Are you thinking of making the jump to Square-Enix’s new massively-multiplayer online RPG, now that it’s redesigned and has lower system requirements / is on the PS3? Then you’ve probably at least tried Final Fantasy XI Online, back when it was Square-Enix’s sole online offering.
Here’s a look at how FFXI compares to Final Fantasy XIV’s remake, A Realm Reborn.
FFXI is solidly part of the Everquest generation of MMOs, with a ton of context-less group grinding needed to level up and brutal penalties for dying. Some of that’s gotten better since its launch, with Ground of Valor letting newbies power through their first levels and the EXP loss only applying post level 30. FFXI still does a terrible job of explaining itself to new players, though, and if you aren’t a years-long veteran who’s already at max level (or know several who are willing to help you out) you’ll probably feel lost if you start playing it today.
FFXIV: A Realm Reborn takes most of its cues from post-World of Warcraft MMOs, like Guild Wars 2. You can solo to max level by doing quests, while a Duty Finder helps you find players for dungeons. FFXIV’s FATEs are reminiscent of GW2’s random events, where players spontaneously group together (using level sync) to deal with a threat or game circumstance, and its quickbars and hotkeys are more like modern MMO controls than FFXI’s system was. Its interface translates extremely well to a controller, though, the way FFXI’s did, and like FFXI its focus is mainly on PvE (player versus environment) as opposed to PvP (player versus player) content.
Story and atmosphere
Even more so than in FFXI, FFXIV’s Final Fantasy story takes center stage. While FFXI’s story was presented in “missions” that interrupted your leveling, FFXIV’s is woven throughout the game, with special “Meteor” icons that indicate quests which are part of the main scenario. The cutscenes are frequent, just like in FFXI, but this time they sometimes incorporate voice acting. And while FFXI’s story mostly had you play second fiddle to the main characters, even going so far as to have villains you defeated inexplicably revive just in time for Lion or someone else to beat them down, FFXIV places you in the starring role. Imagine a single-player Final Fantasy game where you create your own Link-style silent protagonist, and you won’t be too far off.
Besides the main storyline, quests and FATEs all have their own contexts, which tend to be very well written … by FF standards as well as by MMO standards. FFXIV’s translators are skillful and literate, and have a quirky sense of humor. Since NPC dialogue works the same as in other Final Fantasy games (press X at the end of each paragraph to continue), you’re invited to read it more closely than you would World of Warcraft’s walls of text. But since it’s so well-written, this rarely feels inconvenient.
Think of FFXI’s better quest chains, then imagine playing a whole game of them. That’s sort of what FFXIV feels like. Add in the ease of grouping together, plus the fact that each tradeskill is now its own class — practically its own separate game — and you have a game that’s not just more immediate fun but feels like it has much more depth to it. PvP and player-owned housing haven’t been added yet, but they’re both on the way … and are some of the only things FFXI has that FFXIV doesn’t yet.