Final Fantasy 14: Dawntrail's 7.0 graphics update really is a game-changer—breathing life, colour, and atmosphere into the 11-year old MMO

A hyur in Final Fantasy 14: Dawntrail looks amazed, standing in a gorgeous forest city-scape.
(Image credit: Square Enix)

One of the big-bill selling points of Final Fantasy 14: Dawntrail—which just released in early access this morning—was its 7.0 graphics overhaul. As fellow PC Gamer writer Mollie Taylor noted back during the media tour those "small subtle tweaks across the board" really have pulled together to create something magnificent.

Logging in today, rather than chewing into the new Main Scenario Questline (MSQ), I decided to go ahead and visit a ton of old zones to see just how different they were in the new dawn and, let me tell you, it's like night and day.

As a player, I'm not too particularly fussed about textures (although they do look far better) or number-crunching fidelity—but I do tend to notice lighting. Historically, that's been a bit of a low point for Final Fantasy 14, producing areas that look like they're aiming for vibrancy but land all washed out.

Gshade, a mod that allowed players to create presets, was so popular for this reason that its death due to the inclusion of baffling security measures tantamount to malware was a massive drama in the community.

Well, I'm pleased to report that things are much improved. Interestingly, while the game looks beautiful in the light of the sun, it's not until you get to moodier weather and times—dark nights, dense fogs, and vicious blizzards—that you really start to see what Square Enix is capable of.

The Ondo Cups, for example, is simply breathtaking now—the gloom descends upon its deep-sea landscape in a dense cloud, and the improved draw distances allow you to spy the fake city of Amaurot through the mists.

The overhaul has massively improved the look of earlier expansions so much I'm tempted to go through everything on another alt. Ishgard feels appropriately frigid, and the Kugane's kaleidoscope of colours is actually, well, visible now without third party tools.

(Image credit: Square Enix)

(Image credit: Square Enix)

All in all, Square's done a very commendable job. Final Fantasy 14 never looked offensively bad, beyond some controversial grapes (which I went ahead and checked, no extra polygons, alas), but it was still in dire need of a facelift, a complete makeover it has now well and truly received. I can't wait to get stuck into the game's new main story quest and see how Square's further weaponised its shiny new toys.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.