Why I Play: Final Fantasy XIV

    
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We used to do a column called Why I Play on Massively-that-was, and while I didn’t originally plan on rezzing it here today, I did return to Eorzea this week and have been enjoying the hell out of the place all over again. That old column was nothing if not a love letter to the author’s favorite game — or in my case, the favorite game of the moment — so in the interests of maintaining my recently acquired positive momentum, let’s talk about why Final Fantasy XIV kicks large amounts of ass!

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The class system

I hate alts. I have a godawful huge pile of them across hundreds of MMORPGs, but I only have them because developers force me to have them. If I had my way, I’d use a single character in every MMO, both because I occasionally roleplay and would prefer to focus on one character and because I don’t really have the time to become an expert at eight, or 12, or 26 classes anymore! I do like to see all of the content in a given game, though, and in many games, the only way to do that is to roll one of every class.

Not so in Final Fantasy XIV, thank funk, as Square has allowed me to switch classes at the drop of a hat. All I have to do is change my equipped weapon and presto, my Black Mage is now a Summoner or a Scholar or any other class that I’ve bothered to level. Yes, you can even swap between casters and fighters if you like. It’s awesome!

Now, bear in mind that if you’re just starting out, you will have to advance your starting class quest to level 10 and then talk to a guild master NPC before you can switch to something else. But that’s a small price to pay, in my book, plus the game’s story isn’t half bad and you’ll want to experience it at least once. I’ve long been an advocate for skill- rather than class-based MMORPG design, but FFXIV has proven that class systems can certainly avoid the suck. The overall flexibility and the niceties like cross-class skills are something that future MMOs must imitate.

final_fantasy_xiv_conceptThe crafting

Final Fantasy XIV’s crafting is that rare MMO bird that combines a fun mechanical aspect with useful end results. Seriously, MMO devs, you should try this! Much like the game’s adventuring classes, the crafting classes are many, varied, and hot-swappable on a whim. The process itself isn’t an AFK-fest like the afterthought tradeskill chores in most modern MMOs; here you’ll need to choose crafting actions on the fly to boost quality, durability, speed, and so on.

It’s basically a little minigame where you aim for the highest possible quality before your durability bar reaches zero, and even if I weren’t predisposed to MMO crafting, I would find it fairly addicting based on the process alone.

final-fantasy-xiv-tableThe world design

In a weird way, Eorzea reminds me of Vanguard’s Telon, and before anyone attempts to tar and feather me, realize that I mean that as a compliment. Vanguard’s overworld was a joy, and it was split into three vast and distinct nation-states that each boasted a lot of variety in their geography, topography, and cultural representation. Thestra, Qalia, and Kojan certainly don’t resemble Gridania, Ul’dah, and Limsa Lominsa directly, but it’s the same idea, and it lends both an air of authenticity and the feeling of vast distance to Eorzea that’s missing in many contemporary MMORPGs.

Unlike Vanguard’s open world, FFXIV is composed of many interconnected zones, but they’re big, they’re beautiful, and they boast a broad range of NPC types, armor designs, and audio ques that make for a convincing illusion of life.

XIV-NewBowgirlThe business model

Can we go ahead and stick a fork in that silly sentiment about F2P types helping an MMORPG with their presence? Because FFXIV proves how ridiculous it is. I have never in my overlong MMO life seen a server as consistently jam-packed with players as Final Fantasy XIV’s Balmung. It doesn’t matter whether I logged in in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening this week; there were always hordes of people flooding Ul’dah, Limsa Lominsa, and most of the zones that I frequented while leveling. I even got a couple of dungeon pops as a solo DPS.

Not only that, but I couldn’t even create a new character on Balmung because the freaking thing was locked! Seriously, every time that I tried! This is two years after launch, folks, and the server is so crammed full of players that I was prevented from rerolling for aesthetic purposes multiple times this week. In fact, as of press time, I still haven’t been able to make a new toon and have instead resorted to changing classes on the character I made in 2013.

This is nothing new, either, as anyone who played during A Realm Reborn’s launch week will tell you that the queues were a nightmare to the point that Square suspended purchases until it could bring the demand under control. Think about that. The firm literally had to stop selling the game because its servers couldn’t handle all of the people storming the gates. Lots of F2P titles love to crow about their launch-week logins or created accounts, but it’s a bad joke since few if any of those people paid to be there. And not only does FFXIV feature an up front client purchase, it also features… a monthly subscription! I know! Shock and horror! How dare they charge for their product!

Except, yeah. Millions of FFXIV players are completely cognizant of the fact that $15 is practically nothing, and it’s even more nothing when it buys you unlimited monthly access to an MMORPG of this quality.

32The little things

I’m not necessarily a Final Fantasy franchise die-hard, but I did start with VII when I was a wee lad, and I’ve played all of them since. As such, I love seeing (and hearing!) nods to the series sprinkled throughout Final Fantasy XIV, none moreso than the world-famous victory riff and the lullaby version of it that follows my avatar into bed when I log off for the night.

Yes, my character crawls into bed and curls his tail up behind him at the end of a long adventuring day, and yes, I’m writing about that as a positive, along with the way he wags his ears after a successful dungeon stint. And that’s probably as good a place as any to end this week’s column. I’ve got that curmudgeonly rep to maintain, after all!

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Mimiros
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Mimiros

AtlasRyker What better options are out on the market?

DontaleMobasa
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DontaleMobasa

DPandaren DontaleMobasa How long did you play 1.x? There were a lot of quests (added later) and chocobos were always planned but the game wasn’t finished when it was launched (Jobs were not and primals it is unknown), we know this because of interviews while tanaka was still in charge, the fact that there were actually chocobo related things in the game before they were rideable and that it was in the trailer.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

Speaking as our resident grammar police and linguistic prescriptivist, I generally agree with not scaling the word literally. I missed this one, so this is my error as the copyeditor. I’ve changed it to “practically,” which is more accurate.
We have always welcomed corrections in our inbox if you actually want to help and not just insult a writer for internet points.

DPandaren
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DPandaren

AtlasRyker Something I did like in 1.0 was that there was no gear that was locked to a class. If you wanted to wear something, you could go right ahead. They kind of made it like that later in 2.0 with their xmogs, but their system is super complicated for no reason. Should have been something like eating a skin in Guild Wars 2 and spending the prisms like it was currency instead of an actual item taking up space, not to mention they still have a class/job lock on them and that it’s tied to the piece of gear instead of an equipment slot.

DPandaren
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DPandaren

DontaleMobasa Jobs were never an intended feature to 1.0. They came around after there was much complaining that there wasn’t enough Final Fantasy in XIV. After putzing around for a few months and dropping the sub, then they said they would put in jobs, along with chocobos, primals and other Final Fantasy like things. 

I was describing that I had to grind through the 2.0 story on my 1.0 character who was already level 50, everyone with a legacy character had to do it. And there really wasn’t much to the 1.0 story besides the intros, maybe like 3 quests? And some class specific quests at 45.

DrowNoble
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DrowNoble

Although I found the game quite beautiful to look at, I couldn’t keep playing passed my free trial.

First off, it was about an hour before I fought my first fight.  I understand basic quests to show me where the bank, merchants, etc are but FF14’s was excessive.  All I was doing for that hour was fetch and “go talk to” quests, almost like the devs wanted to say “look how pretty our game is!”

The second reason was the community.  Since I never played it before I had questions.  Being on the trial I couldn’t send whispers, which is fine, so I would use /say.  When other players found out I was on a trial, some just outright ignored me.  Others told me to “subscribe or leave, you’re wasting my bandwidth”.  Such vitriol from the people really turned me off and killed any desire I had to continue playing.

DontaleMobasa
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DontaleMobasa

marinredwolf The system really demands that you have some interesting way of leveling that is not linear quest progression. FFXI and FFXIV 1.x partch did not have the same problem because neither of them relied on questing to level you in the first place.

DontaleMobasa
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DontaleMobasa

DPandaren marinredwolf Interesting that you blame the rework for jobs since jobs were in some time durring the 1.x line and I believe they were announced before they announced 2.0. Also I am not 100% sure you are suggesting this but the 1.x story and 2.0 (arr) story are completely different things and you would have had to go through the entire story on your 1.0 character had you used them instead of a new character anyway.

DontaleMobasa
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DontaleMobasa

AtlasRyker I wouldn’t say the class system is a lie. I would however say that it doesn’t mesh as well with the WoW style tiered progression they use at endgame. With the weekly locks on things it makes it relatively unreasonable to try to support more than 1 job or 2. Other than that though I generally prefer the system.

AtlasRyker
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AtlasRyker

The Class System is a complete LIE.

Yes, you can level all characters in one, with 0 use. Just you don’t need to log BUT…

– You can’t ride with anyclass at any time, not sir. Gear is gated and class based. YES there is some gear that you can share with some classes, but that’s the thing… you can jump to tank class to another as long as you have a good weapon too, but you can’t jump BLM to MCH, to say something.

– Raids have lockouts on items, so it’s pointless.

– You have to level throught dungeons and fates (random map events, just like quests TBH). It’s grind, and painfull.

And well tbh FF it’s a well made game, yep, but boring and super slow/grind one.