World of Warcraft changed the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) landscape forever, revolutionizing the genre the way Square-Enix’s 2002 MMO, Final Fantasy XI, failed to. And while WoW went on to gain over 12 million subscribers worldwide, FFXI became more of a cult classic, with dated graphics and a controller-centric user interface that just recently got a Windows PC overhaul.
But World of Warcraft’s subscriber numbers have dwindled to just under 8 million, according to Polygon’s Alexa Ray Corriea. And Square-Enix’s new MMO offering, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, has proven to be so popular at its launch that there were huge login queues before new servers were installed.
So, what does the new version of Final Fantasy XIV have to offer, especially to WoW veterans?
More (and better) quests
World of Warcraft’s expansions, like Wrath of the Lich King, had their own storylines. But while Cataclysm rebooted the first fifty levels or so worth of questing, the expansions’ stories were mostly confined to the five or ten levels you gained in the new areas.
You’ll still be doing quests specific to each area in FFXIV. But Final Fantasy XIV’s “main scenario” quests, distinguishable by the Meteor icon, chain together the whole 1-50 levelling experience into an ongoing story arc, complete with cutscenes and sometimes with voice acting. Besides that, FFXIV’s quests feel less repetitive and are much better written, and break up the monotony of “kill X mobs” with FATEs, hunting log entries, and so on. Rarely do you have to defeat more than three or four of a given target, and you can share another player’s kill if you join in.
Each of FFXIV’s crafting and gathering professions is its own class, complete with a class-specific storyline and mechanics which make it for all practical purposes its own separate game. You still need to play at least part of the main scenario as a combat class, to unlock things like mounts, but FFXIV is extremely rewarding to play as a crafter (or even a fisher).
Improved dungeon queuing
Visit a dungeon once, in person, and you never have to make the trip out there again. Just queue up for the Duty Finder, and it will automatically match you with players from across multiple servers, to fill out your party or create one from scratch. You can run off and do other things in-game while you wait.
A combat NPC companion
Starting at level 30, your chocobo (a bird mount that looks like a hawkstrider) will be able to join you in combat once you complete a quest. You can gear it with barding resembling the outfits of classic Final Fantasy character types, and teach it to heal, deal damage, or tank for you.
Play all the classes on one character
That’s right; instead of alt characters you just change your equipment and become an alt class. The game even rewards you for only playing one character per server by letting you choose the “Basic” subscription option, which costs $12.95 per month instead of $14.95.
An improved art style
Whether you like WoW’s “cartoony” style or FFXIV’s “realistic” style is subjective, but the latter has a lot more attention to detail than WoW’s older locations and characters do.
No player-versus-player … yet
Don’t expect it to steal the show when it arrives, since the focus is on PvE (player versus environment) content. It’s supposed to show up soon, though, along with player-owned housing.