About That Hot Upcoming MMO I Had A Chance To Play Recently…

It’s OK. Solid, if not spectacular, and fans of the single-player series will probably flock to it, while those who aren’t will ridicule them for being “fanbois” and “fangrrls.”

Of course, I’m cleverly referring to two different games.

The giant spider doesn't care if you're the Hero of Kvatch

The giant spider doesn’t care if you’re the Hero of Kvatch

Last week at QuakeCon, I finally got a chance for my first hands-on time with The Elder Scrolls Online, which you can read about here. While I was waiting for my play session, I thought about Final Fantasy XIV. I know people who are stoked beyond belief for it, and, having played in the most recent beta, I can’t for the life of me figure out why. It’s not terrible, but, pretty graphics excluded, there’s nothing about it that excites me.

By the same token, I know people who can’t understand why I have the slightest interest in ESO. I understand that, on their most basic level, both games are the same – fantasy MMOs with dudes with swords, quests, monsters, leveling, crafting, and even the requisite cat-person race. Basically, they are part-and-parcel MMORPGs, in every way. Unlike, say, SimCity.

I haven’t played a Final Fantasy since XII. Since then, I’ve played hundreds of hours in Oblivion and Skyrim and also Nehrim, a total conversion mod of Oblivion. So naturally I’m more interested in ESO than FFXIV.

But is that the only reason people are interested in one over the other? Neither game is revolutionary, so I doubt either will pull in many players outside of their established fan base.

Here’s what I think irks me the most about FFXIV, and far too many other MMOs: From the start, nearly every single quest is some variation on kill 10 rats. We’re told how important it is that we cull the population, beat back the hordes, “send a message”… and when we do, what happens? The critters are still out there, and the next person to come along will get the exact same plea, along with some blah-blah about the dire consequences that will result if this horrible threat is ignored.

2011-11-16-231Granted, that’s not totally avoidable in any MMO, though ESO seemed to do a good job with its phasing tech. And if you’ve played an Elder Scrolls game, you know that while “Kill X something” quests are very rare, they’re typically replaced with “Kill this one guy in a cave” or “Get this one item from a house”-type quests. At least in those cases, I feel like I’m accomplishing something, that I’m more hero (or villain) than pest control specialist. (And please, please, don’t give me the “It gets better once you hit level X” line.)

Now, the beginning area of ESO that I played, with its interesting storyline and “wandering” feel of questing and exploration is maybe not indicative of how the game will play as a whole. All I know is that after I went through it and was nearing the end of my play time, I wanted to play more. I wanted to explore Morrowind, I wanted to play with my build, I wanted to create an alt. After a weekend and ~8 hours of playing Final Fantasy XIV, I wanted to… well, do just about anything else.

And I don’t think that’s directly related to the game world. I used to love Final Fantasy games. And to be honest, if ESO was just “Fantasy Game #382 Online,” I might not give it much of a second look; the “Elder Scrolls” part of it definitely lured me in. But if you set me down in front of both of those games, and I had no concept of their publication history, I can’t imagine I’d choose FFXIV over ESO — at least based on their respective first few hours.

If the two games were reversed — if FFXIV played like ESO and ESO played like FFXIV — I think I’d be more interested in FFXIV, because of the questing issues mentioned above, but I won’t deny that the allure of playing in Tamriel, of visiting regions I’d heard about or read about for a decade would be strong. That said, despite my interest, I’ve been pretty much on the fence about how much I’ll play ESO until I got my demo time last week, which served to solidify my interest. If I’d had similar feelings and encountered what I perceived to be subpar gameplay, it might have been enough to drive me away.

It must be great being a male miqo'te. The females outnumber you about 20 to one.

It must be great being a male miqo’te. The females outnumber you about 20 to one.

I suppose it’s like what someone told me about why he still plays Star Wars: The Old Republic, and it basically boils down to: he’s an MMO player and he likes Star Wars. He knows the game has its faults, and he’s not a glossy-eyed fanboi who laps up everything BioWare does. I imagine the same is true of me with regards to ESO and in regards to other people with FFXIV. As long as the games aren’t total train wrecks (like the original FFXIV was, which still had its diehard supporters, along with a very tiny percentage of level-headed players who admitted the game’s many faults but stuck with it anyway), we’ll play them. It doesn’t mean we’re not discerning gamers; we just like what we like.

There are way more innovative titles coming out than either of these games (though I’m still reserving judgment on and not yet drinking the Kool-aid that is WildStar). But if you prefer one TESO or FFXIV, I’d love to hear your reasoning. Is it just because of the game world, because you love the series? Or is there something else about it that sets it apart for you?

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5 Responses to About That Hot Upcoming MMO I Had A Chance To Play Recently…

  1. Being an fan of RPG’s more than Final Fantasy or Elder Scrolls individually, I’m excited for both. From what we’ve seen so far of both games they seem to be doing enough different than the standard of what we’ve come to expect from MMO’s. They also seem to both offer more than “normal” at launch. I believe we are finally starting to see some glimmers of change in the MMO industry with games like Archage and EQ Next. But both FFXIV:ARR and TESO seem to have quite a bit of polish instead of pushing crap out the door like FFXIV did originally amongst many others over the past 5 -10 years.

  2. couillon says:

    I don’t have a FF history and I do have an Elder Scrolls history (Morrowind and Skyrim) but I can’t really pick one over the other. I may prefer ESO for the lore but I can’t see any edge one has over the other in gameplay for my taste. So Jason, I can’t really say one game has an edge over the other for me, I’ll play both. I do think both games continue to build bridges (albeit different) to the next generation of MMO’s and I’m ok with that.

  3. I think that the ability to care about a game’s setting is very important to MMOs, which is probably why so many lean on established IPs. If it’s a single-player game, I can look past an uninteresting setting if the rest of the game is compelling, but if I’m going to immerse myself in a game for months as an MMO expects me to, it needs to be a world that I care about and enjoy playing in.

    I’m one of those losers who’s still playing WoW after all this time, and it’s not because I think it’s a fantastic game. The only thing that keeps me coming back is the fact that I’ve played Warcraft games since I was six, and Azeroth feels like home to me. I care about the setting, and that allows me to forgive its inadequacies as a game.

    By comparison, I love the mechanics of Guild Wars 2, but I just gave up on it after a few weeks because I realized I didn’t give a rat’s ass about Tyria or any of its characters.

    As for the games discussed in this post, I’m mildly intrigued by ESO. It seems like the sort of MMO I’d enjoy — a lot of story and solo content. I also like the many options for character customization. Any day I can be a mage in plate is a good day. But I’ve never played any of the previous Elder Scrolls games, so I’m not sure it’s worth jumping into the franchise this late in the game (no pun intended).

    What little interest I had in FFXIV died the moment I learned it had a 2.5 second global cooldown.

    • jasonwinter says:

      I love that you at least admit you’re not playing WoW for the mechanics, which seems to be a rarity. “It’s still the best MMO out there!” is something I hear far too often.

      I have the same feeling regarding LOTRO. I’ll still log in now and then just to run around (still haven’t leveled to 85), and of course it’s set in a great world, but I’m not laboring under the illusion that it’s a phenomenal game in 2013. Part of that is the general age of the game and part is the questionable direction Turbine’s taken it over the past few years.

      In terms of your semi-interest in ESO… honestly, it’ll probably seem like “generic fantasy” if you’re not already into the series. If you do jump in, I’d suggest taking the time to read all the lore and history books you’re bound to run across, they really help to give you a sense that the world means something. My first night playing Morrowind, that’s all I did for about an hour was comb through the library of the Mage’s Guild. I probably thought there would be a test later or something :)

  4. dungin2 says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head. I’m more interested in XIV, but it is not a revolution. I like how it is a new tab target in a slew of action stuff. I don’t care for action based stuff. Just hasn’t been done well.

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