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Joined: Jul 2011
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Wolf Offline OP
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I have been playing Final Fantasy XIV for quite a while now ... and sitting in front of me are the last four quests that lead to the climax of the latest expansion Shadowbringers.

I suspect many but not all of you know the story of Final Fantasy XIV. When it came out it was acknowledged as an absolute disaster. It was grindy, it lacked a good play system from both a story and gaming points of view, and after being grindy it was even more grindy. Square Enix knew they were in big trouble, to the point the president of the company wrote an apology letter to the players for letting something so bad get out to play. Most folks at the time believed, rightly so, that this was the death of the Final Fantasy franchise.

Instead, SE took a huge chance. Instead of closing down they took the original director off the project and gave Yoshida Naoki free reign to rebuild the game. And he did exactly that. He tore everything down and added story, plot, better mechanics and gave it direction. Not only did he successfully craft a new game - Final Fantasy FFXIV: A Realm Reborn, he didn't let the older players in the cold. The last gasp of the original XIV was the epic destruction of the old game that became the foundation of the new.

I am a recent player, when I started the game included two subsequent expansions: Heavensward and Stormblood.

Of course, roleplaying wise, in traditional terms there's only the roleplay you bring into it with the folks you are playing with. But if you take the true meaning of the term "roleplay" - that is stepping into a role of a person of another world, it succeeds far better than I could have ever expected.

I spent years playing That Other famous MMORPG. But there' a major difference. In WOW the story centers around the denizens of Azeroth - at least it did until I got bored of the continual same old, same old. The Heroes of WOW are the Heroes of Azeroth; at the best, you are active participants in their adventures but when you get down to the bottom line, it's their story that you are sharing. The endgame in WOW is straightforward - grind the end game dungeons to get the best gear.

Final Fantasy breaks this pattern.

Somehow, somehow, even though you know there are currently 14-16 million other active players in the game doing the exact same thing, they have managed to succeed the impossible:

They make you feel, they make you believe, that the hero of the story - the Warrior of Light - is you.

They invest the story in you. And in turn, you can find yourself invested in the world. There's a villainess by the name of Livia sas Junius. Of course she comes across as your straightforward only a little-over-the-top arrogant bad person. But I promise you, somewhere in the story the events change and she graduates from being a game obstacle to something that can only be summed up in a handful of words that need to be capitalized: LIVIA SAS JUNIUS MUST DIE.

The storyline hits you that hard.

Right now, as we look to the final chapters of the current story, things have gone horribly wrong. And you sit back, rationally, and go, it's just a game, of course we will succeed. To quote Captain Kremmen: We have nerves of steel and faith in our scriptwriters. But you know, how I feel about the game? About the story I've been swept up in? It sure doesn't feel like a good thing. And yet, as we finished our preparations for this last charge, as the rest of the characters in the game stepped forward, SE managed to do something else:

Not only do they make you feel like the hero, but they make you want to, in your heart, deserve the title.

They know how to write a story.

Is there a downside to Final Fantasy XIV? I've joked that the biggest downside seems to be that there' way too much to do. Like running dungeon-instances. Yup! you can! Do you like crafting things? Not only can you craft things competitive with dungeon or quest gear, it's a challenging mini-game in itself. There's the main scenario stories and many side stories. You can help the various non-humans (each expansion has four beast quests; three are interesting stories just in themselves and the fourth is hopelessly comedic. By the Twelve, someone please tell me how the Namazu - fish-folk who make Dory look like a genius - have managed to survive at all!)

The dungeons come in multiple flavors. Quest solo-duties (and they have a unique mechanism to ensure they don't become story-line roadblocks), 4-people dungeons (the majority) 8-people (important story events) and 24-people for those who do like raiding. They also have a very successful matching system, so you or you and your friends don't have to make up the group yourself. the best part of the bosses is that they have somehow managed to avoid WOWs fatal flaw - when I left WOW folks had discovered the most effective way to kill any boss was to simply burn them down as fast as possible. Period. Final Fantasy bosses are still tactics driven, you need to know the fight to beat it - they are a challenge, not a DPS race.

They also have a ton more jobs (classes) you can do - the best thing is that you don't need multiple characters to do multiple roles. For example, solo duties can become difficult for one job as opposed to another. My joy is Black Mage: best damage in the game balanced by worst armor and long cast times. Being able to switch to Dancer or Samurai - decent damage, better armor, faster cast times but dependent on the random number generator, often makes things easier.

So there's probably a job for anyone.

It's also gorgeous. Both Blizzard and Square Enix ave excellent art directors. But I'd have to give more kudos to Square Enix, especially when it comes to armor. Making your character unique is both easy and fun - changing how your armor is colored or looks is flexible. There are folks out there with kits that are absolutely gorgeous ... and others that you just see and raise a brow at, trying not to giggle because they are truly funny.

And, of course there are the three things all Final Fantasy games must have:

Materia - for improving your gear.

Cid - because every world needs a Cid and his airships

Chocobos - OF COURSE, there are chocobo mounts. Of course, you can race chocobos at the Gold Saucer. But even better you can train them to be your quest companion too! Mine tanks for my Black Mage.

As we approached the end of Shadowbringers I did get scared. It was like - this story is so good, how the blazes can they top this? But then I looked - the next expansion is already under development. Which means once I'm done this task there will be three or so mini-expansions to serve as the bridge from now to then.

But right now, this very moment? A world needs darkness brought back to it.

And it seems my little hero is the one who needs to do this.



Last edited by Wolf; Sun 15/09/19 17:32 UTC.
Joined: Jul 2011
Posts: 5,662
Wolf Offline OP
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Quote
To all of my children in whom life flows abundant
To all of my children to whom Death has passed his judgment
The soul years for honor and the flesh the hereafter

Look to those who walked before to lead those who walk after ...

How do you complete an epic? You go back to the very beginning.

Quote
So let there be no way back. From that temptation, I sunder us. No more shall man have wings to bear him to paradise.

Henceforth, he shall walk.

Endwalker.

When I finished Shadowbringers and Square Enix let us know that they would be completing the Hydaelyn-Zodiark Arc with the next expansion, after the powerhouse that was Shadowbringers the best I was hoping for was a respectful closing, something that satisfyingly tied up all the loose ends and would allow a natural transition into a next, new chapter in our character's story.

I was blindsided. As Endwalker slowly built to its conclusion I could not turn away. We walked in both light and shadow, we learned that there was something more powerful than magic. We discovered why the shadow of an ancient remembered us fondly, we discovered that we could have tea with the last person one would ever think, that we could see what was before us, what it would cost, and that there was only one way to a happy ending.

We had to earn it.

Who would have ever guessed that you could mix a steampunkish-fantasy-magitek MMORPG with the Fermi Paradox and have it become a power statement on who we are?

What is this doing in a video game? It's the difference between On The Waterfront and The Terminator. It's the difference between Peter Beagle's "Two Hearts" and any one of far too many generic fantasy novels.

Loporrits - one of the new races you meet - can make you smile and facepalm all at the same time. We finally get to Thavnair to discover it draws from deep Hindu/Indian roots ... and yet have you laughing out loud at an unexpected scene that's pure Bollywood. And you need moments like these because it's not some big bad villain at the end. It's overcoming the dread and unforgiving logic of something much darker, more deadly, and found every day and can end up nesting in anyone's heart - and has, at one time or another, touched each and every one of us.

Despair.

What does Endwalker, in the very end, teach us?

That the world may not be a happy place. We have war, poverty, meanness, and cruelty, we have to live with things like Covid and the loss of those far, far too close, and it all ends the same way. And yet every day we dust ourselves off, get back up, share a smile with a friend ...

And with each step forward ...

You are a Hero.

Last edited by Wolf; Tue 28/12/21 15:44 UTC.
Joined: May 2000
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