Fi­nal Fan­tasy XIV: Storm­blood—4.35

The new dun­geon isn’t quite heaven on high.

PC GAMER (US) - - UPDA TE - By Daniella Lu­cas

Back in 2016, Fi­nal Fan­tasy XIV re­leased its first ‘Deep Dun­geon’, The Palace of the Dead. Fea­tur­ing 200 ran­dom­ized floors full of traps, curses, and beasts for your party of four ad­ven­tur­ers to chal­lenge it­self against, you never quite knew what you’d come up against. Patch 4.35 brings a new Deep Dun­geon, Heaven-on-High, with new twists and a beau­ti­ful east Asian de­sign aes­thetic—al­beit this time across just 100 floors.

Af­ter be­ing thor­oughly im­pressed by The Palace of the Dead, I went into this patch ex­pect­ing sim­i­lar tales of near-death and der­ring-do—be­ing bun­dled to­gether with three other peo­ple of the ex­act same class, but still managing to scrape through by the skin of our teeth de­spite lim­ited re­sources. It’s an in­cred­i­bly hard act to fol­low: Heaven-on-High fol­lows the same for­mat, so the el­e­ment of sur­prise is gone. Nev­er­the­less, I wanted to see if it was ca­pa­ble of re­cap­tur­ing that magic.

Set in a mys­te­ri­ous tower that dom­i­nates the Ruby Sea (and that’s been in­spir­ing fan the­o­ries about its pur­pose for the past year), Heavenon-High gets off to a low-key start. Some­one has ac­ci­den­tally found an en­trance, and they want you, the fa­mous War­rior of Light, to in­ves­ti­gate it. In my first foray I end up match­ing with two fel­low heal­ers and a Dark Knight tank, mak­ing for an un­bal­anced party. That’s part of the ap­peal and chal­lenge—with any com­bi­na­tion of classes able to en­ter, you’ll have to find ways to get around your weak­nesses. You can en­ter with a fixed group if you want to be more bal­anced, but there’s no sur­prise in that. Our band might be slow to deal any dam­age, but we’re very healthy.

The in­te­ri­ors are gor­geous, full of painted screen doors and tatami mats that make for a great place to ex­plore—even if it’s full of hor­ri­fy­ing mon­sters and traps that can wipe our party if we’re not care­ful. Luck­ily, there are also dozens of trea­sure chests that con­tain Po­man­ders: Items that can buff you or even grant be­witch­ing pow­ers such as pet­ri­fi­ca­tion, which will cause any en­emy to die with one hit. The Po­man­ders and traps are slightly dif­fer­ent than the ones found in Palace of the Dead, so there’s some fun in fig­ur­ing them all out, but they’re not dif­fer­ent enough to change any strate­gies. Stay­ing close to­gether, but not too close so you don’t all get hit by the same traps, is the or­der of the day.

So far so fa­mil­iar, but seven floors in we hit our first sur­prise—in­stead of a se­ries of small, in­ter­con­nect­ing rooms, we’re pre­sented with one vast space to feel our way around tile by tile. It makes for a great change of pace as it re­quires more metic­u­lous plan­ning, but it’s a shame there’s not more of that kind of va­ri­ety.

Un­der­whelmed

The story of Heaven-on-High takes place across the first 30 floors, with a few mi­nor cutscenes ev­ery ten floors point­ing to some kind of mys­te­ri­ous over­lord. Af­ter dis­patch­ing the floor 30 boss dis­ap­point­ingly quickly, I fi­nally get to the last piece of the tale, and find my­self woe­fully un­der­whelmed. FFXIV’s sto­ry­telling is gen­uinely some of the best in the MMO genre, as well as in the Fi­nal Fan­tasy se­ries… ex­cept for here. There’s no big re­veal. It just kind of peters out into noth­ing, like a fart on a windy day. All of that build-up and mys­tery goes nowhere. It’s a real shame, as the build­ing it­self is hugely im­pres­sive. This lav­ish space full of mag­i­cal traps and mon­sters de­serves bet­ter, es­pe­cially when you com­pare it to Palace’s riv­et­ing tale of love, ma­nip­u­la­tion and loss.

You can fight on to floor 100, but there’s no more story, although it is a wel­come way to push your­self and hope­fully score some rare loot. I’m dis­ap­pointed that Heaven-on-High didn’t meet my ex­pec­ta­tions, but how can it when the Deep Dun­geon’s sur­prises have all been seen be­fore? I also need to con­cede that I’m be­ing harsh—the con­cept of over­com­ing ever-chang­ing chal­lenges is still fan­tas­tic even if it’s not new, and I’m still find­ing my­self re­run­ning it de­spite the dis­ap­point­ing story. I may not be blown away it, but for now it’s a great way to keep me oc­cu­pied un­til the next ma­jor patch.

There’s no big re­veal. It just kind of peters out into noth­ing

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