I have been holding off and posting lately because I wanted my 1000th post on ZAM to have some meaning behind it. With Beta 3 ending tomorrow morning, I thought that now was as good a time as any. I know there a billion reviews out there, but that's not really what I want this to be. I just want to write down how I feel about this game, my experiences with it, and put it out there for someone that is still conflicted with whether to try the game out or not.
I played FFXI. In fact, I can remember months before FFXI was released, I was stockpiling as much information about it as I could find. I was in my freshman year of high school, which is an awkward time for a lot of people, and I had played MMO's in the past for the same reason as many others; an escape from the hells of growing up. Being a fan of MMO's and Final Fantasy, I was thrilled at the idea of the two combined. The age of MMO's was still semi-fresh, and I was ready to get sucked into the world of Vana'Diel.
When the game released, I was instantly in love. I loved the towns, the music, the comradery, I made friends, and enemies, experienced amazing stories, and fought epic battles. I laughed so hard I cried during the good times with my linkshells, and experienced an anger beyond all meaning when I set homepoint in Valkurm Dunes, forgotten about it, switched to WHM lvl 5 and got stuck there for the better part of a day. I left the game, and came back. I devoted more time to it on and off throughout the years than I am proud of. But I loved it. It was the first MMO to really grasp my attention and make me feel at home. It wasn't perfect, but it was home.
But things change. MMOs become dated, or the content it provides changes. This isn't a bad thing at all, of course, MMO's need to change to hold interests. However, sometimes things just stop feeling the same for some people. We move on, we look for new places to experience, something to get that feeling again. I have been looking for another MMO to provide that same feeling that FFXI has provided for years.
Enter FFXIV V 1.0. When it was announced, once again I was thrilled! If they did so well on FFXI, what can I expect with the next generation?
Obviously, this feeling was short lived.
I played the FFXIV Beta for version 1.0. I don't think I can rightly put into words how disappointed I was. The menu's were laggy, the system was glitchy beyond the point of use, every time I used triangulate I would fall through the ground into the abyss, then get an error message, and finally DC. Don't get me wrong, there were things about it I liked. I liked the job system, and being able to use skills cross class. I also liked that you could cast while moving. But the good were towered over by the bad. I hated it so much. I didn't bother purchasing the game, nor did I ever give it a second thought. I watched from the sidelines hoping they thought of a way to fix it, but in the back of my mind thinking there was no way. It was too far gone.
I wish I could say I felt bad when the entire team was replaced, but I didn't. In a way, I guess I felt they deserved to be punished, which is horrible I know, but I can't help but feel some kind of resentment towards a group of people who let a game release that badly. The laziness they showed in their work was obvious. I have said this before, but what I felt like was that SE thought that they could just take a piece of crap, slap a "Final Fantasy" label on it, and be like "Here, eat this, it's delicious". Meanwhile I'm standing there like "I'm not sure that I..." as they interrupt "Nope, it's working as intended, you'll eat it what I give to you." Well, no... No I wont. And I didn't. As a consumer I felt abandoned.
I never expected to buy this game, but I was still interested in the fixes they were trying to salvage it. I would check the page now and again, read the update notes, laugh a little, and then go about my business. When I read that the new director was going to remake the entire game, I was intrigued. I wondered to what extent.
Throughout the next year and a half, I would read every single Letter from the Producer he released. This man, not even the game; was starting to change my mind. Never before had I seen such communication from a developer. He made polls, he read the results, he communicated how he felt about them! He listened to his users, and he built this game from the ground up in two years... that's an incredible accomplishment! Long before beta began, Yoshida, just by being himself and communicating so well to his audience, had already won a second chance with me, so long as the game looked playable.
I think the biggest turning point to me was right before Dalamud dropped. The entire event leading up to the end of days was really amazing to me. I nearly tried 1.0 again, but I still wasn't convinced enough to do it, and now I wish I had. I watched all the cut scenes leading to the drop, and then finally, on the day the 1.0 servers shut down, the End of an Era. This was the moment. This video. I was in, 100%. I still watch it, and it still gives me chills. This was the Final Fantasy I had in mind. Look at this storyline! This was what I had signed up for the first time.
From then out, I craved information.Reddit became my new drug. Day one of the beta sign up, I was on it! I checked my email so many times when I saw word that invites were going out. I showed my friends the End of an Era, and any game play footage that was available at the time, and I got them to sign up with me. Then came Beta 3. I woke up, looked at my phone, and saw my friend Jim had texted me saying he got an invite. I fumbled through my iPhone, making my way to my email app... 3 new emails!! I opened it, and it loaded... and loaded... and loaded.... Petco Rewards, and 2 Facebook notifications that my friends had tagged me in posts.... hilariously that they had gotten their Beta invites.
I moped so badly. It was sad. I was like a little kid who was promised a trip to Disneyland and then told "Just kidding! Go to work instead."
It was later that night, while I was at work, that I got the email. "Welcome to the FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn Beta" read the title. It was a good thing that I was alone in the lunch room, because the piercing, high-pitched, pre-adolescent girl sound that came out of me may have damaged their eardrums for life.
Finally, on to my experience with the Beta.
One thing that I loved about Final Fantasy is story line. That is probably my favorite thing, actually. Each game has a story to tell, and you don't always know where it's going, but it always manages to suck me in. Final Fantasy MMO's are no exception. Other MMO's have storyline in them, but I don't feel like they present it to you as well as Final Fantasy does. In FFXI, it's really a part of the game, and your experiences in it. It's the "why we're doing what we're doing". This applies to FFXIV also. The story had me fixated on my quests, wanting to continue on and on, and before I knew it... I was capped out on the main story for the beta. But it didn't stop there, there are plenty of quests all around Eorzea, which kept me rockupied for a solid amount of time. There are still locations I haven't been able to experience yet, and this makes me even more excited for when the full game is accessible.
But story isn't everything. (Yes it is!) There was tons of other things to do. Guildhests, FATE's, gathering, crafting, soulbinding gear for materia, dungeons for gear, exploration, hunts, gathering logs, crafting logs.. and this is all stuff you're able to do on top of the story, and pretty early in the game at that.
Now I'm not saying this game is perfect. It has issues that need to be adjusted, it has things I would like to see changed... but what MMO doesn't? Like I said earlier, FFXI was my home, and it definitely had its flaws.. but that's part of what makes it. Things will grow, things will change, and with a director like Yoshida, things will change for the better. And as far as the issues the game does have, it is LIGHTYEARS beyond what I had expected. The fact that they could take this game from the steaming pile it was at 1.0 release and turn it into this beacon of MMO hope that it is now, is astonishing. 2 years. 2 years while updating an managing the already existing game, they managed to do all of this. They created an entirely new engine, and world, for US! The game doesn't have to be perfect, and it to be honest, I don't think it's possible for a game to be completely perfect. Different people like different things, and when you are appealing the a massive audience, you can't please everyone. But looking at it negatively because of the couple things in it that you don't like isn't going to help anything. Any game you play is going to be like that, and you're cheating yourself out of a good time if you're not willing to admit that and look past it. Not to mention the fact that this is only the beginning (again). So much could come from this! And who knows what could change.
I more than enjoyed my time in Beta. I craved it. I couldn't wait until the next test. I would wake up early, play it till I had to leave for work, come home after and start again. I slept for about 4 hours Saturday morning so I could get some rest, then woke up and played it until 5 AM when it shut down. I haven't enjoyed myself this much on an MMO in so long, that I had almost lost hope and tossed the feeling up to being young. I made so many friends already, and played with old ones.
So, my advice to anyone out there who was burnt by 1.0... forgive. It's not often (or ever) that a company will scrap an entire game and remake it. Most would let well enough alone, and move on to a new project. FFXIV: ARR may not be the answer to everyone's MMO prayer's, but they sure did do a **** of a job. It would be terrible if you're wandering around, avoiding the game because you think that it's just another flop, when the game is so far ahead of where it used to be.
Plus, with Open Beta around the corner, now is as good of a time as any to get your feet wet, and see if you like the water now that it's been filtered. I know I'm happy I did, because I've found a new home.