I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. The story is surprisingly decent for an MMORPG, the world looks great and the gameplay is pretty addicting – not to mention that it provides an easy point of entry into the world of MMOs by being simple enough to be played by almost anyone. I greatly enjoy all of these basic pillars of the game… except when I sometimes don’t.
I have quite a long history with the Final Fantasy MMORPGs, as not only have I dabbled with A Realm Reborn and the first iteration of Final Fantasy XIV, I also put a notable amount of years into the first one, Final Fantasy XI.
I loved Final Fantasy XI. It was my first venture into MMOs and what I found was a warm community of people ready to take me under their wing from the moment my newly created character popped into existence in the lush green city of Windurst (Even that in itself was new to me, as back then I used to be heavily bullied in middle school).
The game was hard and ridiculously unforgiving – sometimes it could take months to prepare for and clear a mission (I am looking at you Promyvions), but pushing through these challenges together only strengthened the bonds between you and the other players.
This communal spirit created a safe space where it was okay to fail, with people laughing it off with a “Next time for sure!”. We all knew failure in this game, since we had all been there at one point, and thus did not judge others for their shortcomings. It made entering new missions and trying out new content truly exciting and fun.
The atmosphere in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn couldn’t be further from this. While it is still possible to find a warm community for yourself in the game, it is not a necessity like it was in Final Fantasy XI and thus, easy to forego. Finding people for dungeons and raids has been streamlined with the Duty Finder doing the work for you by finding random people wanting to do the same content to group you up with. I do love this system for how fast and easy it makes the process, but I hate it for the big probability of being grouped with assholes.
This goes hand in hand with another gaming trend of recent years that we’ve touched upon briefly in Brain Fried: Timeless Gaming is Valuable – the gamer of today tends to be very impatient. Pair this trait up with being an asshole and oftentimes when you try out a new dungeon/trial/raid and surprisingly don’t get everything right, the most likely outcome is that they will rage quit the instance forcing you to queue up again and making you hope that maybe the next group will be more forgiving.
This kind of setup puts a huge amount of pressure on me (especially as I’ve been suffering from pretty bad anxiety for the past couple of years), and is the main reason why I have not touched any other online multiplayer game ever. Failure does not feel like an option, you have to get it right or go home. Gone are the days when I’ve felt like I could enter new content blindly (aka without spoilers) and trust to have a good time. Now, I feel that I am a bad player who lets everyone down if I do not watch boss fights on YouTube to memorize their mechanics before I enter an instance. I stress about forgetting half of what I saw and being lynched by my party for ruining the run for everyone when I can’t handle everything with 100% success.
Of course, this is not the case every time. Sometimes, you will be lucky enough to be grouped with genuinely warm and helpful strangers, who have no problem giving you advice and trying with you as many times as it takes to beat a boss. These occasions really feel great and make you remember that not everyone in this world is human trash. This just tend to happen very rarely. That’s why I try to pass the warmth on to newcomers as often as possible when doing an instance I am familiar with – who knows, maybe they’ll be inspired to do the same to someone else one day.
Nowadays, I am stuck in an eternal cycle. I can’t play Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn for long periods of time in one go, because I don’t have the energy for the stress and usually end up plowing through just one subscription period (a month) before needing a break for an indefinite amount of months. Rinse and repeat whenever I feel like I have recovered enough to go at it again. The problem that arises from this is that I always need to relearn to play whenever I return and never play long enough to truly become proficient, which in turn raises the amount of stress I feel when I do instances.
Still, I keep coming back because I like the story, I like my character and I immensely enjoy the gameplay. There is no hope for me is there?