Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail preview - Everything fans have been waiting for

Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail preview - Everything fans have been waiting for
Images via Square Enix

Written by 

Joseph Kime


6th Jun 2024 11:00

Final Fantasy XIV Online has offered players immense satisfaction, from fresh raids, classes and species to embrace and plenty of gorgeous locales to dash, fight, and screenshot their way across. It’s safe to say that many aren’t looking for a vacation of sorts - that sort of thinking doesn’t matter much to Yoshi-P.

The legendary director of the Final Fantasy MMORPG feels the need to offer players a well-earned rest. After reaching 30 million players by the time the adored Final Fantasy Festival rolled around, it’s been a marker of Naoki Yoshida’s immense success in turning the game around with expansions and upgrades that so many players are on the edge of their seats wondering what could be about to come to the game, and if he’s to be believed, then sun, sand and blue skies are on the menu for fans.

The peace (and PTO) may not last, though, as new threats appear and plunge the region of Toral into peril - and as GGRecon attends the latest preview for the expansion in Pottsdam, Germany, it’s clear to see that the hubbub is warranted.

Dawntrail is the game’s biggest expansion by a long way so far, and we reckon it’s the grandest reward that long-time players could ask for.

Tural is for the biggest Final Fantasy XIV Online fans

Gameplay from FFXIV Dawntrail
Click to enlarge

Final Fantasy XIV has earned itself a deeply passionate fanbase, and though many more players are firing through its gates day by day, amassing 30 million users by the time last year’s Final Fantasty Festival rolled around, but legendary director Naoki “Yoshi-P” Yoshida isn’t quite as willing to pander to those people. He knows that the game will speak for itself - and that the returning players are in need of some attention.

“I’ve been operating the game for ten years, and when it comes to our game or our MMO, I don’t feel that it’s so important to be focussing on getting players in at the expansion release timing,” Yoshi-P reveals to GGRecon. “This time, at the start of the expansion, we have the theme of summer vacation, and we have imagery that really represents that."

"So we have bright clear skies, bright scenery and so on, and the imagery conveys that sense of travel. I think for people who haven’t started Final Fantasy XIV yet, they might not be drawn to the title right at Dawntrail’s release. Rather, the existing Final Fantasy XIV players will start playing Dawntrail, and then they would start posting on social media about how much they’re enjoying the game.” It seems that existing players are the primary focus here - and it has paid off massively.

FFXIV Dawntrail gameplay
Click to enlarge

Immediately, something is fresh about Dawntrail - it’s obvious at this stage that visuals for the game have improved over its decade of service, but as Tural introduces vibrant blues and greens of stretching oceans and swaying trees, it’s safe to say that Final Fantasy XIV has truly never looked better. Exploring this new world is a joy, and much like Yoshi-P hoped, it feels like a charming departure from planet-shattering crises. That doesn’t mean urgency is lost, as raids and activities for your party, big or small, still offer enough immediate excitement to remain gripping.

Entering vacation mode

FFXIV Dawntrail gameplay
Click to enlarge

Final Fantasy XIV Online has grown into something far bigger than its namesake would imply, and its community know this, taking everything that the game offers and turning it into a vessel of fun at any cost - playing hide-and-seek, hosting personal fashion shows, doing their best to take the greatest screenshots possible - and Dawntrail is willing to offer those players some seriously exciting new toys to play with.

Key amongst them are the new classes, Viper and Pictomancer, offering both tight flurries of daggers and the transformative bombast of art for some truly fresh approaches to gameplay to accompany revamps of existing classes.

Pictomancer is a real highlight of the newest expansion to the game, giving players a slower, more distant approach to combat that packs immeasurable charm for players whose favourite element of the fantasy world is its whimsy. It suits the new raids, too, that introduce fresh baddies with an approach - and bosses across the raids display a huge number of different types of attacks to keep tensions high and players working towards their newly enhanced rewards.

It’s these players that ultimately make their own fun in Dawntrail, and Square Enix has laid out the red carpet for them to pick up the new toys they’ve left and run with them. There’s no wasted time in Dawntrail, because its intention from the beginning doesn’t seem to be to immediately rush you into fights on your own.

The game is unique at this point for fostering a community that just enjoys being around other players, and even with the leagues for players to do, simply exploring Tural’s gilded isles with a thundering, adventurous soundtrack to support you is more than enough fun in itself.

Final Thoughts

FFXIV Dawntrail gameplay
Click to enlarge

The preview of the game we saw came with only a few new active activities to engage in, but the magic of the actual look at the game was exemplified by the fact that we played the game surrounded by fans, taking up their own raids by inviting other players to take down an elite foe, and as it fell, the room erupted into cheer as their characters emoted in glee.

This is why Final Fantasy XIV Online is what it is, and why Dawntrail, the summer vacation that fans were promised, is exactly what it was chalked up to be.

It’s impressive to see a gameplay style, clearly learning lessons from the successes of World of Warcraft, practically turned upside down for an all-new audience, and with Dawntrail, it’s gotten better, bigger and brighter than ever.

There’s a good reason that Final Fantasy XIV Online has been nominated for all of the major ongoing awards year after year - and it’s exemplified here. Make way for Tural pronto. You’ve earned some time away.

Previewed on PC. Preview access provided by the publisher. This article is based on play of an in-development build of Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail, and content in the final version is subject to change.

Joseph Kime
About the author
Joseph Kime
Joseph Kime is the Senior Trending News Journalist for GGRecon from Devon, UK. Before graduating from MarJon University with a degree in Journalism, he started writing music reviews for his own website before writing for the likes of FANDOM, Zavvi and The Digital Fix. He is host of the Big Screen Book Club podcast, and author of Building A Universe, a book that chronicles the history of superhero movies. His favourite games include DOOM (2016), Celeste and Pokemon Emerald.
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