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The Digital Continuum: Changing tides in FFXIV

Kyle Horner

New Final Fantasy XIV information has been quite plentiful as of late. We've had new information on races, the general lore, basics of the job system and quest system all in just a single week. If I didn't know any better, I'd think a major games event was taking place.

If there's one thing we're now aware of the most, it's that Final Fantasy XIV is looking to stab MMO fundamentals right in the heart. No experience, no levels and a job system that includes crafting as opposed to fencing it off into a separate game mechanic. These are all bold steps that have poised the game as something unlike anything else on the market.

So is it good, or is it bad? That's the topic of today's The Digital Continuum series.

Flavor is important, but there's more to a game's flavor than setting, writing and visuals. For all the emphasis we put on fantasy or science fiction, at the end of the day much of that plays second trumpet to game mechanics. When you think back on World of Warcraft's earliest days, much of your memories are about how the game played versus how it plays now.

Although it's a certainty that a lot will be different in FFXIV, because this will be a new game and incremental changes are for content updates and expansions. Plus, of course, the developers have outright said as much. Right now, the biggest changes in this new game are:

  • No experience
  • No levels
  • A combination of combat and crafting classes
  • Modular quest difficulty

Every one of those points us at a game designed to frustrate less and awe much more. You'll hear many ex or non-Final Fantasy XI players talk about the wonder and beauty of Vana'diel. What is then followed up with that statement, are fair complaints about the game's controls, UI and general leveling progression.

To that end, it seems like the team at Square Enix are attempting not to "simplify" FFXIV, but instead want to offer more choices. Do you want an extra hard version of this quest or would you rather have a more solo friendly version? Would you like wondrous quest rewards or simply something nice? The risk versus reward concept is a nice way of creating a game that accommodates various sorts of groups and players.

Everything about what has been said and shown so far hints at a game so premeditated that we're going to wonder just how they did it. Are the developers of this game geniuses, or simply psychic? Maybe they're clairvoyant.

In reality, the truth is that they listened. They listened not only to subscribing players, but to people who wanted to play or keep playing but couldn't. Then, after listening, they took their time to come up with some creative sounding solutions. Will they work? Potentially. More information -- detailed information -- needs to be seen before any final conclusions are made.

The changes are definitely for the better, and make FFXIV easier to play in the best of ways. That's not to say it's going to be a flat out easy game. I'm sure it will certainly be more appealing to new and casual players, but I won't be surprised to discover that deep down it's just as complex as its predecessor in many ways.

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