I’ve considered Final Fantasy XIV to be a love-letter from Square Enix to its fans for quite some time now. A lot of this has to do with the history of the MMORPG, but also Square Enix’s consistent need to make the game a seamless experience for newcomers and veterans alike.
Final Fantasy XIV isn’t a perfect game, and one example of its flaws is that many debate the game hasn’t fully established the balance between easy and difficult content — this Reddit post suggests that “midcore” content might not be as easy to define as people think. But that hasn’t stopped me from putting nearly 1,500 hours into Final Fantasy XIV and considering it the best Final Fantasy ever made.
With the newest patch released this past Tuesday, and plenty of new content on the horizon, I think now is the perfect time to explore what makes Final Fantasy XIV special. But first, a history lesson.
‘We offer our sincerest apologies’
Final Fantasy XIV was first released in 2010 to a great amount of criticism. While the game was visually incredible, it was complex and difficult to play. The combat system was unnecessarily convoluted and the game became a stigma to the franchise.
As a long-time fan of the series, the failure of Final Fantasy XIV was devastating. Coupled with the response to Final Fantasy XIII from other long-time fans, I was concerned about the future of the series. But then Square Enix did something remarkable: they released an apology.
“We deeply regret that the game has yet to achieve the level of enjoyability that FINAL FANTASY fans have come to expect from the franchise, and for this we offer our sincerest of apologies,” Yoichi Wada, Square Enix’s president and CEO, said in a release on the website.
“After thorough deliberation on how to meet those expectations, it was decided that the most viable step was to approach improvements under new leadership and with a restructured team.”
This led to a dramatic shift in winds. Ultimately it was decided that the game could not exist in its current form, and Naoki Yoshida, tasked with making Final Fantasy XIV great, decided to destroy the world through a series of story-driven events and start fresh with a new game, new engine, and a new story.
Bahamut would be used as a plot device to usher in a new era within the world, and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn would start where the previous title ended — check out the video below to see what the final moments of Final Fantasy XIV looked like.
With a new precedent set, the Final Fantasy XIV team completed one of the greatest comeback stories in video game history. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn became a smash hit and now rivals other MMOs with more than six million subscribers.
The story has been praised by reviewers and fans alike, but more importantly, the content feels exactly what you’d expect from a franchise that has been around for nearly 30 years. Themes and places act as a tribute to the high points of the franchise.
One such example is the upcoming Return to Ivalice raids that pay homage to the worlds explored in Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII. Another example is the countless references to great titles such as Magitek Armour from Final Fantasy VI or Costa Del Sol and the Gold Saucer from Final Fantasy VII.
And the team didn’t stop at fan service, as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn’s mandate has always been to deliver a product that is as mechanically polished as possible, and they’ve gone beyond success with the completion of each patch.
Take a look at the latest patch notes for an example of the team’s commitment to all fans. Beneath all of the new and exciting content, you’ll find a section dedicated to “Returner status.”
Players returning to the game are given perks to make jumping back in easier. While it might seem pointless to some, it demonstrates that Square Enix still has teams dedicated to making the experience perfect for every one of its players.
It’s these little things that keep me coming back to the game. Little things go a long way in making me loyal to a game. I’ve started and finished many MMOs over the years, but Final Fantasy XIV’s loyalty to its fans has kept me coming back hour after hour.
Final Fantasy XIV’s latest expansion, Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood drops June 2017.
Square Enix Saturdays is a weekly column exploring the many worlds created by Square Enix over Square and Enix’s 42-year history. If you’d like to see us cover any specific Square Enix topics, please leave us a comment below or connect with us on Twitter or Facebook.