Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn’s release is on the horizon, and early indicators have our interest piqued.
Final Fantasy as an MMO franchise seems almost cursed to initial failure. The original 2003 launch of Final Fantasy XI was met with disdain, surprising people with excruciating grind and difficulty aimed at encouraging party play, not including the myriad of server and social issues. It eventually found its niche audience and has since proven a moderate success with a stable, even fanatical, fan-base. Whether Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn can redeem the original release’s terrible launch is yet to be seen, but early indicators have our interest piqued.
It’s no secret that Final Fantasy XIV bombed. Hard. Few stood in Square’s corner as complaints rained in of tedious and monotonous combat, copy-pasted environments, game-breaking bugs, broken combat, and complete lack of the series’ usual charm. Since Naoki “Yoshi-P” Yoshida took over production, Final Fantasy XIV took off in an entirely new direction, leading toward an eventual re-release as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
Constant updates to the live game to bring it closer to the ultimate vision will prove to be merely tastes of what’s to come if preview videos are to be believed. Gone is the heavy monster grind, replaced by quests, random events and a variety of story-drenched dungeons. The combat is faster, more visceral, and set to incorporate the Limit Break, a set of particularly powerful ‘ultimate’ attacks made famous through the console franchise. Improvements have also (supposedly) been made to allow older systems to run the game much better, its previous incarnation bogging down even high-end gaming rigs. It even features a new engine and new story, taking place five years after the original release’s timeline. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn will be released will be receiving a PlayStation 3 release alongside its PC brother.
However, there is some trade-off. Many fans have already expressed anger over the changes, comparing the new version of Final Fantasy XIV to so many “WoW-ified” MMOs, the traditional game-on-rails where players are carted from one quest to another with little incentive for social interaction. Others have complained that all Final Fantasy XIV really needed to be was FFXI with a fresh coat of paint. To that I say, just keep playing FFXI…but opinions, and all that.
There’s another issue Yoshi and the rest of his team are fighting, the only real problem I see being the nail in their coffins. The work and passion they’ve put into overhauling the game may not mean much even if Final Fantasy XIV ends up one of the best MMOs ever made. There’s a matter of trust that these game worlds build with their players, and the Final Fantasy XIV name has already been heavily tarnished. That trust is what keeps games like World of Warcraft, Everquest and even Ultima going strong after many years and newer, shinier competitors.
From the perspective of those behind the scenes of the game, this is all about money and how to make the most of it. Often that perspective gets in the way of relating to the gamers, who are obviously more concerned with finding an immersive virtual world deserving of their time. We can’t get those hours back, after all. Final Fantasy XIV was released in a broken, unfinished state as an attempt to cash-in, and if not then that is very much the perception of the fans. It’s difficult to give your trust and money to a company you feel has taken advantage of you; it leaves lingering questions about when it might happen again.