For the record, I try everything. I am not just a "free-to-play" guy -- quite the opposite. For most of my time in blogging and podcasting, I have maintained subscription games like FFXI. So, when the opportunity finally came to try the "new" version, I jumped at it. I'll be honest, it feels a lot like FFXI but with a nice twist. It's friendlier, more accessible, yet it still retains that uniqueness that attracted me to FFXI.
There is one thing I'm a bit scared of, though.
Now, I have a new chance to stay caught up with my fellow players. If I play my cards right, I might maintain a decent clip and stay on top of the latest monster-killing trends. I am actually quite impressed with the fatigue system -- another reason to think that I, Beau Hindman, the free-to-play guy who doesn't have the same time to dedicate to a single subscription-based game as he used to, could actually pull it off. To think that I might be able to do this in a Final Fantasy title -- well, that feels more than a little surreal. Time is so precious to me, now. I concentrate on one new game per week for one of my columns and play my normal SOE or free-to-play favorites in between. Do I really want to spend 60 dollars and 15 dollars a month on a game that might possibly pull the story rug out from under me in the middle of my journey? While I used to prefer soloing and placing self-made restrictions on myself to become "immersed," now I really enjoy nice, long jaunts through someone else's story.
And what an interesting story I was asked to participate in during the beta! Will it give way to killing 10... whatever the heck you call those mushroom guys? Maybe... maybe not. Here's what I know, so far:
After character creation, I found myself in a bright forest. I wasn't at ease, despite the serene setting. I knew something would break the tension, and there it was -- falling out of the sky. The object left a trail of smoke across the sky and crashed down deeper in the forest. My curiosity got the better of me, and I ran to investigate. I came across a pair of people -- a hyur and a lalafell -- lying there on the ground.
Luckily for me, my experience with FFXI helped me wake them. I remembered to hit enter to select something, then enter again to use it. Sure enough, they were up and talking to each other within moments. Something we said, either because of the tone or subject matter, didn't sit well with the forest. A giant creature made from the woods itself rose up and came at us. The animations and degree of detail was refreshing.
Suddenly, the characters on the screen became frozen in air. A tiny parade of Moogles, characters I remembered from FFXI, bounced past us. Something they had, some quiet power, convinced the tree-giant to leave. After meeting with a group of bitter, masked individuals, I actually felt sorry for being attacked. It seems we had awoken something in the forest and needed to remove the stink of our shame through a magical process. A female voice said something to me as we walked into town. What followed was an introduction to a raven-haired hyur; a horned teenager who oozed power; and a group of dancing children. It was not only an original story, but an eerie one (that's the best kind).
What did the voice say? I can't remember what the voice said. Three words -- what will they mean to me later?
I have decided that if the story's end worries me that much, then it must be investigated. No, I'm not plunking down the extra money for a collector's edition (I spend enough on virtual goods and toys as it is), but I will buy it once it comes out. I'm really excited to get back to the tale I was investigating in the beta. I'm also excited to see whether I, a casual Final Fantasy fan, can actually make headway in an IP that has always eluded me. We'll see. Until then, I am avoiding all fan sites and spoiler posts. Yes, even Massively ones.
Some things just need to be left to be discovered.