written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
It’s been a very long time since I’ve played an MMORPG. While most of the planet romped around the fantasy locales of World of Warcraft, I chose to skip to the beat of a different drum and got into Final Fantasy XI back during the PS2 heyday. It was very different back then when it came to consoles and online gaming, admittedly I was never that into it and after a couple months my interest in the world of Vana’diel waned; sending me back to my regular single player adventures.
Fast forward over ten years and here we are in an age of games being constantly connected to the matrix with robust online communities I could have only dreamed off having in the early 2000s. Thanks to the urging of a friend, and a thoughtful Christmas present, I decided to jump into Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn about two years after the original release. Dubbed version 2.0, A Realm Reborn revamped much of the problems the original Final Fantasy XIV faced, while I wasn’t part of that eco-system I did hear about all the problems version 1.0 faced and how the subsequent outrage pushed people back into Final Fantasy XI rather than enticing them to hop into a new world.
Here we are now, and I can without a shadow of a doubt say that I really did not know what I was missing… and now that I’ve experienced romping around Eorzea I’ve found a fun new world to play in.
Being fairly removed from MMORPGs for the better part of the last decade, there was much I had to get used to. The long grind and endless hours one would expect from a game like this, I found myself whittling away at every little sidequest or group activity. Making it to the next level made my heart pang for the *airquotes* quick leveling mechanic *airquotes* of games like Fallout or The Elder Scrolls series. After getting into a groove though, I found myself not minding the grind as much as I was in the start, before I knew it I had lost entire afternoons to the world of Eorzea.
As a longtime fan of the Final Fantasy series, I knew that the character class I wanted to be was a Dragoon. Some of my favorite characters from past Final Fantasy games were Dragoons. Kain Highwind from Final Fantasy IV comes to mind first, especially since the Dragoon armor in Final Fantasy XIV looks to be modeled directly after Kain’s armor from Final Fantasy IV. Cid Highwind from FFVII, Freya Crescent from FFIX, and Khimari from FFX are honorable mentions to that list. I love controlling a character with more reach than the typical melee class, plus all those jump attacks are so bad ass!
The biggest surprise for me was how grand the scope of the game’s narrative was, with all the random fetch quests and “kill X amount of rando-enemy” the game does a great job with giving the player a multitude of main story quests to keep the game’s main narrative running. While some missions connect better to the overarching story than others, the ability to go from jumping around sidequests to tackling the main story felt seamless and rarely ever seemed jarring.
Partying up with other players helps immensely when journeying around Eorzea, luckily I didn’t have to go far to join up with a group since my friend invited me to join the Free Company he was a part of. From what I have gathered taking to my fellow guildies, this isn’t the typical experience. I was lucky enough to have some great friends having my back whenever whenever I was in way over my head with droves of Eorzea’s baddest all trying to take me out.
One instance that was surprising was one point where I was able to gather a full 8 player party for a random Guildhest. I used the shout chat along with inviting two of my guild mates and while it felt natural to me… being the Eorzean newbie I was… my fellow guild mates were surprised I was able to gather as many players as I did simply using shout.
Over the last month and a half I journeyed all over Eorzea, the experience sucked me in and I found myself hopping in practically every day.
The biggest takeaway I can share is that this game is the definitive Final Fantasy experience. It’s like an interwoven tapestry of all things Final Fantasy. References to the core themes of the crystals and Warriors of Light are more obvious with several more obscure references for those who have experienced the extensive catalog of Final Fantasy games. If you are a fan of MMOs and a die hard fan of the Final Fantasy series, this is the perfect mix for you.
Over the course of my time with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn I found myself fully immersed in the word of Eorzea. I couldn’t stop playing and personally I wouldn’t trade this experience for any other videogame world. So now, I’m on to the Heavensward expansion and while other games may come and go, it feels like at least for me… my time in Eorzea is just starting.