We all know that Square Enix's latest foray into the online realm is, shall we say, troubled. Final Fantasy 14's launch was about as successful as that of New Coke, with many accusing the legendary Japanese studio of releasing an unfinished product: and if we are being honest we'd have to agree. Adding a layer of puerile face slapping to this, I have my own FF14 story that I wish to share. Picture the scene, it's my 20th birthday and I have a new PC. It's a shiny thing; it has red lights and the type of fan that makes it sound like a hovercraft. I am very pleased with it.
But what should I do to celebrate such a landmark occasion of both birth and new technology day? Being something of an MMO connoisseur there was only one reasonable choice: buy the special, early access, 30 bucks more expensive edition of Final Fantasy 14. It had a big box. It came with a flask. It even had a cloth map. I did a little bit of excited wee at the prospect of it all. What a day! Here cometh the next generation. And then I finally played after a lengthy install: let's just say I didn't blow those birthday candles out that day, the tears of sorrow extinguished them instead.
What on Earth had Square Enix been thinking when they put this game together? It played like the developers knew loosely of the MMO concept, but decided instead to wing it. It seemed more like the work of a crew of lazy, pizza-distracted amateurs than that of one of the finest game studios around.
And that is why I blame them for ruining my birthday. Which brings me nicely on to my next point: for the past 2 years, the publisher has apologised, reorganized, invested, and tried to push Final Fantasy 14 into an acceptable position: I say, is it really worth it? A bad initial impression, especially in this genre, is akin to the kiss of death. You can expect a second chance from society if you murder, steal, or choose the profession of banking, but step one MMO toe out of line and its time for the long walk of exile.
So why is Square Enix, like King Cnut, so busily engaged in trying to order back the tide? The salt-water spray of negative feedback has already washed over Final Fantasy - it is persona non grata: it's the MMO equivalent of Shia Labouf. And nobody likes him.
Does that sound mean? Like I'm unwilling to give the game one more shot? I suppose, but I've given this online adventure 2 years of chances. Each patch I've poked my head through the door of its virtual domain, sniffed around, held my finger up checking for the winds of change, and it still feels off. We should probably just face the facts and listen to our grandmother's age old advice: "once a stinker, always a stinker."
But then again, Kingdom Reborn cometh soon right? The gamechanger? That hurricane of change that is needed, long touted, and long anticipated, is rumbling somewhere off shore picking up momentum.
And I really wish I cared more. This is now a game that is 2 years old, which means it has probably been in development somewhere in the region of 7 years. All that time and now we are just about to kick off for realsies? Doesn't Square Enix realise that with such an investment, when things finally pick up this will be yesterday's news? We have other games to look to, other things to moan about, and other games to disappoint us. You had your chance, and you preformed the latter perfectly.
With all that talent, and to recover the Final Fantasy online brand, why don't they cut this one loose? Give those who invested in 14 beta access to their next product? It is only the last MMO that is toxic, with 11 still riding high; they could follow the insanely named Final Fantasy 10-2 and 13-2 model, and go for 11-2? It could work. Plus people actually, you know, like that one.
For my money, it seems as though the good ship "Popularity" is somewhere long in the distance for Final Fantasy 14. Fixing it, patching it, whatever the case, I just think the time has gone. Can you say that you will be excitedly booting up Kingdom Reborn? Most of you will remember the horrors of the last time you got excited about an online Final Fantasy game.
You weren't there man. You weren't there. Find that plot in New Mexico and bury this one alongside E.T. The Game. If that doesn't work, severe the head and burn the body. This one was a living mistake, an abomination from the Ancients. Let it die. It doesn't belong.
This is my take on the FFXIV situation. My "Bad-Cop" rant as it were. Next week, Devil's Advocate columnist Victor Barreirro will take the high road and tell us why FFXIV should be given a second chance. Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and save your torches and pitchforks until next week when Victor has had his say.