In less than two weeks the widely acclaimed Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn will be receiving its first expansion. Called Heavensward, it's an important package that will deliver a wealth of new features and content to one of the best MMORPGs on the market. Among its goods are three new jobs, areas to explore, an increased level cap, and additional abilities for existing classes.
What you might not know is that there are stringent requirements on accessing the expansion's content. These requirements go well beyond today's standard of being at level cap to enjoy the new features. For a game performing as well as FFXIV and crafted by the struggling-to-modernize Square Enix it comes as a bit of shock. For the uninitiated, below I'll go over what the 2.55 requirement is, and why it's not in the best interest of the game's future.
There are 100 main scenario quests available in FFXIV: A Realm Reborn upon reaching level 50. These quests range from being as simple as speaking to someone a few steps away, to having you clear a dungeon or primal boss with other adventurers. Each features lengthy cutscenes, and all 100 must be completed to gain access to Heavensward. Players who don't finish all of the quests will be barred from entry of all the expansion's offerings, as explained by Director Naoki Yoshida
As if finishing 100 quests isn't enough, several of them have item level requirements. Basically, you need a character with gear powerful enough to enter several group-oriented duties necessary for completion. The highest item level required is 90, the minimum level mandated to enter some 2.55 content such as Keeper of the Lake.
How long it takes for a player to meet the requirements depends on their current gear. Players already at item level 90 or higher can expect to spend around 20 hours completing the quests. That is, if they're skipping all the cutscenes—like I am at this point. Watching the surplus of cutscenes will increase that number well beyond 30 hours. For many players who haven't invested themselves in FFXIV: A Realm Reborn, having to increase their item level to advance through certain quests virtually doubles the amount of time needed to satisfy the conditions. Although there are plenty of drops in dungeons, and Allagan Tomestones of Soldiery no longer have a weekly cap, it takes hours upon hours of dungeon runs to raise item level to 90 from a low starting point.
A hurdle for newcomers
The move to require 2.55 completion to access Heavensward content is one done specifically to enforce the game's story-driven nature. To those who admire the narrative it's a simple request that was, in many cases, naturally met. But not everyone plays for the story, and I'm a great example of that. Pushing those disinterested in the story to complete hours upon hours of content is completely out of touch with today's game design.
FFXIV has grown a lot over the past year, and Heavensward is an outstanding opportunity for the game to grow its install base with players new and veteran alike. However, come early access on June 19th there are going to be some very dissatisfied customers. As much as I read about FFXIV while I'm playing it or not, I only just found out about the 2.55 requirement mistakenly a few days ago. Nowhere on the game box is the requirement stated.
Asking players to spent more than 30 hours completing old, irrelevant content upon hitting level 50 just to enjoy their new $40 expansion is a lot. As time goes on and fewer people are queuing up for the required dungeons, meeting these requirements will only become more challenging. For the couple of real-life friends I have who have played the game with me, this may very well deter them from joining me in Heavensward as neither has finished 2.55.
As a fan of Final Fantasy and FFXIV, I am forcing myself to complete these hours of old quests so that I can enjoy Heavensward come June 19th. I'm willing to put up with it, but not everyone will be willing to, and in the end that'll only hurt FFXIV.
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