If you haven't noticed a theme yet, here it is: I'm worried that by the time it does launch, no one will care any longer. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
While I've split things up between recaps and forecasts in the past, in this case it's virtually impossible to do so. A lot of what has been done this year is banking entirely on the strength of what will be happening next, so Square was selling 2013 in the midst of 2012. So let's look at the past year for both games and the year to come, with an extra helping of hope and speculation for 2013.
Final Fantasy XI expands, opens, ages
2012 should have been a big year for a game hitting the decade mark, but maybe 2013 will serve instead for the decade in North America. Obviously Seekers of Adoulin is getting a release in late March, so that will do a great deal to help invigorate the game's population, but what's going to really write the story is what happens around that update, before, and after. And it might just wind up being something good after all.
Unfortunately, it needs to be said that 2012 didn't really light anyone on fire. By all appearances, the game was knee-deep in maintenance mode, with some patches that trimmed things here and there but didn't really change anything about the game's core. This was a major issue, seeing as how the relevant endgame had shrunk dramatically with the level cap rising to 99. A lot of the missions and fights that had been well-suited for the level cap found themselves 24 levels out of date, and stopgap measures designed to revitalize the endgame were of mixed success.
In other words, it was a year when even die-hard FFXI players were getting a bit bored -- understandably so, since the game has been around for a decade, but you could really blow through your to-do list in the past year, leaving you without much to do other than spin your wheels and wait. Not good times, obviously.
Will SoA mix things up? We've heard so, definitely. But hearing and seeing are two different things. After playing the game since its launch on these shores, I think there are far too many issues that I'm convinced will never get fixed or addressed, so being told that the next year's development will focus on accessibility and improving the game's foundations is a bit like being told that my father is alive and well as the CEO of a major company. If it turns out that my cynicism is misplaced, I'll be quite happy.
The worst-case scenario is that SoA basically replicates the worst parts of previous expansions -- stuff for players at the level cap and a few crumbs for earlier players to scrabble at weakly. But the best scenario is that there's a whole breadth of stuff in the game that everyone can see, which would make up for a lot of mistakes over the long term.
Final Fantasy XIV finally returns, and...
I admit without shame that I cannot wait for beta to begin. It was a nice touch that all Legacy players got in right off the bat, especially seeing as I am a Legacy player (because of course I am). Whatever happens, I'll be glad to try it at long last.
That having been said, a lot is going to depend on how that beta version tests out. While I've heard rumbles hither and yon from the alpha, what we see in beta is going to be as close to the actual game as we'll get prior to launch.
Yes, there will be changes made as necessary, but we're talking about the sort of changes that improve balance, not the ones that create an entirely different game. I fully expect that when I log in in February or whenever beta actually happens, I will be playing a stripped-down version of the actual game. And a lot is going to hang on how that game plays because this is not a game that will get a third shot at the big time.
FFXIV's first shot was a miss. It's been long enough that a lot of people still expect the second one to be a miss as well. But I think there's a magical sweet spot that the game could realistically hit. If the beta goes well, then the game could easily start breaking into new markets. It's not going to be a World of Warcraft killer (nothing ever is), but it could be a serious RIFT bruiser, especially as the relaunch is slated to have much of what RIFT has right now.
If the beta goes poorly... well, I don't really want to consider that, but we'll definitely not be hearing about another full shift of the development team and a version 3.0, that's for sure.
I personally think it's going to do all right. I think this is going to be another year with a lot of changes for the game even after the release, of course, because I don't think it's going to be sunshine and roses on the first go. But I think the game has a good staff and a solid foundation. How accurate that is will be proven in about a year.
As always, feedback is welcome down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I say it every week and it's still just as true. Next week? Well, let's see what happens on January 7th, yes?
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.