” fusing of magic and technology that will no doubt sound familiar to many. Players can even eventually unlock a Magitek Armour mount similar to that ridden by Terra on the FF VI cover.
ONWARD, TO ISHGARD
If you've finished the main story campaign, you'll be able to journey into the country of Ishgard once Heavensward hits. Past the snowy hinterlands of Coerthas, Ishgard is a rocky, mountainous landscape that seems as hostile as its inhabitants, constantly at war with dragons from neighbouring land Dravania (we'll be able to go there too) and ruled by the Holy See. Owing to the vertical landscapes, Ishgard will allow players for the first time to take to the skies on flying mounts. Promising just as much land to explore as the current game, Ishgard will be enormous and, as with all good Final Fantasy worlds, full of just as much character as the people that inhabit it.
The Ishgardian flag features Eorzean text that translates to “Of the Sky, From the Sky, For the Sky.” If A Realm Reborn was about exploring the strange new world that players found themselves in, Heavensward will point their eyes to the skies for the first time. Get ready to fly!
Final Fantasy XIV's Heavensward expansion will be out June 23rd. This is a sponsored post presented by Square Enix.