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For years, I always had a few things about my abstinence towards Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. A fair few of my friends in my school and university life had at least some form of a run-in with World of Warcraft, yet I consistently resisted the plunge. I said things like:
“It’s a digital drug. I don’t wanna get sucked in.”
“Compared to Xbox Live, the subscription fees just don’t seem worth it.”
“Why pay for online access to one game when you can pay one subscription for hundreds of games?”
All seemed like perfectly valid reasons. I even attempted WoW once, but was instantly put off about half an hour in because nothing about it compelled me to keep going. I had no story, just an instruction to go and massacre a few beasties in exchange for gold.
Fast forward to early 2014 and something occurred. I agreed to review the PS4 version of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (which you can check out here). In my limited time with the game I got myself up to around level 25 out of 50 and had a lot of fun in the progress.
“This actually has a story!” I said to myself. Despite being a quest-based game unlike most of its predecessors in the franchise, A Realm Reborn jumped right off the bat with a history and a feeling of belonging and importance. There may be millions of players doing the exact same story as you, but it’s written in such a way that the world of Eorzea believes you to be its glimmering example of hope. That’s pretty awesome.
Plus, with it being a Final Fantasy game, this fan of the franchise was extremely pleased with all the fan-service contained within.
And so, I left a rather positive review on the game and shelved it for a few months. At the time, I still wasn’t sold on the idea of subscribing on account of having other games on my ‘pile of shame’. However, it soon came to pass that an itch developed to return to the game once more.
What caused this itch to appear? Community.
From seeing things like the Fan Fest in London and meeting FFXIV players at the Distant Worlds concert in London, the enthusiasm for the game really shone through to me. The itch’s presence grew.
The opening theme of FFXIV was performed during the Distant Worlds concert; the itch grew even more.
As in… this theme. Spoiler alert, it’s beautiful:
I then started to look-up subscriptions, rationalising an investment and so on until the itch finally got the scratching it long yearned for.
At time of writing, I have clocked over 200 hours of time on Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
Two. Hundred. Hours.
That self-same community has been chiefly instrumental in this. Most of my time playing FFXIV during my review was on my own, exploring as I saw fit. The difference now is that I joined a Free Company (a.k.a. guild) that has easily made the MMO-experience infinitely more fun and captivating. It turned out that there was so much of the game that I wasn’t aware of during review, and the members of the Free Company were more than happy to advise and assist whenever necessary. That sense of collectiveness between members was almost family-like, complete with the occasional jibe whenever anyone made a daft mistake!
Through this community, I was exposed to the true nature of Final Fantasy XIV and it very quickly converted me into quite a fan of the game. It turned out that there were more stories to explore, more incredible references to older Final Fantasy games and even plenty of laughs along the way.
This Free Company turned out be a glimmering example of what online gaming should aspire to be. Friendly, helpful, funny and above all, accepting. Whilst I admit that the guild format isn’t something entirely new, I reckon that the combination of a great guild and my immense admiration for the Final Fantasy franchise has really cemented the game in as quite the fixture going forward.
So, at the end of it all. I’m a converted MMO-fan thanks to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and its players. Where time allows, I might be found exploring Eorzea on my trusty Chocobo, defeating primal gods and hunting down loot wherever I can. I’m not sure if my time with the game will convince me to attempt WoW once more, but at least I won’t be too dismissive about the value that MMOs provide any more.
Lesson learned, Steven! Now I’ll just go and drool over the upcoming patch trailer and await my chance to explore the Gold Saucer.