June's upcoming Final Fantasy XIV expansion, Shadowbringers, isn't just going to bring players another fifty-odd hours of story to chew on, but overhaul a lot of the popular MMORPG's fundamentals. Announced during a "Letter From The Producer" stream last night (archived on Twitch here), Square Enix and producer Naoki "Yoshi P" Yoshida outlined some of the big changes coming in Patch 5.0, whether you buy the expansion or not. They also released a free benchmark tool for the upcoming expansion complete with updated character creator. You can find it here.
The benchmark doesn't seem much more intensive than the previous expansion, Stormblood, and reckons that I'm well equipped to play it at its highest detail setttings. The benchmark also doubles as a real-time trailer, showing off some of the otherworldly new environments, big new enemies, and culminating in a mock dungeon boss-fight. We get a brief look at what the new Dancer class can do (wide-area magical damage, it would seem, being a ranged DPS type), and a peek at the adorably reimagined Nu Mou people, formerly of the Ivalice series of Final Fantasy games.
Still, benchmarks are just skin deep, and after watching the Letter From The Producer stream, I feel I'm going to have to re-learn the game practically from scratch. Patch 5.0 is bringing sweeping changes for all players, including the total re-design of several classes, as well as some changes to how character skills work at all. As of 5.0, some skills will be able to hold multiple charges, and the previously customizable 'role' skills will now be locked in, with a fixed set per role - tank, healer or melee, ranged and magic DPS. Magical DPS is the simplest at four extra actions, while tanks have to juggle seven.
Those magical and ranged damage-dealers will now have the job of interrupting enemy attacks. The UI should make it clearer when the enemy is winding up for something painful, and you'll find your interrupt skills amongst the set for your role, rather than class. In general, they're making the old MMO 'holy trinity' of DPS, Tank and Healer a more fundamental part of the game - an odd call when every other MMO seems to be moving away from it. Healers will no longer need to cast Protect on people, and are now focused far more on restoring damage, instead of preventing it.
The biggest changes are coming to pet classes, especially Summoner. Pets are being heavily reworked and will no longer be affected by enemies, so the days of tanking with Titan-egi (as my Summoner character does) are over. The pet hotbar is disappearing, summons are now instant, and their abilities are becoming part of your regular skill pool. Probably the most dramatic change is the Machinist class, which is almost entirely redesigned. Formerly limited to pistols and little clockwork drones, they've now got Heat and Battery gauges, the former limiting overuse of their new high-tech arsenal, and the latter charging up to let you summon a cool humanoid robot buddy.
That's just the tip of the iceberg for the upcoming patch changes, and just the stuff that'll be universal. The expansion itself is making some changes to levelling, with FATEs (open-world events) in Shadowbringers zones rewarding special currency but no experience, and side-quests all scaling to your current level. I highly recommend active or returning FFXIV players watch the Twitch stream above to find out what's changing for your class of choice.
Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers launches on July 2nd. You can find it here on its official page or on Steam for £30/€35/$40, and includes all the expansions to date. The first expansion, Heavensward, is also free until the end of June, although only for non-Steam players.