MMO Search 2014: A Surprise Final Fantasy Candidate

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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is an MMO created by Square Enix. The game was originally released as Final Fantasy XI in September 2010 and received heavy negative criticism. The game was then reworked and reconfigured in order to try to save the product and released as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in August 2013. The game improvements included reworked graphics, sound, interface, character classes, and additional story content, among many other tweaks (the story is a continuation of Final Fantasy XI). Final Fantasy requires a monthly subscription fee of twelve to fifteen dollars a month, depending on how many character slots players wish to have. This game allows PC players and Playstation 3 and 4 players to play on the same servers (though I really can’t see an MMO working that well on a controller, call me elitist if you must). The game has received generally favorable reviews following its re-release and has been praised for solid graphics, story, and game-play mechanics. I was excited to try this game out since I use to love playing Final Fantasy games when I was younger. The last time I played a game in the series was Final Fantasy IX for the Playstation, so it has been awhile since I last played a Final Fantasy game.

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In the world of Final Fantasy XIV a great battle has just recently transpired between the evil empire and the people of the land you come from called Eorzea. At the end of this battle, the empire summoned the powerful dragon god Bahamut to turn the tide of battle in their favor, but no one can remember what happened after that. People say that Eorzea was saved by the warriors of light, but no one can remember who they were or what they did to save Eorzea. Unfortunately, the empire seems to be gaining strength again, and the kingdoms of Eorzea have not yet fully recovered.

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Character Customization Screen provides players with a good amount of options

As with other MMOs players begin by choosing their race and class. The character creator in Final Fantasy provides about as many character customization options as TERA or RIFT, if not more. Players can choose from several different races including humans, elves, and cat-people (for lack of a better word). Customization options include different faces, hairstyles, eyes, and facial markings, among other options. Characters once again tend to be a bit ‘cartoony’ in nature like in TERA, but I think they look less outrageous than characters in TERA do. Players also pick their birth date and what god or goddess they want to be associated with. Some of these decisions will have small impacts on your character’s stats (such as how firmly players are aligned with each element).

The classes offered are the familiar categories of tanks, damage dealers (DPS), and healers. There are a variety of DPS classes to select from that vary in their damage types, support skills, and attack range. Final Fantasy also features two tank and two healer classes. The game has additional high level classes called jobs, which are often more advanced versions of the starting classes. These require you to be a certain level in one or multiple classes. Some skills can be used by multiple classes and jobs (called cross class skills), so the game provides some motivation to master multiple classes and jobs. Classes, on average, in Final Fantasy feel very rigid as far as the role they perform during group battles. I appreciated that the classes were obviously inspired by classic Final Fantasy characters, but the classes tend to play like ones that players will find in many other MMOs. The class the player picks determines which of the three main cities players start in. I started the game as an Archanist (Summoner), a DPS class that deals sustained damage and also can summon pets.

One unique mechanic to Final Fantasy is that players are free to change their class at any time by just equipping the weapon associated with that class. Players can save an equipment profile for each class that makes changing classes at almost any point simple. Each class a player uses has a unique distribution of skill points and stats, so players are able to master every fighting class if they wish to (though some stats may not be maximized properly for every job). One interesting benefit of this system is that most players will only need to ever play one character.

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Game Interface feels unobtrusive and well sized overall

The game interface is once again pretty typical for an MMO, but the general layout and colors are appealing, and menus sizes and arrangement allow for a decent amount of uncluttered screen real estate. The map provides players with information such as where services are located and what exits to take to get to objectives, the ability to fast travel to locations, and the position of crafting resource nodes (with the right skills available). The map interface makes flipping through maps of other areas and customizing the maps appearance simple. The left hand side of the screen can become cluttered when you have a map, party information, and monster information all displayed at the same time though. Also, the game only lists a couple of quests at one time on the right side, so I found myself forgetting to do quests that got bumped off the list some times. When playing with pets, the menu bars can begin to feel like they are cluttering up the screen as well. Rearranging the game interface is straightforward though, so players can arrange it how they like for the most part.

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Game interface with map screen

Final Fantasy is a beautiful game with very detailed and polished graphics and probably one of the best looking MMOs currently available. TERA was also a great looking game, but I prefer the more subdued style of Final FantasyThe game features beautiful and distinct environments, a day/night cycle, dynamic weather events, detailed character models and gear, and great combat animations. The graphics draw obvious influences from Japanese Anime, but they still have a nice reality inspired feel to them. I highly enjoyed the look of the game due to how it reminds me of Final Fantasy games from the past, and I am glad they went with a more traditional Final Fantasy style, like that from Final Fantasy VI and earlier, rather than the more ‘steam punk’ inspired look of the newer games (though there is a bit of that in the design of the imperial troops). Final Fantasy also offers a unique and interesting assortment of monsters that are especially enjoyable for those who played earlier games in the series. As can be expected of a Final Fantasy game, the music is very well done and feels like an important component of the game.

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Accepting Quests from NPCs, yep, we’ve been here before

Players begin the game in one of Eorzea’s three main cities. Here players learn the basics of playing the game. Luckily for new players, the game features a detailed in-game tutorial system. When players experience new content in the game, a dialog box pops up explaining how this mechanic works (these occur after the starting city as well). The first city feels like it takes quite a bit of time to clear, and the game starts off slowly in generally (except for some pretty exciting opening videos).

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Talking to NPCs often involves reading large amounts of text

From the very beginning, players will notice that accepting quests tends to involve reading a great deal of dialog, almost an overwhelming amount at some points. Some of this is done through voice work, which can be a nice change of pace since the voice work is generally well done. The rest of the dialog is delivered through speech bubbles, which feel a bit more natural than the text blocks in other MMOs. I think Square tried to make quest dialog sound more natural and like a real conversation rather than just directions on what to do next. Initially this gives the game an interesting and unique feel, but later I found myself skipping much of the text. Completed quests provide you with experience, money, and typically a selection of new gear. Quest objectives are similar to what players will find in many other MMOs, such as killing monsters and item collection quests.

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Battling enemies with my animal companion

Combat is similar to other MMOs. During combat, players highlight targets and use abilities from their skill bar to attack or inflict enemies with negative status conditions (slow, stop, poison). Some abilities can also be chained together, which allows for abilities to be instantly cast for no magic points. The combat system features some helpful visual elements such as guidelines that show who you are attacking and being attacked by, enemy attack zones (or area of attack zones) that indicate where charged attacks will hit, and enemy lists and aggro charts (how likely enemies are to attack players) to help you manage attacking patterns. Many battles involve dodging enemy charged attacks that can cause massive damage if not avoided. One downside to combat is that it feels much easier to play a ranged DPS class rather than close range melee class, because ranged classes can often see enemy attack zones more easily. One interesting thing to note is that players do not get any gear from slaying monsters, but instead get consumables like healing potions and items that can be used for crafting. One aspect of the battle system which I found annoying was control, or lack of control, of summoned pets. Pets will automatically use some abilities that throw enemies away from your group, which can be very frustrating for tanks, and these abilities cannot easily be turned off.

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Participating with many other players in a FATE

Final Fantasy features dynamic world events called FATEs, which are similar to Rift events in RIFT. During a FATE event players are free to join other players to complete a specific goal, typically destroying a set number of enemies, within a set time limit. Each FATE has a recommended level, and players who are lower than the recommended level will receive less bonuses from FATE completion. If a player is over the recommended level, they must ‘sync’ their character’s level to the recommended FATE level in order to participate. ‘Syncing’ your level lowers your gear and stat levels so they match those of players at the appropriate level. Players receive gold and experience based on the amount of damage they cause to enemies. This mechanic can be a bit annoying sometimes because many magic classes are not able to land hits quickly. FATES are considered one of the fastest ways to level a character, and players will often see groups running together around maps to complete them.

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Participating with other players in a Guild Heist

Players have many different options besides quests in order to gain experience and gold. FATEs, mentioned above, are one way, but players can also participate in what are known as guild heists and leves. Leves are where players perform specific tasks for special NPCs such as defeating monsters or delivering goods. These are a quick way to gain experience for classes, especially crafting classes, but each leve costs players leve points which can run out if used too quickly. Players can also participate in guild heists where players fight in small groups to take down a mini boss. Players sign up for heists in the dungeon finder tool. One very useful feature in Final Fantasy is that players can sign up for dungeons, heists, or other group content anywhere in the game world (as long as they are not already a group), and a join group screen will notify players as soon as a group is ready. These small group battles serve as a somewhat casual introduction to playing with other people before taking on your first dungeons. Later in the story, dungeons also become available, which allow for players to earn unique weapons and armor. From what I have experienced, the designers did a good job of slowly scaling up the difficult with each new dungeon.

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Crafting requires utilizing several skills to be successful

Crafting is a unique process in Final Fantasy, which involves utilizing different skills, often several per item, to create pieces such as weapons, armor, and accessories. Typically, players use skills which increase item creation progress and quality, but at the cost of an item’s durability. Increasing quality increases the chance of producing an item with better stats from the same materials. When crafting an item, players need to reach one hundred percent progress before an item’s durability reaches zero in order to be successful. In Final Fantasy players also have a level associated with each crafting class, and higher levels unlock more advanced crafting techniques. As with battle classes, picking a crafting class just requires equipping the main weapon or tool for that crafting class. Gaining crafting levels can require lots of time and money, but some items can only be made through crafting. The other non-combat class type is gatherers. These classes collect materials required for crafters from gathering nodes found throughout the world. To make more advanced items, crafters require materials that can only be obtained through gathering (or purchased from them on the market).

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A quiet Sunset in Eorzea

So far the story seems decent and has some nice fairly touching moments, but many of the characters feel sort of flat and not very interesting. With that said, I think the story is still one of the better efforts for an MMO, and some of the characters from the class specific quests are fairly engaging and interesting. The end of the game seems to require a pretty heavy equipment grind in order to participate in more advanced content, but this is typical of many MMOs. In order to unlock new equipment, players may need to play some dungeons over and over again.

End game content features 4v4 PvP, hard mode dungeons, two different raid dungeons with multiple levels, boss instances (in normal, hard, and insane difficulty), treasure hunts, and additional side stories which are unlocked after completing the game. Players can also purchases homes, get married, strengthen their animal companion, and level their own personal retainer (who helps you sell and retrieve items and crafting components). Recently they added large PvP arenas and additional raid runs as well. Overall, there is quite a bit of end game content and gear progression, and Square has plans to add even more content in the future.

Final Fantasy won’t surprise you with new innovative game-play or features, but it does feature a very playable and enjoyable MMO experience in a very pretty package. As I said before, it feels like it took many features from previous MMOs, such as WoW, and made them more polished and refined. I may have enjoyed this game more because of my past enjoyment of Final Fantasy games, but I think there is a lot to appreciate in this game for any MMO fan.

Well, this is the last MMO article I am going to write for this current collection. Some day I might check out the Elder Scrolls MMO or Wild Star (probably the more likely of the two), and hopefully I will be able to present my opinion of those games if I do. I will be putting together some sort of summary in the near future to tie up this series of articles as well.

Thanks so much for reading and feel free to post any comments about Final Fantasy or any other MMOs in the comments section!

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Farewell for now Eorzea

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About Boy Danger

I have many interests including clay sculpture, art, music, reading, writing, movies, and video games. I am hoping to share these interests through my blog and find other people interested in these things as well.
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One Response to MMO Search 2014: A Surprise Final Fantasy Candidate

  1. Pingback: MMO Search 2014: What’s my Favorite so Far? | Danger Blog

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