After a few initial teething troubles of the kind pretty much any new MMO suffers these days, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is continuing to forge ahead, and Naoki Yoshida and his team have a clear roadmap for how the game is going to continue to develop over time.
There's three main pieces of news regarding the game that all arose from this weekend's Letter from the Producer Live, so let's take a look at each of them. You can read a summary of the full Q&A session with the community over on the game's official forums.
Patch 2.2: Through the Maelstrom
The second of FFXIV's free mini-expansions is coming this March -- the exact date is to be determined -- and brings with it a wealth of new content and tweaks.
The title of the new patch refers to the introduction of a brand new Primal fight -- teased in the video above -- against watery sea monster Leviathan. The intention is to include new primals in each new patch going forward, so expect to see some familiar faces from past Final Fantasy summon spells just before they obliterate you completely. Patch 2.1 brought Extreme difficulty versions of the existing primals Ifrit, Garuda and Titan as well as reintroducing Good King Moggle Mog XII from Final Fantasy XIV's 1.0 incarnation, but Through the Maelstrom brings us our first completely new Primal fight, so bring your A-game. Summoners hoping to be able to summon their own mini-Leviathan will be disappointed, though: Yoshida and the team reckons we'll see a level cap increase before any new pets are added.
Alongside the Leviathan fight comes a new Light Party (4-player) dungeon called the Ruins of Amdapor. Below is a sneak peek, in which we see what looks like a few new enemy types as well as getting a feel for the dungeon's "ruined town" feel. It will apparently be the hardest of the new dungeons, though the current holder of that title, Pharos Sirius, will probably have its difficulty tweaked in the new patch, too. Alongside the Amdapor Ruins also comes a Hard Mode (level 50) version of the mid-level dungeon Brayflox's Longstop, which joins Haukke Manor and Copperbell Mines in being reimagined for high-level players.
The monstrously difficult and lengthy endgame dungeon The Binding Coil of Bahamut is getting four new "turns" in the new patch, too. Alongside this, the existing five turns will also begin giving struggling parties the "Echo" buff from the main storyline. This buff is administered after failing to complete a challenge several times, and significantly increases your strength -- since The Binding Coil of Bahamut is considered part of the main storyline despite being so challenging, this step is being taken to allow more parties the opportunity to get through it successfully, and likely sets a precedent for what will happen when further turns are added in the future. Meanwhile, it's possible that turns 1-5 of The Binding Coil of Bahamut will be added to the matchmaking Duty Finder system -- at present, it is one of a few challenges in the game where you must gather a party of players from your own server before entering, rather than using the cross-server Duty Finder.
Two new Beastmen tribes are being added for daily quests. At present, you can interact with the Sylphs and the Amal'jaa, using your daily quest allowance to improve your reputation with these groups, work your way through their mini-stories and unlock special items for purchase. In Through the Maelstrom, you'll also be able to do daily quests for the Kobolds and Sahagin tribes, which will offer a bit more variety as well as take you to different areas to present.
There'll also be a vanity system added in the form of "glamours" that allow you to customize your character's appearance. At present, it's possible to get your hairstyle, facial tattoos and war paint redone after completing the aesthetician sidequest, but the vanity system will allow you to customize your character's clothing, making it resemble another piece of equipment. Exactly how this system will be implemented hasn't been announced as yet, but we'll likely hear more nearer to March.
The PlayStation 4 Version is Coming!
Two dates for you: beta testing, open to everyone, begins on February 22, and the game itself launches on April 14 -- yes, 4/14/2014. The beta should be open to all PlayStation 4 owners, but it's not yet known whether or not you'll be able to play alongside existing PC and PS3 players -- the smart money's on no, at least in the early stages of testing. It's also worth noting that if you own the PS3 version, you'll be able to upgrade to the PS4 version at no cost from April 11 -- but in doing so, the PS3 version will become unplayable, so no passing it on to a friend, unfortunately!
The PlayStation 4 version will be available in several forms: a standard edition, which includes the game itself and 30 days of subscription time; and a collector's edition, which includes a special box, an art book, a movie disc, a soundtrack CD, art cards and a security token to protect your account. The collector's edition also comes with several in-game items: an experience-boosting Helm of Light for use in the early levels; a Baby Behemoth minion (vanity pet); a couerl mount; Behemoth-style barding for your own personal chocobo; a wind-up Moogle minion; and a Fat Chocobo mount. You'll also likely be able to upgrade a standard version to a collector's edition digitally, though in this case you'll only receive the in-game items rather than the physical products. Those who previously bought a PC or PS3 version of the collector's edition -- or upgraded digitally -- will automatically receive the two new items that are debuting in the PlayStation 4 version: the Fat Chocobo and the wind-up Moogle.
The standard edition will cost $39.99, the physical collector's edition will cost $79.99 and the digital collector's edition will cost $59.99 and be available via PSN. All versions include 30 days of play time, with subscriptions starting from $12.99 a month.
Blu-Ray Soundtrack Coming in April
Final Fantasy XIV already has one spectacular soundtrack Blu-Ray in the form of Before Meteor, but this consists of music from the game's 1.0 incarnation and a selection of tracks that made their way into A Realm Reborn intact. A significant number of tracks have been revamped or completely rewritten for A Realm Reborn, however, and the music is a real highlight of the experience as a whole.
Fans have been clamoring for an official soundtrack release since hearing the new tracks for the first time, and it seems they'll finally be getting their wish: Square Enix is releasing an soundtrack Blu-Ray in Japan in March, with a Western release seemingly following in April if the official Twitter account is to be believed. The disc will include 119 songs -- over 6 hours of music -- from the initial version of A Realm Reborn and the 2.1 A Realm Awoken patch and, if the Before Meteor model is followed, will likely also include MP3 versions on the disc for those of you with Blu-Ray drives in your computers to load into your digital music player of choice. Those who purchase a first print of the disc will also receive a wind-up Bahamut minion to show off in the game, too.