“Video games aren’t movies.” That’s a line of criticism that those who prioritise mechanics over narrative like to level at cutscene-heavy games, particularly those by creators such as Hideo Kojima and David Cage.
And while it’s true that making effective use of games as a form of interactive media tends to emphasise actual interaction over passively watching cutscenes, one can hardly deny the spectacle offered by strongly movie-inspired titles, and the flexibility that entirely computer-generated scenes and characters can provide creators.
Which makes it all the more unusual that so many games focus on movies as their primary inspiration rather than other forms of media. Sure, some role-playing games might be rather operatic in tone, visual novels are effectively “Books Plus” and rhythm games provide a new way of experiencing pieces of music, but video games have never embraced the idea, of, say, musical theatre.
Or so you thought…
This article is also a video! Hit the jump to watch it, or catch it on YouTube.
Continue reading Stormblood: The MMO as Musical Theatre
We’ve already discussed how, despite its massively multiplayer online nature, Final Fantasy XIV as a whole is very much an authentic Final Fantasy experience in its own right. But is the opposite true?
If you’ve read the headline you’ll already know that yes, of course it is. But one of the most interesting things about the game as a whole as it has developed from its disastrous 1.0 incarnation through A Realm Reborn and Heavensward into Stormblood is how well it has managed to balance these two seemingly disparate aspects: the strong narrative of the Final Fantasy series, and the sheer amount of things to do and quality of life features that a hardcore MMO player expects from a game like this.
Today we’re going to examine that latter aspect in detail.
Continue reading Stormblood: It’s a Great MMO, Too
Final Fantasy XIV and its long-running spiritual predecessor Final Fantasy XI are in an interesting and slightly awkward position.
They’re numbered mainline installments of the long-running Final Fantasy series, which, in theory, should attract series veterans, but they’re also massively multiplayer online role-playing games. The latter is a genre typically (and not necessarily correctly or fairly) associated with being time-consuming, challenging and dependent on playing alongside other people — and thus not especially attractive to those who prefer to play games solo, concentrate on story or take things at their own pace.
What we’re going to talk about today is how Final Fantasy XIV is as much a good Final Fantasy as it is a good MMO — and why you shouldn’t sleep on it if you’re a Final Fantasy fan who doesn’t typically go in for online games.
Continue reading Stormblood: Yes, It’s a Great Final Fantasy
Today we’re going to take a closer look at Final Fantasy XIV’s combat mechanics, and how they’ve been refined between the original release of A Realm Reborn and Stormblood.
For those who’ve never played a massively multiplayer online RPG before, Final Fantasy XIV’s mechanics may require a bit of an adjustment, as they’re rather different from the various systems the series has used in the past. But for those familiar with other popular MMOs such as World of Warcraft, the game will quickly become second-nature — with a few important distinctions from the conventions of the genre.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Final Fantasy XIV’s mechanics is that, although clearly inspired by the way a popular Western title has done things, there’s a strong feeling of “Japaneseness” to them that gives the game a very strong sense of its own identity, making it a unique experience even to MMO veterans.
Continue reading Stormblood: This Ain’t No Action RPG
Square Enix’s second Final Fantasy MMORPG is a big success now, having just enjoyed the release of its second expansion pack, but things weren’t always so rosy.
In fact, the story of how Final Fantasy XIV came to be what it is now is one of the most interesting in all of gaming — and certainly an inspiring example that demonstrates even if you release a completely broken mess of a game, it’s not necessarily beyond redemption.
Today, then, let’s take a look at the history of Final Fantasy XIV as a whole, and in particular how it’s developed since the release of A Realm Reborn in 2013.
Continue reading Stormblood: Introduction
One of my favourite additions to Final Fantasy XIV over time has been the randomly generated dungeon Palace of the Dead.
I actually like it specifically because it’s one of the few pieces of content in the game that can legitimately be run solo while it’s still “relevant” to you. Other dungeons and Trials in the game only really become soloable once they are so far beneath your character and item level that the only reason to run them is “for fun” or for the sake of their story, but Palace of the Dead is pretty much always useful for something or other, be it levelling an alt class or simply obtaining some endgame tomestones.
The other nice thing about Palace of the Dead is that it’s been specifically designed with soloing in mind, since it even has its own leaderboard for solo adventurers.
Continue reading Eorzean Diary: Lonely Explorer
When I first started playing Final Fantasy XIV in A Realm Reborn’s open beta, I was keen to experience everything the game had to offer as soon as new things became available.
There’s a benefit to this approach, of course: coming into new things “blind” when no-one else knows what to do either allows the community as a whole to work together and figure things out for themselves, developing established strategies that simply become “the way things are done” from thereon.
But this also puts an undue amount of pressure on people, particularly in more “casual-friendly” content such as dungeons, non-Extreme Trials and even 24-player raids to an extent. If you weren’t there on that first day, expect to be admonished if you haven’t read up on an encounter beforehand; expect to be told to “watch a video”; and don’t expect any help. (Sometimes people will pleasantly surprise you, particularly in levelling content, but at level 60, this is unfortunately true for the most part.)
All that said, there is sometimes a benefit to being behind the curve, particularly when we come to the twilight hours of an expansion and await the next full installment in the game’s overarching storyline.
Continue reading Eorzean Diary: The Benefits of Being Left Behind