Immerse Gamepack FFXIV Edition 2.0 Review

Patch 6.4 brought an abundance of good things to Final Fantasy XIV, as patches are wont to do. But while some players are off to the raids as soon as possible, and others will jump right into the new main story quests or tend to their islands, me? I’m checking out the Immerse Gamepack FFXIV Edition’s big patch 6.4 add-on — it’s now been upgraded to 2.0 status.

You’ve probably at least heard of the Immerse Gamepack. Square’s not been shy in marketing its partnership with developer Embody, nor the fact that Creative Business Unit 3 (AKA the folks who make Final Fantasy XIV) worked side-by-side with the good folks at Embody to deliver a strong 3D audio experience on PC.

I wish I could tell you how 2.0 compares to 1.0. Alas, I’m a recent adopter. I’ve heard pretty decent things about the first version, though, so my expectations were high going in. I hadn’t done my due diligence in reading up on the program ahead of time, so I was kind of surprised when I had to grab my phone and record a quick video of my ears, but that’s the name of the game when it comes to the Personalized Head Related Transfer Function AI Algorithm. That’s not a Star Trek thing, that’s really what it’s called.

So, Embody’s software had effectively snapped an aural image of my ears and determined the optimal settings for Immerse Gamepack. Goodness gracious, my expectations were now even higher. If they’re going to go through all that trouble, I’d better be able to recognize when an Apkallu Fledgling is ten meters away from me, specifically ten meters northeast.

One of the target improvement areas in Immersive Gamepack 2.0 pertains specifically to FFXIV‘s environmental sounds. That’s great, because I’m all about ambience. Immediately upon logging in at the Black Shroud, I swear I heard bird chirps I’d never heard before. No, not the chirps everyone hears. More chirps. And, indeed, I could tell you if they were ten meters to my northwest. (Though realistically, they were more like ten meters above me. Which, well, I could tell that, too.)

I’ve always been a fan of the Black Shroud’s vibe, so I spent a good while chilling here, and paying keen attention to the hoofbeats of various local fauna. Since I tend to game with a headset on, I’ve always heard that sort of thing fairly well. At least, so I thought. There’s a marked difference in not just my directional perception but the clarity here. It’s crystal-clear, I kid you not.

Moving on to Thanalan, then La Noscea, and so on through all the regions introduced in the expansions, I was almost constantly impressed. Even the underwater areas felt natural to me, and no, I’ve never been underwater for more than five minutes, but you just sort of know, you know?

There was exactly one area that disappointed me, but considering how crisp everything’s been elsewhere, I’m willing to ponder the possibility that it was an unrelated issue. I’m going to keep this a bit vague for players who haven’t caught up to Endwalker, but uh, the place has has a very lunar look to it.

There was a great deal more testing to be done. Or rather, I knew I was pretty satisfied with the Immerse Gamepack, so it wasn’t testing so much as jotting down how much or how little the 3D audio seemed to affect a given scenario.

At this point, I have to reveal one of my greatest sins – I’m not especially fond of the music that plays during the Alexander raid. Naturally, this emboldened me to head through a couple of stages to see if I could perhaps reach newfound appreciation, with every note surrounding me. Now that I could practically feel the bizarre lyrics echoing all around me, they were stranger than ever. It was at that moment I realized I had been afraid of these vocals, and now that fear was magnified.

Other documentation was less terrifying. I ventured forth to the only other song I could recall not being thrilled with. ‘From Mud’, the song that plays in Labyrinthos, has for years struck me as having well over a minute of distortion so faded, so… jaded, as to be at odds with my eardrums. This time, it didn’t feel jaded at all, and there were harmonious layers there I had never before noticed without this tech.

Moving on, I traveled around to get a feel for a smorgasbord of ambient effects. The gulls cawing in Lominsan settlements like Aleport – it was nice, or not so nice, depending on how one feels about being practically enveloped by screeching birds. (My take? That’s a frightening mental image, but oddly comforting in practice.)

I went to the Garlemald area at the advice of none other than Tony Garsow to check out some tentacled monsters and hear the horror, and sure, it was a lot. But what struck a particular chord with me here were the noises coming from the various Garlean mechanical monstrosities. From the ‘bits’ buzzing by to the winged warmech Metatron, there’s greater aural depth than mere clanks and clangs, a richer tapestry of machine whirs and metal grinding against snow, steel beating over pipelines. Oh, and then Metatron nearly killed me.

Harrowing times call for comforting measures, and I wanted to see if one of my favorite tracks from Shadowbringers would soothe my soul. It’s the nighttime music back at the Crystarium, ‘Knowledge Never Sleeps’. This song is special to me – it’s this mix of the mystic and mysterious moods so prevalent in its expansion, and then the singing kick in, and it’s suddenly an ode to the journey, a lovely and almost celebratory overture.

The singing washed over me like a wave. If there’s a point in this article where I use the most obvious word – immersion – it’s here. If you decide to buy this program, and you have access to the Crystarium already, you should go and see for yourself. The serenading yet adventurous vocal performance just melted me once I sat down at the top of one of the city’s big watchtowers and stared at the night sky.

So, yes, I’m pleased with Immersive Gamepack FFXIV Edition 2.0, and if 1.0 was anywhere near as good, I reckon I’d have been impressed with it, too. After a few hours, it’s hard to imagine going back. Does it feel quite as epic a transition as, say, mono to stereo? Maybe not, but it’s not too far off.

Setup’s a cinch, by the way, sans that ear-cam experience. (That’s not what it’s called, but we’re calling it that, anyway.) Just download the program; it’ll know what to do from there. I booted up Final Fantasy XIV, and sure enough, I had an option to enable it via my sound settings. And honestly, it’s not that the ear-cam experience was hard. It was just… I should have been prepared for such a thing, but by goodness, I was not.

Embody has a free trial going on right now, and near as I can tell, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s a full 30-day trial, too, so really, if you’re at all curious give it a shot. Immersive Gamepack is normally priced at $19.99, which I think is pretty fair. Right now, it’s on sale for $13.99, which is downright great.

Just don’t be like me and have the volume cranked up during peak hours at the Gold Saucer. There are some places, friends, where you don’t want to hear every single thing that clearly.

Disclaimer: Embody code provided by Square Enix, developer and publisher of Final Fantasy XIV.

Final Fantasy XIV • Pandæmonium Anabaseios

About the Author

Quinton O'Connor Cats, curry, cafe con leche. Bylines include RPG Site, TheGamer, RPGFan, and that one time I wrote a passionate adolescent angst letter on MySpace. Twitter: QuintonWrites