Tuliyollal Feature Image

FINAL FANTASY XIV’s newest expansion, Dawntrail, is available for preorder NOW on PC/Steam, PlayStation 4/5, and on Xbox Series X/S.

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.

“What we want to bring to all of you Warriors of Light is the very best summer vacation a hero could possibly have. I realize this is like a sudden change from the feeling of Endwalker. But I mean, you did save not only all of Hydaelyn, but kind of the whole universe, so we thought maybe we’d give you just a little break.

So, the site of this vacation, and a brand-new adventure, will be what you know as the ‘New World’…what we know as ‘Tural’.”

~Naoki Yoshida (FINAL FANTASY XIV FAN FESTIVAL 2023-2024 Keynote Address)

In my hands-on demo of Dawntrail as part the Dawntrail Media Tour, my mind kept going back to those statements made in Las Vegas. I am veteran of Eorzea. I’ve played since alpha of 1.0, and I have completed every storyline and explored every new region as the story drove itself towards its almost inevitable conclusion that (perfectly, in my opinion) bookended the story that started so long ago for me in the Sixth Astral Era.

Personally, I am incredibly ready for something new and different. And yes, that includes even a summer vacation.

My hands-on Dawntrail demo was not the full expansion, unfortunately. I was limited to exploring the city of Tuliyollal, the field areas of Urqopacha and Kozama’uka, and a new dungeon that comes fairly early on called Ihuykatumu. I did that dungeon both as part of a media group as the Pictomancer job, and I attempted it later on both new jobs solo with Duty Support.

Tulilloyal, looking up a hill.
Looking up the hill that the city of Tuliyollal was built into. © SQUARE ENIX

I won’t spoil what little of the storyline I saw in Ihuykatumu other than to say that the division of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn into different competing camps to determine the new Tural king that was teased in the Growing Light patches is not a pre-expansion gimmick, but it actually looks to be genuine. I am glad about this, as I hate it when intriguing storylines are set up and then immediately discarded afterwards. And honestly, what can be more interesting than having dear friends turned into competitive foes as a narrative hook?

Dungeon in Dawntrail.
Growing Light’s narrative set-up of competing factions, even within the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, to crown a new king of Tural looks to be a genuine plot point for Dawntrail. Gulool Ja Ja is determined to do whatever is possible to gain that crown. © SQUARE ENIX

Final Fight with Starry Muse Ability being utilized.

But let’s talk the landscape and cities of Tural, because what little I got to see of Dawntrail is unlike anything we have seen so far in FINAL FANTASY XIV OnlineDawntrail is FINAL FANTASY XIV’s most beautiful expansion to date, and one that I never stopped discovering new things in during my demo. The place I kept coming back to during my Dawntrail demo, even to just watch the sun rise and eventually set, was Tuliyollal. This city is drenched in vibrant colors and was laid out in such a natural way that I did not feel like I was being bottle-necked into one part or another like I was by the bridges in Stormblood‘s Kugane.

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A Day in the city of Tuliyollal. © SQUARE ENIX

Tuliyollal is built on a hill, with the dock and markets at the foot and the Royal Palace at the top, and the entire cityscape exists out in the open air. Tuliyollal did not feel excessively stretched out over a large map for the sake of making it appear ‘big’ or needlessly complex for the sake of looking complex, and there was something quite magical about being able to look down from a higher elevation and see the city (and a few other members of the media!) bustling down below. There is one certain spot, near the top, that I think will be an extremely popular spot to just people-watch from when Dawntrail launches because you can see so much of the city below it against the backdrop of the sky and ocean.

Sitting high up in Tuliloyall.
This spot turned out to be my absolute favorite to just sit at in all of Tuliyollal. © SQUARE ENIX

True to Dawntrail’s cultural inclusivity lore in Tural, Tuliyollal has a lot of NPCs of different races chatting with each other, sitting at a table, or even demonstrating combat for an adoring crowd. While we were warned there are quite a few NPCs missing in the city to talk to (and all they could say anyway was ‘Welcome to Tural!’), Tuliyollal feels like a real, lived-in city that was built up around the environment it inhabits instead of a place built to spite the environment like Rhalgar’s Reach does.

Different races around a table in Tuliyollal.
Tural is a place where multiple races live together in harmony in a way that would be hard to believe in Eorzea. © SQUARE ENIX

Different races interacting in Tuliyollal.

The two outside areas I could visit, Kozama’uka and Urqopacha, could not possibly be more different and they both were gorgeous in their own ways. Kozama’uka is a colorful, forested area with giant waterfalls that dwarf everything around you, while Urqopacha is mountainous with volcanoes with glowing lava cracked across the surface. While not everywhere in both areas was accessible to us, I was incredibly impressed with how much there was to discover. These photos below really only give a glimpse of everything there is to find there.

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There is so much to see and visit in Kozama’uka and Urqopacha. © SQUARE ENIX

Both of these areas, and the tiny towns that exist inside both of them, are places you’re going to want to explore in depth while flying on a mount, as they are clearly geared towards that. To show just how much there is to find in these areas: it was only towards the end of my hands-on demo that I found a small, out of the way, pathway that had mysterious paintings inside across the walls.

Tunnel in Urpoqacha
Just to give you an idea of how large these areas are: I did not find this small tunnel or these wall paintings in Urqopacha until nearly the end of my Dawntrail Media Tour multi-hour block. © SQUARE ENIX

Wall paintings inside the tunnel.

I believe that I was part of the first non-SQUARE ENIX-employed North American group to clear the Ihuykatumu dungeon, and I did so as the new Pictomancer job. While my thoughts on the job can be seen here, I just want to say briefly that Pictomancer is incredibly versatile, and you will be utilizing both Aetherhue Actions and Motif/Muse Magicks quite a bit. As for Viper, you can see my full thoughts here about that job, but it will be the most complicated job in FINAL FANTASY XIV Online when Dawntrail is released. This is because there are multiple combos you need to execute in different ways in order to maximize your damage output. Once you try it out, you’ll get the hang of it. Trust me.

“Dawntrail is FINAL FANTASY XIV’s most beautiful expansion to date, and one that I never stopped discovering new things in during my demo.”

Ihuykatumu is a level 91 dungeon, and my character was level capped down to level 92 from 100 for it. Presumably, this sets Ihuykatumu as a fairly early dungeon in Dawntrail. One of my biggest questions coming into this expansion, especially with all the new Xbox Series S and X players, and the ability to buy scenario skip items in the online shop for a large discount at the moment, was if Dawntrail would be a good jumping on spot for brand new players.

Based solely upon my experience raiding in the dungeon, the answer is ‘no.’ The boss mechanics at each of the three major fights of that dungeon have Areas of Effect that crisscross the battle area in large patterns, and the enemies have special attack moves and patterns that clearly expect the players to know what to do based upon prior dungeon experience in prior expansions. In other words, this is a strong continuation of the gameplay style and degree of difficulty from Endwalker. If you’ve completed maybe only A Realm Reborn’s basic storyline and you want to jump into Dawntrail, then (based solely upon this dungeon) you’re going to have a hard time as the difficulty level is far higher than even the final ARR fights.

Something else that I wondered about would be if there was going to be a return of dungeon gimmicks/mechanics. I was curious about if this was going to make a resurgence due to another SQUARE ENIX-published title, BABYLON’S FALL, actually introducing the concept of dungeon mechanics during the Tale of Two Ziggurats substory that was released in May 2022.

Lake of Lava
Lakes of lava and lakes of water exist all over Tural, and I could not help but be mesmerized by the beauty of it all. © SQUARE ENIX

Lake of water with colorful mountains behind it.

Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi-P), however, stated that they want to introduce fresh mechanics back into the gameplay during the Dawntrail Day 1 Q&A. Unfortunately, Ihuykatumu did not have that. Ihuykatumu was the fairly standard ‘fight enemies, kill enemies, get to a miniboss, kill that, and repeat two more times’ type gameplay that has been around since the Stormblood expansion.

Personally, I am of a split opinion of this: while the dungeon mechanics do get annoying when you’re running the dungeon for the umpteenth time to try to get the latest Tomes, they do break up the standard dungeon format into something new. I am hopeful that with Yoshi-P’s comments, we can get more dungeon mechanics like firing cannons at Cuca Fera during Heavenswards The Stone Vigil (Hard) dungeon. Therefore, I am hopeful that Ihuykatumu will not be indicative of the entire expansion.

There is a lot of enemy variety in Dawntrail. The enemies throughout the overworld and inside the Ihuykatumu dungeon are both unique and were not barely reskinned from elsewhere in Eorzea with a higher level and a different name (well, except for possibly the Malboros). Whether I am running away from Mountain Bears or even a reimagined Cactuar (yes, they are there, and I need that plush now on the SQUARE ENIX Store for purchase!), I kept gawking at them before dispatching them. I even ganged up with my fellow media Warriors of Light to take down a Rank A hunt, Queen Bee, that had fun new mechanics that required us to work together as a group to kill.

Queen Bee Hunt
The Rank A Queen Bee Hunt. © SQUARE ENIX

Fighting the Queen Bee

The new race option coming to Dawntrail is the female Hrothgar. I spent my entire demo playing as one, and I was more than pleased with how the character model looks. I don’t think it is a big secret that there aren’t a ton of male Hrothgar characters out fighting in Eorzea, but I would be absolutely shocked if we don’t get a lot more female Hrothgars long-term in the game. Everything from the character face to the fur looked detailed and amazing, and I was quite pleased with how the female Hrothgar looked in various job gear.

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There is one more thing that I want to talk about, and this takes place back in Tuliyollal. Towards the end of my Dawntrail demo, I visited what I assumed will be the in-game market area in the city for tomes trade ins, NPC item sellers, and such. If you’ve played FINAL FANTASY XIV from A Realm Reborn through the Endwalker expansion, then there is one thing that you can count on when you visit any NPC shops: they will all be bare-bones cut and paste graphic images of each other’s stalls, no matter where you go in the world. There will be large, stacked bags, generic armor suits, and a few baubles here and there on display. Even at the most lavish lore-wise shop locations in-world, such as the Steps of Nald in Ul’dah and the East/West Balshahn Bazaar in Radz-at-Han, suffer from this generic sameness.

Yet, Tuliyollal’s shops could not be any more different. When started as a quick run through turned into a long, lengthy walk as I kept stopping to gawk at all of the small details the developers placed in. There are so many shops with jewels, individual books, different fish on display, and none of it – even the bookshelves – look to be a copy and paste job between shops. This part of Tuliyollal feels like an actual marketplace that has real, unique, shops in it that is absolutely stuffed to the proverbial Namazu gills with items.

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What I presume to be the NPC shops in Tuliyollal are the most detailed ever in this game.

If you’ve read the past two paragraphs, then you’re probably wondering why in Etheirys I am talking about something like basic NPC shops in such detail. Basic service NPC shop background graphics are the kind of thing that no player ever really has talked about for the past decade-plus of FINAL FANTASY XIV Online. In fact, the development team could have probably just done the same bare bones basic work for it for Dawntrail that was put into every other prior expansion, and no one would have noticed or likely cared.

Yet, the fact that the details of NPC shops is something that’s been changed, that this is something SQUARE ENIX has taken the undoubtedly precious time to improve on, speaks volumes about the care and attention to detail the development team is bringing to Dawntrail. After all, if the development team cares this much about improving such a tiny detail of the game, which also haven’t been talked about at a Fan Festival or in a Producer Live Letter so far, then what other improvements and surprises await all of us Warriors of Light in Tural?

I, for one, cannot wait to find out.

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There is a large variety of new enemies in Tural. 

If you cannot tell just from reading all of this so far, I was seriously impressed by my hands-on time with Dawntrail. This expansion’s hands-on demo, especially coming off of Endwalker, pulled off the equivalent of a Four Kan or Thirteen Orphans hand in Doman Mahjong for me. Tural feels truly like a fresh break from all of the prior expansions, and this expansion has real promise to be the best expansion yet. This opinion comes from having tried out the two new jobs, seeing the care and attention being given to the graphics and intimate, small details of Tural, and just how simply new everything feels.

Oh, and the music.

You cannot forget the music. Masayoshi Soken has composed music that sounds wildly different than anything that has come before in FINAL FANTASY XIV Online while also feeling appropriate to the atmosphere and the summer vacation goal Naoki Yoshida laid out in Las Vegas. I cannot wait to hear Tuliyollal’s theme at a future Distant Worlds: Music from FINAL FANTASY, A New World: intimate music from FINAL FANTASY, or Eorzean Symphony- FINAL FANTASY XIV Orchestra performance.

All of this is very high praise, considering how much I have loved this critically-acclaimed MMORPG. I spent almost ten hours in just a handful of areas, and yet I feel like I have yet to see everything there is out there. Tural feels like a giant, colorful, beautiful world with so much potential present to be the best expansion yet. And so I am just counting down the days until Dawntrail enters early access on June 28 and is fully released on July 2.

Please check out my thoughts on the new Viper job, on the new Pictomancer job, and about Naoki Yoshida’s Media Q&A from Day 1!

If you want more FINAL FANTASY XIV Online-themed content, then be sure to check out my ongoing cooking series, Cooking Eorzea!

Also, check out what eleven FINAL FANTASY XI Online enemies that I think need to be part of the upcoming Echoes of Vana’diel raid series in Dawntrail.

What do you think of Tuliyollal, Urqopacha, and Kozama’uka?

Did you preorder Dawntrail so you can get in during the June 28 early access period?

Let us know in the comments below!

Quentin H.
I have been a journalist for oprainfall since 2015, and I have loved every moment of it.