FFXIV – Story’s End

685 wc

My Final Fantasy XIV subscription runs out this weekend, and I’m not planning to renew it. (I said that last time, too, but this time I really mean it!)

I want to clarify my last post a little bit. I said that I had “run out of endgame content,” but after thinking about it a while, that isn’t exactly what I meant to say. A more appropriate analogy would be that my FFXIV character feels like she’s nearing the end of her story.

Maybe her last screenshot for a while? The real tragedy is I still don't have the matching boots.

The characters I play in RPGs are a lot like characters in a novel to me. I don’t think of my characters as “me” at all. My characters start out in the game, they learn and grow, they explore the world, they overcome obstacles, they defeat the bad guys. I’m mostly along for the ride, a symbiote watching them go through their story. (This is why some kind of a story is vitally important to get me to stick with an MMORPG.)

But eventually their narrative arc ends. Usually it ends suddenly when I get bored as a player, but in rare cases it ends with a satisfying denouement, when the character runs out of ways to learn and grow and explore, which is where I feel like I am in FFXIV.

There is a lot more endgame content that I could do in FFXIV, and every content patch brings more. There are tons of dungeons and raids I haven’t done. But while the particulars-the visuals, the music, the mobs-are different, in general most instances are all the same: Learn the mechanics, beat the bosses, yadda, yadda. My character won’t change in any of those instances. My character will always use the same skills and rotations, the same sounds, the same emotes, the same animations. So new endgame instances don’t feel like new parts of my character’s story.

Normally, in games I really like (such as FFXIV), when I reach the end of a character’s journey, I turn to an alt and level a new character. But I don’t think that Final Fantasy XIV is very alt-friendly. Having all jobs available to every character means you never need to make an alt character to experience different types of gameplay.

The main reason to make an alt in FFXIV is to try a different race or appearance, which can be satisfying. But every new character has to go through a long, tedious slog of the exact same story content, in exactly the same way as your first character. The only variation is in the first 15 levels, based on your choice of starting city, and there are only three of those. For me this is a big problem because I have to re-experience the same character arc I’ve already seen, and in FFXIV there’s no way to vary the story experience.

As a general rule, I’m not very good at doing repetitive tasks in games (or anywhere else, really). I’m always starving to experience something new. And with most games-every single game I’ve ever played, to be honest-there comes a time when there’s just nothing new to see anymore. It’s not really a criticism, it’s just a simple fact. You can’t read a book for the first time indefinitely, eventually you reach the end of it. (Coincidentally it’s the same for writing a book.)

It’s easy to understand when you’ve reached the end of a single-player game, but it’s a little more complicated with something like an MMORPG. For me, the end is generally when I run out of story to consume, and/or run out of new ways to experience the content.

It doesn’t mean I won’t ever come back to FFXIV, it just means I don’t feel the need to pay money for a service I’m not currently using. (Especially now, when my income is substantially reduced.) It’s the same with WoW: I will probably play again someday and probably enjoy that time, but there’s no reason to pay money to not play it.

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