This year, though, has been the big one. The fifth expansion that no one ever expected to release actually came out. The relaunch happened. A whole lot of mechanics got updated. I flew across the freaking country. It was a big year if you were a fan of online games with moogles, even if that year wound up being a lot bigger for Final Fantasy XIV than Final Fantasy XI.
FFXI sort of gives up
There's only so much I can say about FFXI after I spent a column three weeks ago explaining why there's not much to say about the game. Yes, the December update came, and yes, it contained some new concessions for players to get up to higher content and start seeing some of the game's actual content. That was all nice, but it doesn't mean that the game is exactly replete with forward motion.
I've heard from sources that Seekers of Adoulin has actually been a bit harmful for the game insofar as it has really supplanted any previous endgame content. This means that one of the game's most charming and persistent draws is no more -- the endgame is no longer a vast horizontal sea but a fairly standard vertical setup. How true this is, I cannot say; as I've discussed, that was never my primary interest and the game has more than convinced most people to stay clear.
I had hoped that this would be a resurgence for the game, but I think this was more of a last flare before a much slower bleed. I really hope that the expansion storyline wraps things up nicely, as I somewhat doubt we'll see another one. Then again, I doubted we'd see this one, so perhaps I'm wrong.
Not that I come here to damn the game. I do think that much of what's been done has been done in the name of making the game better all around, improving the new player experience and preventing the endgame from being an endless string of the same old mess. It's just that the improvements wind up sort of removing some major components of the game and not adequately preparing new players for what they'll be facing; sure, you can level more easily while solo, but good luck making your subjob quest happen or picking up some of the dicier advanced jobs.
I think the game is going to keep going for many more years, but I think it'll be in a lighter maintenance style. That's fine; it's just not a sudden rebirth. That was apparently reserved for Square-Enix's other online title.
FFXIV's long silence and triumphant return
Look. As mad as I am about how badly housing is being handled, I'm still really happy to type that sentence.
Pretty much everyone in the MMO world has lauded FFXIV as the comeback kid for the year. It went from being the punchline of countless online jokes to a relaunch that won over a lot of people with charm, polish, options, and content. I spent most of the year saying that it needed to surprise people, and it certainly managed that with a vengeance.
These are problems, and notable ones, and we need to see more reactions to them. The game's development cycle and developer responses cannot be seen as slow, which creates problems when you consider that there's a natural lag time when you account for translations and whatnot.
Despite all of that, though, the game has done a lot of things very well. Most of the game's content is fun and challenging without being insanely demanding, with Titan as the main sticking point there (if there was ever a boss in need of some ramping down, there he is). Combat manages to not just use a 2.5s cooldown well but make it an active part of the game, that you have a slower pace to consider actions and a focus on making each movement count that much more.
On a whole, it's willing to raid the past for ideas while keeping itself firmly based in the present, which is both commendable and a lot more fun than the alternative. There are broken bits, but if they are fixed up, I can only imagine where the game will go next.
Feedback, as always, is welcome down in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I want to look at the year to come; the week after that, I want to head back into the speculation box to talk about what we might be looking at for future FFXIV jobs and the like.
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.