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I Finally Found An MMO That Doesn't Intimidate Me

I Finally Found An MMO That Doesn't Intimidate Me

I tried Final Fantasy XIV Online for the first time, and it finally showed me what the hype about MMOs is all about.

I’ve played a lot of different games in my time. Although I’m a huge sucker for JRPGs, and if I could only play one genre of games for the rest of my life I’d quite easily choose those chunky bois, I like to think that I’ve given quite a diverse range of things a go.

That said, if there’s one genre I’ve just never found myself drawn to, it’s MMOs. Despite the countless options out there, boasting hundreds of hours of engaging gameplay, interesting stories and diverse settings, I’ve always had an aversion to them that’s genuinely quite difficult to justify, now that I’m putting these words onto a page. There always seems to be so much happening all at once - screenshots will often show screens packed with more UI than actual gameplay, with players’ names littering the remaining space. And menus. Oh, so many menus. In short, the experience has always appeared wholly off-putting to me, and I never felt like giving it a go.

Check out the trailer for the Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker expansion below.

However, if anything can convince me to try a game, it’s by slapping an anime art style on the front, and hence, I decided I’d give Final Fantasy XIV Online a whirl. Okay, okay, it’s not explicitly anime, but it has cat girls, and that’s close enough for me. The title, of course, isn’t new - it first released in 2010, before being revamped and re-released in 2013, so yeah, I’m over a decade late to the party. But, that’s the magic with FFXIV - it’s constantly being updated with new content, so it’s absolutely not become stagnant in that time.

Upon starting the game, I was tasked with creating a character - a deceptively simple task. With the near-countless options to alter pretty much everything, I’m not afraid to admit that I spent a solid hour on this one page, trying out the various options. In the end, I settled on an Au Ra girl - who basically appears to be a partially scaly dragon person, complete with a tail and horns - who sort of looks like myself if I was an anime character and also not entirely human. Which is to say she’s blonde with blue eyes - thrilling, I know.

After going through various fantasy name generators and coming up with a sufficiently pretentious name, Celeste was ready for action, and immediately, it appeared that my MMO fears may have been founded. The screen swarmed with seemingly hundreds of other players (all with equally whimsical - and outlandish - names), and upon accessing the main menu, I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of options to click into. 

Celeste says hi. /
Square Enix.

Deciding to ignore that for now and press forward, I focused on getting started on the main quest, as well as the dozens of side quests dotted around the map. Turns out the people of Gridania (the woodland city-state which I found myself in first) have a whole load of odd-jobs they want doing - from showing a bunch of squirrels who’s boss, to, uh, bowing at another NPC? Fair enough. 

At first, it didn’t seem as though I was making any real progress in the campaign - even the main quests seemed to consist of doing little favours for people, while not really doing a great deal to explain what was going on, or what my mission in this mysterious world was. This, combined with the complex UI which I continued to clumsily navigate, with very little clue of what I was meant to be doing, had me feeling a little disheartened. Little did I realise that this was soon to change.

Refusing to give up so easily on a title which I knew is so beloved by millions, I kept going, and found myself with a friend, of sorts. As I was battling my way through a cave of Bog Yarzon (creepy, daddy long-legs-inspired fellas), I was joined by another player called Arya, who I can only assume had been playing the game for quite a bit longer than me. They followed me through the cavern, helping me dispatch the group of enemies with ease, almost serving as a bodyguard as I rushed to collect the items I needed for a quest. Arya, whoever you are, I thank you for your service, and your patience as I slowly dealt out damage with my rock magic.

Even though I’d seen countless other players running about the world of Eorzea, this was the first time that I’d felt that sense of community which fuels FFXIV. I love the idea that others can so easily look out for each other and offer a helping hand - the world I was in suddenly felt so much more vibrant and full of life (which, of course, it actually is). From that point on, I made it a mission to hop into other players’ fights where I could, too. 

The world of Eorzea is full of daunting foes. /
Square Enix.

It was also around this point that I started getting into more meat of the story - crystals can talk now, apparently, and Chocobo egg theft is a far bigger issue in this world than you’d expect. I realise that, at the time of writing, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the many, many storylines FFXIV has to tell, nor have I come close to experiencing all that the gameplay has to offer, but I think I’m beginning to understand what all the fuss is about. It’s so easy to jump from quest to quest, help out NPCs and real players alike, and explore the world - time can pass by so quickly, I can see how people have ended up investing hundreds, if not thousands of hours of their time into this title. 

That said, dear reader, I must confess that all these hours in, the countless menus are still confusing me. I still don’t know what most of these options do, and at this point, I’m afraid to ask. But, you know what? I’m enjoying myself too much to care. If there's one thing I’ve learned from my brief induction into Eorzea, it’s that there’s a lot more to life than staring at the settings, and getting bogged down with the existence of an emote tab isn’t going to help anyone. 

Final Fantasy XIV Online was tested on PlayStation 5. Code for testing was provided by the publisher.

Featured Image Credit: Square Enix

Topics: Final Fantasy