FFXIV: Version 4.1 Update

The first update to Stormblood is here! I apologize for taking so long to write about this update, but real life events really cut into my playtime for FFXIV. But, I’ve finally finished all of the content included in this patch and I’m here to share my thoughts.

Like most incremental patches for FFXIV, this one includes a number of quality of life improvements, a few new dungeons, a new raid, and several side quests. This patch also saw the release of a whole new housing area. This is something fans have been clamoring for. (Although, the new plots were snatched up pretty quickly as expected… this has become a recurring problem).

Breaking down the contents of the patch into a list, we have the following additions to the game:

New Main Scenario quests and side quests

New Dungeons

New Raid Content (Rabanastre)

New Beast Tribe content

New Treasure Hunt content

New Grand Company Squadron content (Command Missions)

Shirogane Housing and housing enhancements (relocations, etc)

A slew of refinements, big fixes, new items, materials, mounts, minions, etc

I was little disappointed to see only one quest in the Hildibrand quest line in this patch. Hildi is one of my favorite characters in the game, and I was really hoping to see his full return in this update, but sadly all we got was a set up to his reintroduction. But, I don’t mind waiting a bit longer.

For me, the most enjoyable change has been the new Squadron content. I really enjoy the squadron “mini-game” and SE is doing a great job expanding this content. Players are now able to run instanced dungeons with their AI squadron members. It reminds me a bit of the Trust System from FFXI, and I’m very curious to see just where this is headed in the long run.

I’m a bit on the fence when it comes to the new raid. I’m torn on seeing the introduction of something as specific as Rabanastre brought into Final Fantasy XIV. For those that might not know, Rabanastre is a city from Final Fantasy XII. It seems that the world of FFXII and FF Tactics is bleeding into Eorzea a bit. This seemed a bit confusing to me at first, but the in-game lore does a decent job of smoothing over this merge. While I can certainly see the value in plucking out imagery and lore from other games in the series and inserting them into FFXIV, I feel this should be done with care or the game could easily end up being an unrecognizable mish-mashed mess.

The first incremental patch after an MMO expansion is usually iffy. It tends to contain more fixes than content, and that’s certainly true with this patch. But considering the amount of new stuff introduced in 4.1, I have to praise Square Enix. Stormblood was a boon for Final Fantasy XIV and they don’t show any sign of slowing their momentum.

All things considered, I am giving this patch a solid:  A

 

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

It’s been two years since the release of Heavensward and SE has spent that time working on the next chapter in the Final Fantasy XIV saga: Stormblood. Well, it’s finally here! I’ve spent the last two weeks playing the new content and I’ve finally completed the expansion. So, as expected, I’m here with a full review!

Stormblood brings Final Fantasy XIV up to version 4.0. With that version bump comes a ton of new content. Stormblood adds two new (long awaited) jobs to the game: Red Mage and Samurai. It also raises the level cap to 70 and adds an entire new continent to explore. The focus of the expansion is the retaking of the nations of Ala Mhigo and Doma from Imperial control. The occupation of Ala Mhigo has long been a part of the game’s lore, reaching back as early as 1.0. In this way, Stormblood finally brings a capstone to nearly every loose-end that is left from the original version of the game.

Whereas Heavensward introduced flying to the world of FFXIV, Stormblood brings about the ability to dive and swim. Even some areas of the original game have been updated to allow players to swim in shallow waters. For many of the new zones, players are able to dive down and explore areas of the deep. Flying mounts are also able to traverse the underwater zones as well.  Currently, this ability is pretty novel and really only comes into play for the new scenario missions. But SE has hinted that more content might be coming that incorporates swimming/diving.

I have to go on record and state that the storyline for Stormblood is absolutely fantastic. At worst, it is on par with A Realm Reborn, but I daresay it even exceeds it. To me, Heavensward was a decent expansion. But, at times it became very repetitive and downright boring. This was not the case with Stormblood. Everything about this expansion felt fresh and interesting to me.  From the storyline, the new cities and zones, the innovative dungeons and even the boss fights, the whole of Stormblood was just spot on for me.

Aside from all the new content, Final Fantasy XIV version 4.0 also marked a major revamp to the core game itself. The whole job system received an overhaul of sorts. Skills and abilities were streamlined, with several actions being revamped or even eliminated. The pointless concept of customizing character ability scores (an old mechanic from the now defunct 1.0 version) has finally been removed from the game. 4.0 also introduces the “Job Gauge”, a job-specific on-screen graphic that is unique to each job and related to that job’s special abilities.

A major theme of Stormblood is that of the Far East. Pretty much any type of Asian flair is represented in the new zones. From the Japanese-inspired city of Kugane, to the Chinese-like landscape of Doma. There are even elements of ancient Mongolia, Turkey, and Slavic inspiration found in the new zones.

At the time of this writing, Stormblood has received one minor content patch, bringing the game up to version 4.01. This patch added the highly awaited Omega raid to the game.

All in all, I cannot say enough great things about Stormblood. If I had to find a complaint, it would not be with the expansion itself, but rather with SE’s recent decision to sell level boosting potions on the Mog Station store. For cold hard cash, players can now purchase an item that will level their characters to either level 50 or 60, and even one that will clear the main scenario content for A Realm Reborn and Heavensward.  I understand the concept behind such items: they allow new players to jump right in and join their friends on new adventures. But at the same time, I feel they cheapen the game play experience somewhat. As a player who has stuck with FFXIV since the early (and often dismal) days of 1.0, I couldn’t imagine spending money to purchase a game, then spending more money so that I don’t have to actually play it. But, to each their own I suppose.

I’m going to continue my tradition of reviewing each major patch as they are released. So stay tuned and as they say in the FFXIV community; “Please look forward to it!”

Patch 4.1

FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

FFXIV: Version 3.5 Update

The latest update for Final Fantasy XIV has finally arrived. Version 3.5 (The Far Edge of Fate) is here and with it, we see the final winding down of the Heavensward story and the slow build up to the recently announced version 4.0. Playing through the new main scenario quests included in this patch make it clear that the narrative of the game is about to change. It’s being handled very similar to the way the transition from 2,x to 3,0 was presented. As always, Square Enix has proved themselves to be master storytellers.

As the 3.x storyline winds down, this patch provides two new dungeons and one new raid to hold fans over until the big update to 4.0 this summer. Along with this new major content, there are also a number of new sidequests and other activities for players to enjoy.

Breaking down to contents of the patch, we have the following:

New Main Scenario quests and side quests

New Trials

New Raid content:  (Dun Scaith)

New Dungeons

New Limited Time Cross-over Event  (GARO! Anime  PVP-gear content)

New Anima Weapon tiers

New Player Housing options:  (Portrait/Picture frame system, new house servants)

The Triple Triad card tournament refinements  (FINALLY NO MORE CHEATING)

UI Updates

Cross-Server Party finder!

A slew of refinements, big fixes, new items, materials, mounts, minions, etc.

As you see, there’s a lot going on with this patch. One of the biggest core changes to the game involves the new cross-server party finder. This change allows players to seek out party members with players from other servers. This is certainly a welcome change. However, at the time of this writing, (and maybe its just a coincidence) it seems to have affected the overall server stability. I had experienced a number of crashes and connection issues since this patch was released. Something that I’ve never encountered before.

Along with everything this patch has brought to the game, I want to take a moment to mention something that it’s taken away. With the release of this patch, the content known as “Exploratory Missions” is no longer accessible. Exploratory Missions (aka: The Diadem) is essentially a large-scale battleground system. This content was extremely popular in the early days of 3.X,  but it soon fell out of favor with players and became a largely forgotten system. With Patch 3.5, SE has removed the content from the game as they work to refine it and make it more attractive to players. The current plan is for it to reintroduced in an upcoming “3.5 part 2” patch. As a fan of Exploratory Missions, I look forward to see what changes are made to this area. I hope that SE can make it relevant again.

All in all, patch 3.5 is a welcome update to the game. It serves as the last MAJOR patch in the 3.x line before the release of Final Fantasy XIV 4.0.

Filled with content, fixes, and refinements, I give this patch the following score:  A

 

My Experiences as an “MMO Girl” (Part 1)

So, as I promised, in 2017 I’m going to try to do more with this site besides write and post reviews. This post is a prime example of that. This is an article about a secret experiment I’ve been conducting. One that I’m now ready to share. In this post, I’m going to describe my experiences as playing an MMO under the guise of being a female.

Now, I’m not doing this in attempt to be controversial or shocking. This was an idea borne out of sincere curiosity. Please allow me to explain. If you’re a frequent reader to this site, you know that I’m an avid player of Final Fantasy XIV. My character, Kijimuna was created during 1.0 early access and has persisted throughout the entire course of the game. It was with this character that I founded one of the first Free Companies on the Balmung Server:  The Luminous Company.  However, over the years being a “casual only” company on one of the most competitive and overcrowded servers took it’s toll.  The numbers of active players in my company dwindled from over a hundred, down to about two dozen in a few years. In the last twelve months, I found that only myself and about three other players were active in company. Eventually, the company finally just came down to myself and one other player; a girl I had known since the original 1.0 version of the game. The day finally came when I logged on and noticed that even she had not logged on in over 30 days. It was then, I decided it was time to close up shop and consider finding a new group of in-game friends to join.

The problem I ran into was this: my server was jammed packed with elitist players. Despite my long term experience with the game, I am very much a casual player. I cannot commit to any schedule and I don’t have the ability to dedicate hours and hours to endless grinding. A few companies I did join up with never really felt like home to me as I was unable to participate in many activities due to my schedule. The one thing I really loved doing in the game, helping new players, was an impossibility on my server. You see, Balmung (my server) is super popular and therefore almost always locked for new character creation. There are simply no new players to help. That’s when I decided to take the plunge and move to a non-legacy server. A place where I could interact with newer players. As I was preparing for this move, I recalled a conversation that I had with my longtime in-game friend. One night, when it was just the two of us playing, she described to me her experiences being a female player in an online game. She explained how for the most part, people are generally kind. But how occasionally, she would find herself being objectified or suffering some minor unwanted advances. She also described how, if she really wanted to, she was able to manipulate a large portion of male players into providing her with help and sometimes even get them to carry her through difficult content.  I always wondered just how true that was.  – Well, as I sat there preparing to move Kijimuna to his new home, a thought occurred to me; what would happen if I transformed Kiji into a female? I mean, I had a number of these Fantasia potions (character re-design items) stashed away, perks from playing 1.0. I could use one and design my character as a female, temporarily – and blog about my experiences. It sounded like an interesting idea, so… I did it!   With that, Kijimuna Kudaka was no more.

……… drumroll

                                   ……..                            ……..

                                                                      …….                  …….  MEET:     Chichi !!!

First, I want to clear something up. When I transformed Kiji to Chichi, I did so solely with this article in mind. I had no intentions of using the transformation as an attempt to benefit or enrich my character. In fact, when creating my new persona I decided to stick with the very mundane and “unsexual” Lalafell race. The last thing I wanted to do was create some buxom, sexy fem fatale. I wanted to see what a real female mmo-player might experience.

I have now been playing as Chichi for almost three months and it has been an interesting experience. But before I get into the details, I want to layout some important facts around this experiment:

First – I never come out and claim to be a female. I’m simply playing a female character, and allowing others to make assumptions.

Second – I don’t flirt, act girly or cutesy, or change my in-game behavior in any way.

Now, with that in mind let’s talk about the results. Well, the last three months have been interesting. First, I’m amazed at just how many people automatically assume that because I am playing a female character, that I must be a female. Perhaps it is because I’m playing a cute little Lalafell and not some bikini-clad Valkyrie… I don’t know. But the majority of players I interact with do assume that the person behind my keyboard is indeed a female.

I’m proud to report that most players treat me no different than they did before. I’ve not been sexually harassed, or looked down on. However, it does seem that people actually seem to be a little kinder and patient with Chichi then they were with Kijimuna.  If I’m playing with others and I botch something, there’s less frustration exhibited.  I have also received more offers for help and more invitations for groups than I did before.

In fact, this led me to making another very important decision in regards to this experiment.  I decided to politely decline all free company invitations for the first few months or so. Just so I could see how many invites I would receive.  When playing as Kijimuna, after disbanding The Luminous Company, I received a total of two invites in the three months before deciding to leave Balmung.  As Chichi, I received a total of eleven in the same amount of time!

In fact, my refusal to join with any established groups created a bit of a buzz. A lot of people seemed puzzled by my insistence on playing solo. Well, I’ve recently caved and accepted an invitation to a small, but established Free Company. This will no doubt result in more social interactions with other players. So, I’m curious to see just where that might lead.  To date, I have yet to experience any off-color comments or negative experiences. Let’s see if that changes as I begin to mingle more with other players. Stay tuned for an update in the coming months!

FFXIV: Version 3.4 Update

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So, Final Fantasy XIV version 3.4 (aka: Soul Surrender) has finally arrived and I’ve had time to dive in and check it out in full. I apologize for not getting to this post sooner, but before checking out the new content, I was scrambling like mad to finish the limited-time Yo-Kai Watch crossover event. Sadly, I have to admit this event marks the first time I was unable to fully complete a “seasonal” quest line. The event consisted of participating in FATE events, from which you could collect cute Yo-Kai minions, and Yo-Kai Watch themed weapons. Collecting the minions was simple. But collecting all the weapons took quite a bit of dedication. Granted, SE allowed nearly 3 months to get this done, but I had a lot of real world stuff going on so I had to cram most of it into the last three days. While I did not finish the event 100% of the way, I was down to the very last weapon when the clock ran out (and only 2 tokens short of claiming it!) – I hope to see this event brought back at some point in the future, as SE did with some of their other limited time events. But, considering this one tied in to a third-party, I’m not counting on anything. Boo.

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But enough about Yo-Kai… Let’s talk 3.4. So, what’s new in this patch? Well, we’re getting very close now to the final wrap up of all Heavensward content. Later this week, Square Enix hosts the first of the three Fan Fests . It is during these events that fans are expecting a reveal for Final Fantasy XIV 4.0. So, the end of all 3.x content is coming quick! Here’s what’s been added in the latest patch:

New main scenario quests, new side quests.

New PVP content:  Custom matches and player duels

New Raid content:  Alexander phase 3

New Trials

New Dungeons

New Player Housing options:  Apartments, aquarium furniture/collectible game

Grand Company Content:   **FINALLY!!!*  New ranks and a new “Squadron” system

A new “Wondrous Tails” system – Essentially, this is a system that encourages and rewards players for doing older content.

A slew of refinements, new items, materials, mounts, minions, etc.

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So what do I think of the new patch? Well, as point releases go, it’s pretty solid. It balances both refinements and new content pretty well. We can see the pieces coming together for the ultimate conclusion to the 3.x storyline and I feel that breadcrumbs are also being laid for what’s coming next. I feel like SE has things down to a science at this point. The amount of new content was just right to both keep the story line moving along and to keep players busy for a while. With Final Fantasy XV on the horizon, I expect a bit of a lull in the next month or so. It seems like SE is also predicting this and planning accordingly. I feel like the next six months will provide plenty of time for new players to catch up so that they can enjoy whatever 4.0 will eventually have to offer.

The shining gem of this patch for me? The Wondrous Tails content. It’s always difficult to get veteran players to pay attention to older content. This can be frustrating for newer players that need assistance on progression. This new mechanic gives players what really amounts to a “sticker book”. By completing certain dungeons, trials, etc during the week – they earn a sticker. Once the book is full, rewards are available. I found this whole set up to be very well done.

As far as point releases go, I give this patch an:   A

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Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

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Almost two years after the release of A Realm Reborn, Final Fantasy XIV received it’s first official expansion: Heavensward. This expansion focuses on the long talked-about, but never before accessible Kingdom of Ishgard. Ever since the earliest days of 1.x, players had been clamoring to explore and experience this area, only to have their hoped squashed by the failure of the original game.  Well, finally with release of Final Fantasy XIV 3.0 – the gates to Ishgard were thrown open.

With this new city-state was a plethora of new open-world zones to explore. Including one area that was previously accessible in FFXIV 1.x, but not seen in A Realm Reborn. Aside from new areas, there was a whole new slew of dungeons, raids, side quests, and main scenario missions to undertake. The storyline of Heavensward picks up right where main scenarios of 2.x end. In fact, none of the content from this expansion is available to players until they complete all of the 2.x storyline. (with exception of a new playable race –  but more on that later)

This expansion also increased the maximum level cap from 50 to 60 and introduced a new class of flying mounts for players to use in the Heavensward areas.

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As the name suggests, a big focus of Heavensward is the theme of flying and flight. Aside from flying mounts and open-air zones, SE also added the ability for player-owned Free Companies to build their own Airships. Ships can be sent off on exploratory missions, or used to reach a new large-scale battlefield zone known as: The Diadem.

Also, an MMO expansion just wouldn’t be complete without the addition of new playable classes… or more specifically jobs. That’s right, Heavensward introduces three new jobs, but unlike all other jobs in the game so far, these are not directly tied to character class. The new jobs are: Dark Knight (tank class), Astrologian (healer class), and Machinist (ranged-dps class). Also, interestingly enough, these jobs start at level 30 instead of level one. (A move seen in other games such as World of Warcraft)

As mentioned earlier, there is also a new playable race in Heavensward: The Au Ra. This is a race of scaled, horned humanoids, that some believe to share ancestry with dragons. A player who owns the expansion can create an Au Ra character from the beginning, while current players wishing to keep their current progress can use a “Fantasia potion” to change their existing character.

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I have to admit, that I was initially VERY excited for this expansion. I plowed through the 3.0 content in a matter of days. Only to find myself, at the end of it, feeling somewhat shorted. Yes, there was a great amount of new storyline content to be had – but once it was all said and done, it felt like I had hit a brick wall. There was really nothing new to explore at that point. The 3.1 patch that came out a few months later did little to rekindle my excitement. In fact, around December of 2015, I actually found myself canceling my FFXIV subscription for the very first time. It seemed that while Heavensward did deliver on everything it promised, it turned out that it’s promises were not really all that exciting to begin with. At least, that’s how I felt after conquering all of it. The post-expansion lull hit HARD.

At the time of this writing, Heavensward has reached version 3.2. This most recent version update added a new tier to the Heavensward-exclusive raid “Alexander”, as well as some of large quality of life improvements for new players. I resubbed to check out this patch and I’m happy to report that I’ve been more than pleased. I can’t quite put my finger on it… maybe it’s some of the new content or maybe I just needed a break – but coming back I’ve found myself engaged and having a wonderful time. I’m anxiously awaiting the new upcoming PVP content and looking forward to seeing where the game goes from here.

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Now, for the first time ever since I started this blog, I have to decide how I’m going to handle reporting on future updates to FFXIV… You see, up until now, I’ve always been playing catch up. reviewing things after the fact. But with the publication of this overview, I find myself actually current in a living, breathing game world.  Waiting for each new expansion, than playing for six months before reporting on it is not very exciting…

So, after giving this a little thought, I’ve decided that I’ll be making a post for each content patch that the game receives. Then adding a link to these posts to the FFXIV Hub article. That way, I can stay up to date with the game – yet still keep a link to all the information in a single place. So… stay tuned to future updates.

Patch 3.3      Patch 3.4    Patch 3.5

FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

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 The original version of Final Fantasy XIV was taken offline on November 10, 2012.  Fans would have to wait until August of 2013 to get their hands on the new version of the game. The stakes were high. MMOs had failed before. But never had the company behind the game promised to completely remake and relaunch the title, all while keeping player data intact. To be honest, even I had doubts that SE would be able to pull it off.  They were promising the moon with this new version of Final Fantasy XIV. But as months went by, it slowly began to look like they just might be able to make good on their promise.

Eventually, the beta for Final Fantasy XIV 2.0 (now called A Realm Reborn) was available to play. Legacy players were able to take the first peek…. and it was glorious. From what little we were able to glimpse during the beta test, it seemed like SE was able to achieve their goal.

Upon the general release of A Realm Reborn, the interest in the game had reached an unexpected high. The servers were full of both old veterans and new curious players. The reviews for the game were shining and positive. SE had done the unthinkable. They are saved the sinking ship that was FFXIV and set it out to sail with the very best of the competition.

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This version of the game, starts five years after the events that took place in Final Fantasy XIV 1.0. For legacy players, the story goes like this: During the climax of the final battle against the Empire, just as the terrible dragon Bahamut erupted from inside the red moon of Dalamud, the legacy players were teleported away from the impending destruction. They were sent through time to five years in the future. They find themselves in an Eorzea that has been radically changed, but one that has mostly recovered the Calamity of that day. The threat of the Empire still looms on the horizon, but now there are newer, more mysterious threats as well. This is the world in which both legacy and new players find themselves.

All of the original 1.x races and classes are available in A Realm Reborn. In fact, this time around players could even create female versions of Hyur Highlanders and Roegadyn. Male versions of the popular Miqo’te race are now also playable. Also new in this version is a new starting class: Arcanist. This can later evolve into one of two jobs: Summoner and Scholar.

As a returning player, I got to experience the original 2.0 story just a bit differently than new players. Some of my introductory cutscenes and dialogue were slightly different. I retained my levels, skills, and most of my items from 1.0. So several things that normally needed to be “unlocked” during the course of the main scenario were already available to me. I learned pretty quickly, that I’d be wasting experience points by playing through all the new content with my max level Dragoon. So, I switched to a class I never bothered to level in 1.0 and enjoyed the content from the ground up until I got my feet wet.  I founded a Free Company (guild) with several players that I knew from 1.0. Together, we plowed through the main scenario content together.

A Realm Reborn was a very different beast than the original FFXIV. Everything about the game seemed more polished and refined. Many of the unique features of FFXIV were still intact; the job system, levequests,  behest (now known as guildhests). But there were aspects from other popular MMOs brought in as well. The handling of sidequests was now much more like other MMO games. Instanced dungeons and an endgame raid was added, along with a “dutyfinder” to help reduce wait times while searching for players to team up with. There was a new “FATE” system (dynamic open world battles). The market system was revamped. The list goes on and on.  Personally, I found the new direction of the game to be everything I had hoped for.

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As time went on, SE continued to consider player feedback and adjust/add new features. Each new major patch continued to expand the game greatly. New dungeons and raids were added. New boss battles, quests, storyline, even a new class/job combo was added to the game for free. A PVP system was put in place, player-owned housing was added as was a casino-style game area. In my opinion, SE had gone above and beyond to create a great game that would appeal to players of all types. Of course, among the game community, there’s always a vocal minority of players full of nonconstructive criticism (especially when it comes to the housing feature). But overall, I found most of the players to be satisfied and content with this new version of Final Fantasy XIV.

SE seems to have adopted a three-month content cycle. This means that approximately every three months there is a new patch that includes, along with the usual fixes and adjustments, new game content. All of the added features above (PVP, Casino, Rogue/Ninja, etc) were added during these content patches.

If I have one complaint about the game, it is not with the game itself but with a small chunk of the playerbase. Really, I guess in a small way, I can blame this on SE. But it’s not REALLY their fault.  You see, until the release of A Realm Reborn, both of SE’s MMOs had non-regional servers. US, European, and Asian players all shared the gameworlds. To me, this was a positive experience. I enjoyed playing with people from Japan or Australia. Generally speaking, Japanese gamers tend to play more my style: Slow and a calculated. They are not in a hurry and there is no real “race to the finish”. Whereas, a sizable chunk of US MMO players are often immature and in a rush. For the release of A Realm Reborn, SE decided to make regional servers (for the purpose of performance). Now, there was nothing stopping me from playing on a Japanese server. But since 95% of all English speaking players would choose a US-based server, communication would definitely be an issue. So the point of my contention is this: I was now pretty much forced to play only with other US players. This should not be an issue. Seriously. But I have a really hard time dealing with belligerence. Due to the popularity of the game, a whole new demographic of players had appeared. I began to see traits creeping into FFXIV, from other games that I had always managed to avoid: elitism, stat parsers, immature/mindless public chat. Seeing this in the game that I had come to love was disappointing to me. But, I guess it was a bit of a necessary evil. In truth, these days, you’re going get that kind of thing in any MMO. I make liberal use of the blacklist feature and move on.

Overall, A Realm Reborn managed to deliver on every level, at least for me. It didn’t manage to capture that “magic” that I found with my time in FFXI. But it comes close. If you ask me today, “what’s a good MMO to play?” My first answer will be: Final Fantasy XIV.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is available on –  PC,  PS3 and PS4

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FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Final Fantasy XIV: 1.X

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Having been an avid fan of Square Enix’s first MMO; Final Fantasy XI, I remember the excitement that everyone in the community felt when the announcement was made for Final Fantasy XIV. The next generation massive multiplayer Final Fantasy title. Having long been rumored, SE finally confirmed it’s existence and upcoming release. To say I was excited, was an understatement.

Lorewise, the game takes place in a land known as Eorzea. Eorzea is the home to four major nation-states (three of which can be starting areas for new players). On the outskirts of Eorzea lies the Garlemald Empire. In terms of the game’s story, the Empire has slowly been conquering neighboring realms, and fear hangs heavy that they will soon push their invasion into Eorzea itself. This certainly seemed like an interesting set up. It was a world I was excited to learn and explore.

FFXIV was built using the Crystal Tools engine, the game engine that powered Final Fantasy XIII, so graphically it was going to be leaps and bounds above FFXI. Also, the developers promised that XIV would be more casual-friendly and less grindy. Yet, the game would cater to XI players, in that the in-game races available during character creation would favor those previously seen in XI. (This way, a player could “re-create” the look of their old XI character if they chose to do so.) The races of FFXIV, while similar to FFXI, have different names. These are as follows:

Hyur – A human-like race.  (Essentially the Hume of FFXI)

Elezen – A tall, elvish like race  (similar to the Elvaan of FFXI)

Roegadyn – A stout, but hardy race – Playable as male only (similar to the Galka from FFXI)

Miqo’te – A catlike humanoid – Playable as female only (similar to the Mithra of FFXI)

Lalafell – A short, cute humanoid race (Similar to the Taru Taru of FFXI)

The game was slated for release on the PC. A PS3 version would be coming shortly after release. XIV would feature a new system for character progression, a new class system that allows players to change character class on the fly, a new quest system, a new imaginative form of crafting, a seamless world, etc. It seems that SE was finally starting to listen to their fans…. except, not really.

When Final Fantasy XIV was first released, it became obvious very quickly that there was a problem. First of all, at release day, there was a shockingly little amount of content. In the entire game, there was only a handful of main scenario quests and a small number of class-related quests. The new “Levequest” system touted by SE as being one of the cornerstones of the game was clunky and restrictive. With players only able to take on a small number of quests per day. As a result it was largely ignored. Players resorted to the old time-tested method to grinding to gain experience points. Only to find that SE had quietly implemented a experience point throttle to slow down players who were leveling their characters too quickly.

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Other complaints included concerns about the combat system, as well as the overall world design and server stability. Players also complained in droves about lag in the UI and a convoluted/overly-difficult player market system. As the weeks went on, the situation only got worse. It was so bad, that SE actually asked the media to please refrain for posting reviews of the game until they could roll-out the first big post-release patch.  Sadly, this patch did little to address the majority of player concerns.

The playerbase fell dramatically in the weeks immediately following release, with most players not renewing their subscriptions at the end of the free-30 days. I have to admit, even though I love Final Fantasy games with a passion. FFXIV was shaping up to be a total mess. As a concession, Square Enix apologized profusely and suspended charging subscription fees while they worked on addressing play concerns. But as more weeks came and went, no relief was seen.

Eventually, a major announcement was made. SE had essentially fired the original producer and replaced him with a new face, Naoki Yoshida. A man, that the community would come to affectionately call “Yoshi P”. The first thing that Yoshi P did, was take as the players to participate in a number polls and questionnaires. I participated and I remember seeing questions like “Would it be acceptable to radically change the core battle system for the game?”. When you start talking about doing things like replacing entire core-game mechanics, you know things are about to get interesting.

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When it was all said and done, Yoshi P did one of the ballsiest things I have ever seen in the gaming industry. This man, who was hired to FIX a broken game, went before his superiors and told them: “Your game is so broken, it cannot be repaired. If you want me to fix this mess, you will have to provide me with the budget and resources to rebuild it from the ground up.”  This statement, uttered in any American game company would have immediately signaled the death and write off of the title as a whole. But perhaps, due to cultural differences and Japanese pride, SE agreed. Thus began the road to Final Fantasy XIV 2.0.

The announcement was made to the public, that the entire game was going to be scrapped and recreated using a completely new game engine. What normally takes nearly 10 years in research and development would be escalated and delivered within a mere two years. In the meantime, a special team would continue to work on improving the existing game as best they could: fixing what could be fixed and adding content to keep players busy. To fund this, the subscription for the game would be returning. But players willing to pay during this time, would be privy to exclusive once-in-a-lifetime content as well as a perpetual discount on the game’s subscription. It was also announced that the PS3 version of the game would be placed on hold until after the release of Final Fantasy 2.0.

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In the game’s world, this translates to what is known as the Seventh Umbral Era. Essentially, the redesign of the game would be rolled into the lore of the gameworld itself. Starting with the next patch after the announcement, a small red star appeared in the sky. Patch after patch, as time went by this star grew bigger and bigger. Over time it became obvious what was happening: A meteor was coming… and it was going to cause havoc in the world of Final Fantasy XIV.

Some of the biggest changes to occur during this time were core redesigns to the character progression system. The “character rank” leveling system was removed and now character progression would be measured on a per-class basis. The very core mechanics of the battle system were overhauled and drastically improved. A new “job system” was added that brought many of the classic Final Fantasy-themed jobs to the game. Until now, the character classes in FFXIV used obscure, unfamiliar names, and as a result, just seemed very un-Final Fantasy like. Also, a new “Grand Company” system was added to game that both served as a segue into the new lore as well as a portal to launching some of the newer dungeon and boss-battle content. Things were actually starting to come together quite nicely. In fact, I daresay I became quite satisfied with the game during it’s final few months.

Eventually, the time came when the original version of Final Fantasy XIV would need to go offline for several months while the team prepared the release of the now fabled Final Fantasy XIV 2.0.   – Character data would be preserved and would carry over to this new world. So now players only had to wait. Would SE be able to pull off the impossible and revive a game that had largely failed in the eyes of the public? Time would tell.

In the weeks before the servers were turned off. Players were treated to amazing content. Swarms of monsters were invading towns, Imperial airships would be seen patrolling the skies. The weather in the game world changed, bringing constant lightning storms… Then on the final night, players were instructed to journey to a remote area of the gameworld known as Mor Dhona to engage the Imperials in a massive ground battle. Once the clock counted down and Final Fantasy XIV 1.x was taken offline, players were provided with a YouTube link to view the final cutscene for the game. From the bright red star of Dalamud, emerged the legendary dragon Bahamut. Who’s megaflare attacked caused what would later be known as The Calamity.

Despite it’s rocky start and terrible reputation, these events ended up making Final Fantasy XIV 1.x a truly fantastic and memorable experience for me. In someways, I almost miss it from time to time.

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FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Hub Post: Final Fantasy XIV

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Finally, we are brought to the most recent entry in the numbered Final  Fantasy series: Final Fantasy XIV. This is the second MMO in the series and one filled with both controversy and success. I’ve been an avid player of this game since it’s release and  I’ve written a little bit about this game before, so for those interested, you can read my initial thoughts here: “A Look Back: Original Release”   –  “A Realm Reborn Beta Test”  – “The Rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV” — But, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the game in the posts to come. Just like with my FFXI hub, this post will serve as a Table of Contents for any future posts regarding Final Fantasy XIV and it’s expansions.

FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Other Reviews In This Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

A Look Back: Final Fantasy XIV (Original Release)

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I’m going to really shake things up with something straight out of left field. As you know, I tend to review games in order because I enjoy watching franchises mature, etc. This time, due to an interesting set of circumstances, I’m going to break form and discuss the latest entry in the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy XIV.

I’m doing this for two reasons. First, FFXIV was an online title. Thus, it is a never-ending game. If I waited until the game was “finished”, under normal circumstances, I’d be waiting forever. However, in this case, the game did end (at least temporarily). Second, since the game has ended, this allows the perfect opportunity to look back on it.

If you’ve been following this blog a while, you’ll know that I’m a HUGE fan of both the Final Fantasy series as a whole, and the online games as well. In fact, my first real time put into an MMO was Final Fantasy XI. I spent several years playing that game and I had many wonderful experiences with it. Needless to say, when Final Fantasy XIV was announced, I was more than excited.

XIV holds an interesting place in the world of online games. It was one of the biggest failures in MMO history. The game was released way before it was ready and it’s reputation suffered greatly as a result. The game was plagued by everything from lack of content, to a laggy and unresponsive user interface. In fact, the game was so poorly received, that Square Enix suspended billing of the game for close to a year.

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During that time, most of the original development team was fired and a new producer took over the helm. Upon completing his assessment, he deemed that in order to make the game successful, it would need to be completely re-designed from the ground up. At which time, SE began the unheard of task of both fixing and supporting the current game, while rewriting a entirely new version.

I’m happy to say that over time, the game did improve vastly. In fact, I found it to be quite enjoyable for the last year or so. To keep players hooked, and to help preserve the storyline, SE announced an special in-game storyline for this transition period. A live event that would carry players over from version 1 to version 2.

Everything finally came to a dramatic conclusion on 11/11 with a giant meteor descending from heaven, and a great cataclysm. As I write this, FFXIV is currently offline and testing for the alpha version of 2.0 is underway. Expected to be released sometime next year, loyal followers such as myself eagerly await to see what is in store for us…

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As I mentioned on this site before, I have kept an in-character blog of my time in FFXIV. For those reader interested in what they may have missed during the original release, I urge to check it out: