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Hands on with Rival Wings

By Michael O’Connell-Davidson on November 24, 2017 | Columns | Comments

Hands on with Rival Wings

FFXIV patch 4.15 took off on Tuesday, bringing the game’s first all-new PVP mode since The Feast. Rival Wings pits two teams of 24 players against each other, along with a host of highly stylised ‘machina’ — vehicles that look like the mechs from the Alexander raid series. I’ve had time to play a few games, and I have to say, in terms of XIV, there’s really nothing like it.

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The rules are simple. Each team has two towers and a core, and the game revolves around those: Kill the enemy’s towers and their core becomes vulnerable, destroy their core and your team wins. In many regards, it’s pretty similar to a moba like Dota 2 or League, and the community has been quick to make that comparison. I’ll come back to that side of things later.

The scale of a fight is frankly surprising — the map feels really spacious despite being a little smaller than a Frontline arena, while seeing four or five Cruise Chasers duke it out at the same time is beyond anything else introduced so far. Although the game has simpler rules than Frontline, it feels a little less linear than its older sibling; you don’t necessarily have to join your team in pushing down lanes, and even the way you do that isn’t one dimensional.

You can, for example, heal allied mammets (the game’s ‘creeps’ — small ai-controlled monsters that chip away at enemy objectives) or destroy the enemy team’s; the mechs need fuel to work, so you can gather resources on behalf of your team instead, and that’s on top of piloting a vehicle or just plain-ol’ fighting. It’s less of a dogpile than Frontline, where every single person charges towards the active objective, despite taken place on a slightly smaller field with similar-sized teams. Mechs don’t break the game, either; in fact, they feel quite brittle, and are easily destroyed by two or three people on foot who know what they’re doing.

It’s worth checking out — like a lot of PVP in XIV, I think the people that will like it already know they will, but it’s more interesting than Frontline, and might sway those who find Shatter too much of a grind. It’s a bit spammy compared to the feast, and it’s hard to influence the game on an individual level when there are that many players (true, players are put together in six groups of four, but most games I’ve played have seen us just split up almost immediately), but Rival Wings is meant to be fun rather than some kind of grand strategy or test of skill.

That said, I feel like the game’s a little slow right now. Of the matches I’ve played, all but one hit the time limit because neither team could convert the momentum they had into destroying the enemy core. On the flip side, when towers are in danger, they seem to be destroyed almost immediately. I’m not sure what the solution is here, but it’d benefit from being sped up somewhat, or having attacks on the core be easier to carry out. 

As mentioned earlier, there have been a lot of comparisons between Rival Wings and mobas, and it’s something I think Square Enix itself has been keen to push. In some regards, it is; creeps and towers are moba staples. But it isn’t in the sense that no mainstream moba has 48 players in a single game, and there are no levelling, last-hitting or farming components.

Likewise, there’s no real jungle, only two lanes, and far too many cooks in the kitchen for anyone to operate like a carry. That’s fine, and I think a lot of people, if not the majority, would much prefer that — but is it a moba? I’d say at best it was heavily inspired, and if you’ve come here expecting more than that, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s a shame, in a way, because moba-style PVP in an MMO is actually a wonderful idea, but this doesn’t go far enough in that direction to be a groundbreaking hybrid.

In my opinion — and I’m almost certainly in the minority — a small-scale style leveling system that forced players to bulk up on Mammets before rushing each other would be interesting. Farming is a skill in mobas, and it adds discrete phases to a game beyond ‘go fight’. It might also give people a palpable enough advantage to win games quickly if they out-farm their opponents. But I’m not sure people would actually want that beyond people like me who already play mobas and go to different games for that experience.

Right now, the rewards are, for the most part, the same as other forms of PVP. You get Wolf Marks, and you can work towards the Garo mounts if you equip one of the Makai titles. I’m desperate for a Cruise Chaser mount, and I’m sad they didn’t use this opportunity to offer one. But the one unique thing you can getis a mount called the Magitek Avenger for 100 wins. While it’ll take quite a while, can you really deny how awesome this thing looks?

Performance art

As an aside — and, going purely by videos posted on YouTube, it’s probably the part of the patch people are having the most fun with — a new advanced emote, /perform, has been added. It allows you to play individual musical notes, and, because you can’t macro it, it relies on your ability to actually play a song rather than just input it and sit back. People have made some pretty impressive stuff with it:

I logged on this morning to someone griping that a lot of videos posted are a bit disjointed and not that impressive, and it’s true that many of those who have leveled a Bard now think they’re musicians. But I think it’s really cool that the musical class can now play music, and it’s a real testament to the community’s creativity that so much has been done with the tool in a matter of days. Rock on.

Michael O’Connell-Davidson / Michael O'Connell-Davidson is MMORPG.com's FFXIV columnist. Follow him on twitter @mikeocd.
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