State of the Game: Final Fantasy 14 – an MMO at its zenith

ByJose A. York

Jul 7, 2022

Final Fantasy 14 had an absolute one-year stonker. 2021 saw the release of its latest expansion, Endwalker, and an extraordinary increase in player numbers, making it the highest-grossing game in the history of the Final Fantasy series. It’s calmed down a bit (and only a bit), but with over eight years of updates and millions of players under its belt, FF14 is now, unsurprisingly, one of the biggest games on the planet. .

It’s a position the game rightly deserves, with each of its expansions praised by critics for an epic storyline that’s gone from confronting evil empires to suppressing millennia-old wars or dimension-hopping and facing an embodiment of despair that destroys the universe, while deftly navigating the threads that tie it all together.

As an MMO full of references to other games in the series, FF14 is often called a “Final Fantasy theme park” – but there’s so much more to it. Its storyline rivals any of the single-player FF games – yes, even FFVII – while the dad of Final Fantasy and its original creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, plays it for fun. He’s so into it that he’s created his own in-game fashion brand, in fact, and frequently tweets about his adventures. Its mix of epic player-centric storyline and wide range of occasional extras continues to amaze me even now, and despite approaching it with some skepticism after the failure of the original release in 2010, FF14 has managed to keep its hooks into me steadily for over eight years. , like no other game has.

Digital Foundry enforces the technical performance rule for every PlayStation version of Final Fantasy 14.

It has not always been a smooth journey. The starting chapter, A Realm Reborn, definitely seems a little slow and simple in retrospect, but move on to later expansions and it’s got a heck of a payoff that’s well worth it. It’s truly a masterpiece of storytelling and that only works because it’s an MMO with a world that can be built and upgraded. It took nearly a decade to complete the story of Hydaelyn and Zodiark, but developer Square Enix isn’t using that as an excuse to sit back now that it’s over – it’s already sowing the seeds of the next adventure through updates to lead it to its next expansion, likely due in 2024.

With so many expansions under its belt, there’s already plenty to keep you busy. Right now, the game is relatively early in its current update cycle, but has already established the start of its main raid series. This includes an 8-player type that focuses on an otherworldly prison with normal and extreme versions, for the flavor of challenge that suits you, and a slightly more casual 24-player series, focusing on The Twelve – the oldest gods of FF14. They’ve also created an ultimate difficulty version of a Heavensward fight called Dragonsong’s Reprise, for those who are really looking to push themselves.

FF14 State of the Game - player inside talks to a humanoid elephant wearing an orange robe

FF14 State of the Game - player waves to camera while riding a flying winged dog creature

FF14 State of the Game - the player walking towards the camera next to a little duck companion

It’s not all about combat, however, as part of FF14’s success is due to its breadth of non-combat-focused activities, such as crafting and gathering, which are just as involved as classes. MMO combat game. The eight crafting classes and three gathering classes feed into each other to provide the materials needed for late-game equipment and furniture. There are plenty of really brilliant side questlines too, including the slapstick adventures of gentleman detective Hildibrand, which finally made its triumphant return in a recent patch.

The downside of having such a breadth of things to do is that getting started can be a daunting prospect for new players. The developers are very aware of this, however, and have been working on updating the beginning of the game to make it more accessible, shrinking some sections and reworking parts to make it single player friendly. Instead of having to party with strangers for dungeons, for example, you can now play with a group of AI party members to find out the story using the game’s trust system. I used to deal with my tanking anxiety by practicing with the bots before leading strangers for real – but it definitely takes longer to pass than if you were partying with real people. It currently only applies to A Realm Reborn and Shadowbringers, but will be updated to eventually include Heavensward and Stormblood. Between that and the generously granny free trial – free up to level 60! – it’s a good time to get stuck.

FF14 State of the Game - player and nearby mount look towards bustling landscape under blue sky

FF14 State of the Game - a group of six players on a platform in space

FF14 State of the Game - close up of Hermès, the Winged Defiance

Final Fantasy 14 - A bunny creature called Loporrits says

One of FF14’s greatest strengths is its respect for your time as a player. MMOs can take a lot of your time, but FF14 never feels like it’s pressuring you. There’s always more than one path to end-level gear, and dungeons and trials usually last between 20 and 30 minutes. You don’t have to be a serious raider to experience any of the additional stories – the distribution of difficulty levels ensures that everyone can play however they have the time. The developers themselves will often tell people to take a break and come back later for new patches. When other games ask you to grind currencies for the best gear, it’s refreshing not to feel the need to constantly keep up or risk missing something.

Things have calmed down considerably since last year, when queues to enter were in the thousands and some sales of the game were temporarily halted to ease congestion, but that’s not to say it’s calm. There is still usually a 10-50 person queue to enter most EU servers and all the main areas of the game feel well populated. There’s also been an increase in community-created events and spaces in recent months – you’ll often see in-game shoutouts for bar nights and bard gigs in major cities with spontaneous dances and parades happening. produce regularly. The people of FF14 have never felt more alive and involved than they do right now.

It also continues to grow, with four new servers added to European data centers on July 5. They launch with plenty of new incentives, including EXP buffs and free playtime if you reach level 30, and other bonuses if you also switch existing characters. There is also the added benefit that all housing plots are available, although they cannot be purchased until a later date.

FF14 State of the Game - player character doing a dance pose

FF14 State of the Game - player character flexes for the camera

Unfortunately, the player housing issues are still there. Things have improved considerably with the addition of a lottery system which makes the opportunities for securing land much fairer, but demand still far outstrips supply, much to the chagrin of the community. It’s a shame, but it’s hard to compromise on the neighborhood feel of having fixed, limited neighborhoods for homes. There is a new instanced game area on the way in the near future called Island Sanctuary that will allow you to customize your own space and farmland, so many people are hoping this will help with housing issues by satisfying the need currently insatiable to decorate your own space.

The recent 6.1 patch in April launched us into a new adventure and will set the next expansion in place with further updates over the next two years. So far, it’s been about crossing an interdimensional rift in a world called The Void, which is known to be overcome by darkness. Unlike Shadowbringers where our heroes were summoned, this time it’s all about figuring out how to open that door yourself – and with it a huge amount of possibility for the direction the story may take. It’s a nice place, and the development team has done a great job of making it feel like you’re starting a new adventure. It’s exciting to wonder what lies ahead and how they will follow the unforgettable story of Zodiark and Hydaelyn.

Right now, it looks like Final Fantasy 14 has really hit its stride, having accomplished so much over the past eight years. The world of Hydaelyn has never felt so full and prosperous. But with the development team juggling both Final Fantasy XVI, I’m a little worried about how they’ll handle the pressure of making two monumental games. Hoping they can keep up.

This piece is part of our State of the Game series, where we check out some of the biggest running service games to see how they fare. You can find many more pieces like this in our State of the Game hub.