Final Fantasy XVI New Game+ : Heavensward- 6 minutes reading time
Following the ending of Final Fantasy XIV : A Realm Reborn in New Game+ mode, I’ve naturally chained with the first expansion : Heavensward.
Heavensward starts directly after the ending of ARR. The Scions of the Seventh Dawn and the Warrior of Light get trapped into a political machination and they’re now a band of fugitives who found refugee at the Holy See of Ishgard. During the last chapters of ARR, we helped to defend Ishgard against the dragons and the heretics who are led by Nidhogg, a mighty dragon of the first brood who is now just hatred and revengeful for reasons that will be developed in the story.
Like ARR, I’ve been curious to see how the narrative method has evolved since the previous story of the game. First, Heavensward possesses less main parts than ARR : four instead of six. The two first parts correspond to the initial expansion released story, mainly covering the Dragonsong War and the struggle against Nidhogg and his Horde. The second two-parts set has been added during the game content addition planning with a third part that concluded the Heavensward story, and a fourth introducing the Stormblood main story line.
In my memories, the Heavensward campaign was not interrupted by external elements and the main story was completely focused on the Dragonsong War. However, while replaying it I’ve been surprised to see how my memories were wrong about it. The story is mixed with the resolution of the previous intrigue and the chapters switch between the Ishgardian main story and the political story in which your character get embarked. On of the other thing I’ve rediscovered was the first Heavensward dungeon not being a story dungeon but a side quest related. Actually, the first story multiplayer instanced encounter is Ravana’s trial, the Gnath’s tribe Primal and among the vzrious available dungeons, only a few of them are mandatory story related ones. I’ll see when I’ll start Stormblood, but if my memories of this expansion are right, there were more story related dungeons than in the previous add-on.
The narration takes the same patterns as the end of ARR. As your character is now a famous adventurer, he is directly involved into the main story and don’t have to prove his value by doing random tiny house chores. So the introduction to Heavensward’s areas is made by accompanying your host’s sons to their daily duties in the two first regions. So, instead of being an unknown adventurer, you became an experienced one who share his knowledge to other people. This story telling is really nice and make your character very important in the environment. These two first branch are nicely written to setup the later big chapters and converge into the main story that let you make a travel to the Dravania country, seeking for a way to instaure a durable truce between Dragons and humans.
Heavensward also introduced something what will be the usual expansion discovery pattern for FFXIV : some regions are explored in two steps. As Heavensward brought to FFXIV the flying mount system, they needed a way to avoid having the player exploring the map so easily and break the narration development. To do that, the mounts can fly only after discovering every “Wind Aethers” available while exploring the map. Some of them are also given as quest rewards to ensure the player is not jumping steps (because a friend can still accompany you and bring you to the advanced places with a multi sit flying mount). Because of this system, the player has to follow the expected story line and can’t takes shortcuts. The two-step region discovering was not entirely used by Heavensward, the idea has been generalized by the further expansions. Its mainly the Sea of Cloud region that’s using this mechanics, being split into two main area with one being a starter and the second for a later development in the story. Another narrative immersion tool more used by Heavensward than in the previous game is the player choices. Basically, they have no real impact in the story, expected a different reaction of the NPCs or an additional dialogue line. The cut scenes in Heavensward propose these kind of choices more often than in ARR. This mechanic is also utilized to create some comic ambiance in the story, for example making the Warrior of Light not remembering the name of a NPC.
The first part of the story will make you travel to the Coerthas and Dravania, learning about the lore of these lands and progressively discovering the truth behind the Dragonsong War. The second part starts by fighting a first time against Nidhogg, an encounter where your character discovers new hidden chapters of Ishgardian History thanks to his Echo gift. This part ends after fighting against the first antagonist of the story which conclude the first two parts of the initial Heavensward’s story.
The third part develops the ongoing of the Dragonsong War and its outcome, hoping to instaure a long term peace between the Dragons and humans after a several thousand years of wars. The third part of the story also introduce some Shadowbringers elements when the gang encounters a band of powerful adventurers fighting the same Primals as the Scions do, introducing themselves as the Warriors of Darkness. However, their purpose is completely different and their motives too. There’s also some interludes showing what the other Scions are doing while the Warrior of Light and his other companions are fighting against the Dragons. These scenes were mainly introducing the Stormblood story line. All of these three first parts are narrated by Edmont de Fortemps, through the reading of some chapters of his memoir.
The fourth part starts with the competition against the Warriors of Darkness and I didn’t remembered how quickly they explain the origin of this heroes team. This story part is narrated by one of the Scions, Papalymo, who took refuge in the Ala Mhigan resistance with his companion Yda who are finally reunited with the rest of the band. The Warriors of Darkness story line is quickly ended and install the basis for Shadowbringers, then the scenario later focuses on the begin of Stormblood’s with the introduction of a new character from Doma. The fourth part of Heavensward is also concluding the story that began during the end of ARR and serves as a starter for Stormblood. However, I had the feeling that the third part was longer than the fourth in duration.
The ending of Heavensward is strongly focused on one particular character of the story and also introduce some side elements of the new expansion. The new antagonists are also briefly introduced and the starter elements of Stormblood are set in place for the new expansion. What I could retain about Heavensward is how the story telling have changed between it and ARR. The player character is not the random adventurer that is just helping here and there but a major story character that is implicated and can be targeted by various antagonists parties. By redoing this expansion main story, I’ve observed how they installed progressively the two next add-on in the scenario, which indicates how the game’s background is very consistent and well developed. As Endwalker is a kind of a special story for FFXIV, I’ll see during Stormblood’s New Game+ if this narration is still applied.