Heavensward: Looking back on Two Years of FFXIV's first Expansion
With Final Fantasy XIV’s next expansion, Stormblood, on the horizon, and early access just around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to look back at the first expansion we’ve had, Heavensward, and see how far we’ve come from the end of A Realm Reborn, to where we are now.
At the time, no one knew what to expect. Patch 2.55 wrapped up the main story for A Realm Reborn, and players found themselves fleeing to Ishgard. No one could have predicted how this expansion would play out, and it was venturing into unknown territory. Things people picked up on such as a damage-increasing stance for Warrior, and a four-long skill chain for dragoon made people wonder just the scope of the battle changes. On top of that, there were three new jobs coming out – Dark Knight, Machinist, and Astrologian. Based on those titles, you can probably imagine which one was the most popular (Dark Knight).
When Ninja came out in patch 2.4, it quickly became the new DPS job that everyone wanted to level. Dungeon queues went by excruciatingly slowly, as there weren't enough tanks and healers to make up for the fact that there were so many Ninjas queueing up. Four-ninja parties became common, and people prayed they could down enemies before they themselves were killed. The same happened for Dark Knight – the most popular class of the expansion.
After the widely popular Coil of Bahamut storyline, that stretched all the way from its set-up at the end of FFXIV 1.0, until patch 2.4, people were thinking what Alexander could bring to the table. Unlike Coil, which was available from the very start of A Realm Reborn, Square Enix delayed the launch of Alexander: Gordias (affectionately nicknamed Gorditas by a small portion of the community). Players found the story to be quite bland in comparison to the mysteries of the Calamity that ended 1.0. Alexander also was defined by having two difficulties – a normal mode and a Savage mode, where the challenge was much greater. I should know. My raid team broke up during the 3rd fight in the Alexander: Gordias (Savage) raid tier – Living Liquid.
Patch 3.1 – As Goes Light, So Goes Darkness – came an exceptionally long time after 3.0. It deviated from the normal 3-month-between-patches cycle. Continuing the trend set in A Realm Reborn, 3.1 introduced the Shadow of Mhach 24-man raid series. Gear that was previously only accessible by way of Gordias Savage was available to all, though Gordias Savage still retained some of its exclusive gear. Aside from the Void Ark, the first part of the Shadow of Mhach, 3.1 also introduced the Diadem and the Lords of Verminion minigame. Unfortunately, both of those failed to garner a lasting playerbase. Thordan Extreme was the highlight of 3.1, without a doubt. A challenging 8-man fight with over 10 phases.
Patch 3.2 – The Gears of Change – raised the maximum item level from i210 to i240. After Gordias, players were not overly excited for Alexander: Midas. That all changed when Brute Justice emerged and made himself known, going down in Raid History as one of the most memorable fights, alongside Living Liquid of Gordias. We were also introduced to Sephirot, the first primal of the Warring Triad storyline, and one of the best musical themes in the game. With Metal – Brute Justice Mode and Fiend, as well as The Antitower’s theme, Patch 3.2 featured great music. Patch 3.21 added onto the 3.2 Patch Series, with the Feast bringing in high-stakes competitive PvP.
Patch 3.3 – Revenge of the Horde – saw the end of the Dragonsong War. A final battle against the antagonist that has perpetrated a thousand-year war against Ishgard, putting an end to the bloodshed, and paving the way for lasting reform to take place in Ishgard. We also got to visit the Weeping City of Mhach – and gear that was previously locked by items only found in Midas Savage were now available to all players. And of course, who could forget Palace of the Dead, added in Patch 3.35? One of the fastest ways to level up a new job, and where players could experience how a job plays at level 60 without even actually being level 60.
Patch 3.4 – Soul Surrender – Was a very casual and very laid-back patch. Though Alexander: The Creator, the final part of the Alexander story, brought item level 270 gear, the Savage mode of Creator was cleared in less than a week. Comparatively, Gordias and Midas both took weeks upon weeks before they were completed by the top raid teams in the world. The Creator Savage raid tier saw an incredible number of players completing it. This was mostly due to make up for the fact that Gordias Savage, coupled with a long wait from Patch 3.0 to 3.2, saw many players leave the game.
Patch 3.5 – The Far Edge of Fate. As the name implies, it set the stage for players to visit the Far Corners of the world of Final Fantasy XIV. Traveling from Eorzea to halfway across the world, to Othard, to the Far East, is no trivial task. Patch 3.5 also introduced the conclusion to the Shadow of Mhach Raid Series – Dun Scaith, where players fought against Diabolos and his thirst for power. We scaled Baelsar’s Wall, and defeated an old enemy. Now, we turn our gaze towards Ala Mhigo, and their fight against the Garlean Empire, eagerly awaiting a new raid tier, a new story to tell, updates to existing Jobs, and new Jobs to play.
From 2013 until 2017, this has been an amazing journey. To meet and make so many friends along the way - it's hard to put into words, really. I can't wait to see what Stormblood has in store for us, from Dungeons to Raids to meeting new friends along the way. You can bet I'll be hitting Early Access as soon as the servers come up - I'll be trying out Samurai first thing.
See you all in Stormblood!