Published on September 22nd, 2010 | by prime2
Final Fantasy XIV – Beta
The MMO landscape has changed radically since the seminal Final Fantasy series took the online plunge in 2002, on PS2 of all things. A PC version of Final Fantasy XI appeared two years later, and plods on to this day with a healthy and seemingly undiminished fan base. Clearly, investing six years of your life into running around a fantasy world is something of a commitment, and the task Square-Enix have is to lure established gamers into the brave new world of Final Fantasy XIV.
On a commercial bent they’re offering financial discounts for active FFXI players, as well as a special in-game item – the mysterious Hermes’ Shoes: “Named after an elder god and all but forgotten in the modern age, these gold-tipped shoes have been crafted with the lightest of leather, making them optimal for use by heralds and noterunners.” And if that doesn’t convince everyone, you can even tenuously transfer character names between the two worlds. Aesthetically, it shouldn’t be too much of a wrench either, which is a polite way of saying that it looks the bleeding same as the last game.
The races do indeed look familiar, apparently a deliberate ploy to cushion the blow of having to say goodbye to your beloved avatar and take on board a new creature. As for the specifics of those races, say hello to the humanoid Hyur, the feline pointy-eared Miq’ote, the tiny pointy-eared Lalafell, the quite tall pointy-eared Elezen, and the gargantuan Riegadyn. A funny-looking bunch, this cartoonish quintet of races will be roaming all over the brand-new land of Eorzea, which is at least marginally easier to say than the Vana’diel of FFXI. Eorzea is home to such city-states as Limsa Lominsa, Gridania and Ul’dah. By and large it’s a green and pleasant land, albeit one made more perilous by a menagerie of beasts of all shapes and sizes, from the miniscule Mammet to the vast Ogre via some improbable incarnations such as the Cactuar – which is essentially a cactus with legs. Preposterous.
Final Fantasy XIV is of course an MMORPG, and as such the local wildlife will have to be slaughtered ruthlessly. Anyone who played FFXI will acknowledge that it was an absolute grind, with harvesting XP proving a particularly lengthy affair. Maybe reflecting changes in player taste, this has been rectified in XIV with the introduction of what Square have dubbed the Armory system, whereby the more you use an item the more powerful it becomes. You’re not tied to one particular mould and can find your way in the world in a more organic fashion. Your core physical level will increase as you play, but you’re encouraged to experiment with jobs and equipment sets. FFXI, at least when it launched, was renowned for being impossible to tackle on your own, forcing you to form parties and indulge in social interaction. Number XIV acknowledges that there are angry loners who prefer to play massively multiplayer games in blissful solitude, and as such this game will be far easier to solo.
Given World of Warcraft’s astonishing rise to power, it might have been tempting for Square to knock out a pointy-eared copy of the WoW template. However, Blizzard’s behemoth hasn’t infiltrated Japan to the same extent as the rest of the world, and FFXIV is a markedly different experience, not least due to its clunky console-oriented interface. There’s a reason for this: the fact that the game is available on PS3, which in Japan at least appears to be its key platform. PS3 and PC players will share servers, and a Square-Enix spokesman has even suggested that gamers will login on their PS3s at home and their PCs at work, which if nothing else gives you an insight into the Japanese mentality.
A defiantly non-Westernized affair, Final Fantasy may prove to be something of a culture shock to those raised in the fluffy lands of Azeroth, and it will be interesting to see what kind of audience it garners over here. It certainly looks like an epic undertaking, and of course wouldn’t be a Final Fantasy game without a series of extremely polished cut-scenes, with your freshly customized avatar popping up in them in all their new finery. There is of course a story to relay, and you may or may not be surprised to learn that a tragedy has befallen Eorzea.
As a measure of the game’s pending popularity, the much-awaited Beta has been on lock-down for a week now, with countless fans unable to have even the slightest of dabbles before the release of the collector’s edition, followed a week later by the bog standard vanilla one. Clearly a lot of people are champing at the bit to run around a fantasy world with pointy ears while attacking giant crabs with a sword. It really is a funny old game.