I probably won’t play Final Fantasy XIV’s Shadowbringers expansion. I’ve had a lot of fun in Final Fantasy XIV but it occurred to me that the game isn’t made for me anymore.
That became really clear when I watched the Square Enix event for E3. At the end of the event, Twitter exploded with excitement over a bombshell surprise reveal. I watched the entire E3 event. I didn’t have the slightest idea what the reveal was. Apparently there was one sentence spoken at the end of the trailer that caused an eruption of excitement and it went right over my head.
You may recall that I’ve played a significant amount of the story in Final Fantasy XIV up to this point. The game is currently at version 4.5 or so. I have seen and played every part of the story up to and including version 4.2. I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of that story. That the reveal was so obscure to me, a person who has had more than a casual interest in the story so far, is shocking, to say the least. Could there really have been such a dramatic shift in the direction of the story from 4.3 to the current endgame that it’s completely unrecognizable to me?
To my mind, it was Square Enix’s way of saying that casual players or tourists need not bother playing the game any further. Final Fantasy XIV has reached that MMORPG threshold point where you either have to make a lifetime daily commitment, or else back away and file it away under good memories.
After a certain point in the lifespan of every MMORPG, the game is not made for a general audience anymore, it’s made for the hardcore superfans who will follow the game wherever it leads, no matter what. The people who play the game every day, grinding dailies, leveling every job up to the cap. The people who pour over the forums every day, discussing theories and metas. The people who “live” in the game-who play the game not necessarily because it’s enjoyable but because it’s become a habit.
I’m not that person anymore. I just want to log in with my one character and one job and see where the Main Scenario Quest goes, and that’s it. I’ve done pretty much all the game mechanics already, and don’t have any particular desire to keep repeating them over and over again. I’ve “finished” that part of the game. I don’t need to replay the game yet again with a different race or job. There’s not going to be anything “new” in the new jobs, it’ll just be an alternate way to accomplish the same things that I’ve already accomplished. All that’s left for me to experience in the game is a continuing story.
That alone might be enough for me to re-subscribe and buy Shadowbringers. But unfortunately, as I’m sure everyone knows by now, Final Fantasy XIV gates the story behind dungeons and trials. If you’re below the level cap, the dungeons and trials are no big deal to get through. Other players will pretty much carry you through all the dungeons for their daily duties, even if you have no idea what is going on. (Although I wouldn’t try that with tanking.) It’s a little more complicated at the level cap, though. That’s where PUGs are farming the dungeons for whatever the currency-du-jour and gear-set-du-jour is, and expect everyone to know how to speedrun them. I’ve dealt with it all the way through version 4.2.
But I just can’t be bothered to deal with that anymore.
During the free week for returning players, I played the 4.3 Main Scenario Quest up to the point where you have to do that trial. (The story, incidentally, did not appear to be heading in any unexpected directions, which makes me even more baffled about that surprise E3 reveal I mentioned above.) I logged out and never went back, and my free week has ended. I just don’t want to do the dungeons and trials anymore. It’s extremely not-fun if you don’t have a static group to play with.
That might be what separates people excited about Shadowbringers from people who aren’t: Do you already have a static group of 3 or more friends you can depend on to group with or not? If you don’t, FFXIV is not for you. It never *has* been for you, but you can PUG your way through it if you have the mental fortitude for it. Eventually that endurance wears out, though, and it has for me. That leaves very little attraction to spend any more time in the game.
There’s just too many other ways to spend my time.
P. S. I don’t mean to single-out FFXIV here. Other previously-enjoyed MMORPGs that have reached and surpassed this same threshold for me: Guild Wars 2, RIFT. Arguably even relative newcomer Elder Scrolls Online may have already reached this threshold for me. I haven’t ever “lived” in them, but all the EverQuests most certainly have gone past the threshold, and Lord of the Rings Online as well. Obviously World of Warcraft goes without saying. Surely EVE by now. Probably others I’ve forgotten.