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GINX TV > Reviews > Final Fantasy XIV Online

Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail Preview: The Future Is Bright

In our hands-on preview of Final Fantasy XIV's upcoming expansion, Dawntrail, we put the Viper and Pictomancer to the test in the stunning new region of Tural.
Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail Preview: The Future Is Bright
Square Enix

Close to two and a half years have passed since the launch of Endwalker, marking a significant milestone for not just Final Fantasy XIV, but for its everstrong community. Concluding the epic tale of Hydaelyn and Zodiark, our Warriors of Light have been through a journey unlike any Final Fantasy protagonist before them. But that journey is far from over, and FFXIV’s next expansion, Dawntrail, will see them sail into a brand new chapter. 

During a hands-on preview, we took our first steps across the lands of Tural, geared up with the new Viper and Pictomancer Jobs, and fought through one of Tural’s dungeons — all as an upcoming (and incredibly cute) female Hrothgar. From our brief venture into all of this approaching content, I can honestly say I’ve never been more excited for an expansion. 

Exploring Tural

The capital, Tuliyollal, is a vibrant coastal port city. (Picture: Square Enix)

Dawntrail takes players to the continent of Tural, where various biomes, tribes, and vistas make up the many areas you’ll traverse during the expansion. In promos and teasers, Tural was presented partly as an island paradise, and it certainly delivers on that front. The capital city, Tuliyollal, is perhaps the best marker. Largely a coastal port city, there’s a lot of variety to be found in its landscapes. Beginning at the Aetheryte at the top of the city’s hill, you descend down a huge stairway to reach the lower markets and port. The whole city exudes the sort of vibrancy you’d typically crave from an island getaway.

Outside of Tuliyollal, the wilderness offers different, but equally striking biomes to explore. Kozama’uka, a jungle area found to the south, houses Goblin and Vanu Vanu-like tribal settlements (lovingly called Moblins and Hanuhanu in Tural). For the Group Posers among you, the flower beds throughout this area make for some great backdrops. The other explorable area during this preview was the mountainous region of Urgopacha, found in Yok Tural. Like Kozama’uka, there are different tribes which call this region their home, thriving in the rocky peaks and desert-like environments. Both regions are home to some interesting enemy designs, including large Jungle Iguanas and the Tegu, a sort of winged gecko creature.

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Stopping every 10 minutes to take a screenshot. (Picture: Square Enix, screenshot: Alexandra Hobbs)

Speaking of enemies, Tural hosts some of the trickiest Elites I’ve experienced in FFXIV. The Pkuucha, a flying Level 100 Elite that looked almost like a giant toucan, provided me and my fellow media friends one hell of a challenge. This was largely owing to a singular mechanic that had us each individually crying at various intervals: “Why am I dancing?” Mesmerizing March was the attack in question, and it is a doozy.

With a Full Party, a Light Party, and a few stragglers, we managed to hold it together just enough to take it down — minus a full reset after we pulled the Pkuucha a little too far from its boundary. Pain. 

Undeniably, Tural is beautiful. New areas are made more striking thanks to the new graphical update which, in this preview, extended to backgrounds and textures. Prior to playing, we were informed that our preview build wasn’t populated with all the NPCs and quests that we’ll see at launch, so things looked a little sparse. Despite that, however, Tural quickly became a region I wanted to spend as much time in as possible.

Viper - Bearing Our Fangs

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Show your teeth! (Picture: Square Enix, screenshot: Alexandra Hobbs)

The biggest draws for this expansion are the introduction of two new DPS Jobs: Viper and Pictomancer. Starting off with Viper, this new melee DPS Job has a similar playstyle to Dragoon with its reliance on executing combos, though with fewer ranged abilities to close a gap. Players will be switching between two one-handed blades and a single two-handed pole to execute attacks. One favors swift attacks, the other lands heavy damage. Things start to get a little tricky when utilizing the Vipersight and Serpent’s Ire Gauge, however.

Vipersight is a Job HUD that indicates steps in a combo. Viper mostly operates with a three-step combo, beginning with either Steel Fangs or Dread Fangs. By paying attention to Vipersight, you’re able to spot which next step to take in the combo to deal heightened damage. The glow of the blade in the HUD corresponds to a hotbar action. As for the Serpent’s Ire Gauge, this is filled when using certain skills in combos. When the gauge has been filled sufficiently, you can activate a skill called “Reawaken”, which activates Anguine Tributes. These allow you to use a few additional skills that are unique to this “Reawakened” state.

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Switch between two single-blades, or one deadly two-handed pole. (Picture: Square Enix, screenshot: Alexandra Hobbs)

I did find it tricky to get my head around the Serpent’s Ire Gauge initially and to enter that Reawakened state, which might also trip up some newer players coming straight into Dawntrail. That said, Viper is a late-game Job which, by definition, isn’t one that new players are encouraged to pick up from the get go. For most melee DPS mains, it won’t take too long to get to grips with Viper if you have a little patience. 

Outside of weaponskills, one (very minor) sticking point is that the initial Viper job garb isn’t very flattering on all races and body types. The Hrothgar, for example, looked a little awkward in the Job’s leather-heavy style, but Hyur’s were making it work with ease. Even though the Viper look wasn’t an immediate match made in heaven for my female Hrothgar, it certainly made me excited to see which other armor pieces will be available at launch.

Pictomancer - Picture Perfect

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Pictomancer feels effective, and capable of some heavy damage attacks. (Picture: Square Enix, screenshot: Alexandra Hobbs)

Pictomancer was met with some mixed reactions on announcement, with some worried it looked too gimmicky or out of place amidst the rest of the Job roster. I, myself, had my reservations. But during the hands-on, I found myself taking to it far quicker than I’d imagine, both in mechanics and aesthetics. It’s a little trickier to master than Viper as you need to understand how the Canvases work, Pictomancer’s Job HUD and main mechanics. 

Essentially, Picomancer’s attacks are executed by painting motifs onto a canvas. These motifs are separated into Creature, Weapon, and Landscape Canvases, each one achieving different effects. Whichever you choose to execute, you’ll see the respective motifs highlighted in your hotbar. So, if you choose to start with the Hammer Motif, it’ll be brought to life by selecting Steel Muse as the next action. With the Hammer now painted onto the Weapon Canvas, you can use the Striking Muse action, which will then allow you to execute Hammer Stamp. For the most part, you’ll be using Motif and Muse Magicks to execute your attacks.

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Switch between specific canvases, or utilise Aetherhue Actions for elemental attacks. (Picture: Square Enix, screenshot: Alexandra Hobbs)

You’ll also have Aetherhue Actions, which begin with either single-target actions or AoE actions. For example, beginning with Fire in Red (single-target) or Fire in Red II (AoE), which will then trigger the next steps, Aero in Green or Aero in Green II, then Water in Blue or Water in Blue II. By executing this third step, you’ll build the Palette Gauge, which makes more powerful Blizzard/Stone/Thunder abilities available. As a new Magical Ranged DPS, Pictomancer felt effective to play, in spite of the initial learning curve. With elemental attacks at your disposal, it feels like a Job for those who’d like to give Black Mage a try but are a bit put off by its complexity. I certainly feel more inclined to pick up Pictomancer at launch.

The Job garb looked a lot better on my female Hrothgar than the Viper gear, fully embracing the light and cute vibe Pictomancer as a whole gives off. Much like the Viper, though, I’m very curious to see the breadth of armor available once we get into the thick of it.

Ihuykatumu Dungeon - Bring Bug Spray

Fancy a swim? (Picture: Square Enix)

We’re all itching to get stuck into the variety of new dungeons Dawntrail will have to offer, and one in particular feels like you’re riding along on Disney’s Jungle Cruise. Ihuykatumu begins on a moving barge where you’ll need to defeat a few waves of enemies before it lands on the riverbank. From there, you’ll be largely on rails, hitting the creatures and bosses along the way. While linear in form, this dungeon offers up some fresh challenges to even veteran players. Outside of some great boss designs (including a giant manatee), there are some interesting and deadly mechanics to contend with, particularly when facing the final boss.

Ihuykatumu holds plenty of deadly surprises. (Picture: Square Enix)

I first ran this dungeon in Duty Support as Viper, and managed to clear it on the first try, though the final boss still proved to be a worthy challenge. However, I later ran it again as a White Mage with fellow players and it proved to be an even tougher challenge. Maybe that’s a skill issue on my part, but I fancy myself an adept healer and those boss mechanics can catch you off-guard in a pinch. As tricky as this dungeon is, it doesn’t take long to get the general gist of it, making it a very easy dungeon to learn. Finessing it is a different story, of course.

Honorable Mentions

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It's the year of the Hroth-gal. (Picture: Square Enix, screenshot: Alexandra Hobbs)

There are a few smaller, but no less anticipated, features that are well-worth a mention. We’ll start off with my personal favorite: the new female Hrothgar race. The male Hrothgar were introduced back in Shadowbringers and we’ve been waiting patiently for their female counterparts to join them. Much like the male Hrothgar, the players can customize the fur pattern and color of the female Hrothgar, as well as the length and shape of their tail. All this is on top of the usual customization features found when creating a character. The female Hrothgar look great, and can easily be balanced between looking cute or badass. I think my preview Hrothgar would also be best buds with my Viera main in my own little headcanon. 

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Glamour is the true FFXIV endgame. (Picture: Square Enix, screenshot: Alexandra Hobbs)

We also had a glimpse at the new Dye channels, allowing players to customize their outfits and Glamours even further by adding an extra custom color to outfits. While we didn’t have access to any dyes during the hands-on, we could preview the feature to get an idea of how it’ll gel together. 

Dawntrail - Wish You Were Here

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Better together. (Picture: Square Enix, screenshot: Alexandra Hobbs)

Even though we’re less than a month away from FFXIV: Dawntrail’s release date, that wait has never felt longer. I’m itching to take my Warrior of Light on an island vacation to Tural, though something tells me it won’t be a paradise for long. While what we saw in the preview merely scratches the surface (no quests or full NPC interactions, for example), the vibrancy of the environments and heightened challenge of its trials is shaping Dawntrail up to be a worthy expansion.

Both Viper and Pictomancer feel as though they’re ready to integrate themselves seamlessly into the existing Job pool and are well worth diving into at launch (RIP DPS Duty queue times). Whatever this new chapter brings to the Warrior of Light’s journey, I’m ready to greet it with open arms. After I’ve hit the beach, of course — my Viera needs a break. 

Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail launches on July 2, 2024 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC and Mac. Early access begins on Friday, June 28, 2024.

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.