I used to hate the idea of a massively multiplayer Final Fantasy game. Then I finished the main story for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and it's become one of my favourite entries in the series.
I remember sitting in the audience of the Sony E3 press conference where Final Fantasy XIV was announced -- the swell of excitement, followed by a rapid deflation upon realising it would be another attempt at an MMO. I had played Final Fantasy XI, AKA Final Fantasy Online. I'd found it technically sound, but incapable of delivering the memorable character moments that made Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy IX battle for the top spots in my ever-fluctuating list of franchise favourites.
But Final Fantasy XIV does it. Over the course of 50 levels I was slowly introduced to a cast of colourful and memorable characters -- heads of state, members of a secret group of legendary heroes, the ever-present engineering genius and his plucky sidekicks.
I've become invested in these characters' stories. Better still, I am part of their story. Despite the thousands of other players wandering about my server, when the shit hits the fan and the Garlean Empire makes its move towards total domination of the lands of Eorzea, only one cat-man can stand in their way.
My level 50 ninja is the silent protagonist of Final Fantasy XIV. Or perhaps its you, or someone you know. The important thing is the feeling is present. The player is the hero, the other players are simply members of his or her merry band, or the crafters littering the city streets. The also-appearing.
See that guy with the black-and-white face behind Cid? That's me. We're pals, Cid and I. He's a man of massive responsibility who always manages to pull through in a pinch, even when he tells you he can't.
This is Minfilia. She's the leader of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, a group dedicated to bringing peace of Eorzea. Apparently she was a big deal in pre-Realm Reborn Final Fantasy XIV as well. Kind of mankes me wish I could revisit that horrific mess.
See this guy right here? That's me, feeling just as important to the story that the other two, if not more so. If it weren't for my contributions to the cause. Eorzea would be lost.
So when I'm launching a desperate rescue mission to save my captured comrades, I feel that desperation. And when I face off with a group of players against the Garlean Empire's ultimate weapon, I feel the crushing weight of that responsibility.
I've never been more invested in an MMO story before. I am part of this story.
The best part of reaching the end of the Final Fantasy XIV story? We're just two months away from even more story.
Note: The new trailer features spoilers for the end of the 2.55 story line and maybe don't watch it if you'd rather not.
The recently-released trailer for the Heavensward expansion pack is a great deal more than flashy cinematics for those who've played through the initial story. It's filled with unanswered questions, potential tragedy and the promise of exciting new adventures for Back and his adventuring friends.
For now I wait, wandering the world pondering ways to pass the time before the world changes once more. mounted atop a steed borrowed from either my first or second favourite Final Fantasy game, depending on when you ask. It's an excellent time to be Eorzean.
I never imagined a Final Fantasy MMO could be so... Final Fantasy.