As the date draws closer and closer like some mad sick wolf desperate for a lick of fetid flesh stuck to the bone of a leftover kill, so too do the players of Final Fantasy XIV seek word from on high of the Heavensward expansions looming arrival. What will be needed? What will it cost? What new shinies will be able to grasp in our pixelated and fleshy mitts that will allow us to lord it over our fellow players as a triumph of worth, value, and excessive disposable income? The answers fall in spurts, small sprinkles descending from the lips of gods that flow down to a drought ridden earth like sweet manna. Here! They say. Here is what you seek and what you crave! Here is the nectar from our brow that you will feast upon and then only once the blood-craze has stemmed will you try to analyze. The newest producers letter is upon you, let the days of milk and honey run wild until your aching bellies cry for retribution and the sour bile spills forth with distasteful criticisms, whining belches, and claims of incompetence.
I know I eagerly await that fated day foretold by the old gypsy woman that the fanbase turns from jubilation over the new pristine words that they have been gifted by developers into rampaging beasts who have been thrown a newborn babe and are unsure whether to devour the helpless creature or to tear it apart until blood coats the walls of their reinforced enclosure like fresh paint. And a helpless creature it is. There are no follow ups, revisions, or detractions that will spare the infantile man-thing’s fate once it has been cast out into the hellish home we once call the world wide web or the Information Superhighway in some bold faced and ultimately futile lie to ourselves pretending that information had anything to do with its true purpose.
Oh but what limb shall be the first sacrificed to the masses to ignite the first fires of this mob? The buff to GP in the Gold Saucer activities? The nerfing of difficulty with NPC Triple Triad matches? Nay, I have glimpsed a peek at the vile pits of prophetic darkness and seen what I believe to be the true battleground not only of this next expansion, but everything leading up to the release of the expansion: The requirement to complete all the Main Scenario quests to access the expansion areas. Yes, that is right casual perusers of gaming and core of steel ‘gamers’. It has been said that one must complete the entirety of the main scenario, from level 1 to 50 and for each of the patch 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, and 2.5 extensions of that story before you may walk through the gates into Ishgard’s welcome embrace.
What would that hive of excrement production, the World of Warcraft forums, think of such a bold idea? That they would have to complete Loremaster of Pandaria and the achievements for Landfall, Isle of Thunder, the Siege of Orgrimmar, and the Timeless Isle before being able to move on through the reddened Dark Portal into Draenor? Especially if those achievements had required dungeons to progress them like Final Fantasy XIV regularly does? I think we all know what would happened to those dreaded stomping grounds of fonts & fantasy – it wouldn’t exist. Burnt to the ground and rendered to fine ash only suitable for frolicking by the small rodentia that somehow survived the blazing inferno of rage-naros, elemental lord of pissed off MMO players. It would be a wall that would be blocking further content, and not one of those acceptable walls that can be justified by simply looking down from it at those poor souls struggling so scale the behemoth and uttering in contempt “Git Gud,” no this would be a wall of story, of plot, and of time. Like dailies of yester-expansion, this wall would be deemed an insult to the player base who have much better things to do in an role playing game than give two s***s about plot.
However Final Fantasy XIV is not the World of Warcraft. Nor is it story ‘optional content.’ It’s the main event and routinely required to unlock instanced content like trials and dungeons. So the entire landscape shifts but the question still remains. This is uncharted waters. I can’t recall the last MMO that attempted to stand tall on its narrative and demand that its player base plunge head deep into the thick of it before getting to play the shiny new toy that they purchased. This is doubly unique in that I’ve never played an MMO with so much current endgame story content. Each patch extends the main scenario by a few hours of quests at max level. So it wouldn’t simply be the matter of doing the main story quests while leveling, but also stopping at level 50 to do 6 whole patches worth plot and dungeons (a minimum of 10 hours to be sure) before the expansions content opens up to you. With a bar like that being set, a precedent to be forged from mythril and planted firmly in the stone to declare that this shall be what is expected of you Final Fantasy XIV players, one must wonder as we stand on the edge of the yawning abyss, “What will they say? How will they react?”
This blogger knows where he stands however. Happily climbing that mountain to reach the promised land. The story of Final Fantasy XIV has been almost entirely enjoyable, and the idea that you will be required to play through and experience the entirety of the narrative before continuing the tale in the northern lands of Ishgard seems to signal that the tales will be linked, and not some separate new narrative that we deduce how it all pieces together like some jigsawed monstrosity – he mutters in contempt glancing over at the timeline fiasco wrought by the Cataclysm expansion. The story is why I play these games and for once it is a pleasant surprise to have a company put the emphasis on the story above all else. To build an unflinching wall out of it and to put the players to task on completing the tale and climbing the wall to reach the next tier of play.
Still one has to wonder what will happen when the wave meets the rock…