Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail hands-on — New jobs in the new world


I’ve got a paintbrush, and I’m not afraid to use it.

Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail is the popular MMO’s next expansion, releasing on July 2. It takes players to a new land across the sea, the Tural. The new world has more to offer than summer vacation vibes, as Dawntrail will offer players new challenges and ways to play. This includes two character jobs: the sword-spinning Viper and the magical painter Pictomancer.

Aads

I had a chance recently to play an in-development build of the expansion (as such, anything I saw is subject to change). This gave me an opportunity to try out the new jobs, tackle a dungeon, and explore some of the new zones.

I also got to talk to Final Fantasy XIV producer and director Naoki Yoshida.

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Jobs well done

I had to try Pictomancer first. With this job, you paint creatures, landscapes, and weapons and then magically bring them to life to take out your enemies.

As you’d hope for a job all about art, the aesthetics are incredible. Casting spells splatters paints and images across the screen, making Pictomancer one of the most fun jobs to just look at. It’s also incredibly satisfying to paint a hammer and then whack it at enemies.

Viper sting.
Viper sting.

Viper, despite lacking in magical paint, is just as flashy. Inspired by Zidane from Final Fantasy IX (the other best Final Fantasy), Viper switches between wielding two swords and then attaching them together for double-sided action.

It’s a fast job that has you pushing a lot of buttons, but it was also surprisingly easy to learn. Usually, melee DPS jobs aren’t my favorite in FF14, but I was digging Viper.

Dungeons and tiki bars

I tested both jobs out in a new dungeon, one that had us on a boat racing down a river as we chased another vessel. I’m always a sucker for boat or train levels that have the world rushing by as you’re fighting.

Better on a boat.
Better on a boat.

Final Fantasy XIV’s dungeons are always fun, but it was striking just how beautiful this was. This is partly thanks to new graphical updates that are coming to the MMO’s engine with Dawntrail, which is improving character models, lighting, textures, and more. It doesn’t make FF14 suddenly look like some new game, but the updates have the MMO looking noticeably better than it ever has.

Aside from the new graphics, it’s really the art direction that makes Dawntrail look so pretty. The areas I could explore felt lush and tropical, including the new city Tuliyolla (with its ample supply of beachfront property).

New dominos

It just feels relaxing after the cataclysmic events of the last expansion, Endwalker, which ended FF14’s first major storyline. Dawntrail is the first chapter in something new. You’d expect that getting to start with a cleaner palette and all these beautiful vistas would make for less stressful development, but Final Fantasy XIV producer and director Naoki Yoshida told me that this isn’t the case.

“To be completely honest, if I were to compare it, Endwalker had less pressure, actually,” Yoshida said. “The reason being, when you’re starting to build things up, that’s when you feel the pressure. If you could imagine a set of dominos that you’re trying to set up, trying to place that single piece to make the large shape is when you feel the pressure. If you knock one down, you can ruin what you’ve built up. The players, of course, through Endwalker — we were aware that it was one large domino installation. For the developers or creators, it’s just a matter of knocking down that first piece and watching it all crumble down. It was almost exhilarating. With experiencing that sort of grand finale through Endwalker, with the intricate dominos we’d set up, and having that catharsis, now that we’re going into a new chapter people might expect a similar sort of catharsis with a new arc. In that regard, there’s a bit of pressure.”

So, a big stack of dominos has fallen down, and now you have to start that process over again. I can see how that can feel daunting.

“But what we’re doing on the production side doesn’t change from what we’ve been doing,” Yoshida explained. “I’ve been encouraging my team to enjoy and get creative with their process. It seems like the developers are enjoying that process. From that aspect, it’s fun as well.”

Waterfalls make everything prettier.
Waterfalls make everything prettier.

Adventure is out there

At least from what I’ve seen, the new dominos are shaping up nicely. I couldn’t be happier with Dawntrail’s beautiful vibes, and Pictomancer and Viper both feel like great additions to the MMO’s roster of jobs.

Endwalker may have felt like something of a finale, but Final Fantasy XIV is just too good to end yet. I’m happy to start a new adventure and let the chips (or dominos) fall where they may.



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