Loading... September 13th, 2010 - Forgettable Fantasy?

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 2010 by Ethec

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Final Fantasy XIV is arguably the biggest question mark of this fall's MMORPG release lineup.Bringing both great graphics, the promise of true cross-platform communities, and the series-trademark depth of story, FFXIV is definitely the spiritual and graphical successor to Final Fantasy XI: Online. But is this game anything more than a love letter to Final Fantasy fans not fully disenchanted by XIII? Does FFXIV advance the state of the industry at all, and what does the game offer mainstream MMO gamers? Our early thoughts in today's Loading... Forgettable Fantasy?

The Pulse

You vote with what you view at Ten Ton Hammer, and the result is the Ten Ton Pulse (What is The Pulse?).

Today's top 5 Pulse results:

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. Guild Wars 2 
  3. Everquest 2 (UP 1)
  4. EVE Online (UP 1)
  5. Lord of the Rings Online (UP 3)

Biggest movers today:

  1. Rift: Planes of Telera
    - down 4 to #7
  2. Everquest
    - UP 2 to #19
  3. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
    down 1 to #8
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Loading... arguably more fun than jello pants (and less melty).

Final Fantasy XIV is one of this year's more interesting MMORPGs to follow. Gamers without a handle on the Final Fantasy series might well wonder how to relate to FFXIV, since SquareEnix has switched marketing tactics from differentiation ("we don't want to make a copy of WoW, we want to be unique - E3 2009), to defiance ("...a serious rival to World of Warcraft's throne? Yes." - December 2009), to detente ("We're not trying to copy WoW... Final Fantasy never had any World of Warcraft influence" - E3 2010), and finally back to differentiation ("Our main target is Final Fantasy fans" - PAX 2010).

Having played the game at PAX, "differentiation" was the correct answer to this multiple choice question. I didn't have a chance to download the open beta before hopping on a plane to Seattle, so PAX was my first time playing since E3 2010. I'm not going to touch on gameplay and interface - something that Ralsu went over at length in his August preview of the game. Instead, I want to talk about FFXIV on SquareEnix's own terms: graphics and story.

There's no denying that XIV looks and sounds great - this game has extremely high production values. Maybe too high. The game has a skyward minspec (especially for those transitioning from XI) and delivers story primarily through cutscenes chock full of single use animations and voiced-over cinematic goodness.  But oh, the length and frequency of the cutscenes - the kill three enemies then watch a few minutes of non-interactive storytelling cutscenes... the take a nap while your groupmate wants to watch the instance cutscene for the fourth time cutscenes. Given FFXIV's increased focus on clicky combat and soloing, the slow-downs between action sequences are all the more jarring.

Final Fantasy's stock-in-trade is great depth of story, and for all my hating, the opening cutscenes are very well crafted. The problem is this: not only do I question how much control over how the story plays out (hopefully more as the game progresses), but from the start the game literally forces you to experience the story. I don't mean force as in clever zone design and jedi mind tricks to funnel players toward important questgivers or zones. I mean force as in, "Whoops, you're trying to leave of this area but you haven't gotten this important quest. We're going to drop you right in the middle of the zone you're trying to leave and give you no clue why your free will license has been temporarily suspended." By the second time it happened in the hands-on demo, I was irrate - that's just poor, lazy, stupid game design that has no place in an RPG produced in 2010.

The bottom line is that Final Fantasy XIV appears to be a love letter to Final Fantasy fans and not much more. And not even all Final Fantasy fans; I played the heck out of the 3, 5, and (to me) the magnum opus, 7,  and I'm still wondering where the series went (that's another Loading...). Beyond the promise of a truly cross-platform MMORPG on a next gen console (a promise that won't be delivered upon until next spring at the earliest) I'm actively questioning whether FFXIV advances the state of the industry at alll. That, to me, is what truly separates top-tier MMORPGs from clones. So Final Fantasy XIV fans and those that enjoyed themselves in the open beta, I want you to set me straight in the Loading... forums:  why should someone whose primary game is WoW, LotRO, EQ2, AoC, etc. should check out Final Fantasy XIV?

Shayalyn's Epic Thread of the Day

From our Final Fantasy XIV General Discussion Forum

Ok, I'm in the beta and clueless...

Our friend Chilidawg made it into the Final Fantasy XIV beta only to find himself hopelessly lost and confused. He has questions, many questions. Perhaps you have answers. Or perhaps you have questions of your own that some of our resident beta players can help answer. Hit this thread!

Awesome Quotes from the Epic Thread

"I respect that [Square Enix was] brave enough to use a non-WoW system, and while I don't believe it is superior to what I'm accustomed to I do believe I can eventually accept it and enjoy the game. I just need someone that's willing to force me out of the fetal position I'm in now and hold my hand for the first few hours until I can adapt and understand."

- Chilidawg

New and Exclusive Content Today at Ten Ton Hammer

5 new Ten Ton Hammer features today! 38 Ten Ton Hammer features in September! 993 in 2010!


The Heart of Tyria - An Exclusive Interview on Personal Story and Progression in Guild Wars 2

Last week Ten Ton Hammer brought you an exclusive interview on some of the more combat-focused aspects of Guild Wars 2, such as weapon sets, skills and the traits system. And while saying that we’re impressed with what we’ve seen of combat so far in the game demo would be a gross understatement, that’s only one aspect of the much larger gameplay package that Guild Wars 2 has to offer. The story of Tyria and of your character’s place in the world are of equal importance, so we set out to discover all we could about personal story and progression in the game as well.

Just how deeply does the personal story rabbit hole go in Guild Wars 2? How will the Hall of Monuments bridge between the two games, and how soon can we expect to learn the details on the specific rewards Guild Wars players can unlock for their characters in Guild Wars 2? All this and much more awaits in the second installment of Ten Ton Hammer’s exclusive interview with Game Designer Izzy Cartwright.


New LotRO Screenshots Showcase Free-to-Play Content
It's not everyday that a major MMORPG like The Lord of the Rings Online goes free-to-play and allows players to enjoy a lot of what the game has to offer without having to pay. But the free-to-play gaming market is a bit richer today with LotRO added to the list and Turbine has released a new batch of screenshots that shows off some of the now free-to-play content from around Middle-earth.


State of Aion - Back in Atreia Again!

Nearly a year has passed since Aion floated onto the North American scene and during that year the game has experienced plenty of highs and lows and its own fair share of launch troubles. NCsoft has been hard at work trying to meet the needs of their playerbase. Have the changes over the past year made the free expansion, Assault on Balaurea, more appealing? Savanja has been in game checking things out and has put together her own State of Aion to share which problems have been fixed and which still linger.

EVE Online -  Five Tips For Staying Safe In High-Sec

High security space is where players can't fight or hurt each other unless there is a war, right? Wrong. Space Junkie has some pointers in this guide for how to stop certain unfortunate events from occurring to you in high-sec, especially if you're a newer player

WoW - Reclaiming Echo Isles - Zalazane's Fall Walkthrough

The Darkspear trolls are on the warpath and nothing will stop them from reclaiming what is rightfully theirs! Driven from their home on the Echo Isles not so long ago by the evil witch doctor Zalazane the Darkspear trolls are ready for revenge. Join them in their epic battle and aid the Troll cause by completing the new and exciting quest chain ending with Zalazane's Fall.

Today's Top 10

  1. The Heart of Tyria - An Exclusive Interview on Personal Story and Progression in Guild Wars 2
  2. Rift: Planes of Telara Class & Invasions Video Feature with Russ Brown
  3. Skills, Traits and Builds - An Exclusive Guild Wars 2 Combat Interview
  4. Rift: Planes of Telara Class & Invasions Video Feature with Russ Brown
  5. Guild Wars 2 - Hands-On at PAX Prime Part 2
  6. Guild Wars 2 - Hands-On at PAX Prime Part 1
  7. A Tale of Two TERAs - A Hands-On Look at TERA's Group Play
  8. PAX 2010 Hands-On Preview of Torchlight II
  9. A First Look at Red 5's Firefall at PAX 2010
  10. Half Elves, Time Travel, and a Demonic Vultron? A PAX 2010 Video Preview of DDO Update 7

Thanks for visiting the Ten Ton Hammer network!

- Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle and the Ten Ton Hammer team


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