First Look: Final Fantasy XIV Online
Posted on Friday July 9, 2010, 14:09 by David Scarborough in Infinite Lives
It’s been mere months since the last Final Fantasy game soared onto consoles, bringing with it the renowned cocktail of spunky protagonists, spiky hairstyles and eye-popping visuals. So, it comes with some surprise/elation that Final Fantasy XIV is nipping at the heels of its predecessor, heading online and bringing with it more sword-swinging mystical madness than you can shake a Chocobo at.
Ushered into a conference room, tucked away within the penetralia of Paris, we’re standing before a huge monitor. Within it: the yet unexplored online world of the tongue-flummoxing Eorzea, the setting for Final Fantasy XIV Online. Of course, this is not developer Square-Enix’s first foray into the world of MMOs (Massive Multiplayer Online games), Final Fantasy XI accomplished the feat back in 2002 (delayed for UK gamers until 2004) and quickly became one of the most popular MMOs to boot. Not bad for the then fifteen-year-old series.
From the outset, this is clearly more than just an expansion pack with a generous visual tweak. As names of creatures, classes, factions and locales are thrown towards us, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the extraordinary detail within. Yet they also retain traits familiar to anyone who has traversed any Final Fantasy or mythical online realm in the past decade. By the end of the brief we’re given on the history and cultures that shape the story of Eorzea, it was a relief to report that Square-Enix’s pen remains assiduously sharp.
That’s matched, unsurprisingly, with visuals as sleek as one would come to expect from the franchise. Standing over the sea, high on a wooden platform within the port city of Limsa Lominsa, the amount of detail is breathtakingly serene; the shimmering sea flows beneath us, sitting before the luscious green mountains that lay beyond. These are all places you can travel to whether by boat, foot, teleportation or weird chicken-like mounts, and just a glimpse of these distant peaks is enough to convince us that you’ll want to.
Our time with Final Fantasy XIV was accompanied by renowned producer Hiromichi Tanaka (Final Fantasy XI, Secret of Mana), on hand to discuss the eye-bulging action before us. ‘We decided to create Final Fantasy XIV mainly because Final Fantasy XI has been out eight years and it’s dated from a technological point of view,’ Tanaka explains, ‘we decided to make a new type of MMO, different from others.’
As we jump into our online avatar – a delicious mix of wizard, human and cat (Miqo'te) – we’re given some time to make ourselves familiar with the luminous surroundings, gaining a tiny taste of what to expect. Hunting down missing pages from a book, initial fumbling with controls soon became natural, allowing us to discover items and go on the offensive against legions of Megalocrabs, evil fairies and unsuspecting Dodos. It was a simple Quest, allowing us to become familiar with the fundamental gameplay structure that it evidently masters, even translating the usually convolute interface over to the Playstation 3 controller with relative ease.
While we weren’t given a choice for the demo, the class system is interesting as it divides up into four ‘Disciplines’, allowing you to become a Disciple of Magic, War, Land or Hand. Each comes with professions to hone your desired skills such as Archery, Mining, Weaving and Alchemy. While we were bundled with our heroine with a wizard’s hat several sizes too big, our Mage proved to be no conjuror of cheap tricks, casting spells with vicious proficiency.
While initial skepticism may suggest otherwise, it would be wrong to diminish this effort as a simple XP-grind that breaks lesser titles. Final Fantasy has always been about delivering storytelling in a way that can only be described as effortlessly epic. ‘Because it was a Final Fantasy series title it was very important to have an epic story,’ Tanaka agrees, while detailing the Missions that’ll launch players into grander exposition-tight tasks that are separate to the smaller Quests. ‘People will enjoy both the MMO aspect and the storyline.’
Having an overall story in an MMO may seem a detrimental task undertaken by the developers. After all, when gamers reach the conclusion, why should they keep on playing? That doesn’t seem to worry Tanaka. ‘We would very much like to ask the players to try and solve all the mysteries of the game. It could take one year for players to experience the whole story,’ he enthuses.
As an MMO experience, it clearly delivers sprawling landscapes with a variable display of visual flourish, whilst retaining the predominant traits to appease both the genre die-hards and Final Fantasy aficionados; but it also manages to encompass an unrivalled immersive storyline that could take a whopping year to complete. It’s the sort of scale that you could devote a lifetime to. As far as online gaming is concerned, this could be your final fantasy.
Final Fantasy XIV Online is heading to the PC this September, with a release on the Playstation 3 following in March next year – so start sharpening your Buster Swords now.
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Posted on Sunday July 11, 2010, 16:53
Final Fantasy just isn't the same without musical director Nobuo Uematsu. And is it just me or did anyone else think XII sucked? I was totally disappointed. I haven't played it yet (because my brother moved out with his PS3 -_- ) but I wonder if XIII comes close to being as good as FFX.
Posted on Sunday July 11, 2010, 17:11
Wikkid Article. I get the feeling that this could be something really special...
Posted on Sunday July 11, 2010, 23:24
I thought FFXII was great! The battle system, characters and world totally did it for me. The story was rather dull though. I played FFXIII for about 15 hours but then I just kind of got bored. It only exceeds XII in the storyline department (which is rather convoluted and slow in revealing itself), but if you hated FFXII, perhaps you'll like it.
Posted on Monday July 12, 2010, 13:11
Yeah I agree Uematsu is a huge part of FF and it isn't the same without him. They've felt a little empty or souless without him. XII was OK, XIII took 20 hours to get good and even then it was just OK, very irritating characters. Hope this one can re-capture he magic...so to speak.
Posted on Monday July 12, 2010, 13:20
final fantasy was never the same after 9. 10 was as linear as they come, 11 was a bit of a disaster when they tried to bring it over here, 12 was a vast improvement gameplay wise, but i completely agree in that the story was a bit of a shank. 13.....the less said, the better. I think Final fantasy will probably stand testiment as one of those rare games that actually diminished rather than flourished with the evolution of gaming technology. Or perhaps it was because Hironobu Sakaguchi got the sack and they could never replace that kind of magic. This new one though seems a bit alright- still hate those bloody cat-people things though.
Posted on Tuesday July 13, 2010, 18:47
The original Final Fantasy came out in 1987, which makes the series 23 years old, not 15. I'll refrain from using the word 'noob'.
Posted on Tuesday July 13, 2010, 19:42
Feel free to use the term 'noob' Kadaj but perhaps you'll like to direct it towards yourself; I clearly said 'the then fifteen-year-old series' when referring to FFXI, which was released in 2002.
Posted on Tuesday July 13, 2010, 23:47
Well this is a different kind of breed of FF compared to all the non online ones. I played FFXI for 2 years and whilst the game had flaws it was still revolutionary and between that and WoW set the standard for MMO's. This will hopefully though take the best bits from other failed or successful MMO's and bring em all together in a brand spanking new world.
Ive played All FF's since 7 (yeah even X-2), excluding 12 (missed that for some reason). FFXIII i quite enjoyed, although i do tend to agree that since 9 they've gone real linear. XIII was another step towards an interactive "spirits within", which by my estimation wont be far away. Although i have heard that SE might be planning a revamped FFVII on the next gen consoles. Can't wait for that!!!
Anyway bk to XIV. Its gonna be the prettiest MMO's out there i reckon. Hopefully the gameplay etc will follow suit.
Posted on Saturday August 21, 2010, 06:55
FFXII was pretty good, but the story was poor. It also took forever to get from A to B. I hated the random-ness of chests and I REALLY hated having to chain enemy types for hours on end to get some component for the bazaar. "Grinding" really grinds my gears. After 130 hours, I gave up - the Aeons were difficult to defeat, it took hours to actually get to them and they were next to useless in battle. For a completionist like me, the game simply required too great an investment of time and repetition.
FFXIII was something I was really looking forward to. What a disappointment. 20 hours of linear gameplay and repetitve (almost non-interactive) battles before the game offered any sort of freedom. Battle tactics involve swtiching paradigms repeatedly and bringing in the stupid Sentinel class when fighting deliberately over-powered enemies. Terrible. Oh....and the music just SUCKED.
Oh for the glory days of 6 - 9 when the story ruled (and each character had their own story to be explored), exploration and side-quests were prominent, battles were varied (requiring thought, tactics and preparation) and Uematsu's wonderful tunes were ever-present. (I personally loved FFX also)
No interest in XIV as I cannot commit to any MMO game. Sorry for being so depressing!!