Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail Steam Deck Review – Graphics Update, New Locations, and More – TouchArcade

Note: This Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail review is an in progress one that will be updated with the final score after I’ve played more of the expansion and have tested some more of the earlier raids with the new graphics update on Steam Deck OLED..

Back in May, I wrote about Final Fantasy XIV on Steam Deck covering how to get it running, how it plays, my thoughts on the game at the time, why it is worth playing, and more ahead of the big 7.0 graphics update and Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail. Fast forward to today, Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail has been available for about a week, and I’ve been playing it on both Steam Deck and Xbox Series X (including remote playing it on my iPhone), and I am very impressed with the visual improvements and the expansion so far. Note that I’ve not finished Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail yet, so this is a review in progress that will cover the first dozen or so hours of the expansion and more of the earlier areas I tested with the graphics update.

I’m approaching this Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail Steam Deck review in two parts. The first part will cover how the graphics update runs, looks, and feels on Steam Deck OLED. The second part will cover my thoughts on Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail itself and how it feels like the perfect summer vacation that I needed. There will be no story spoilers for Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail or prior expansions, but I am covering the NieR: Automata raid for my stress test so keep that in mind if you’re avoiding all things Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers as well.

Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail Steam Deck performance and settings

If you read my original Final Fantasy XIV Steam Deck article, you saw how well the game ran back then. With the Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail release and 7.0 graphics update, Final Fantasy XIV looks better than ever before across the board, but performance has taken a hit. On similar settings, the game can now drop to 30fps during busy boss fights, and during a stress test moving into first person even resulted in sub 30fps. Having turned down shadows a bit more, it holds the 30fps or higher target well. This is with dynamic resolution enabled.

I opted to play the game with a 45fps at 90hz target. The busier cities still drop to the 30s often when they used to be in the high 40s at worst before this graphics update. I specifically wanted to do as much stress testing as possible flying around in the new Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail zones, checking out raids, and doing FATEs with a lot of particle effects aside from just getting to dense cities. If it only dropped below 30fps in first person mode in a raid and held 30fps or above outside, things are looking good. I need to do a bit more testing, but I think I’ll be able to get Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail to around 45fps for that sweet spot of 45fps at 90hz. Note that I played at 800p for all this testing and used GE Proton 9-9. There was no outside tool or mod used to play. I uncapped the frame rate from 45fps to see how high it could, but stuck to playing at 45fps at 90hz when I was playing it outside testing for this review.

Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail graphics settings

I used a custom preset with LOD on, real-time reflections on standard, FXAA, normal lighting and grass quality, high parallax occlusion, high tessellation, glare off, all shadows being displayed, shadow resolution (1024p or 512p (better)), normal shadow cascading, strongest shadow softening, cast shadows set to minimum, 16x AF, normal texture resolution, and dynamic resolution. I haven’t had time to do the similar raids with the lower presets to see how they look, but I was happy with the image quality here for the 30-45fps in the dozen hours I’ve spent with the expansion and a dozen or so more revisiting prior areas and content.

Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail story and music impressions

I would classify myself as a more casual Final Fantasy XIV player right now. I’ve been playing it on and off for years for the story and music first and foremost. Everything else is secondary, though I do enjoy playing with friends when timezones match. So far, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward remains one of my favorite Final Fantasy experiences in general, not just in Final Fantasy XIV. Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail feels like a vacation at least in the first dozen hours I’ve put into it exploring, doing the MSQ, and just testing it on Steam Deck. The new characters are colorful, and my only real complaint is there not being more voiced dialog. I feel like it is less than prior expansions and patches. I’ve not tried out the new jobs yet, and have been focusing on my Marauder playthroughs only. I will be testing them out as much as I can when I update this review in the future.

I want to highlight Soken and Co’s music here. Final Fantasy XIV has one of my favorite soundtracks in gaming, and I think the Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail music is beyond incredible. This might be my favorite normal battle theme in all expansions, and I just adore the vibe and culture in the music so far. I got my acoustic guitar here with me and I’ve been playing along with the battle theme whenever I listen to it on YouTube or when watching my friends stream. I can’t wait to see how it evolves through the remaining story content as I get to it. I am annoyed that I can’t buy the Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail soundtrack on iTunes or on disc already though. Make it happen, Square Enix.

Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail on Xbox Series X

With the Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail update, the Xbox Series X and PS5 versions now have 120hz support. This is good because I have VRR on Xbox, and could see how varied the performance is with metrics in real time on my monitor. I usually don’t look at these while playing normally, but since I was testing, I decided to have a look. I saw the game hit above 100hz often but it also dropped below 60hz in some parts when running at 1440p. Running at 1080p (from in-game) results in better performance across the board. I ended up sticking to this on Xbox Series X on my 1440p monitor while playing. Outside that, I love how gorgeous the new locations in Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail look. I’m interested to see how the Xbox handles the actual big battles in the expansion later on. The screenshot above shows how the word filter works for Xbox Series X for something like the flying Cumulus mount. Still pretty funny.

I also tested it over Xbox remote play, and I can’t believe how poorly this runs compared to PS5 remote play. I had to make sure I was near my router to have a remotely playable experience on my phone when my console was wired and not wireless. I assume this has to do with Xbox remote play working over the internet and not locally despite both devices being on the same network, but it is disappointing to see it not work as well as PS5 remote play whenever I test.

The Final Fantasy XIV login needs to be improved on PC and PS5

This isn’t something that affects the expansion or my review much, but I wanted to make a special note of it. I noticed that Final Fantasy XIV on Xbox lets you directly launch the game and login with your details saved. On PS5, it saves your username and password, but you need to enter your OTP each time. On PC, you need to enter your password and OTP each time. I don’t understand why all platforms can’t have the same login method. I hope this is fixed because typing out my password and OTP on Steam Deck each time is beyond annoying. It would be great if all platforms could have a login system like the Xbox Series X version.

So far, Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail is the summer vacation we all needed after a busy release season. At least I needed a break after putting in tons of time into Trails through Daybreak, Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance, and still playing Elden Ring’s Shadow of the Erdtree. Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail looks great on Steam Deck and Xbox, it sounds incredible, and I can’t wait to see where things go later on. I just hope we get more voiced dialog added.

Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail Steam Deck review score: TBA

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