I remember a couple of years ago, in February, getting ready to fly across the country for Final Fantasy XIV‘s big press event. I was worried, back then. I thought that the game had a huge uphill climb before it could possibly get any sort of mainstream attention.
Here I am, looking back over two years since the relaunch with a smile on my face. The first major post-expansion patch is coming up, complete with a feature that was an expansion element in one other game along with another huge pile of content. The game is undeniably a success story.
A good portion of the past year has been spent looking forward to and then experiencing Heavensward while still enjoying the game as it was, which is very much to the credit of the team and a religious release of content updates. So let’s talk in brief about the year and look to the game’s third year in its re-released state.
A year of expansion anticipation (without boredom)
So much comes down to timing, in a way. We knew about the game’s first expansion back in October, and it wasn’t released until June. But very importantly, we didn’t then have eight months of waiting for content.
Part of what has made FFXIV such an appealing game for a large number of people is the fact that content releases for the game happen on a reliable schedule. It’s not perfect clockwork, no, but just about every three months we get a patch of content that should generally hold people for around three months if you have a very narrow focus in play. And when the expansion was announced, we were in the middle of that cycle; if anything, the announcement just made everyone very aware of what would be happening over the next several months and what direction the story in general was heading.
It also made people – including me – far more likely to jump the gun and assume we knew where the story was going when we really, really didn’t. Which I like.
The theme over the year, in general, as been one of refining and improving frameworks, of taking the successful structure of the game’s first year and improving upon it rather than trying to reset it and start over from the beginning. That’s helped, too; if you didn’t like the game at the end of the 2.x series, you won’t like it much now, and you probably won’t like it too much after the next patch. The first year established that it could work, but the second was when it had to be expanded and tested.
Where we’re going
At this point, we’ve gotten the barest hints of what 3.1 is going to contain. I can’t get over the fact that the Gold Saucer is being expanded with a game that was specifically proposed as an April Fools’ joke, just sort of as a sideline to everything else coming in with the patch.
We’re only getting two dungeons to add into the top end, but I’m hopeful – though not certain – that they’ll be rolled into the existing lineup of Expert dungeons rather than rotating the old ones out. This would work well with the expanded item levels available, too, since the new dungeons dropping 170 gear would be notable without strictly overpowering Law gear. I certainly don’t mind the current roulette structure – repeatedly running two dungeons compares favorably with 2.0’s continual state of running one dungeon – but I’d like Fractal a lot more if I saw it 25% of the time rather than 50%.
Beyond that, we’ve got our usual 24-person runs that will allow us to upgrade Esoterics gear, as it ever has been and ever shall be, beast tribe quests, a new exploration system for Free Company airships, and so forth. The last one makes me a wee bit leery just because it’s content being obscured by company availability, but more options for content are a good thing. So I’m more inclined to see how that develops than to just get upset right off.
I’m also super happy about the inclusion of the housemate system as someone who has housemates in the game, and that’s something that’s been a long time coming. With the limited availability of housing, it’s kind of needed, although what’s really needed is more housing. In fact, let’s just talk about that now, yes?
The game needs more housing
I don’t think that housing is the game’s biggest issue, but it’s certainly one of them. I am simultaneously thrilled that I’m at the point when one of my biggest concerns with the game is housing availability and annoyed at the fact that we’re still talking about it because the current system is not really working out for anyone.
We’re told that there will be some sort of moving system, possible housing around Ishgard, and so forth. None of this, however, addresses the fact that it’s been quite some time and there’s just going to be another land rush as soon as it happens. And this is a big deal for free companies and players alike: Players want houses, free companies can’t delve into all FC systems without a house, and so forth.
What the game needs, at this point, is some form of instanced housing system, overflow control for the people who want houses but can’t get them in any other fashion – a compromise, a midpoint between the current state of affairs where you have sprawling districts full of houses and the point when no one could afford a house.
This kind of gives a snapshot of what the game’s issues are in general, though. There’s very little in the game that is flat-out absolutely broken, but there are pieces here and there that need to be addressed and analyzed in ways that they don’t seem to be.
For example, cross-class skills and that entire system needs another look. The fact that we earn no new cross-class spots post-50 and the fact that the new jobs don’t even have classes makes the whole premise of the system seem largely pointless. It’s just a matter of offering a few universal skills to every job within a fairly narrow pool. There is no customization therein, there’s no interest to be had from the system; it’s just a chore you need to go through to play your job effectively. That means it’s a system that needs revision and attention. It needs to be either outright removed or greatly improved because the idea of “mix and match your skills” has been out the window for a long while.
Something also needs to be done about the state of leveling because unless you’re part of a group mindlessly plowing across the fields of Dravania and Coerthas, going from 50-60 with a second job is painfully, tediously, pointlessly slow. I entirely understand that the designers wanted the first job to be a journey, and I support that, but it gets to the point when most forms of leveling content just aren’t worth it. It feels like such an agonizingly slow climb that you don’t even want to get started.
We need some trim up on the peripheral parts of the game, in other words, parts that are working but not really pulling their weight. This is a great place to be, but boy, it does make those peripheral bits stand out, doesn’t it?
Feedback is welcome down below or by mail to email@example.com, as it is every week. Next week, I think it’s time to actually get back to talking about classes, and we’re going to do so looking at a subject near and dear to my heart: melee DPS. Unless some other news blindsides us this week.