I find myself going through a bit of an odd patch with Final Fantasy XIV, or more so I guess one that has been dragging on far longer than I expected. When A Realm Reborn launched I was reluctantly playing because my friends were playing. However something happened along the way and I fell in love with Eorzea. We drifted apart once our little circle of friends started exiting the game, only to come back a year or so later in full force. Ultimately Final Fantasy XIV was the game that we left, without really having a reason other than simply running out of things we were able to do. Mind you… not things we WANTED to do… things we could realistically do with the gear levels we had without copious amounts of grinding. When we ultimately came back there was an entire years worth of content waiting for us to explore and it quite literally took every moment up to the release of the expansion… and a bit after it to be able to see and explore all of it. I cannot remember another expansion for any game that I looked forward to with near the anticipation that I did Heavensward. While the story content was fun to level through, it was also an expansion of limited scope. It is strange that getting two dungeons per patch cycle instead of three makes a huge difference… but it really did and it made each new set of experts feel monotonous. You would ultimately have the dungeon you liked, and the dungeon that you disliked… and it always felt like you ended up getting queued into the dungeon you really did not care for. I am looking at you Neverreap.
Once again we faded away from the game, and while I stayed subscribed this time… I pretty much only poked my head in for new content patches and holiday events. Recently we made a push to “get the band back together” and start raiding again. The problem there being that while I am interested in raiding with my friends… I really want to put zero effort into actually getting the gear NEEDED to raid properly. When I lay out the options I have before me each night… I never end up choosing to spend my time in Final Fantasy XIV. This week another content patch was released, and the game has almost lapped me once again since I was existing in “barely eligible” territory before. There are several of the new things, like the story content that I can complete right now with my item level. However to be a proper and reasonable tank I really need to get in and devote some time to gearing. Unfortunately I really just don’t want to. It is extremely hard to stay viable in a game that you find yourself only willing to play once a a week. The malaise has been strong with this game for me, and I am not entirely sure why. I have always been one to complete each and every holiday and quest that springs up… and now I have this sad line of broken quests that I never actually finished. I completed one part of the multi-part burning rangers quest… but never actually finished that up so while I have the armor I have none of the poses. The Yokai event has been started but I have not actually put enough effort into anything to actually get pets or weapons. Similarly I realized last night that I apparently completely missed The Rising, because while I kept thinking I will do it someday… I ran out of somedays to do it in. Finally the Palace of the Dead arrived… and while I have done some with friends I have yet to actually finish any weapons.
I guess it disturbs me how uninteresting all of this seems to me right now, and I have no clue why. Its like waking up one morning and realizing that you and your best friend… really don’t have much in common. So often when I fade away from an MMO there are clear reasons why, this decision or that decision that caused me to get frustrated and quit. Final Fantasy XIV however is just simply dying from my own neglect and unwillingness to visit it. On some level that makes me really sad because I am not sure what it was about the Heavensward cycle that made it so much less sticky for me personally than the Realm Reborn. I think a big part of it is my attraction to loot, and the fact that it feels like there is nothing that I can really do with my time other than hopping on the expert dungeon train. What I mean is that FFXIV for all intents and purposes is a lootless game… or at the very least a game devoid of interesting drops. Sure there are chests at the end of dungeon encounters that reward items, but I am talking about is open world free range loot. I like the fact that in other MMOs there is always a chance, albeit slim that I might get something awesome to drop when I kill any random mob out in the world. This pushes me to run amok and slaughter everything I come across… in the hopes that this one might be the one that gives me something awesome. Final Fantasy unfortunately gives me stacks and stacks of crafting materials that I don’t care about, especially since I find the auction house system and selling said materials cumbersome as hell. So what ends up happening is every mob death feels equally meaningless to me, because there are no situations being set up like that one time I killed a Giant in Stranglethorn and go`dt the Skullflame Shield.
Final Fantasy XIV has hands down some of the best group content, but similarly it is equally boring. Sure there are the occasional item that has a nifty graphic that you can pick up from roulette, but for the most part you are running dungeons not to get interesting gear… but instead to increment a number of tokens until you can then spend those saved tokens on a piece of gear. Even then, for the most part gear is an incremental stat stick, that unless you are replacing a 180 with a 220… is not immediately noticeable that the game feels immediately better. Granted this is a problem with a lot of MMOs when you pick up items that don’t do something. I am running into this problem with World of Warcraft at the moment in that every single trinket I get just seems to give me a bunch of stats and doesn’t actually do much in the interesting column. The big problem however is that I just don’t feel more awesome when I put on better upgrades in Final Fantasy XIV… largely because how I judge that “feel” is by my effectiveness to take down random stuff out in the open world. Since there is nothing actually interesting to kill in the open world… it is defusing that feedback circle for me. Ultimately I get gear to feel more powerful taking down things that maybe I once struggled. It is the “Sand Giant” effect played out in a smaller scale over and over and over for me. In Everquest there were these mobs called Sand Giants that decimated players in what was ultimately a level 20ish zone called the Oasis of Marr. However there was a moment of sweet retribution when you could come back at 45-50ish and destroy them and get all of that pent up revenge. Gearing in an MMO has this same effect for me… as I level there are always big bads that I maybe struggled to take down… and then it feels great to eventually turn the tables on them. Apart from the early raid content… I don’t have that experience in FFXIV and I think it is why the open world combat feels so dull to me. Anyways… this post has gone on far longer than I expected it to, but it still is sad to me… that for many of these reasons… I am just not finding myself playing much Final Fantasy.