Not many people know this but Square has a very successful MMO that has garnered attention as being one of the most difficult and unforgiving games in the genre. Not only that but it was built by using the example of the original EverQuest as its base. That game was Final Fantasy XI. Since its initial launch, FFXI has seen a multitude of improvements, additional playable classes as well as general plethora of content. Most of its player base think of themselves as the most hardcore MMO players out there and camping a monster for a whole week only to have a shot at a 1% drop rate item proves this. Now, a few years back, Square released what they wanted to be the successor to FFXI in the form of Final Fantasy XIV.
Needless to say….it failed.
FFXIV tried its best to capture too many people’s hearts but ended up being a broken mess. It incorporated FFXI’s system of one player being able to become any job or class. Basically, if you got tired of healing, you could deal out damage instead. One of the best MMO systems out there but for some reason the classes all felt fairly bleh. Mostly because there was no auto attack at launch forcing you to spam your button over and over again. Anyone who has played an MMO knows that this is not fun at all. In addition to this, there were a multitude of bugs, little to no content, the content they did have for end game revolved around doing obscene amounts of repetitive work for barely any reward and, overall, it just wasn’t really that fun. Graphically speaking, it was the top of its time forcing everyone to either upgrade their PCs or play on low settings which caused the game to become an ugly pile of…I think you get my point..
Since then, a genius developer by the name of Yoshi-P took the reigns of the game’s direction. He began by trying his best to fix the broken game. First he added auto attack, more ways to gain experience, tweaks to dungeons, etc. Overall making the game at least standable. Like being able to stand your ex-girlfriend showing up at every party that she wasn’t invited to…tolerated but not enjoyed. But I digress…. After a couple of major patches, our Dev Yoshi threw his hands up and yelled, “Screw this! I’m blowing it all up!” And blow it up he did. As seen in the video below named appropriately “The end of an era”, the world of Eorzea is destroyed and as a result Yoshi-P was able to craft an all new realm from this shattered failure of a game. Which leads us to…
A Realm Reborn.
So here we are. To give you a little insight into my information, I have been included in every beta phase for this new incarnation so far and currently in Early Access. I was never an adopter of the original but have played this game and bought the collector’s edition simply from going from lvl 1 – 20. This new game is the epitome of what Final Fantasy fans are looking for. But we’ll break it down into small bite size portions so that you can appreciate it a bit better. I’ll only cover graphics, gameplay and, most important for an mmo, the basic dev-community relationship. Oh, and pretty pictures.
Put simply, this game has become one of the most beautiful MMOs to date from both an art and technical point of view. Currently, I believe the game supports DirectX 9 but DX11 will soon be enabled for those high end pcs. The models move seamlessly with the terrain, taking steps when there are steps and bouncing up and down with a fairly realistic physics engine when on a chocobo. There are a couple of hiccups to the model when you look very close but the dev team explained that to make the game accessible to almost everyone, they couldn’t include certain features that would make the edges and corners smoother. In layman’s, the characters are pretty like a rose but if you look too too close you’ll find some thorns.
There are a small group of classes to pick from initially which all branch into jobs. Included in this version is a brand new class called Arcanist who commands the mighty spirit Carbuncle and offshoots into Scholar and Summoner. This class was never included in the original and already it shows great promise to what the devs can do in the future. That aside, all the classes feel very unique this time around and not one class feels overly powerful. A balanced group of classes to pick from makes things that much easier during events like Player vs. Player as well as just general DPS E-Peen measuring contests. Pardon my E-french.
Outside of the classes, the world itself is abundant with quests, beautiful scenery and a new system called FATEs. FATEs are essentially the random world quests that Guild Wars 2 created except it is possible to solo these and actually gain exp from it. A lot of the higher level world quests in GW2 ended up going on into failure because one person could not make much of a difference against a mob of 20 – 30 monsters all targeting you. In addition to this, there are multiple playable dungeons, fights against FF Aeon/Primal/Avatar/Eidolons like Ifrit and they both feature harder difficulties. Yoshi-P in a recent interview commented on a 8 man raid titled, “The Labyrinth of Bahamut” noting that he believes out of every player in the world…no more than 100 would be able to pass it before major patch 2.1 comes out. If you don’t know, I love when games beat me down….so to hear the dev thinking that so few would pass this battle makes me melt with anticipation. Ahem.
Dev <3 Community
Yes, the heart is intentional. GW2 led the way for MMOs really listening to their fans. I don’t mean, fixing a bug or anything like that but actually looking into the things that the community is complaining or gushing about and fixing them. Square Enix was notorious for saying the phrase “It’s working as intended” for anything that the community would bring up as an improvement in FFXI. It got to the point where the fans would start using this term as a joke and never expected anything to happen. During the beta phases and even early access, the dev team for FFXIV ARR has listened and added so many features that they never planned to put in. Not only that but they also release information quicker than most people can complain. Not to mention that up until this point, there were a multitude of pictures and a live Q and A to truly give us some idea of what is going on and answer hard questions. This is something that I wish every game Dev would do for their online games. Listen.
I understand that games are meant to make money for the company but at the same time, each game you create should be a love letter to us. It should make us feel things we’ve never felt and seriously push us to be better gamers and crave your next installment. There are so few game creators to date that show the passion and commitment that Yoshi P and crew have shown in not only fixing but creating a brand new game from a failed project.
That said, I hope you’ve gotten some basic information about the relaunch of FFXIV. In my opinion, this game will blow away most hardcore and softcore fans of MMOs and Final Fantasy in general. However, when it launches on Tuesday August 27th, only time will tell if this game will fall for good….or be reborn.