I hate to say it, but I’ve been negligent in my duties. Articles left unwritten; Simublasts missing; statues to Kroze not built. While I wish I could point to a legitimate reason, like “my whole family got cancer” or “I fell in love with an awesome girlfriend,” I cannot. I simply been playing Final Fantasy 14; a lot. Kana tells me that I just need to manage my time better, but that’s not gonna happen. I get on MMORPGs like Naruto gets on ramen. I guess I’m the addictive type. It also doesn’t help that Final Fantasy 14 is a pretty good MMORPG.
Final Fantasy 14 is the second MMORPG of the Final Fantasy franchise. When it first came out, it was as well built as Seifer’s fantasies of knighthood. Square Enix doesn’t doesn’t take failure lying down (unlike your Mom, oh snap!), so they rebuilt it into Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn. With the upcoming release of its first expansion, Heavensward, it’s time to ask… How is it? What separates it from all the other MMORPGs out there? Is it right for me?
If you’re familiar with MMORPGs and you’re familiar with Final Fantasy, then you’ll be familiar with Final Fantasy 14. You talk to people with symbols above their heads for quests which usually lead you to killing monsters. You start by farming experience points for levels and end by farming tokens for gear. If you want something highly innovative or different, this isn’t for you. It’s very soul is steeped in WOWisms, so this won’t be the game to change your mind on MMORPGs. It does come with all the reoccurring Final Fantasy staples. Cast Fire, Ice, and Holy! Meet Cid, Biggs and Wedge! Do battle with Shiva, Ifrit, and all those other summonables.
Being a Final Fantasy, it comes with an engrossing, or at the very least serviceable, story. You are the Warrior of Light, blessed with the Echo, who must face down all who threaten Eorzea. While making everyone the chosen one does knock down immersion a peg or two, emphasizing story does provide context to your actions. It never feels like killing five wolves for the sake of killing five wolves. Even at the lower levels, you’re saving the realm from the threat of the primals; and later a magitek-powered empire (sounds familiar?).
While Eorzea seems like a big place at first, it’ll slowly but surely feel intimate as time goes on. While some people may end up feeling flat, everyone is developed enough to be distinct. You’ll never feel like you’re talking to generic knight number two. The NPCs who hang around also have interesting stuff to say, adding life and personality to world around you. You’ll get to know, love, and even laugh with the people of Eorzea.
One things that makes Final Fantasy 14 stand out from the MMORPG crowd is its sense of humor. Everyone promises epic battles and world shaking events; how many can make you laugh? Constantly saving the world can be monotonous, and I’m glad that Final Fantasy 14 throws in a joke now and then to break it up. Hildibrand alone provides more comic relief then you can find in an entire MMO. You can also wage war over cheese and (possibly) enlist in promoting the military might of sheep. The humor is but a small part of the overall game, though. It’s the pickled ginger to the sushi that is epic fantasy. It serves to break up the world shaking events, allowing you to appreciate them even more.
The reason I keep playing Final Fantasy 14 is because there’s more to do then save the world. Lots of games feature some sort of crafting system, but most of the time, it’s an afterthought. In Final Fantasy 14, crafting gets the full treatment. Each crafting class is treated like an actual class; with levels, equipment, and special abilities to boot. There’s a unique story line to go along with each crafting class, along with lot of complex end game hoops to jump through once you fully level them. There’s also a wide verity of materials to procure for production, which is where the gathering classes come in. They also get all the bells and whistles that combat classes get. There’s dozens of different thing to make. I would (and still do) go for hours on end just making and getting stuff. The first moment of sheer joy I felt was not clearing a hard dungeon but discovering where iron ore was. Final Fantasy 14 has a robust crafting and gathering system that takes itself seriously, and I like it.
There’s eight crafting classes and three gathering classes, not to mention the nine combat classes. Another interesting thing about Final Fantasy 14 is that you can be all of them on the same character. You don’t have to roll up a completely new toon every time you want to try a different class. Changing class is as simple as changing equipment. Some abilities actually carry over to different classes, meaning your character not only gains depth but can also gain breadth. Letting you change classes easily makes battles less monotone as different classes operate in their own style. It’s refreshing to try out new stuff.
Since I’m on the subject of stuff, I want to take a moment and ask, what is up with the economy? Maybe it’s just my server, but the price of stuff is really high. I can literally buy a Brass Ring of Crafting for 500 gil from an NPC vendor and then resell it on the auction house, err, market board for 3,000. The thing is, that NPC is usually right next to the market board! Apparently, some people don’t even realize that the market board sells certain things for a higher price then what the NPCs do. Granted, there are dozens of NPCs shops scattered throughout the game; each selling a unique list of goods, but even a quick search will tell you that! Are buyers just that ignorant? While I may not comprehend why or the how of the game’s economy, I do know it’s a seller’s market, and I’m raking in a respectable amount of gil.
The other thing that really bugs me about the game is the forty through fifty level grind. There’s simply not enough story there to push you through the leveling process, forcing you to just grind out the exp like in the old days. It’s especially galling because that’s the point where the story really starts to heat up, and the last thing I want to see then is a “you must be this level to enter” sign. That’s obviously the point where the corners were cut. While frustrating, the game does provide a few ways to get around it if you know where to look. At level forty one, you can unlock beast tribe quests, and there’s always levequests. I hope that this issue is eventually addressed, as it’s just a cut corner in my eyes.
Overall, I really do like this game. All the articles I missed from last June until now is all the proof you need to know that A Realm Reborn is a soul sucking monster that will eat your life alive. It’s practically the official MMORPG of 91.8 The Fan. Our guild, err, free company is on the Siren, so you can play with us if you decide to join. Personally, I may have to let my subscription run out. I need to be honest with myself, because I am prone to addiction, and I know a high quality drug when I see it.