Stephen Harris
Final Fantasy XIV Review
Also: introducing a new approach to MMORPG reviews.
02.02.11 - 10:00 PM

I remember when I was a young gamer, I used to dream about how amazing it would be to have an RPG that never ended; to exist in a virtual fantasy world that overflowed with magic and danger! A lost land I could escape to whenever I wanted to step into the shoes of a desperately needed hero! Given technology and time, those daydreams would come to fruition with the advent of M.U.D.s (Multi-User Dungeon) and their evolution into the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) genre. For more than 30 years, these online experiences have grown in vision and depth, emerging from niche gaming into mainstream entertainment. From celebrity endorsements to potential feature films, the MMORPG era has come. With the advent of so many brave new worlds, it's a challenge for us as writers to give them the exposure they rightfully require. After all, even a virtual world cannot exist without constant change. Good journalism demands vigilance over said changes.

Typically, for most gaming publications an MMO would be reviewed after several weeks of play from retail launch and would only be revisited with each expansion, if at all. Unlike their offline single-player cousins, MMORPGs are designed to have a shelf life of several years and are constantly evolving. This is a wonderful aspect of the genre, but for the uninitiated, it's a major challenge. As most MMORPG reviews are woefully out of date and/or limited in scope, aspiring adventurers have to wade through mountains of patch notes, forums and word of mouth to get a current synopsis of the state of any persistent world. It's even more difficult to find a concise point of view. We're hoping to change that.

It's my pleasure to announce a new MMO review format. Of course you'll still receive an out-of-the-box review so you can better make a decision on which virtual world deserves your monthly commitment or not. You'll also be getting update reviews that dive into major changes or additions that affect these experiences, so that potential subscribers can make an informed decision.

As this is an attempt at a new form of coverage, we had to decide on which MMORPG would be our guinea pig. What better title to pilot our new MMO review coverage than Final Fantasy XIV? It is one of the most anticipated MMORPGs of last year, and one of the largest disappointments to players and critics. The fallout from bad press and a hemorrhaging installed base has alarmed DEFCON 1 at Square Enix. They responded with a revision of the development team and the one month free trial extended indefinitely until further notice. They even put the PS3 version on hold until they bring the game up to user expectations.

While some might see this as Square Enix's big-budget flop on life support, it's going to be a fascinating game to follow as the developer is willing to pool all their talent and resources into saving this critical title. The rest of the gaming press seems to have written off FFXIV as a ship that sailed and sunk, so this coverage may be the lone light in the night for Eorzea's hopeful heroes. Will FFXIV's "Cataclysm" bring Eorzea to an ignoble end, or will the combined passion of the developers and fans resurrect this world from the ashes like Phoenix? Over the next few months we'll find out.