Here stands Clan Destine, level 70 red mage, ready to take on the ultimate story battle in Final Fantasy XIV's latest expansion. She'll get to it eventually, but there's a lot more to Stormblood than epic battles and new job classes.
While I've spent a lot of time over the past week working my way through the expansion's new jobs and fiction, I've also dedicated quite a lot of time to visiting some of the older content and classes I've missed. Sweeping changes to the way the various job classes unlock new skills and abilities coupled with extreme experience bonuses have led to me fiddling around with jobs and roles I've never played.
The level 70 red mage job quest scores players these sexy duds.
When the expansion launched I quickly swapped from level 60 black mage to red mage, one of the expansion's two new classes. Over the long July 4th weekend I reached the new level 70 level cap, completing the expansion's final dungeon but not progressing to the massive battle that occurs afterwards. No spoilers here, but damn. Just damn.
When not working through the story, I've been levelling all the jobs: white mage, bard, summoner and gladiator (which transitions to paladin at level 30).
My renewed interest in other jobs (including those involving tanking and healing, which I generally avoid) is largely thanks to the game's new skill progression. No longer do players have to level up multiple starting jobs in order to progress to the more advanced ones at level 30. Crossover abilities from multiple jobs have been replaced with a pool of role-specific generic skills that unlock as players progress. The overall effect of the skill changes is that it's much easier to understand how to each job is meant to be played.
So Clan Destine is all the mages, a couple of different DPS ( jobs focused on dealing damage) classes and one tank. I've healed in multiple dungeons. I am not a healer. I cannot handle the responsibility and stress. Playing a white mage still stresses me out, but the job feels much more approachable to me now than it did prior to Stormblood's release.
Note the people in the background battling for their lives against a giant crab while I fish.
Now I don't know if fishing, one of the game's three gathering classes (along with miner and herbalist), has seen significant changes in Stormblood, but damned if I didn't spend two days casting a line and filling my inventory with all sorts of marine life. It's partly because the expansion has made Final Fantasy XIV so entertaining that I want to experience all the things.
It's also because I needed a little break. One of the few issues I have with the expansion so far is the pacing of the story and how events play out. The story opens with players helping the resistance against the evil empire in the city-state of Ala Mhigo. Ala Mhigo is a vast rocky desert, one of many vast, rocky desert areas in the game.
After a few levels' worth of questing and story we are then transported across the world to the Asian-inspired lands of Doma. These areas are filled with gorgeous, colourful architecture, vast sweeping plains and bizarre new creatures. It's such a breath of fresh air, accompanied by a very pleasing story arc.
After Doma, however, we go right back to the desert. Also some mountains. It's still all rocks.
The story is still compelling at this point, but the quests in-between the major plot points can be a real drag, especially when set against such a drab backdrop. Or maybe it's because the game's made my character such an amazing hero at this point that delivering letters or helping a random non-player character with chores on the eve of one of the most pivotal battles in the game's extended story feels below me. Look at me, taking on hero airs.
I fought this. Sure, I'll deliver a letter to your son.
But hey, that's what other jobs and professions are for, right? After a couple of days levelling up another combat job and getting my fishing up to level 48 (it was just so relaxing), I was ready to fight my way through to the very end of Stormblood.
Here is Clan Destine, standing before the gates leading to the expansion's biggest battle. Will evil be banished from Ala Mhigo for good, or will she retire to the shores of Costa Del Sol and spend the rest of her life angling off the pier? Find out next week, in our full review of Final Fantasy XIV's Stormblood.