FINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward Preview

Final Heaven.

With Heart of Thorns for Guild Wars 2 and Heavensward for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, 2015 is already shaping up to be a great year for MMORPG expansion packs. First revealed at the 2014 Fan Fest in Las Vegas, Heavensward (pronounced "Heavens-word") will increase the level cap from 50 to 60 and finally introduce Ishgard and Dravania as playable areas for the swathes of fans itching to visit the mysterious islands in the sky. Square Enix won't be stopping there either, creating three new jobs and adding the much-awaited flying mounts, but let's take our time with this information reveal.

Revealing the PAX East presentation to press earlier this week during GDC 2015, Square Enix will be improving almost every part of the base game, extending Eorzea past the Coerthas Central Highlands. This includes the snow fields and icicle-ridden castles of the Coerthas Western Highlands, the Dravanian Forelands and Hinterlands which reflect the dark forest of the dragon's territory, and both The Churning Mists and The Sea of Clouds comprised of floating landmasses that will require a flying mount to reach. The developers, having learned much in the last few years, promise that these new areas will be massive and won't require as many loading screens as the existing areas in the game. Heavensward will explore the Dragonsong War conflict between the dragon's home of Dravania and the city of Ishgard that has lasted over a thousand years (talk about a battle of attrition).

While flying mounts won't have any particular purpose in terms of combat, they will be important to traversal between islands and, heck, they look awesome. You can flutter about on a black chocobo (for the totes adorbz) or soar on a scaled dragon as you ride it with manliness as a heavily armored Dragoon. Armored griffons and single-rider airships will be available as well, though there will more options and you can expect that any future mounts will likely have the capability of flight.

Along with the increased level cap of 60, which brings new skills and thereby new strategies for each job, three new classes have been added that should assuage most fans: the Dark Knight, the Astrologian, and the Machinist. While the Samurai was pretty much neck-and-neck with the Dark Knight on the developer's wishlist, the recent addition of the Ninja led the developers to choose the greatsword-wielding Dark Knight instead. As a tank who can manipulate Hate and thereby lure foes, the Dark Knight slots well between the existing tank classes of the Paladin and the Warrior.

The Machinist serves a ranged DPS gunsmith who generally uses keep-away tactics and also has a bit of an engineering streak, having the ability to drop turrets on the battlefield to debuff enemies or dish out light damage over time. He can upgrade his selection of guns with attachments like better ammo and larger magazines. Astrologians, on the other hand, cast spells based on a deck of cards using a starglobe. At least somewhat inspired by Japanese animations like Cardcaptor Sakura and Yu-gi-oh!, this class has a good spread between offensive, defensive, and healing spells to support party members.

The general increase in level cap will be important if you and your party hope to conquer the new raid dungeon, Alexander, resembling most like the summon in Final Fantasy VIII. (I should also add that the Floating Continent from Final Fantasy VI will have a presence.) Players will enter Alexander itself and clear each part (arms, chest, head, etc.) to defeat the dungeon. While Alexander will be meant for characters at Level 60, there will be two difficulty modes based on player feedback: a story mode on Normal difficulty, and a Hard difficulty for those who want the best possible gear drops in the game. This change will help players get through the story content if that's what matter most to them but also offer raiders a worthy challenge. The developers hope to add these two difficulty modes for other raids in due time.

Heavensward will have a bevy of minor changes and upgrades as well, including the new Au Ra race that have warrior-tribe look with male characters having a muscular, lanky frame and customizable horns. Every class and profession have been given an extra costume set. You'll also encounter the Vanu Vanu and their primal, Bismarck, along with the Gnath and their primal, Ravana.

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward is slated for spring 2015 for PS3, PS4, and PC with pricing details to come soon.

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