This post was inspired by a question which came up during the Speakers of Hydaelyn podcast which asked about how the hosts got started in the game. Read on to find out how I got hooked in to the game.
It’s fair to say I’m not an MMO fan. I had made several attempts to get in to World of Warcraft via free trials back in the day but it didn’t hook me. I always found the mouse and keyboard controls really awkward to use and would run up to a skill barrier fairly early on because I had no idea what I was doing. I’d heard of Final Fantasy XI but there was no free trial in those days and I didnt want to pay for something that I wasn’t going to enjoy. XIV was announced and I dismissed it as just another “boring” MMO and didn’t really pay much attention. I was pretty disillusioned with the Final Fantasy brand as well after the disappointment of XIII and even XII which, whilst I now can appreciate the great game it is, it wasn’t and isn’t my idea of a Final Fantasy game having been schooled in the PS1 era of games.
At some point during XIV’s development I got an email as I was a Square Enix member asking for registrations for a beta version of the game. It also mentioned that there would be a PS3 version. As this would be free and “no-risk” I decided “what the hell” and signed up for the PS3 beta after my expierences with WOW meant I didnt fancy trying another PC MMO. The PS3 beta never came for 1.0 and having seen a couple of scathing reviews I was fairly non-plussed about the whole thing.
It was then a couple of years later when I randomly received another email from Square Enix for another beta campaign, this time for A Realm Reborn. My faith in the brand had slightly recovered at that point (I don’t know why) and I was curious so signed up for the PC version this time. I think it was during the 2nd phase and I immediately received a download link after signing up. I created a character who was a Conjurer, mainly because I thought having healing spells at my disposal would be a good idea after my experiences in WOW. I think during that beta phase only Gridania was available as well. At that time the beta was only on weekends and I played for the first weekend only, but much like WOW it didn’t hook me, the control system and the fact that they cut all the story scenes to prevent spoilers meant there was nothing to grab me and inspire me to continue on. Also Gridania’s music got on my nerves after a while (and it still does).
I didnt think about the game again until I received a beta link for the PS3 version, apparently because of my registration for the 1.0 version all those years ago. Again I just thought “Why the hell not” as it’s free and no risk. This time I created an Axeman, a hume Marauder, in Limsa Lominsa. My experience was totally different this time around.
First of all the controller controls were a godsend and made the game so much easier to play. Secondly, Limsa and the story in those first 15 levels just blew me away. I think the story scenes had been restored at this point because I remember loving Y’shtola and the story where the pirates try to blow up the new ship in Moraby Bay. I was still terrible at the game, and I think I’ve heard from Mr Happy that the difficulty of the quest battles was higher at that point anyway, but i persevered because the game was so easy to control and the story had gotten its teeth in me already.
It was once I got to level 15, and left Limsa that I suddenly had a wow (not the game) moment. You suddenly get a fully voiced cutscene showing the previously unseen Garlean Empire. The only way I know how to explain how I felt about it was to compare it to a similar feeling I had when playing Final Fantasy VII when I left Midgar for the first time and realised that there was a whole other world waiting for me outside of the city. In another post I will go into what happened when I first went in to dungeons but the final thing that really sold the game to me was the Ifrit fight. It was the last day of phase 3 of the beta and I knew that my character was going to be deleted afterwards but I still wasn’t sure whether I would buy the game and so I wanted to get as far as I could. At that time the Ifrit fight seemed so cool and I found the mechanics fun and yet challenging, the fact that you had to kill the nail was something that I found quite interesting and my party and I died a good few times before we got through and I think it was just me and the healer left at the end but I really enjoyed that “challenge” and sense of achievement at having finished it, of course nowadays Ifrit is pathetically easy and wiping at any point in a trial means you get kicked or flamed by your party.
After Ifrit I’d pretty much decided to buy the game and my last act of the beta was to get a chocobo in Ul’dah and run as far as I could through the zones until I got killed around South Shroud.
So that’s how I got into XIV. I think it’s worth noting that the early part of the game is so unbelievably easy now that I don’t think it would have gripped me the way it did at that time were I to start now. And if that didn’t put me off the toxic elements of the community probably would have, just as they did when I left the game for a while when I was around level 30 or so and I’ll probably go into that in another blog post but I’ve waffled on for long enough now already. Let me know in the comments if you want to hear more.