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Honeymoon's Over: Final Fantasy XIV

I've been generally supportive of Final Fantasy XIV, as the game is more virtualy-worldly than the theme park MMORPGs I've largely burnt out from.  Unlike some professional reviewers, I'm not such a pansy as to find exerting a little effort or a console-friendly interface as grounds for dismissing a game's entertainment potential.  Unfortunately, I've finally encountered a problem I cannot rationalize my way out of: I ran out of content.

"Gasp!  The sequel to my game is out of content already?!"
I can't abide leveling or acquiring wealth just for the sake of power fantasies anymore, so what I want is gameplay or (as is usually the main draw to a roleplaying game) a story.  In terms of content, Final Fantasy XIV's delivers a dreadful dearth of either:
  • The story-driven quest line behind each of the three major cities is the greatest highlight the game has to offer, and the greatest similarity to the qualities of the Final Fantasy brand.  As it stands over a month after release, a city's entire quest line, cinematics and all, can be completed in a single evening.  To thwart this, the developers utilize the typical MMORPG fashion of requiring you gain adventure ranks to unlock access to the story, but this serves only to spread the already sparse story across small snippets you'll be kept away from for days/weeks/months at a time.
  • There's a small handful of "guildleve" tasks, 8 local and regional per 36 hours, which nonetheless quickly get boring due to the lack of variety - like doing the same World of Warcraft quest over and over again.
  • There's a world to explore, but it's actually relatively small thanks to the linearity of the design, and there's nothing more interesting to be found but some pretty scenery and respawning mobs.
  • The greater bulk of the release day content is to be found in crafting the hundreds of items across the game's many crafting jobs in this neigh completely player-driven economy.  This is undermined because crafting takes too long, quickly getting repetitive.  Worse, it sort of feels pointless to craft all this adventuring equipment knowing that there's not a whole lot of adventuring to be found right now due to the lack of content.  
Seriously, Final Fantasy XII was a more interesting MMORPG than this, and it was a single player game.  Unless Square-Enix pulls a surprise massive content release before the next 17 days, I will be unsubscribed to Final Fantasy XIV.  I had an initial desire to be amongst the veteran players who had been there from release, but this has largely fizzed because I've no interest in being amongst the best at enduring monotony.  Perhaps I'll subscribe to XIV again in 8 months when it has (hopefully) released adequate content to satisfy... then the box price would not be a complete waste, though likely I could pick it up for $10 or less by then.

Post-Final Fantasy XIV Release Diversions

Having been reminded by this experience why MMORPGs are generally wastes of time that are no longer worth a subscription fee, I've instead taken to playing a few excellent single-player games:
  • Batman: Arkham Aslyum - Quite simply put, this is the definitive Batman simulator.  The campaign is a riveting narrative, a fantastic overall realization of the Batman lore, that weaves seamlessly between segments of stealthy incapacitation and graceful pugilism.  I eagerly look forward to Batman: Arkham City, though it's about a year away (Fall 2011 current estimate).
  • Metro 2033 - Aside from the existence of zone transitions and repetitive merchant dialogue, the most remarkable thing about Metro 2033 is that it does a far better job of delivering this sense of "being there" than any game from the Half Life series ever did, and this should be considered high praise.
  • Fallout: New Vegas - Fallout: New Vegas essentially delivers only one thing: more Fallout 3.  The main differences are that the game is a bit less polished here and there, the tone is a bit dustier and cowboyish, and the storytelling feels a bit more canon.  It's the perfect purchase for anyone who's not so much bored of Fallout 3 as they are bored of seeing the same old sights, as it delivers a whole new section of the post-apocalyptic world to explore and a whole 30 levels right out of the box. 
  • Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale - An indie game with an unusual concept: take an item shop (as commonly portrayed in a console RPG) and have the player play the proprietor of such an item shop.  Introduce the typical JRPG cast of likable but two-dimensional characters, a schedule/event system reminiscent of a dating sim, and even the option to tag along with adventurers to retrieve items for the shop from a dungeon, and what we end up with is a game whose parts may not be all that remarkable but they work together to create an overwhelmingly charming hybrid. 
  • Minecraft - Not a new purchase for me, the really interesting thing about Minecraft is that it delivers a whole lot of nothing that becomes a whole lot of something.  It's just a bunch of blocks represented on a JAVA 3D engine and assembled by a terrain generator into a infinitely expanding world.  In survival mode, the mobs are braindead and the gameplay mechanic is very simple. Seriously, I could put together a rudimentary 2D version of Minecraft in like 1 day using BYOND.  From this humble technical origin, Minecraft does something incredible: it harnesses and reflects the players' imaginations.  It's the ultimate sandbox, and well deserves its success for achieving the necessary balance to make this happen.
There's a lesson of frugality to be found here.  With the exception of Fallout: New Vegas, all games were purchased with a $20 or less price tag (albeit the first two were a temporary discount).  Compared to the ridiculous amount of money I spent on a collector's edition of Final Fantasy XIV, I'm reminded that a gamer with enough patience to wait until some time after release before purchasing a game (or, if available, just rent the game from a service like GameFly) can save a lot of money.
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