These days it seems like Capcom and Square Enix simply can’t stop disappointing their long time fans. The two have dropped the ball on nearly every major release this generation leaving fans disappointed- Final Fantasy XIII, Resident Evil 5, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, and Devil May Cry 4 are all guilty of this. Today it is Square Enix that I’m talking about, so why have I mentioned Capcom? Both are falling prey to the same mistakes. Both have spent this generation flipping genres, watering down their franchises with spin-offs, and betraying the gamers. Neither has captured the hearts of gamers as they did in the old days.
This brings us to the latest Final Fantasy release- the MMO, FF XIV. While many long-time fans are still burnt over FF XI being an MMO, it looks like Square Enix has no intention of dropping the model. Let me go ahead and say that many of the complaints about XI have been addressed with XIV. Does that make it worth it?
One of the major complaints about FF XI was the pitiful single player experience. It was dull, the story was unappealing, and the game felt shallow when played alone. It was a very dry experience that forced gamers to seek out other players for enjoyment. As for the controls, you don’t reall need quick reflexes or a whole lot of strategy. You do need to think a bit when it comes to what to devote time to in terms of skills and equipment. If you don’t like the thought of using a keyboard, you may want to wait a few months for the PS3 version.
In Final Fantasy XIV, the single player is much more properly implemented. You no longer feel like you’re just checking off MMO-style quests off a list by yourself. Granted you do get that feeling now and then, but it isn’t overwhelming. You can see that SE was inspired by the likes of World of Warcraft and the Crystal Chronicles series when developing XIV.
Though Square Enix is infamous for being self-indulgent pedants when it comes to the stories in their games, the MMO titles haven’t suffered from this for obvious reasons. There is a story, it just isn’t one of interest of consequence. You’ll get the feeling that SE tried to make it more intriguing this time around but it’s really just there to be an excuse to level up.
Final Fantasy XIV is fairly impressive graphically. The monster, attack, and character animations are all pretty cool to behold. I found that the scenery beyond the early maps grows to be a bit stale. There’s a definite feeling of deja vu as you traverse the FF themed MMO. Here and there you’ll find little nods to other FF titles and there’s also evidence that Square Enix tried to tie in all the universes into the XIV world. Long-time fans will have some appreciated Easter eggs ahead of them.
The new skill-advancement system seems to be much more cleverly designed than the system used in FF XI. It reminds me of Final Fantasy II and comes across as a fresh addition. The battle system, while slower paced than I would have liked, otherwise only suffers from being too unoriginal. It can be a lot of fun to team up with friends to tackle enemies and there’s the usual MMO addictive nature of trying to level up over and over.
This brings us to the final question about FF XIV. Is it worth it? I found myself impressed by the fixed issues from XI. The solo play enhancements, better skills system, and the class system were all welcome additions. On the other hand, whether or not you enjoy it depends on what you’re looking for. Do you want a great single player experience and story like the classic Final Fantasy games? Then no. Do you want a great multiplayer experience and lots of replay value like the Crystal Chronicles games? Then this might be more your style.