The Mog Log: Final Fantasy XIV's year in review

Landing stuck.

A year ago, Final Fantasy XIV was in a weird place. The game had already done the impossible one time around, taking a title that had failed badly and re-launching to actual attention from the world at large. Barring a slight misstep with housing, it had done all right. But a year ago, it had to do the hard part: sticking the landing.

Sure, re-launching was rough. But at that point it had to bank on that goodwill and shape itself into a respectable game within the MMO space. And it managed that.

What still astonishes me about the game's year of history is that despite making mistakes and bad choices, the game has continued to earn praise from players and onlookers, more so as each month rolls on and it continues to not collapse. That alone seems surprising, especially after a year like 2014. So let's look back over the year, see what the game did right, and look forward to the new year as well.

I finally have a class that I'm totally satisfied with.

It's indisputable at this point that the game is a success, and by all indications it seems to be steadily growing in subscribers and large-scale appeal rather than tapering off. The game hit its usual three-month lull and has kept rolling right on without a problem. I regularly see new players on my home server, and I play on one of the most popular servers in the game, which is almost impossible to make new characters on.

Not to mention how many people wanted our awards to give it Game of the Year for 2014 despite the fact that it did not, in fact, launch in 2014. But I think that speaks to one of the three big things that the game is doing very right. It's adding a lot of content with each patch.

Let's just bold that for emphasis: Final Fantasy XIV's patches are huge. Every single one, thus far, has included three new dungeons, a new form of large-group content, new boss arenas, and new main story quests. Every single one also has those as the bare minimum baseline for what a patch needs to include, which is noteworthy. New daily quests, new systems, new sidequests, new crafting recipes... I've seen people argue that the game adds in with patches what a lot of games add in with expansions, and while I think that's overselling the patches, the past year has added nine dungeons, three raid-ish things, hunts, desynthesis, three new Primal battles, lots of side stories, and a new class. If that were boxed up and sold for $30, most people would buy it.

We've seen a big push in the industry toward subscription games with more frequent patches, which every single company has failed to deliver on. Final Fantasy XIV has gone the opposite route, with a steady three-month cadence in exchange for a huge amount of content to keep you busy for those three months. It's not perfect, but it does a long way toward keeping players engaged.

It also helps that the second big thing it's doing right is that the endgame is pretty flexible. Yes, you have that scaling power progression, but the fact of the matter is that if your end goal is "get the best possible gear on this job," you have lots of ways of going about that. If you hate raiding, that's fine, you never have to set foot in Coil or the Crystal Tower series. Love it? Well, you can do nothing but those, that'll work too. You can buy a more-than-respectable set from dedicated crafters, complete with space for materia, and while it's not exactly cheap to do so, it lets you get a jump on new content.

There are stumbling blocks here and there -- the upgrade system for tomestone gear, for instance, seems to exist chiefly so the people in Coil can feel as if they're the most special things on the block for a few months. I'm not a fan. But progress doesn't simply stop once you hit the level cap, nor does it remain locked in place if you don't want to get into certain forms of content. There are a lot of options about what you can do at the cap, which is great.

And that's the last point and I think the most relevant one. The game as a whole gives you plenty to do. What gets dull is chiefly not the game itself but the leveling game, which hasn't changed substantially since launch, but even then there's the fact that you don't have to stick with one class all the way through. Don't feel like fighting things? Go spend hours crafting and selling! There is a whole game there, a huge portion of play and tons of stuff to do just working on your craft and becoming better!

And Yoshi-P did it all while he was napping, even.  (This is a lie.  The man does not sleep.  Ever.)

In other words, after a year of operation, FFXIV has consistently delivered on the stated promises of almost every game that launched last year: play how you like, have a variety of things to do beyond just fighting, and get a lot of new content with each update. And it did the whole thing without any missteps.

2015 is obviously going to be a big year for the game, since Heavensward is probably coming out in early May. (No, that isn't official yet; that's my prediction. I'm just very confident about it.) From what we've heard thus far, the basic structure of the endgame will stay the same, so I'd expect the same sort of roulette structure, tomestone equivalents, alternating 8-person and 24-person big-group content, and so forth. The biggest shake-up is the inclusion of a story mode for Alexander, which seems designed to give more people a glimpse of the story behind this big-group stuff.

But the game no longer needs to stick the landing; it managed that. By all accounts, the designers seem to have a good gauge of what players enjoy, and while the development team makes some poor choices, its collective heart is in the right place. Let's see what the next year brings, but I have reason to be hopeful.

Feedback, as always, is welcome down below or by mail to Next time around, I want to talk about some speculation that I've seen floating around that ties into the expansion; after that, it's time for the pre-2.5 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 other Monday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.