Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail is looking summer ready as we explore the new land of Tural

By admin Jun6,2024

After the climatic end to a decade-long saga in Endwalker, anticipation is high for Final Fantasy XIV’s next expansion, Dawntrail. I got to try out the game and talk to Director Naoki Yoshida (aka Yoshi-P) about new Jobs and the difficulty of incorporating fan feedback (not to mention the reasons the Warrior of Light has such great skin – you’ll see). But how can the Square Enix possibly hope to follow the highs of Endwalker, including space travel and a fight against the physical embodiment of sorrow? By taking us on holiday, of course.

The build I got my hands on was still in development, but everything I saw of the graphical update so far looks stunning. Trees feel fuller, mountains seem more imposing and clothes have much more detail now. Textures have seen improvement, but so has the density of objects, so there’s more grass to walk through, and more in-world items to peruse. It’s not exactly a generational leap but it all adds up to a world that feels richer, more lived-in and ripe for exploration.

Gone is the gloom of Garlemald and the quiet emptiness of Ultima Thule from Endwalker – in the new land of Tural every location seems filled with bright spectacle to hammer home a feeling of adventure. I spent most of my time gazing at the world around me. I wandered around the main hub city of Tuliyollal, poking my head into bars and climbing dense hills towards the main castle. I glided across the jungles of Kozama’uka to take in the cascading waterfalls and wetlands, and then I trekked through the mountains of Urqopacha as the peak of Wokhor Zomor loomed above me.

Never has FFXIV felt more alive to me. The environments entice with hidden caves and vistas obscured by fog that only reveal themselves when the light is right. Even the swampy start of the dungeon I played had a sense of vastness to it (despite the pre-ordained route you steer yourself through).

Waterfalls cascade in the background as a player stands in the foreground.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Square Enix

Dawntrail also sees the level cap rise to 100 and two new Jobs will join the roster. Of the pair, Viper is the easiest to get to grips with: a dextrous role that uses twin blades to focus damage on a single target. It may be fast, but the basic rotation of skills is clear. There’s a lot of adaptability to it, as you can choose how combos play out and then weave in more skills. Just because the basics of it are easy, it doesn’t mean that it’s too simplistic. A lot of thought went into the creation of Viper, and fans wishes were kept in mind, says Yoshida.

“We received a lot of feedback from players around the world that if we were to implement another melee DPS, they would want to have a job where they could use two swords,” he says. “And what’s more, at the same time, it was often that they would provide an example, like Kirito from Sword Art Online.

“So, we went with an approach where we would be focusing on stylish, speedy action, and also making it look cool. But when it comes to Kirito from Sword Art Online, Kirito is kind of overpowered and very strong in the game. So, for Viper, we thought about showcasing that sensation of becoming strong and for the player to become focused on their actions and getting absorbed into battle. And that was a challenge for us to consider.”

A group of players in Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail celebrate a victory.

A desert town is decorated with banners and bunting.

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Square Enix

While I found Viper easy to get to grips with, Pictomancer (the other new Job) is a little harder. It feels a lot like Black Mage combined with Dancer. Your spells combo to create paintings on canvases that you can then unleash for more damage, but you can also create landscape areas for party buffs. I’m excited to see what skilled players are able to do with it.

Of course all of the other jobs in the game got updates with the new level cap too. Monk, Ninja, Dragoon, Black Mage, and Astrologian have received the biggest overhauls, while the rest have gotten some touch-ups based on player feedback. I mostly played as White Mage during my hands-on to help heal during a group dungeon, and had a lot of fun playing with a new gap closer and damage burst while fighting an angry manatee (don’t feel too sorry for it, it threw trees at us first).

A figure stalks the grasslands in Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Square Enix

“There are many different types of people playing Final Fantasy XIV now,” says Yoshia, “and the kinds of feedback that we receive from casual players are extremely different to the feedback that we get from hardcore players. We try to find a balance between the feedback that we receive and the feedback that we leave behind.

“There’s a history to this. From 3.0 to the 3.X series the players told us that they wanted Jobs with more complicated mechanics. In other words, they wanted more unique Jobs. So we took that feedback on board and we started to adjust the Jobs…”

“But then we started getting feedback that the jobs had become too difficult and that they didn’t want the Jobs to be adjusted that much. So from patch 4.2 we started addressing feedback where we were aiming to reduce the stress that players felt when playing their Jobs. And this was our policy for the team at that time. We were focusing on making the Jobs more casual, so that they weren’t too difficult to play with.”

A feathered beast in Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Square Enix

Players have definitely noticed the lean towards a more casual feel for Jobs over the course of Endwalker. For example, Summoner was streamlined for ease of use. But now that the Jobs have a solid base to work from, Yoshida intends to work on making each Job distinct.

“So if you’re wondering whether this policy will continue on endlessly,” he says, “I made the decision with patch 7.0 that we would be stopping it here. From here on we are not going to be making the jobs more casual, we are focusing more on restoring the sense of job individuality.”

While a lot of gamer feedback can come in the form of complaints and criticism, Yoshida and his team are still excited to receive it, he says, and in particular to see what players will make of their very first steps into Tural.

A player rejoices in in Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Square Enix

“Compared to previous expansions we’ve incorporated a different vibe and sense of tension. This time it’s quite bright. I first want to see the player’s reactions towards that,” he says. “When the players start the expansion, they will journey to Tural, and then make their first step into Tuliyolal they’ll see that there are many different tribes and peoples living here. We really wanted to create a feeling of a world adventure that was different from anything we’ve done before. Our team put in a lot of effort in order to create this. I’m really looking forward to seeing what sort of reactions the players will have when they start the expansion.”

From what I saw of Dawntrail so far, I feel the team don’t have much to worry about. The build I played had hidden a lot of NPCs for spoiler reasons, but even without them I got a sense of how vibrant Tural is. From the towering architecture of Tuliyolal’s market and docks, to the cosy camp-like structures of Urqopacha, the world of FFXIV feels more alive for me than ever.

A calming forest blossoms.

A mountain lake with striking blue water, like glacial melt.

A towering mountain surrounded by clouds.

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Square Enix

While it’s clear a lot of love and attention has been given to the new areas, I’m also curious to see how the updates affect the older parts of Eorzea. Will they eventually get the same touch-ups? Or feel old and tired by comparison? After all, it’s been over a decade since I started playing FFXIV and in the time I’ve definitely picked up a wrinkle or two of my own (I don’t get to have a graphical update). Yet my Warrior of Light continues to hold onto their youthful appearance. I asked Yoshida if the team would ever add aging options. He laughed at me with sympathetic understanding.

“First and foremost, I really do understand that request,” he said. “You can see I myself have some frown lines or smiling lines on my face, and when the light hits those lines, it creates a shadow, and that’s how they stand out. So, when we think about adjusting this in real time, we would need to create polygons, and so that’s why it’s extremely difficult. It’s not like we can just draw lines on.

“Having said that… I think maybe the only possibility we have is to prepare a face type with the wrinkles applied on it… I can say it’s not easy, but I wouldn’t rule it out, I think it could be possible. So, maybe it would be great if you could give me until the next graphical update, and we’ll think about it. Until that time, you can just consider that on Etheirys, there are super skin creams.”

If only I could get a super face cream for myself, but perhaps Dawntrail’s sense of a new beginning will be more than enough.

By admin

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