Their heyday long past, you can see barely anything of the once venerable Squaresoft in today’s overstuffed, overindulgent mess of a company that is Square-Enix. Not content to simply make and release good games, they made the egocentric play of announcing three separate and oddly titled games in 2006; Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Versus XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII under the unnecessary banner of ‘Fabula Nova Chrystallis’. While not the start of the company’s decline, this bold announcement did mark the studio’s pretentious obsession with Latin, and, in any case time has proved it was a dick move.
Final Fantasy XIII, the only one released to date, was met with critical and popular malign. It was shit. Technically, artistically and from a game design perspective. Most importantly for an RPG though, it’s storytelling was apalling. And I hated it. Versus XIII still has no direction, no released gameplay footage and no release window, despite being announced way back in 2006, and this being 2011. At least we know it’s still a PS3 exclusive.
Agito XIII, on the other hand, has been refocused and is set to release this year. Thank fuck for that. Only now instead of being part of one silly series, it’s part of another. The number ‘XIII’ has been dropped and the game is now called Final Fantasy Type-0, part of the Type-X series. Hooray. If this doesn’t confirm what we already knew – that the games in the ‘Latin series’ have nothing to do with eachother – it says that the new Square is still preoccupied with over-promising more titles than it can deliver, let alone deliver well.
Perhaps the most gobsmacking news of the day is that FFXIII, the game every PS3 owner probably wishes didn’t exist, is getting a sequel. I don’t think you could even ask for Final Fantasy XIII-2 at a K-mart counter without sounding like a moron, but that aside, who thought this would be a good idea? The game, not the title, that is. I’m sure we’re all in agreement on the latter. So who’s signing up for another romp though I-can’t-remember-where with that bunch of whiny pricks for hours and hours on end with nothing interesting happening? I didn’t think so. As blatant a cash grab as this is, I gotta hand it to the guys from the quadrilateral company; they sure know how to take fans for a ride.
One would hope that this whole experience would instill some humility in Square. First off, if I were them, it’d teach me that I can’t make a good game while juggling a million projects at once. That’s even if I can make a good game at all- they need to realise these aren’t the glory days of FFVII and VIII. Secondly, it’d tell me to lay off the pretentious foreign namedropping and loosely connected titles. Who do they really think they are? When I heard that, on top of these travesties, there’s one called Final Fantasy: Dissidia – Duodecim, I felt like killing someone.
Franchises get run into the ground and developers get cocky off the back of a single success all the time. But none have been as lucky or ridden out a bad streak of releases as long as Square-Enix has. I think that if the company cannot turn around a few back to back blockbusters soon, and I don’t think they have a prayer, then their time might just be up. Those years-in-development projects don’t pay for themselves.
Then again, who am I kidding. For any of that to happen we’d have to assume being good had anything to do with how games from Square end up selling.
It’s now a foregone conclusion that Final Fantasy XIV is pure failure presented in the form of a game. The series has been troubled for a long time now – something I intend to soon chronicle in a ‘fall from grace’ series of posts (Linkin Park will be next) – but it’s rare to find something so bad that a shareholder will dump their stock over. Square messed up here and in no particular order, here’s how.
MMOs need patching. And registration. However FF14’s process is so drawn out (especially for Australia and other countries that don’t fit into Square’s pigeon holes) makes you wonder if the game isn’t trying to keep you from playing it. If so, well done. It’d be the only player-considerate thing the game does do.
FF14’s ‘Eorzea’ is invisible wall city. Progress dictates where you should go at a given time. In World of Warcraft’s beta, they’d debuff teleport you out of places the devs didn’t want you in. WoW abandoned that after testing but FF14 hasn’t. It is frustrating.
Quests are ambiguous at the best of times. Imagine then how convoluted FF14’s are- rarely do you know where to go or where the next quest will be coming from. I’ve never seen breadcrumbing being done more poorly. Levels, class decisions and even just talking to other NPCs appear to determine when quests are available, but none of this is transparent at all. This is also frustrating. There are also light ‘levequests’ which have a 1.5day quota cooldown, but these are twice as boring as WoW dailies and you can do barely a third as many. Most of the time you have nothing really structured to do.
I’ll reserve judgement for now on what I think of fighting in FF14. Maybe I just suck though, but the combat seems imbalanced to an absurd degree. I’ve struggled with easy monsters and had an easy time dispatching hard ones. As indicated by the interface of course, which is a poor implementation. Also it seems like the progression through monster-types is very slow and I’m sick of seeing the ones I can’t even beat yet. Finally I’ve never found MMO combat all that well done but come on? Scrolling through targets that doesn’t group allies and enemies? Is there an easier way to make every group battle a messy affair?
No real ground-covering mechanisms are in the game yet. Vehicles, Chocobos, Airships and the like are not implemented. They’re represented in world, but for the moment you have to get everywhere on foot. Wonder how long they’ll take. There’s always the expensive option to port somewhere, but Anima is a resource that you’ll be wanting to hold on to.
Two problems with items; 1 crafting items is a pain and there is no auction house / economy to speak of. Whenever you do the goldsmithing / mining / carpentry thing, there is a minigame attached. By ‘thing’ I mean either gathering or actually crafting and ‘minigame’ I mean a tedious pain in the ass. Also there is no real means to get a business going with your wares anyway so what incentive is there? To the game’s credit it seems like there is some depth to this system, but there should have been a few more iterations during testing.
This is a real mess. FF14 was announced as a console game first and should have stayed that way. The PC version makes you dig through menus and submenus obviously designed for a controller to get the most menial things done. Funny thing is, you still need to manually map a gamepad. Funnier still, the PS3 version is still getting coats of paint applied and so won’t be out until March next year.
Being fair, graphics are good despite being demanding on hardware. However it’s not nearly enough to cover for this game’s many failings. Without getting wholly into the Square-hate rant, they have been to insular and too indulgent with their games for a long time now. It’s evident in Final Fantasy XIII and it’s certainly evident here. I never played it, but I hear tell that this is more than a step back from FFXI as well. Maybe our Japanese Square-o-phile friends will entertain something as sadistic as this travesty of a game, but I won’t.