Punch flying Kittens in Final Fantasy 14: Heavensward

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Yep. That header is exactly as it sounds. Final Fantasy XIV is known for its series throwbacks and the upcoming Heavensward expansion is no different. Moogles, Cactuars, classes, epic storylines and monsters (hello FFV’s wing-suited kitty Gaelicat, meet my fist) all hark back to some of the most beloved elements of the series.

The vanilla game is currently one of the best MMOs available (despite its troubled past) with over four million subscribers, a well-established story that’s been spread overall several large content patches already, and a dev team that listens to community feedback. I’ve put in enough hours to be thankful that I can’t track how many I’ve played, and after getting some hands-on time with Heavensward I couldn’t be more excited.

Square Enix has promised another huge slice of story 50-60 hours long to keep us busy over the coming months, as well as new Jobs, flying mounts, a raised level cap for both combat and crafting classes, an airship workshop, eight new dungeons, a multipart raid with both normal and savage modes, and more.

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One of the first things you'll want to do when you get your hands on Heavensward? Summon the Fat Chocobo mount and haphazardly take to the skies, then land and brofist the nearest adventurer. You have to unlock the ability to fly and then attune to the local aetheryte before you can exercise your feathery friend’s wing nubbins, but once you do you’re in for a treat. Flying feels natural, the jump button controlling your height as you soar over the huge new map areas, now up to twice as large as anything seen in the game so far. From the frozen landscapes of Western Highlands of Coerthas, to the jumbled floating Forest outcrops of The Sea of Clouds, exploring the wilderness on wingback is a joy.

Tucked away in those new landscapes are eight new dungeons to take on, including an ancient library that pits you against a giant demon book with a few tricks up its leather-bound sleeve. Dungeons look to follow a familiar format—burn through trash mobs between three bosses—though Square Enix has promised to mix things up with some new mechanics. Teaming up to take them on feels suitably epic, as always, even more so with Heavensward's three new jobs.

The Dark Knight acts as a suitably moody tank with both an offensive and defensive move set, and the gun-toting Machanist provides ranged DPS and supportive skills by switching it’s pet-like turrets. The healing Astrologian shines brightest, however. With a good selection of offensive spells, as well as healing magics and a stance for barriers it’s an incredibly varied class to play, and that’s before introducing a randomised deck of diving cards. You’ll be able to draw a card with one of several different effects and either use it, shuffle it or save it to draw a potentially more powerful card if the draw goes in your favour. It’s a well-balanced addition that kept me on my toes..

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All of the existing classes also receive new skills on their way up to the higher level cap, each carefully thought out for the sake of balance. While Summoners won’t see any new pets, as many suspected, they will be getting more direct damage spells, and Monks will also finally get a useful AoE attack that sees them shoot a Kamehameha-style blast beneath them. There’s still some fine-tuning to be done, but so far every skill feels like a worthwhile addition.

The duty finder system is also getting an overhaul with new roulette types and greater customisation to personalise your dungeon runs. You can challenge them with fewer players, sync your ilvl and set loot to ‘greed only’. New players will also get double experience points and priority in dungeons to help them catch up on the story so far—you’ll only be able to reach Heavensward’s sparkly new areas once you’re up to date.

Not a fighter? The crafting and gathering systems are also being expanded to meet the new level cap and a new ‘scrips’ system is will let you specialise in up to three crafts. Materia V specs are currently being balanced for those that really want to push themselves to the top-end of the game, and there are plenty of new recipes to get stuck into.

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If you club together with your Free Company you’ll also be able to buy a workshop for your house, and build an airship to take on exploratory missions. If treasure hunting is your game there are two new map types to track down as well as new Hunts, Directx 11 support and a Mac version for the Apple-inclined. The much promised EU data centre is also currently under construction, and while it won’t make it in time for launch, it will be coming later this year to make things a little smoother for those based in Europe.

It all adds to an enticing expansion for fans and newcomers alike. It's out on June 23, but pre-orderers get in a little early on June 19.