And you know what? It's the time to be thankful if you live in the United States. So while I'm writing this before the annual turkey-induced coma that is Thanksgiving, I'm going to talk about what I'm thankful for in Final Fantasy XIV. For all the quibbles that I do have with the game, the relaunch has wildly exceeded my expectations, and I think it's only fair to give the game some respect.
Thanks for Arcanists
On paper, Arcanists are the sort of thing I tend to loathe. They're a ranged pet class with a fiddly secondary resource. And yet somehow they've wound up being my favorite caster class even if I don't normally care for this playstyle, which is quite an accomplishment.
Part of the reason, of course, is that both Summoners and Scholars get a robust and distinct toolset that makes the two jobs feel totally different even though they share most of their abilities. The developers even found a nice compromise to ensure that Primals show up in the Summoner rotation while retaining their awe-inspiring full forms.
But a bigger element is that these two jobs fill roles that seem as if they needed to be filled, and they provide an interesting contrast with others doing the same basic thing. Scholars deliver a sequence of smaller heals and mitigation to contrast with the White Mage's big show-stopping heals, and Summoners focus on DoTs compared to a Black Mage's burst potential. And they both wind up feeling powerful and competent partly because of their subtlety: A Scholar will heal you up to full and keep the group nicely moving without ever pulling out the sheer numbers of a Cure III.
We'd all been waiting for this class from the game's launch. It's nice to see it come out and be as good as we hoped.
Thanks for the endgame setup
I've already talked about this at length, and while 2.1 is bringing a lot of changes, I can't say how they will shake out so much as how I think they might shake out. What I'll definitely say, though, is that I'm happy with the endgame at launch and happy that the first major patch expands the options to let more people ramp up to the place where they'd like to be. It also gives people something to do no matter what sort of content they like; I have no interest in Coil, but there's still progression and options open to me just the same.
Thanks for asking people to step up
I've been poking around in World of Warcraft as a side game, and one thing I can't help but notice is how easy things are on normal mode. Lower-level dungeons are trivially simple, and the only time I've seen a wipe in Pandaria normal dungeons is when the healer dropped as the final boss was pulled. Similarly, I've been told that Heroics and LFR content is fairly faceroll-happy for players so long as they keep moving with minimal competence.
This is not an indictment, nor am I claiming that the game as a whole is easy. Perhaps I've been lucky each time, but I think it's more that the game has decided that the place where people need to step up is in serious raiding past the LFR tier. Anything below that does not require you to make more effort than you already have. And in a game where you can really just plow through from 1-90 without ever grouping, I think that's completely fair and good.
FFXIV asks you to step up repeatedly. It gates a lot of stuff behind harder content. If you can't clear X, well, you don't get to go further. It's a game that expects players to die more than once on some harder fights, and that's fine.
Is it better? Heck no. It's just a different philosophy, one that has as a core tenet that you have to step up if you want to keep going. And I'm thankful that it exists. It doesn't make the game unplayable when you want to do things solo, but it also means that you have to get ready for bigger challenges as you move forward.
Thanks for the future
If you've been reading this column for a while, you'll know that I was really critical of FFXIV as the relaunch approached, not for lack of love but because I wanted to make sure that the game stood out. I love the game and want it to succeed, and I was worried that the relaunch would fail to attract anyone's attention.
FFXIV's relaunch has not been an earth-shattering thing, but it's been noticed. There are a lot of people playing. And there's an energy about it, a steady sense that issues are being addressed and worked on and improved as time goes by. For all of the game's flaws, it is in an excellent place right now, and it looks as if there's forward motion with a cohesive plan.
And I'm thankful about that. I'm thankful that I'm able to think about the game's first expansion and know that it's very likely going to happen sooner rather than later because there are so many places to go, so much more to see, so many more enemies to defeat. I might be playing a bit less while I wait for the first big patch, but I can't wait to see what's around the bend.
Feedback, as always, is welcome down in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to let me know what you're thankful for down in the comments while you're at it. Next week, I'll be discussing the absence of Final Fantasy XI in these parts, and the week after that, I'll post a 2.1 primer.
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.