Welcome to the very first Memory Monday on Ready Player Gone. We trialled something similar in our RPG Christmas event but we enjoyed it so much that we wanted to make it a regular segment of the site. The focus of these articles are to write about games that we have memories of. Be it fond memories or even disappointment. Today I am going to focus on Final Fantasy XIV, a game that I have a ten year journey with having played late in 1.0’s lifecycle.
Death of FFXIV 1.0
It’s not new information to anyone that FFXIV at it’s initial launch back in 2010 was doomed to fail. The game had one of the worst launches in MMO history and was plagued with issues. The player base, which was largely made up of fans of Final Fantasy XI left relatively quickly. The fall in player count led to a major price fall crash of the retail edition of the game. With the announcement of the upcoming relaunch of the game, A Realm Reborn, I decided to pick up 1.0 to access the free upgrade provided.
I don’t remember much of 1.0 apart from it being a relatively bland MMO experience. It was clear the team had given up on 1.0 and all focus now went towards ARR. Because of my initial experience here, I didn’t have high hopes for ARR and I left 1.0 with a bitter taste in my mouth.
A New Beginning
I had the opportunity to play in one of the final beta tests for ARR ahead of the launch and I must say – what an overhauled experience. In little over two years, Final Fantasy XIV went from being the disgrace of the series to becoming it’s greatest redemptive arc. Very early on in it’s development it was clear that the company had lost a lot of trust and hopefulness of the fans going into what would initially be dubbed, 2.0. However, the games restructured team under new director Naoki Yoshida began to release regular updates entitled Letters from the Producer.
In that short space of time, Final Fantasy XIV truly began to feel like A Realm Reborn. I jumped in around launch and the difference was like night and day. The game quickly gained a lot of traction and has been steadily growing. Even to this day with the recent announcement that the game had surpassed 20 Million active accounts.
2014 was the end of my first stint
This game – as an MMO – is a very good game. You can play every class with one character and the story is up there with some very good Final Fantasy stories. However, I do not like the vanilla levelling experience. Rather, I am not a fan of questing. The questing (including story quests) feel like they drag out way too long for my liking.
You cannot really be a one-trick player in FFXIV (I mean you can, but you’re not doing yourself any favours). You need to have at least a few good classes under your belt to be able to fill any roles needed. With the standard questing in this game it will take you ages to be able to level 2-4 characters to the max-level. Devs have alleviated this slightly with the FATE’s system and the Hunting Log, both of which grant good chunks of XP. For me however, this was the end of my first stint. I could not bring myself to level multiple classes up and go to-and-fro endlessly grinding mind-numbing questlines.
2015: One does not simply leave an MMO
I am a big fan of MMO’s. I have tried to get into many over the years. My most played ones include World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2, ArcheAge and Black Desert. WoW is definitely my most played but when I think about it, it’s definitely my least favourite. Each of these other titles have features that give so much more.
In 2015, Heavensward released and I bought it in the anticipation of a change of pace. I was prepared to jump back in and power my way through to level 50 and begin a new adventure in what is still known as an incredible expansion. This time I got further than I ever did before for one main reason: I joined a Free Company (Guild). I think WoW has made me somewhat disillusioned about the main point of an MMO, it’s Massively Multiplayer. I became so inwardly focused on my own character and progression that I lost sight of the community aspect in the MMO genre.
My Free Company (Vagrant Knights) was relatively small but incredibly active and friendly. The chat was constantly riveting with conversation and people were always willing to support newer characters like myself. I felt myself enjoying the game, even the levelling because I was actively communicating with others. This was also a time before the widespread use of Discord so it was largely text chat. But, it was inevitable. After a while, the innate feeling of “I really do not like this levelling experience” set in.
Before I knew it, I left again. The community I had found was great and genuinely a part of me regrets leaving the game purely because I left that Free Company behind.
I never made it to Heavensward.
2021: A Reject Reborn
After playing World of Warcraft on and off for years, I played Shadowlands and it was great at the start. But two months on and where is my sub now? Well, it’s gone. I’m sick of once again playing a game that is intended to be massively multiplayer but only focused on the inward progression. Playing a PvP match only to be berated by the rogue who can two-shot enemies saying, “why can’t you do that?” I need an MMO where the community is at the heart of the game. Guess what, Final Fantasy XIV is back in my life.
I decided a fresh start is in order so I logged onto a new server and created my character. Since I last played two new expansions were released but I didn’t want to purchase anything yet as I was not sure I would commit. I decided to level again but this time I had a new player buff which doubled my XP gain until level 70 – this literally changed the experience for me. I finally felt like I was making good progress within my available commitment time. Once I started queuing for my first dungeon as a Thaumaturge and I saw the queue times, I thought I needed to find a Free Company. Side note: Dungeons are fixed into the Main Story Quest of FFXIV, the most annoying part of the game.
I ran into another player, Orthos Framst outside the dungeon and he was in a Free Company: Wings of Rebellion. After we ran the dungeon I asked if he could hook me up with an invite/chat with an officer and within 5 minutes I was invited to the guild where I have now been for a couple of weeks. It’s early days but this Free Company has literally made the game for me. They have always been willing to help and the chat is always active. Everyone is friendly and they have an active Discord server. I am new to the group but I felt welcome from the start and this is what has cemented it for me – Final Fantasy XIV has one of (if not) the best communities I have experienced in an MMO.
For the first time I have a class over level 50 and another class above level 40. I have now purchased the expansions and I am eager to play some endgame content (particularly the Glamour side of things). I am really hopeful this time around with Final Fantasy XIV and I recommend to anyone that has struggled with this great game in the past, find a Free Company. Change your perspective of the game. Don’t play it as a solo player, it’s an MMO for a reason.
This isn’t a review. It’s my personal experience with a game, I have in no way played enough of Final Fantasy XIV to review it at all. But my memories of this game have been up and down. What I am constantly in awe of over this game is the radical change from Failstate to being the #2 most subscribed MMO on the market. If that isn’t an underdog success story I don’t know what is.