I’ve been level 60 for about a week now, mostly because the Heavensward release synced up with a week off for me, so I could delve completely into it. I’ve technically been level 60 since Sunday of last week, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I really felt like I was “properly” max level.
I’ve mentioned that FFXIV has story arcs, like TV show seasons, that each encapsulate an arc, generally end with a teaser setup for the next arc, and roll credits at the end. Heavensward is no different, and there’s some (damn impressive) finale stuff for you to do upon hitting level 60 before the credits roll. I’d hit level 60, but hadn’t done that part, because I was waiting for a few other people to hit that.
This weekend, I got to run through four new dungeons with mostly new folks, which is probably my favorite possible MMO experience, enough so that it’s worth twiddling my thumbs for a week to get to do it. Going through a new dungeon blind is a fantastic experience, and it’s one of the only reasons I tend to push along the front edge of content. Playing through the new dungeons was a ton of fun, even in pick up groups, where no one had been in there before. When I fell slightly behind the leading curve and people were no longer mostly seeing the dungeons for the first time, I found it a lot less interesting, and I wound up dropping out of a group or two who refused to respect my request not to spoil me on the dungeon by telling me what the bosses did ahead of time.
I will say that, for all of the awesome it brings to the table, Heavensward reinforces two big beliefs that I’ve held for a long time. I’ve talked before about flight-as-GM-move, so I won’t go into it again here, but suffice it to say that having played through the expansion flight, once you have it, is no less a cheat than it is in WoW. It’s done better in FFXIV, but I wouldn’t say done well.
The other thing is this: levels have to go. Every single down moment and every single disappointment I had with the expansion was tied to level. Oh, I’m super enthralled by this story but I can’t play it because of my level. Oh, I want to run this dungeon with my friends but I can’t because we’re not all the right levels. Oh, I found a cool drop for my buddy who… can’t equip it because she’s not the right level. We’ve got people on for a dungeon but we can’t run it because they don’t have the right classes at the right levels. I hate grinding find-the-moogle quests for hours on end but I have to because level.
I get the need for a feeling of progression, but this whole level-locking thing really hurts the experience, especially in an expansion like Heavensward. I’ve focused on one class, because that’s how I play, and as a result I’ve gotten to run all of… one dungeon with Ash, who has dabbled in a few different classes and, despite having played the game plenty since its launch, doesn’t have access to the stuff I’m running, and doubly doesn’t have it on a class that necessarily meshes with a group. Several people went from being able to fill any role a party needs to only being able to fill one, if that, another function of level.
In the meantime, they proved that they can give you a sense of progression without it being tied to levels. To get into the Heavensward content, FFXIV makes you play through all of the story leading up to it. It’s its own “levelling system”, just linked to story progression and not the numbers on your character sheet. It’s rather more meaningful than numbers you don’t look at getting bigger– I highly suspect most people remember which bits of the story they were doing at each level more than how much more their attacks hit for or how much more HP they had each level. My example here is Bel, the staunchest opponent of my “abolish levels” mantra, who mentioned the story at each and every level of his path through Heavensward and did not once mention any cool new abilities or crazy stats without being directly asked about them. I know in my case, as someone very motivated by new abilities that do cool new things, I got hooked by the storytelling that was going on for each one via my class quests.
In the end, though, Heavensward is amazing, so much so that my biggest frustration is that I can’t play more of it with my friends. I feel like that says enough on its own. I’d previously mentioned that I hadn’t been this excited about an MMO expansion since Burning Crusade, which is true. I can now say that I haven’t been this excited about an MMO expansion after “completing” it… ever.
Source: Digital Initiative
Properly 60 in Heavensward