Amidst all the game trailers, hype and reviews for new games, there are those other games who sit solidly, loved and played by millions but largely ignored by the games press. Final Fantasy XIV can sometimes be one of those games. Ever since it’s rebirth in A Realm Reborn, it has continued to gain followers to become one of the biggest, if not the best MMORPG games on the market.
With hundreds, if not thousands of hours of content spread across a number of critically-acclaimed expansions, it’s a game with a storied history and dedicated fanbase. The latest expansion to hit the shelves is Shadowbringers, and it was my opportunity to finally try out this MMO.
Now, obviously I wasn’t going to be able to review the entirety of Final Fantasy XIV and all of it’s content. But I was able to see what it is like for someone who has seen the hype for Shadowbringers, and wants to see whether FFXIV could be their next obsession.
First of all to note is that unlike so many games, FFXIV is both a paid-up-front experience, and an online subscription. Both come at a relatively steep cost, at least in comparison to other, contemporary titles. But this cost is evident in the amount of things to do, see and battle in game. I feel that if you were going to pay a subscription for any one title, FFXIV would be one of your better investments.
To set up the game for the first time, honestly it’s a bit of a process. Even though you can play on your Playstation 4 (where I spent my time), you have to go through a complicated set up through a web browser. The website itself feels straight out of the mid 2000s, and it all could do with extreme streamlining and a visual upgrade.
Once I got started it was all a bit standard, though I think a slow reveal is the only sane way to expose a new player to everything FFXIV has to offer. You start off in a small town with some menial tasks to do, while the story starts to unfold around you. Now, you can use a level/story skip to move past all the Main Scenario Quests to go straight to Stormblood, the expansion before the new Shadowbringers content, but I wouldn’t recommend it. This is an MMO after all, and knowing your character(s), skills, abilities and the general world mechanics is essential to being a useful player with other people. Plus, you’ll have no idea what happened in the story! You can watch cutscenes and do so some remedial training, but I feel like there’s no real comparison to having actually played through all the content yourself.
It’s an interesting prospect, how do you bring in new players, but then ask them to play hundreds of hours of game just to get to the new stuff, where the main focus will be? MMOs have struggled with this for years, and even though the main FFXIV expansions have been nearly as big as a whole game (FFXIII is an alternate take, with three games in the one world on similar technology platforms), as long as FFXIV remains one experience it’s not an issue that is easily addressed anytime soon. Certainly with your first 30 days in your subscription you’re unlikely to get to Shadowbringers itself, but I imagine that you’ll at least know whether you want to or not.
The Shadowbringers expansions brings a bevy of whole new content to the game, including raising the level cap, introducing two new races, new classes, new towns and new explorable areas, as well as a raid. It’s topped off with a new story that was overwhelming for me to look at, but I’m sure would make a lot more sense for someone who didn’t skip right to the new stuff. There’s so much depth in it’s systems, world narrative and combat mechanics that you could lose many, many hours just understanding how everything fits together.
In the end FFXIV is an MMO. And if that’s not your thing, then I doubt FFXIV will change that. Certainly it’s storytelling and music is up there with mainline Final Fantasy game, and it’s depth is almost unparalleled, beyond what you may otherwise expect for an MMO. If you’re after a new gaming obsession then FFXIV will give you one of the best MMO experiences in gaming. Shadowbringers adds to this excellent mix, and from what I could see the developers are still bringing out fantastic work years after the initial A Realm Reborn release.
There’s no sign of FFXIV slowing down, and if you have the time and energy to put into it, FFXIV will almost certainly give back to you in spades.