One of the coolest new features introduced in Final Fantasy XIV’s Stormblood expansion is the ability to swim and dive, exploring exotic underwater locales. Anyone can tread water, but to go deep you’ve got to talk to some turtles.
Just like learning to fly in the Heavensward expansion, gaining the ability to survive underwater environments without drowning in Stormblood takes a bit of work. The quest to unlock the ability is located in the game’s new Ruby Sea zone, which is only accessed after players complete the opening Ala Mhigo quests and take their first steps into the Far Eastern land of Doma.
Initially landing in the island city of Kugane, players eventually find passage to the mainland with a lengthy layover in the Ruby Sea, an area featuring small settlements, volcanic islands and the underground city of Tamamizu, home of the turtle people.
In order to end an age-old feud between the green turtle people and the red turtle people (they have a name, but they are turtle people), the player must be granted the ability to breathe and move underwater.
A quick fetch quest later, and the ritual begins. You can see how it all plays out in the video atop the post. Players can now breathe and swim underwater. Also, they get to ride giant manta rays.
It’s quite relaxing, swimming in the ocean depths. And for those players who might feel a bit anxious surrounded by massive amounts of water on all sides, the surface is never far away.
The transition between the surface and underwater environments is very cool. Check it out in the video below.
Aside from playing a Red Mage (now level 63), this is what I was waiting for in Stormblood. The only downside is that it only works in specific areas. It’s better down where it’s wetter. Take it from me.
Naoki Yoshida just wouldn’t stop looking at his computer. The beloved producer, credited with transforming Final Fantasy XIV from disaster to dream MMORPG, kept typing and clicking as I spoke to him last week in a private room at E3, frowning occasionally. So I asked what he was looking at.
“Because we’re under maintenance right now, any sort of issues that happen at this timing could potentially delay the start of early access,” Yoshida said, speaking through a translator. “If my response is not fast enough, that could delay the opening of the service to players.” Then he laughed. “And plus for myself I’m downloading the patch.”
That was Thursday, June 15, a day before the early access launch of Final Fantasy XIV’s newest expansion, Stormblood. In the days following our chat, Stormblood would run into a series of server issues that undoubtedly led to much more frantic clicking, typing, and frowning. The servers have settled now—and fans are loving Stormblood’s new quests and dungeons—but it was a rocky first week.
Yet Naoki Yoshida is still having a blast. He’s been director and producer of Final Fantasy XIV for nearly five years, ushering it from the disastrous 1.0 launch to the well-received A Realm Reborn and its stellar first expansion, Heavensward. And all the while, he’s interacted directly with fans, speaking to hundreds of thousands of Final Fantasy XIV devotees through weekly streams and Q&As. It’s been a long, grueling journey—but Yoshida’s not interested in retiring.
“I haven’t gotten sick of it yet,” Yoshida said. “There’s still a lot of things I want to accomplish inside of Final Fantasy XIV. Also, I’m not making the game for myself. It’s not like this is a project that I’m doing for my own ego. It’s more about: how do we satisfy our customers, our players, who have paid to play this game, and that payment is actually going into my salary.”
Yoshida, whose light red hair and extensive collection of jewelry make him instantly recognizable to Final Fantasy XIV fans, says he loves listening to fans and changing the game based on what they say. “That’s what I want to pay attention to, rather than being selfish about ‘Oh I want to make this, or if I can’t make this I’m going to leave the company’—I wouldn’t think of it that way,” he said. “And I do have the personality to be able to be frank, even when talking with corporate. I don’t hesitate in letting them know what’s on my mind. That allows there to be trust between Square Enix and myself. Square Enix has given me liberty to be able to do things in my style.”
When I asked what else Yoshida had left to accomplish, he pointed to the story, a highlight of Final Fantasy XIV. The intricate, ongoing plot is the main reason the fourteenth Final Fantasy is so appealing to those of us who don’t love MMOs, and it’s one thing that Yoshida wants to complete before he ever thinks about retiring. “There’s this overarching story, and I’ve actually set a goal or endpoint for that arc,” said Yoshida. “That’s one of the things I want to accomplish is to be able to finish that narrative.”
“How long will that be?” I asked.
“I think we’d need at least another two more expansions,” Yoshida said.
More from our interview, which has been lightly edited for clarity:
On whether Final Fantasy XIV will ever change its old areas the way World of Warcraft has:
Yoshida: This is my personal thought and not anything that’s set in stone. Looking at some of the areas in A Realm Reborn, our [original] 2.0 areas, that was when we were making updates to the original 1.0 and rebuilding the world from scratch in such a short time. So if you look back at it now, we can’t enable flying, a lot of the side quests have been so accumulated that it’s become a hassle.
Now that the development team has game experience of running the MMO, I do notice a lot of points that could be improved upon, and to be quite honest, it would be nice if I could rebuild the areas of A Realm Reborn.
On what class Yoshida plays:
Yoshida: Black Mage.
Schreier: So is Black Mage going to be overpowered in Stormblood?
Yoshida: I don’t think so. The Black Mage has never been overpowered at all. It’s really funny because a lot of players out there who do main as a Black Mage make comments like, ‘Yoshida, stop using the Black Mage,’ because I have a relatively high player skill level, and I’m very careful in making the adjustments to that particular job, so they don’t become overpowered at all. People actually complain about it.
On what they can do now that they’ve ditched the PlayStation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIV:
Yoshida: One of the biggest challenges we had was the hardware trying to access files—the IO, or in and out… The speed at which some of the files are being read on the [PS3] hardware and then transferred into memory was slower compared to some of the other platforms. This is a 10-year-old-plus piece of equipment.
Where that caused an issue for Final Fantasy XIV was that for example if the player is moving across the field at a relatively fast speed, some of the NPCs or the other characters would not show up as smoothly as on other platforms. Because the speed at which the files were being read was slow, you did see a difference in the way it’s being displayed on screen. So there always had to be a cap so we could accommodate for that hardware capabilities.
But now that we are phasing out of that platform, not having that bottleneck anymore, we have made improvements on usabilities. One example is, as of 4.0 Stormblood, your ground mounts can travel faster now.
On the inevitable Final Fantasy XV crossover:
Yoshida: Plans for these are moving forward. The Final Fantasy XV team has settled down on their end. We feel that it’s going to be rather hefty in volume in terms of this crossover. Once we are able to get some visual references, some graphics available, and when we decide on timing, we’ll make sure to make an official announcement.
On bringing Final Fantasy XIV to Xbox and Switch:
Yoshida: I’ve said this on several occasions, but it hasn’t changed. We would love for as many players to be on FFXIV as possible.
Conversations have been had with Mr. Phil Spencer of Microsoft, and the upper management teams of Nintendo. But I have proposed a condition every time I speak with any platform manufacturers. It’s that the game has to have the capability of cross-platform play.
Of course with an MMORPG, once it launches and starts going into live services and operations, there will be a community. No matter how small it dwindles down to, we have to be responsible for taking care of those communities. It would become an obstacle if the first-party or manufacturer changed how patches are being implemented or online regulations. Some of our external parties’ regulations don’t have MMORPGs in mind in terms of how they’re regulating their online activities. Those can become a hurdle when we consider operating FFXIV for an extended period of time, and so when I talk to those first-party companies, I ask them, ‘Do you have the capability to prepare for that, do you have the resolve that you’re going to make sure to take responsibility and take care of those, do you have that willingness?’
If we are able to come to some sort of agreement, a handshake so to speak, or if it does end up being that unfortunately we can’t do a handshake with Final Fantasy XIV, either way we’ll make sure to communicate with our players. But we have been tenacious—we’ve been trying to keep at it and be persistent about our conversations.
Primal battles in Final Fantasy XIV are massive spectacles that pit a group of players against powerful creatures that usually show up in the series as summons. Stormblood’s first primal, Susano, gets more massive than most, but a well-coordinated group can take him down pretty easy.
Susano is a take on Susanoo, the Shinto god of storms, making him a fitting first primal fight in an expansion that explores new areas inspired by ancient Japan. His appearance at the end of a lengthy quest line in the Ruby Sea area of the Doma region came as a surprise. I was not expecting a primal to show up at that particular time. Judging by the looks on their faces, neither were my non-player character companions.
He looks intimidating, but there’s something infectious about his enthusiasm. He revels in battle, and the prospect of an epic fight against me and my fellow players genuinely seems to make him happy. It’s infectious.
Like many Final Fantasy boss fights, the Susano battle is split into three phases. I’ll timestamp them so you can skip around in the video above. Our party, assembled at random via the game’s Duty Finder, consists of two tanks, two healers and four damage dealers. As a red mage, I’m on hurting the demigod duty.
Phase 1 – 01.35
The battle begins! Positioning is very important in the first phase. The main tank grabs Susano’s attention and faces him away from the party. The rest of the group gets behind him and blasts away with everything they’ve got. During the battle the circular play area will occasionally be filled with either orange area-of-affect damage spells or purple lasers.
Run like hell to avoid them. Note that sprinting no longer drains tactical points (used to power some skills and abilities), so use it to get the hell out of the way.
When not dodging lasers and explosions, players need to stick together. Susano will knock back a random character and then tag them with the flashing “group up” arrows. The rest of the group has to form up on that to avoid taking a lot of damage. This is followed up by a large area-of-effect spell with a safe zone that’s only a single straight line.
Phase 2- 04.30
Phase two begins with Susano walking to the middle of the arena and then, I guess, ascending? He’s the god of the sea and storms, so this is his sea form.
Now looming over the battlefield, Susano lifts his gianormous sword and brings it crashing down on the party. Here the tank of the group gets to participate in a quick time event, catching the blow.
After the blow is struck, it’s up to the party to do as much damage as possible. Three glowing orbs will spawn during this portion. Designated players (generally the tanks and a random damage class) need to run into the orbs, taking a large amount of damage and saving the group in the process.
After two rounds of swords and orbs, it’s on to phase three.
Phase Three – 05:57
Phase three is largely a repeat of the first, with a few additions and changes. The knockback/group up attack from phase one is immediately followed by the straight line safe zone area-of-effect attack, so players have to be even faster with their positioning. There’s a new lightning attack that hits everyone and is unavoidable, just to make sure the healers are still awake.
And there’s also the cup game.
Susano will randomly encase a player in stone, and their teammates will have to break the stone to free them. The trick here is that Susano creates two duplicates of the stone prison, and then shuffles them. Destroying the wrong one damages the group, so either the trapped player or anyone else paying attention should mark the right one.
The End – 12:34
And he’s down. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Time to head back out into the Ruby Sea, collect your quest rewards and continue on the slow march towards level 70.
Optional Pro Strats
05:35: Get overexcited and accidentally switch around your hot bars in mid battle.
How To Unlock Red Mage And Samurai Jobs In
Final Fantasy XIV's Director Says There's Still So Much More To Do
Stormblood isn’t just a huge chunk of new content for Final Fantasy XIV. It’s the third game in an ongoing series, one that happens to share the same space as its predecessors.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn told the story of the rise of the Warrior of Light (AKA the player character) and established the conflict between the realm of Eorzea and the evil Garlean Empire. 2015's Heavensward saw the hero and their friends embroiled in the conflict between humanity and dragons in the Northern reaches of Eorzea. These aren’t short stories, like the chapters in a book. Each tells its own contained epic within the same story line. The heroes stay the same, but the villains and settings change.
Now Stormblood sees our heroes’ attention turn once more to the Garleans, seeking to free the city-state of Ala Mhigo and Eastern state of Doma from the empire’s oppression. The player character has a new nemesis, Zenos yae Galvus, son of emperor Varis zos Galvus of Garlemald.
I’m only halfway through the story of Stormblood, and already I’ve battled Zenos twice on two different sides of the world. I’m used to having the big baddies of my MMO expansions hidden behind some end-game raid battle. It’s refreshing to have such immediate (and painful) access to such a powerful foe.
The first encounter between the player and Zenos propels the story to the other side of the world. Styled after ancient Japan, the state of Doma has been under Garlean rule for decades. The Warrior of Light and company aim to end that rule and recruit the Domans to their side. It’s a task that might go a little faster if the new lands weren’t so damn picturesque.
I’d be much further along in the story with my level 65 Red Mage if I wasn’t stopping every five minutes to take screenshots. I am not exaggerating.
One of the most beautiful massively multiplayer RPGs has gotten even more beautiful with its Eastern expansion, ramping up atmospheric effects while delivering gorgeous locations filled with strange new creatures.
It’s not just the story that makes Stormblood feel like its own game. Along with the inclusion of two new job classes, Red Mage and Samurai, Square Enix has introduced significant changes to both job progression and job abilities across the board.
Players no longer have to raise two jobs to a certain point in order to unlock an advanced class. It used to be in order to play a Bard one had to level up the Archer job to 30 and Pugilist to 15. Now it’s straight from 30 Archer to 30 Bard. Instead of leveling other jobs in order to access their special abilities, players now have a set of role-specific abilities that unlock as they level up.
Each job also gets a new ability mechanic of some sort, represented by a special on-screen meter. My Machinist, pictured above, now has an indicator of how much special ammo his rifle is loaded with, along with a heat gauge that ramps up damage the more fired up it gets.
But my poor Machinist is being sadly neglected since Stormblood launched, thanks to my Red Mage. I love this job. Filling a meter with white and black magic and then unleashing it in a series of powerful sword attacks? So good.
Heavensward was my Machinist’s story. This is my Red Mage’s. Final Fantasy XIV continues to do an excellent job at making the player feel like they are the center of the story, and the thousands of other players going on their own journey are just the surrounding stars.
So far she’s been through two dungeons, battled a primal, learned to swim underwater and helped urge a seafaring organization to take up arms against the oppressive empire. When last I left my beloved Clan, she was poised at the gates of a challenging trial on the road to uniting the people of Doma’s steppes. It’s just what she does.
She also does a whole lot of questing in order to reach those story beats. Stormblood tries to keep its questing fresh. There’s still a lot of “kill X number of Y creatures” type stuff, but there’s also “mind my store while I’m out and guess what the customers who show up would like to buy” and “find the location shown in this sketch.”
Quests aren’t always exciting, but they sure beat grinding experience points by killing random creatures in order to reach the next story beat. Besides, what kind of Warrior of Light would I be if I weren’t up for doing everyone’s basic chores in between bouts of saving the world? I certainly wouldn’t be one worthy of starring in the third-installment of one of the best massively multiplayer role-playing games going.
We’ll have one more progress report next week, followed by our review of Final Fantasy XIV’s third installment. It’s looking pretty good so far.
With the launch of Final Fantasy XIV’s Stormblood expansion, tons of players are exploring the new post-level 60 content. But if you’re on the right game server, massive experience point bonuses are a great incentive to take a break from the new stuff and start a new job at level one.
In the video above I level up the conjurer class from level one to six in a matter of a couple of minutes. While the video was processing I killed a few more things and got to level eight. Over the weekend I took the archer job from level one to level 30, when it switches over to bard, in a matter of maybe five or six hours. That’s all thanks to experience point bonuses upwards of 400 percent.
To get bonuses that high you’re going to have to be on one of Square Enix’s preferred or new worlds. Characters created or existing on these specific worlds currently get a special “Road to 60" buff that doubles their experience point gain under level 60. Transferred characters will not receive the bonus.
Then you’ve got the armory bonus, which gives jobs lower than your main an extra 100 percent experience. This stacks with the Road to 60 buff.
Items can help too, like the extra 20 percent from the Helm of Light . . .
. . . or the 30 percent granted by the Ala Mhigan earrings, which were a preorder bonus for Stormblood.
I’m getting an additional 520 percent experience for every kill, plus bonuses for quest completion and finishing hunting journal entries by killing special tagged creatures. Between quests, killing critters, fates (world quests) and dungeons, it’s ridiculous.
If you’re on a preferred or new world, now is the time to stack your deck with extra jobs. If you’re not, it’s still a nice distraction from the high-pressure job of freeing the lands of Doma and Ala Mhigo from Imperial repression.