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Breakfast Topic: Gratitude for all things epic

Zach Yonzon

Allow me to rant. Recently, Square Enix launched Final Fantasy XIV, the much-awaited follow-up MMO in the Final Fantasy franchise. My brother-in-law, who'd been a fanatic Final Fantasy XI player -- dallying a couple of times with World of Warcraft but eventually quitting and going back into Square Enix's arms -- ordered the collector's edition, which allowed him to play the game a full week ahead of regular subscribers (or what he calls "the noobs") and sport a bonus in-game helmet that looked like an onion. Excited for him and wanting to vicariously feel the new MMO experience, I watched him plow through the first levels and it ... bored the living daylights out of me.

It was mind-rottingly boring. Never mind all the other criticisms that I'd read about the game, from copy-pasted terrain to artificially-capped leveling to even my bro-in-law's gripe about not having an auction house (players need to talk to other players' mule NPCs to find out what they're selling -- which means you can end up spending hours talking to hundreds of NPCs looking for what you want to purchase). I'm giving Square Enix a pass on all of that. Because I wasn't actually playing the game but simply watching over my bro-in-law's shoulder as he played, none of those things actually bothered me. No, what ate away at me to no end was the fact that he was beating up on unimpressive creatures that barely went past his knees.

The whole time he was fighting, all I could see was his character's back. Shrews, mushrooms, fireflies ... he was up against an assortment of what we in Azeroth would typically classify as critters. He was beating up critters! It was hair-tearingly, underwhelmingly mundane! He even mentioned the dreaded ladybug, which can kill entire parties. No, seriously, it's a freaking ladybug about the size of a melon that kills scores of players. I'd come to expect fantastic designs from the same company that popped out toys like Bahamut or Odin or Gilgamesh -- but here it is making players fight freaking ladybugs! The firefly was just a tiny blob of light, not even like those oversized insects in Zangarmarsh. It's honestly a tiny speck ... that can kill you.

It smacked of laziness and it infuriated me. It upset me so much that a game company would have the gall to demand subscription fees and chuck out the laziest graphics for enemies. My brother-in-law assured me that cooler enemies would come at higher levels. Great. With the artificial leveling cap, though, those epic enemies would only start to show up after a month or two of grinding knee-high marsupials and mushrooms. Unfortunately, I'm not sure my brain wouldn't have been liquefied out of boredom by then.

I'm sorry, but Blizzard spoiled me. At lower levels, sure, you're probably fighting enemies about your size, but Blizzard doesn't seem the type to insult player intelligence by tossing them against ladybugs of doom. There isn't a shortage of oversized insects or hefty humanoids in the game. Later on, there are truly gigantic menaces like dragons and the like. It feels ... epic. So I'm thankful for the experience. When the Cataclysm sunders Azeroth, Stormwind will be ravaged by Deathwing himself, who leaves gigantic, smoldering claw marks at the entrance. Everyone gets to experience that, even new level 1 players.

What about the game feels truly epic to you? And what experience in other games, whether they be MMOs or otherwise, have left you with the same feeling of entrancement and awe? On the flip side, have you played any other games that have felt incredibly unspectacular?

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