Five promising features of Square-Enix’s MMORPG
Even as a big Final Fantasy fan, it’s hard to look at the latest Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn videos and not have a little skepticism, but I still think Square-Enix‘s MMORPG re-launch has promise. With a new development team in charge, it’s possible and even likely that Final Fantasy XIV will capture some of the magic that made Final Fantasy XI so memorable to many gamers out there. With that in mind, it’s time to look at five promising features that will likely be in Final Fantasy XIV.
Open-world group content
It may be a hard pill to swallow for World of Warcraft players, but one of the things that made Final Fantasy XI so good was its emphasis on group-based content even when traveling out into the world. For its first few years, Square-Enix’s first MMORPG was all about finding a group to kill monsters out in the world as quickly as possible, all to maximize experience through experience chains.
It’s a concept that’s fallen to the wayside thanks to solo-friendly games like World of Warcraft, but it’s looking like Final Fantasy XIV will bring it back. While solo leveling will be possible, Square-Enix have dropped hints that group leveling will be greatly encouraged through better rewards and faster experience. Hopefully, that will build a culture of getting a group together and mowing down mobs in the open world.
Even in a game like Guild Wars 2, which is largely built around dynamic events that take place in the game world, there’s little emphasis to group outside of instances. Sure, it can make tagging mobs easier, and it’s a good idea for some of the tougher boss events. But it’s not necessary to coordinate the kind of hyper-efficient groups that tore through mobs in Final Fantasy XI for huge chunks of experience. If Final Fantasy XIV looks to its predecessor and makes a few improvements, open-world group content could be the flagship feature of the game.
One of Bioware‘s claims to fame with Star Wars: The Old Republic is that it brought story to MMORPGs. The problem with that claim is it’s wrong. Not only did Final Fantasy XI have stories, but there are a lot of people, including myself, who would argue the Final Fantasy XI stories were better than what Star Wars: The Old Republic delivered. The stories, which were told through multiple factions and expansions, were at the level of quality Square-Enix fans have grown to expect. There were world-saving adventures, plot twists, strange and interesting characters and a world that felt living and real.
Final Fantasy XIV could pull off the same level of storytelling. The game might not be fully voiced and have faux choices, but Square-Enix are already showing their interest in story through the interface’s emphasis on quest text. The sidequests will likely fill in the role of more traditional MMORPG questing, but the game will also have missions for classes and Grand Companies. As someone who enjoyed the personal story in Guild Wars 2 despite lackluster delivery, I can’t wait to see what Square-Enix can do with recent developments in the game industry.
One of the best parts of Final Fantasy XI was how engaging its economy was. Players had to interact with the economy at every level. It was close to necessary for upgrading any gear while leveling, which, in a game that allowed and encouraged job switching, was fairly common. And some of the best gear in the game was obtained through the game’s auction house, whether it was crafted or a drop that could be sold.
With the arguable exception of Guild Wars 2, that aspect of MMORPGs has dwindled away with the theme park. Buying gear from the auction house is actually a bad idea while leveling up in many MMORPGs because it wastes gold that could be better used on skills, mounts, and endgame (i.e. the only content that supposedly matters in theme-park MMORPGs). Even then, it’s rare the best gear can actually be obtained through the in-game market; in fact, there’s so many currencies in theme-park MMORPGs that the best gear is usually obtained through alternative currencies, while gold is used mostly for repairs and cosmetic items.
If Final Fantasy XIV follows the crafting and economic model of Final Fantasy XI, that could change. So far, Square-Enix have shown crafting will remain as a prominent actor. Entire classes will focus on gathering resources and making something out of them. That’s a promising sign. It could bring back the days when server economies and individual wealth were as important as a good guild and a character’s level and gear.
Art and music
Even the most adamant Final Fantasy XIV naysayer will admit the game is absolutely gorgeous. The stylistic character models, flashy spell effects, and detailed environments are truly a sight to behold. And now that Square-Enix were caught red-handed copying and pasting environments in version 1.0, it’s likely even more time and attention will go into the revamped world.
Along with the art, music is another aspect of the Final Fantasy series that gets a lot of praise. I know a few Guild Wars 2 fans that use that game’s custom playlist feature to relive their favorite Final Fantasy memories, whether it’s through Final Fantasy XI‘s battle music or Final Fantasy VIII‘s overworld music.
If Square-Enix live up to their own standards with the art and music in Final Fantasy XIV, they will create a world that feels alive just based off the sights and sounds. It’s a sense of immersion missing in most games today, but Final Fantasy XIV will hopefully be an exception.
Chocobos and airships
How about the fact it’s freaking Final Fantasy? Sure, the series hasn’t been as strong for some audiences since the classics of the 32-bit and 64-bit eras. Some gamers flat-out despised Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIII. (I personally liked the latter, but I was not fond of the former.) But Final Fantasy still holds a warm place in most gamers’ hearts.
Can anyone really argue that airships and chocobos aren’t as iconic in the game industry as Mario and Link? For many adult gamers, Final Fantasy was the No. 1 source of RPG goodness while growing up. Its characters, references, monsters, vehicles, and style have greatly shaped how all Japanese RPGs are now viewed. Many still consider Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy VII the greatest RPGs, if not games, of all time.
If Square-Enix can capture a little bit of that magic — and, for all their faults, I would say they have even in recent trailers — the game will be something to behold. After the massive disappointment that was version 1.0, that’s all I can ask.