Of all the MMO’s from AAA studios that have come out in the past 12 months I was probably least excited about Final Fantasy XIV: ARR. I’ve been a lifelong fan of the FF franchise but after the original XIV I was a member of the “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice - can’t get fooled again” crowd. Because I did not have high expectations for the game upon its release I was pleasantly surprised when I set out to review it and found out how improved the game truly was.
That was a year ago. Before this weekend I had not played ARR since December of last year. At the time, they had released patch 2.1, but I had grown impatient with the content release cycle. That and bashing my face against Twintania was getting old. With other MMOs breathing down SE’s neck I believed it was a bit archaic to charge a sub and thought it odd they would not release content updates more frequently than once a quarter. (Don’t even get me started on WoW and the gap between their latest patch and the release of WoD). I’m all for the sub model but developers need to earn it. I flirted with the idea of giving ARR another whirl but their account management system was such a pain in the butt after an hour of dealing with customer service I abandoned my effort and played something else.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. My journey back to Eorzea does have a happy ending. After talking with Yoshi-P at E3 about all the upcoming changes for ARR, not least of which is the inclusion of the Thief/Ninja before an expansion, I knew I was bound to reinstall this game. After another phone call to Square Enix’s customer service I was able to get my account unlocked and I finally took the jump back into Eorzea this past weekend.
The first thing I noticed when I logged back in was that the interface had a few upgrades. Most of them were designed around a few added features. Two of the improvements that I immediately noticed dealt with the mounts and pets. Apparently pets have a little bit more personality now and this is reflected in their flavor text. Mounts also have additional text about them and a slew of them have been added to the game, one of which is my portly little chocobo shown below. He loves his greens!
After I fiddled with my pets and mounts I noticed the abundance of players around the aetheryte. While most games suffer population decline, it’s the natural order of things, FFXIV still seems flush with players, and this is in stark contrast to some newer MMOs that have multiple servers. To make sure that this wasn’t solely limited to the capital towns I traveled the world a bit and found a healthy population of players in most zones. I found this encouraging.
Next on my list of things to do was gain attunement to The Lost City of Amdapor. This is a new 4 player instance. The quest the quest leading up to Lost City is essentially a breadcrumb quest that leads you to the instance’s entrance. A few NPCs provide you with back story but you aren’t really tasked to do anything other than talk to a handful of folks. If any of you watch MMOFTW by Bill Murphy you probably know his catch phrase is, “Don’t let a bad pug get you down.” In this instance I may have been the bad pug. I tank, so when I queued for the instance I immediately gained access. Once inside I informed the other members this was my first day back and my first time in this particular instance. They said ok and away we went. My tanking rotation easily came back to me. Remembering my entire set of cool downs took a little bit longer. Not to spoil all the encounters, but there were 3 and each was unique from the others. The first boss involved eating a random player and the group would have to attack his stomach to free your companion. At one point we did have a player drop and they were immediately replaced with someone else from the duty finder. We completed the adventure in about 45 minutes and overall it was an enjoyable experience. Like most of ARR’s dungeons it may have been a little heavy on trash mobs but it was a pleasure to soak up the atmosphere that first time through.
This morning I also unlocked the Wolf’s Den. This is ARR’s 4 v 4 PvP combat. Just recently Square Enix also introduced Frontlines. Frontlines is a 3 faction 24v24v24 PvP combat that focuses on capturing strategic points of interest and tackling some PvE encounters. While I have not been able to take part in Frontlines I consider myself a PvP player. I enjoy organic PvP that develops in the world when players of conflicting factions run into each other. That said PvP has never really been a reason I wanted to play a FF MMORPG. For me this could have stayed a purely PvE game, but it is nice to see that SE is watching the competition and adding in features to help retain their entire player base, not just people that think like me. Hopefully Frontlines can simulate that experience open world PvP experience I enjoy in other games inside of the Final Fantasy Universe.
I’ve only been able to scratch the surface in my short time back. I plan on continuing to dive into the game and reporting on all of the new features and content at different points throughout the next few months. Also if you have never played FFXIV:ARR there is no time like the present to give it a try. SE is currently offering a two week free trial. This account will come with a lot of restrictions but it should be able to give you a taste of what the game truly has to offer before you plunk down some hard currency and buy the game. Next week I’ll take a look at Neverwinter. The game’s 4th expansion is being released later this week and with it Cryptic is introducing the Scourge Warlock class and the Dragonborn Race. Thanks for reading.
Robert Lashley / Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can find him spending his free time checking out the latest games and technology. Feel free to hunt him down on twitter @Grakulen
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