Final Fantasy 14 is a game about bees and the crabs that punch them. We continue our preview of FF14.
This is the second and final part of Nick LaLone's preview that began earlier this week with Final Fantasy 14 - Reigniting a Fanboy. Here, we examine the procedures, mechanics, or whatever you may call the "play" elements of a game.
When entering into an MMO like Final Fantasy 14, the first thing you're introduced to are the infinitesimal things you can do in an MMO. Every player has to be socialized into the nature of the game and we judge games by how quickly we get hooked. How we get hooked is something of a crapshoot but we do know that games, by their very nature, are limiting environments and we tend to judge them on the possibilities of action faulting them for limitations that might seem like "lazy programming" or are poorly thought out.
The biggest problem with the original launch of Final Fantasy 14 was that there wasn't enough research done into what was working at the time and that limited players in a way they weren't ready to accept and that didn't really make any sense. There wasn't enough time spent making easy to understand systems for players to explore. And, most of all, there wasn't enough content once players reached the highest level.
In essence, the game was a shallow mess and despite some really amazing patches, there was little that could be done to salvage the damage caused by the launch. This was further complicated by the disasters the Japanese were working through. I mean, a tsunami, an earthquake, and a nuclear meltdown are enough to stop any game's development. If anything, Square Enix deserves a tip of our hats for having the humility to pull the plug on something that wasn't working and trying to deliver something that does.
In order to make FF14 a success, Square Enix needed to actually try and address the massive elephant in the room. That elephant's name is World of Warcraft and it has pretty well set the norm for how to run MMOs for almost 10 years now. Surprisingly, Blizzard managed to get the most players by doing pretty exhaustive research on what worked well in games like FF11, Everquest, and Dark Age of Camelot. They then combined those things into an set of well-established MMO elements wrapped in a Warcraft III narrative. This perfect storm of development grabbed the pre-existing fanbase and every player tired of the then stale MMO market. With WoW subscription numbers on the decline, Square may have a bit of a boost in sales but Final Fantasy 14 doesn't have the consistent narrative advantage Blizzard had.
The big question I had in mind as I played FF14 was: given the ambiance of the world, does this remake manage to address the problems it originally had while simultaneously taking pre-existing successful designs and augmenting them into something new and exciting?
First, we'll talk about power structures and how well ARR seems to reward players with new spells and abilities. In conjunction with this power structure, i'll discuss how players use that power. Is this another game where players can just press 3 over and over to win like my Mage does in WoW? Second, we'll dig into the UI; what does it mean that this game is more about a controller than it is a keyboard and mouse. Are there other options? Next, we'll get into quest hubs, Battleleaves, Guildhests, and all the battles in between. These are the bread and butter of the MMO experience at present. What does it mean for Final Fantasy 14 and its myriad of job systems for a single character? Are they more fun and more varied than 1.0 FF14? And finally, in the conclusion we give you 3 reasons any gamer would have to purchase this game.
As with the last article, all of the hq versions of the pictures used in this article are contained in the gallery below. This gallery will appear in the middle on page 4 and the end of page 6.