Final Fantasy 14 would have originally fell under the “Fling” list. I bought it when it dropped to a mere $15 just to try it out. It was horrible. I mean, one of the worst MMOs I had ever touched. The graphics were FANTASTIC, and that deserves all caps. They pushed PCs to the brink and the results were stunning, pending you could run it. Sadly, as soon as you started playing the game it all fell apart. The questing was confusing. The leveling was an intense grind. Everything seemed disjointed. The story wasn’t really there. Nothing made any sense. Though it was still better than FF11… I guess it has that…
You don’t even have to take my word for it, because Square Enix announced its failure. They even removed the subscription fee that it launched with and promised not to charge it again until they had “fixed” the game. The game had launched on September 1st, 2010. The producer and director were removed in December 2010 for their abysmal failure. The game shut down servers November 2012.
Unlike most games that just shut down, never to see the light of day again, Final Fantasy 14 was different. Square Enix began a salvage operation the moment they cut the producer and director. They related updates and when they shut the servers down they had a huge vent meant to mark the end of an era for the games story. When the game would re-release, it would be completely revamped and starting a new story. I’ve seen games get updated, more user friendly, more streamlined, but I have never seen a transformation like Final Fantasy 14 made.
On August 27th, 2013 Final Fantasy 14 relaunched was “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn”. The servers were filled to the brink on launch. The load was so tremendous that they had to suspend online sales of the game. For a couple weeks the only way to get the game was to buy a physical copy, which resulted in people buying them and reselling them for three times their value online (I had to pay for graduate school somehow…). The servers had login queues that stretched hours. Players soon realized they could avoid this by simply never logging out. This was however fixed about a week later in a patch. Had this been any other MMO, this could be seen as a huge mess up. In ArcheAge, it was crippling to players as every second count to grab land. FF14 however didn’t have anything like that to worry about. I also feel the players gave it a pass because no one expected the game to be THIS GOOD after such an abysmal first try.
I had played the beta myself leading up to the launch, so I knew I would be interested in the game. The graphics were still stunning despite being years old now, and the story seemed to adopt what Guild Wars 2 had done with personal story, as so many MMOs have done now. They had also launched a character creation tool (I love it when they do this! Saves me hours!) to design your desired avatars before launch. The customization for the avatars was great. Height adjustment, plenty of hair styles, plenty of colors. You were able to add tattoos as well. There were 5 races. The Hyur (Humans), Elezen (elf-ish race), Lalafell (cute little… uh… cute things?), and Miqo’te (cat tails/ears people). All of the races were wonderfully designed and pleasant to look upon.
The game starts out like a typical FF game. You aren’t quite sure who you are, you have strange visions with crystals, and you’re the chosen one. And, let’s be honest… we love our final fantasy’s that way. The game has excellent cut scenes and voice acting guiding you through your characters main story. The overall story is the same for all characters. Not all quests are voice acted though, only the main ones. The normal quests are your normal MMO quests; Kill 10 of those, collect 6 of these. It’s not always a drag however as you are battling creatures you are fondly familiar with from the Final Fantasy game series. This is the same benefit World of Warcraft had working in its favor, players already familiar with the story, characters, and land. Of course if you’re not a fan of Final Fantasy games or have simply never played them, we have to rely on the gameplay itself.
The game uses tab targeting. Your skills are activated with the number keys. It uses the standard tank/healer/dps system, featuring classes from the final fantasy universe such as Gladiators, Marauders, Pugilist, Lancers, Archers, Rogues, Conjurer’s, Thamaturge, and Arcanist’s. What made Final Fantasy XIV unique in this area was that any character could be any AND every class. You just had to level each one up independently. After reaching a certain level in two of the classes, you could then obtained a “job”, that was a sort of higher class. For example, someone who leveled up Gladiator and conjurer could become a Paladin. A Rogue and a Pugilist could become a Ninja. You could also do the same with any profession, you simply had to level them up. This was great for the fact that you could do EVERYTHING with 1 character, though at the same time it was bittersweet for people like me who like having separate characters. This made it kind of pointless to do so, as doing it all on 1 character also allowed him additional abilities and stats.
The dungeons were also another strong point for FFXIV. They were detailed, diverse, and well themed. Even using the built in dungeon finder, the dungeons required skill and communication, and the boss fights were always fun. During your story quests you were also sent on missions to take on the famous Eidolons/GFs/Summons (whatever you want to call them) from the Final Fantasy series. Ifrit, Ramuh, Shiva, and many more whose names I can’t remember. Those were glorious battles and you would automatically be put into a dungeon group to take them on. The fights and the bosses themselves were spectacular both graphically and action wise (though Titan is frustrating!).
You have the action, the monsters, the summons, the story arc, airships, black mages, everything that SCREAMS Final Fantasy, and its simply spectacular. I leveled up a Paladin to max level, but stopped as the end game gear and content was quite grindy. I loved the game entirely, and the bonuses of player housing (Guilds own guild halls in instanced zones, and players can own their own room and decorate it within it). AND they added the golden saucer. THE GOLDEN SAUCER! Complete with chocobo racing, games, and the FF card game from FF8! They introduced this post-launch through their steady stream of content updates. They also released their first official expansion in July 2015. I have yet play this. I hope to return to this MMO soon, as it is certainly one of my favorites I have ever played.