Certain stories stick with you long after you’ve finished them. This holds true for video games as well, with the JRPG genre being notorious for such a thing with classics like Chrono Trigger, Secrets of Mana, Persona, Star Ocean, Super Mario RPG, Phantasy Star, etc. Final Fantasy is no exception and are the standard-bearers over the decades with each entry having a certain soft spot in many of gamers hearts like with entires VII, X, XIII, etc. — with my personal favorite being IX. However there is a certain Final Fantasy that actually sticks out for me these days and I find myself coming back time and time again, with new things to do each time and that is XIV.
Final Fantasy XIV is a different kind of Final Fantasy, mainly due to two key things. Like Final Fantasy XI, it is an mmorpg where you play the game on a grand scale with millions of players from all over the world banding to save the realm of Eorzea from total destruction — along the way you make friends both in the form of storyline non-playable characters who assist you and even form bonds of friendships with other players on the same journey as you. The second thing is that Final Fantasy XIV on launch years ago was a total flop of an mmorpg, it was so bad that Square Enix had to destroy the game both in a physical and even storyline prospective. They shut down servers and scrap the base game that was then XIV, then in the careful hands of Yoshi P and his team, they rebuilt XIV from the ground up into the “sequel” that we all play now, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
A Realm Reborn (ARR) is the game that everyone now plays and it takes the events of the first iteration of XIV’s story as flashbacks and weaves a grand tale of your adventurer out to save the world. First starting as a nobody just trying to help out their neighborhood, eventually you uncover a conspiracy about a shadowy cult, a tyrannical empire and their need to awaken the Primals. It’s a massive story that only a Final Fantasy title can tell. When I first started playing ARR, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into while I was familiar with mmorpgs having played FFXI, City Of Heroes/Villains, DC Universe Online, etc. over the years, I never fully finished an mmorpg from start to finish and engaged with the plot.
That all changed once I played ARR and reached a certain point in the story 5 hours later.
At first I thought it’s going to be typical bland story of waring kingdoms but eventually it became something so much more as my character begun fighting against even the gods themselves. It lead to so many “holy shit” moments as I played and saw the cutscenes unfold of my character being a badass. Even the voice work for the key characters is phenomenal and it draws you in even more into the story. By the end of ARR’s story, this game WAS the Final Fantasy that I always wanted!
Also ironically, I’m an anime fan, so I started to notice a pattern to the game’s quests. Each key quest ends up becoming basically an anime episode for ARR — be it filler, side story or actual plot progression. There’s emotion, wit, charm and even hilarious banter between characters in these quests. Along side this, each major update to the game is like a new anime season with a new bigger bad to take on, with the latest Stormblood villains being even more powerful then the original ARR villains.
It’s not just advancing the story that draws me back to the game time and time again though. It’s also all the fan service and call backs to the previous and present entries in the series that you can find in the game. You’ll face familiar bosses from past games in certain side quests. There are hidden costumes and weapons you can get that’ll make you dress up like Cloud, Squall, Lightning, etc. Also there are new jobs you can unlock and swap out at anytime on your character. There’s always something to do even when you hit a bump in the main story and things are dragging; just change directions. It’s never a dull moment in Eorzea.
These days I’m brought back to XIV for various reasons both for trying out the new jobs and stories that came with the release of Stormblood this past summer and also for wanting to see the epic conclusion of Heavensward’s storyline. On top of this, I’m also helping out my real life friends who are now taking baby steps into the world of Eorzea for the first time. So I get to relieve the first story all over again and then eventually reach the grand conclusion of Stormblood together with them one day. As they say, some stories are best made when you’re in the company of good friends.
Now if you excuse me, it’s time to save the world again.