Category Archives: FFonline

FFXIV: Endwalker First Impressions (no MSQ spoilers)

As I am sitting in another queue at the FFXIV login screen, I decided I may as well put the time to some use and post. Endwalker has been out for a week now for us early access subscribers and it’s not been smooth sailing. Queues have been horrendous which puts a damper on a ton of people’s excitement. I don’t know how it is for US or JAP players but on my high-pop EU server, I either login at noon to be able to play 4-5 hours later or it’s not gonna happen. SE’s queuing tech is incredibly frustrating and you better not get an error during those four hours or chances are you can go re-queue from scratch.

And yes I know, the devs are doing what they can and the hardware shortages due to Covid have basically kicked us in the shins this year – it’s still soulcrushing to sit in fickle queues or get disconnected and have your planned playtime ruined for the rest of the day. I’m no FFXIV late adopter, I’ve been playing this game for 7 years and I really looked forward to Endwalker. Now it sounds like this situation may not be resolved for months. At least SE are communicating with the player base which goes a long way.

My VERY early Endwalker impressions

I’ve been able to get to level 84 on my BLM which is not far at all but has introduced me to the first three zones as well as the first two dungeons and first trial in Endwalker. I’m not going to spoil anything about the main storyline here but leave my overall first impressions which so far, are very mixed.

What struck me is how long this expansion takes to get going. There’s a great number of walking and talking quests before you ever get to see any action and there are pacing issues early on. There’s also an abundance of very long cutscenes that feel more self-indulgent than necessary. It’s clear the devs were having fun with the main cast but I got really tired listening to them exchange pleasantries and juvenile chatter after a while. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me getting impatient to get going after four hours of sitting in queues but I remember Shadowbringers feeling a lot more tight from the get-go.

endwalker cast

The other glaring thing for me is the lack of remarkable music tracks so far. The last expansion greeted us almost instantly with the fantastic themes of Lakeland and the Crystarium, yet I’ve heard nothing remotely as gripping in early Endwalker. I like the new combat tracks and there are some sweet, quieter tracks but nothing that gets the heart beating faster. Alas, I hope there’s a lot more to come and soon! Soundtrack is everything to me in this game.

Another thing that the devs seem to have had fun with is the whole new questing mechanic with NPCs following you around or alternatively you having to follow them and better not lose them. There are added stealth elements sometimes and I’ve had quests fail on me because I missed a cue or then the NPCs aren’t smart enough to join you in battle during the escort. While that can be dealt with, it throws me out of immersion having to do these ‘console gamey intersections’. This is a strong departure from classic MMORPG questing and it’s been used multiple times already in every zone I’ve been to. Clearly, this is a matter of taste but I don’t care for it personally, at all. I hate to think how much more of this is to come ’til level 90.

Now this might sound like I’m being mostly negative about the expansion so far. The truth is, I expect things to get a lot better and I’m confident SE will deliver. I do however also think that after the successes of Shadowbringers, this new expansion has an almost insurmountable amount of expectations riding on it. Add to this the somewhat ungrateful job of wrapping up the entire story-line since the beginning and dealing with all the lose ends. Not an easy task, so I will cut them some slack for having to cover that much ground.

endwalker moon

And that’s it, my very brief first report – several more to come. Above is one of my highlights for now, the moon vista in Endwalker which is truly stunning! This expansion has a darker theme overall which makes beautiful moments like that all the more magical.

FFXIV: Give me your tired and your poor

I think it’s safe to say that 2021 will go down as the year of FFXIV’s third coming. A Realm Reborn being its second coming literally, it was with the release of the Heavensward expansion that Square proved to the world they are still capable of creating wonderful RPG experiences with a mass market appeal – and that they can also deliver this experience as an MMO themepark. The title has been going from strength to strength since and has known a notable influx of new players in 2021, to the point where FFXIV is now officially Square’s most profitable Final Fantasy game in the entire series. The hype is so big that even the father of Final Fantasy, Hironobu Sakaguchi, has started playing the game this fall and is apparently racing through Eorzea like a champ. Good times.

Shadowbringers on Omega

Welcoming Captain Grim to Shadowbringers on Omega

Along with the increasing player base, many more well-known WoW streamers have jumped ship this year which has led me to follow Twitch for the first time ever. Honestly, I never expected that many grown up men to cry over an MMORPG (yes really, it’s everywhere on twitch and youtube), to the point of where several streamers confessed they had forgotten what this genre “was really about”. It’s been a real joy to watch these tired old WoW players discover Eorzea and break the shackles of toxicity that are Blizzard and their abusive shenanigans. And that isn’t even related to the Californian lawsuit, no – I am talking about the state of WoW and Shadowlands. This is where you’ll have to bear with me while I rant.

Against all better judgement, I joined a few old WoW guildies this late spring for the odd dungeon run and raid night. You could say the timing of my return couldn’t have been more ill-advised. Despite all the bad press that literally broke about two weeks after my resub (after 10 or so years), I decided I would judge the expansion myself and I really tried my best to find anything redeemable. But what I’ve encountered was a disgusting, manipulative shell of an MMO that is frankly insulting in the way it’s treating its playerbase and its players’ time. I cannot believe what passes for content in WoW nowadays, all the lazy micro-management and RNG-infested gear sub-systems and stupid re-grinds…for what? Raising another 0.5 item level on the third iteration of the exact same gear item or exact same skill conduit, so you can go have a shot at the third iteration of the exact same raid. Oh and shards and legendary slots and currencies and timers and cooldowns for almost everything! I’ve never known another MMO to grab such exclusive hold of its playerbase the way WoW does, by design and very deliberate engineering. And don’t get me started on the joke that is Oribos, lackluster circle in the sky hub, the Maw and Torghast. Nothing in WoW feels alive any more – 99% of the world is dead, pugs are toxic and players hate the devs. Now I understand why this community is so resentful; the hamsterwheel Blizzard have created demands constant playtime in a joyless world full of recycled, meaningless rewards. Heck, they don’t even design tier sets anymore.

If you ever felt MMORPGs were about the whimsy, world building, community, diversity and social interaction, WoW 2021 is not for you. Sadly, it isn’t even killing it on the endgame side of things anymore either. FFXIV has hundreds of epic fights and some of the hardest raid/trial encounters in the genre right now. There is not enough COPIUM in the world to keep me playing this game anymore. It is truly and veritably over!

FFXIV Community Highlights

No time in MMORPGs is more exciting than when the community is collectively psyched and waiting for the next expansion. Endwalker is three weeks away and you can feel the excitement in the air whenever you log into Eorzea. Especially since Yoshi-P’s recent media tour, where he gave a large number of streamers personal interview time, message boards have been ablaze with new info and speculation. I was personally very happy to hear that some of my most wanted class changes are going to happen and I love the new armor sets and class designs. Sage and Reaper make older jobs look like nubs.

ffxiv concert

Pop-up concert in Limsa Lominsa

The anticipation of Endwalker has led me to some personal milestones and discoveries too. For one, I’ve finally founded my own FC on Cerberus as more mates are flocking to the game. We’ve hit rank 8 last night and I am both antsy and weary in equal amounts for a shot at the housing lottery in 6.1. The housing system is my biggest gripe in FFXIV bar none and now that we have an FC, I would love nothing more than a (small) house for our daily business. Here’s to hoping fortune will smile on us come Endwalker.

ffxiv Dance Party

Dance Party at Slayers FC on Cerberus

Our server’s community has also been very lively of late with concerts, house parties and Halloween events. The clubbing scene is one of FFXIV’s many subcultures I had never looked into before. Having finally experienced a Halloween event, I am positively surprised as it was a completely enjoyable and friendly experience (with a live DJ via standalone webpage, no less). It’s interesting how effortlessly fun and joy are spread in MMOs when everyone’s having a carefree time. That’s what I’ve really come to appreciate so much about FFXIV; after so many years it can still surprise you and while it has all the trappings of a traditional themepark MMORPG, a bottomless well of side-activities and creative opportunities lie underneath. You never quite know what you may encounter next.

FFXIV: Useful sites and resources

My group of FFXIV friends on Cerberus EU has been growing these past few weeks. Returners and newcomers alike are flocking to the game and the excitement for Endwalker lies heavy in the air.

For sprouts (FFXIV newcomers) it can be an overwhelming start in Eorzea. The game is 8 years old and packed to the brim with different activities, some of which are their own game inside the game. I noticed many are struggling to find the proper resources to look things up, as it can be a bit difficult at times to find the best resource for something in FFXIV. Beginner’s guides (like this one) are fine for the first few days but you will quickly outgrow them. So below you can find my own (ongoing) list of recommended sites to help you navigate your beginner experience!

The FFXIV Link Collection

Basic info & MSQ

All things gear & progression

Side activities

Fluff & Collecting

FFXIV Status Update and my Endwalker Wishlist

FFXIV is all the rave right now and I’m liking it. It’s fun to observe some people’s new found enthusiasm for a game that you’ve enjoyed for a long time. There’s been discussions on twitter as to how long the ‘WoW trenders’ will hold but frankly, it doesn’t matter. Any influx of cash to FFXIV is great and supports the devs, whether temporary or not. Meanwhile, Yoshi-P showed how transparent communication and public apologies are properly done, over something they had no control over, no less.

Character Status Update

My three max level jobs are ready for the expansion. I don’t really have any goals left or gear to grind on my BLM, WHM and BRD as all of them are over ilvl 500 by now which is good enough for me. All three have some stage of the new legendary weapons which look shiny but turn tortuous fast. Even my retainers kick some serious butt by now, even if they still bring me back useless junk most of the time. My FC room is maxed out on deco items. My Chocobo, Dandelion, is well fed and happy. I’ve accumulated a lot of hours in Shadowbringers and it’s been a fantastic run – but now it’s time to look to a new expansion.

Shadowbringers BLM

Sometime during Shadowbringers, I gave up on BLM as my main after a couple of rushed, frustrating savage trials. I’m a bit sad that I fell out of love with the class but the lack of mobility and very strict rotation around Enochian are incredibly grating. I get that BLM is the highest raw DPS in the game but in order to get there, it requires so much prepwork and learning encounter positions by heart in advance that it ruins the fun for me. I like learning encounters as I go and being able to improvise, without falling out of sync with a 16-step rota that then locks you out of your most important abilities. This is also why I switched to BRD which is vastly different but also pays a high price for its mobility. I don’t think BRD party buffs are where they should be right now.

Shadowbringers WHM

That leaves my WHM which is the most well-balanced class and a truly enjoyable healer to play. I think it’s fair to say that no other FFXIV healing class comes close to WHM, no matter what some die-hard Scholars like to say. I am still on the fence about trying out Sage in Endwalker; maybe it’s time to finally try Astro, as big changes for that one are coming (and their glams are superb). The way I see it right now, Endwalker come I will level BRD first, then go WHM next and BLM third. Whatever else needs to get in line.

Endwalker Wish List

My personal Endwalker most wanted are as follows:

  • A house in Ishgard
  • Better glamour system, bigger inventory
  • BLM changes (kill Enochian rota, improve mobility)
  • Make BRD DPS suck less (OR proper party buffs)
  • Dragons (you can never have too many of them – can you?)

It’s been revealed that instead of a chaotic housing rush start of 6.1. there will be a lottery system for players who’d like a housing plot in the new residential zones. This is good news as the current housing situation is nothing short of tragic. The artificial scarcity and cumbersome plot hunt is one of FFXIV’s worst designs. Fingers crossed I’ll get a shot at a small or medium plot at last, after so many years of cramming deco items into a small single room. One can only hope and pray!

Up to this point, the SE devs have still not said a peep about glamour revamp or glamour expansion for Endwalker. It’s not just me who’s got their glamour dresser, plates and retainer inventories bursting with set gear and other fluff, so I sincerely hope they address this too. A game that specifically lets you play up to 18 combat classes (as well as other non-combat ones) on a single character cannot get away with a glamour system as dated and restricted as that forever. Physical item transfers need to go, the dresser needs to become unlimited and plates need to be 10 per job, not overall, at the very least.

We’ll see what other news come out before November 23rd. I’ve a feeling we haven’t heard all there is to know about new Endwalker features just yet!

Welcome to FFXIV: Don’t rush the MSQ

It’s official: everyone I know is trying out FFXIV right now, stubborn WoW evangelists included. And i’m not surprised, FFXIV deserves all the credit it’s gotten since Shadowbringers and it doesn’t look great over at Blizzard Activision right now. Many bloggers have commented on the current shit storm so I’m not going to say too much about it. Other than maybe this: while I’ve held both Blizzard and their upper management in low regard for years now, I never suspected just how foul the corporate C-level of Activision is. As if the contents of the lawsuit weren’t harrowing enough, all the other info pouring out on this has left me somewhat speechless. If it’s one thing I do not need in my life it’s my MMO gaming being directly or indirectly connected to some of the worst US government types. What the hell has happened to this industry if it hires such people? I am still processing.

With that out of my system, let’s get back to why you don’t want to rush your FFXIV beginner experience.

The journey is the reward

Coming from WoW which is different to FFXIV in how it runs its themepark content, I’ve had many friends reach out to me these past weeks asking how long exactly it would take them to catch up to current content. While I don’t like the reasoning behind the question in this particular case, I totally get it. My answer is therefore always the same:

I’ve been playing FFXIV regularly for 7 years now and I still don’t know half of the content going on in that game. Some stuff I’ve heard about and some I am still literally discovering myself. This is partly due to how the game has been developed with many of its core features added incrementally over time (and not always advertised in the best way either). It’s also due to the fact that, as also mentioned in my last post, FFXIV is just incredibly broad with lots of different activities to sink your teeth into, catering to a wide range of players.

What ties all these different activities together is the main story line in FFXIV, aka the MSQ. While WoW was originally designed with endgame in mind and lore fluff was added later, all aspects in FFXIV revolve around or get enhanced by its central narrative. The MSQ is a large part of why some people play and it serves as a fine guide through the leveling process as well. The primary NPCs have been the same since ARR and by now, they mean a lot to the developers as well as the community.

FFXIV united

That is not to say that there is not a max level with classic PVE endgame content waiting for FFXIV players. But that’s just it – it is happily ‘waiting’ for them. The MSQ is a central part of the game, so it’s really not something you want to rush through or skip if you’re trying to establish a long term connection with this MMO world. It is also just very fine content and storytelling that gets better and better after ARR (yes it really does and it’s worth hanging in there!). As for endgame and things like dungeons, trials and raids, they are literally not going anywhere. There will be time aplenty to do them with either your friends or in pugs and they won’t be decaying for years to come. I’ve explained how some of this works here but one probably just has to experience FFXIV to understand how smoothly it all works out.

Enjoy the world of Eorzea

As someone who is in FFXIV for its wider allures and relaxed atmosphere, I’ve personally come to love the MSQ. Between following the story as well as enjoying dungeons and raids, exploration, housing and glamour endgame (the real endgame *cough*), I feel the game achieves a great balance between different activities. I think some WoW players are worried that this means the game lacks cooperative content or difficult encounters, but once you tread into savage territory and above none of that applies. These features just don’t get advertised or emphasized nearly as much by the FFXIV community because they’re just that, features among many others (if you think FFXIV has no complex raids, I suggest checking out this channel and watch some savage guides). Eorzea is not a vessel for endgame raid content.

For further analysis and in case you’re currently still on the fence, I recommend this great rundown by Jesse Cox on Youtube. It’s one of the best, most detailed and fairest comparisons of WoW to FFXIV I’ve encountered. See you on the other side – we have Moogle hats!

(P.S. I am on Cerberus EU – feel free to say hi to Sylvara Fallstar any time! The server is currently quite busy but new characters can still be made if you try early mornings or after server maintenance (Tues 4am EST).

Pugging in FFXIV

I’ve been in contact with several of my old WoW buddies recently who are teasing me back to Azeroth. It’s a completely different game than it was when I left in 2010 and from what I gather, the current expansion isn’t well received. At the same time, the pull of old friends is mighty and they seem to be enjoying the mythic content in the game. I am however still playing FFXIV and have only finished all the post-Shadowbringers patches last night. What a fantastic expansion this has been – I sincerely hope Endwalker can live up to its reputation!

Shadowbringers Finale

Talking back and fourth with my buddies I’ve told them a lot about why FFXIV, in my humble opinion, is the superior game these days. Them being generally curious about it, that has led to some interesting discussions. One major point that seems especially baffling and inexplicable to WoW players, is the friendliness and casual attitude in FFXIV and especially its pugs. This is one of the biggest differences between the two MMOs and has been for a long time. Nobody really seems to be able to explain why.

Apples and Oranges?

My few ventures back into the WoW 5man pugging scene have been almost absurd. All of the groups were radio silent for starters. When I joined a party and tried to get a grasp of a new dungeon, half the group had already sped on to boss number one. Generally, the tank didn’t seem to give a crap if the healer kept up and boss rooms just lock you out these days if you’re late. To my big chagrin, skipping as much as possible within the dungeons has also become common place which leads to frustrating scenarios for newcomers. Again, nobody cares about that. It’s what’s made me quit GW2 back in the days and it’s equally bad design in WoW.

The difference to FFXIV pugging could not be more pronounced, as my screenshots above illustrate. These are not my ‘top screenshots’ by any means, they are in fact just screenshots of the pugs I did last night. It is common place for people to greet each other, tell if the dungeon is new to them, ask the healer if big pulls are okay, end runs with a GG or cheers. As a healer, I’ve literally been in groups where the tank apologized to me when someone died. This has been my FFXIV experience for over 6 years. To date, I have pugged hundreds of dungeons and had maybe three unfriendly pug experiences that I can remember.

So why is there such a huge difference between WoW’s and FFXIV’s community? On the surface, both games have the same approach to pugging, with dungeon finders, ilvl-requirements and cross-server grouping. So it cannot be explained by these game mechanics. Personally, I believe it’s many design factors, some more subtle than others, that directly and indirectly turn FFXIV into the friendlier environment.

My Theory(-ies) on FFXIV

The daily pugging system in FFXIV is the heartbeat of many players’ every day routine. Running dungeon roulettes for marks always awards the latest token armor currencies (which ranks between normal raid gear and savage raid gear) and serves as a fantastic counter to content decay. There is none in FFXIV; the majority of dungeons, trials and raids get run every single day by thousands of players. This ensures new players can get through the main storyline of the game, while providing everyone else with rewards as well as varied locations. Needless to say, the routine factor makes people pretty laidback about pugging and most players are familiar with all the dungeons in the game. Dungeon design is mostly straightforward and linear, so there’s not much to skip along the way and they generally take no more than 15 minutes.

Among the things that FFXIV excels at, playstyle variety and social engineering are center. There are numerous non-combat activities as well as vast solo play content that attract a very wide spectrum of players. No matter your preference or age, FFXIV offers plenty of options for you to pursue activities and get great rewards. For this reason, the community feels very broad to begin with and endgame feels flat. Newcomers have various ways to get into the game with combat tutorials, mentoring systems and NPC parties to get them started if they so desire. New players are marked with the sapling icon and dungeon runs award player recommendations for friendly or helpful behavior. Wherever the l33t competitive players are in FFXIV, they make a tiny percentage and keep to their dedicated static groups for ultimate content.

Speaking of the l33t kids, Square-Enix does not officially allow DPS meters in FFXIV. I have never once encountered anyone talking about DPS or spamming numbers in any type of public chat, as it risks getting reported. While DPS mods exist and are quietly tolerated, players don’t talk about them publicly and keep them inside their dedicated FC and static groups. Which is exactly where meters belong! The same goes for achievements which are not a relevant thing in FFXIV. Nobody inspects you to decide whether they’ll have a good pug with you or not.

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Interview with Yoshi-P @ Destructoid

Last but far from least, FFXIV is a Japanese title with a Japanese dev team. This cannot be discounted by any means and gets very visible in the great three-part A Realm Reborn documentary on the rebirth and re-design of the game. Yoshi-P and his dev team approached FFXIV with a certain ethos and cultural background that values social conduct and boosts certain behaviors in the game as well as shaping communication. Overall, this dev team still feels very committed and emotionally invested in the game whereas WoW is long past its prime and A- and B-Teams. My heart legit broke into pieces watching parts of this last FF Fan Fest.

Your mileage may vary

It’s a mixture of things that make MMOs enjoyable to us. When it comes to providing ample opportunities for casual and fun content as well as accessible dungeons, FFXIV hits the sweet spot for me. When I log into the game and sign up for a couple of roulettes, I am guaranteed to wind down and enjoy myself after a long day of work 99% of the time, rather than being wound up and frustrated by a stressful group or toxic player. The game won’t force me to join elite content for great rewards and there’s no ramp-up of systems with unlocks and pre-requisites that push me into one linear grind. If you don’t feel like running dungeons, there’s plenty of other things to do and the game is good at catching you up between content and armor tiers. While it’s far from perfect in all respects and I’ve had my gripes with it in the past, I guess it’s safe to say I won’t be converted away from FFXIV any time soon.

Monday Update

It’s been a rough past four weeks. The end of April our landlord sent us a brief notice that we are to be thrown out of our house by the end of August. This after only having rented it for 1.5 years and having been told upfront that it was to be a longterm contract with the possibility of purchase later on. It was our absolute dream location and we put so much love and effort (and cash) into the house and garden since. It’s been an emotional roller coaster to say the least and so I didn’t feel much like blogging. We’re now buried in admin work and legal counsel to get an extension on our notice while we attempt to find a new home. The Swiss housing market is very tough but we’ve finally decided that our renting days are over. No more of this crap.

The day we got the letter from the landlord was also my day of the first Covid shot. That one went through without issue and only minor symptoms. My second date is this Thursday and I’m hoping for the same scenario. We’ve debated a long time over the vaccination but if there is to be any normalcy again in our lives any time soon, it can’t be avoided. The government is on its way to create a Covid-ID which will become necessary for travel and certain activities. I am personally not worried about the shot per se and I don’t believe in all the conspiracy theories around it, however it would be nice to know how well it really protects the people around you and for how long it will last before we have to get it again.

New BRD set

Gaming updates

I’ve had little time for gaming other than keeping up with FFXIV. The latest Nier raid is more of the same and another example of what I have come to dislike about FFXIV’s advanced endgame content. Learning 20487367263 mechanics and watching videos for every other boss fight is not my thing. The fights are gimmicky and it appears that the devs take keen pleasure in introducing more and more cerebral challenges on top of the usual telegraph disco. No, I do not want to learn this color pattern by heart so I can remember it three turns later, depending on whether the boss winks once or twice! Sometimes less is more. I think am taking a break from the game until Endwalker hits.

Other than this, my old WoW buddies have taken another stab at poaching me for Shadowlands. I’ve no intention on returning to WoW and it’s also bad timing…..but the chats we’re having are a lot of fun and the pull of nostalgia is always there when talking to old guild mates. I guess we’ll see.

Musings on Gaming History and MMOnogamy

A meme making the rounds on twitter has landed on my timeline this weekend that got me thinking about how I play games these days. I don’t know the ‘original meme’ but clearly another FFXIV player put his spin on it which elicited some grins and snorts in consecutive FFXIV sub-tweets:

I remember my early gaming days in the 80ies and later 90ies were all about waiting patiently on new releases, saving up money for the next great title the gaming mags had previously told us about. After my initiation to gaming on the Intellivision and Atari ST, I saved up birthday and Christmas money to buy myself (and my instigating sibling) the NES. We only owned a handful of games on it, obligatory Mario and Zelda among them. At school there was another kid lending me Probotector (Contra) which was a high point as far as shooters went.

Then the SNES landed on the European market in 1992 and with it the golden age of JRPGs and bright colors was upon us. Modules were eye-wateringly expensive with 120-140 bucks per game. Still over time, we managed to play almost everything of name and rank of the era which continued to top itself year after year. The PSone was released not long after and there have never been better times for classic RPG fans since. Not on consoles, anyway!

The turn of the century

Playing many different games on different consoles became my norm until the 2000s. It’s quite a thing that: being born into a time where you get to witness the turn of a millennium and with it the crazy leaps in technological advancement that we’ve seen since the commercialization of the internet. I started university in 2001 and got my first own PC with a 32-kbit modem (and later 56-kbit wahey). The old dialing tone is the stuff of legend now. I created my first blog on blogspot that same year to keep in touch with friends and family while living near campus. Chatting on ICQ was all wild and new and then Square, motherload of all that had been great and mighty in the 90ies, finally announced FFXI coming to PC in 2002. That’s when my gaming career took a sharp turn towards MMORPGs.

FFXI Syl

My final console was the Gamecube. I remember boxing and re-selling it in 2004, after World of Warcraft had taken the world by storm. That’s when an intense period of MMO monogamy began for me that lasted well into 2010 and the beginning of Cataclysm. I did not purchase a single new game for years, that’s how busy WoW kept me. However like so many, I became an MMO vagabond after that, looking for a new home in GW2, AoC, Rift, Lotro and Wildstar to name a few. What had seemed inconceivable for a long time, playing several MMOs at once, became my new reality if not necessarily a satisfactory one.

I also opened a Steam account in 2011, diving into the new and comfortable world of digital cross-platform gaming. You can say about Steam what you like, it re-introduced me to variety gaming and the colorful world of indie titles the way no other platform could have done at the time. My first titles according to the purchase history were Bastion, Red Orchestra 2, Skyrim, Dear Esther and Lotro.

GW2 Syl

Since then, multi-gaming and online co-op has been my world. What established itself too is an ever increasing backlog of titles I’ve yet to finish or play – what a difference 10 years can make! Games have become a cheap, accessible and plentiful commodity, with all the up and downsides that come with that. What was once a highly restrictive setting due to access and cost considerations is now a challenging selective process due to sheer abundance of releases, special offers and sales. I believe there’s a misconception that the quality of games has gone down with the increased quantity; gaming is as fantastic as ever. Sure, many half-baked games make it to market that probably shouldn’t, yet that’s an issue of quality control and selection rather than a statement on what modern games can achieve.

On MMOnogamy

My MMO drifting years came to a slow end with A Realm Reborn in 2015. According to the Mogstation, I have been actively subscribed for a total of 1410 days since, so I’ve taken a few breaks in between. FFXIV was always on my radar but after the initial disaster, there was a long deliberation period before giving the title a second chance. I am glad that I did – FFXIV has improved tenfold in the meantime and is now, together with WoW, the most solid and content-rich themepark MMORPG out there on the international market.

FFXIV Syl

I’ve kept up with its content over the years and it’s safe to say there’s never been a greater expansion than current Shadowbringers which saw the game soar to new heights with over 20 million registered users. I missed the bus blogging about this between 2019 and 2020 but the noise out there was hard to miss. Shadowbringers will be a tough act to follow for Endwalker but I’m not worried. Safely remaining in Yoshi-P’s hands, FFXIV will continue to offer MMO players a stable online home long into the future. It has found its rhythm and way of doing things and the formula works.

It’s nice to have a steady MMORPG to return to and see the world and your character grow with it. Even if I’m always up for trying new promising titles, and they are now far and few between, I am an MMO monogamist at heart. I like to know where to turn to in the evening after a long day at work. I like walking familiar streets, watching familiar sites. There’s a sense of belonging to an MMO world once you become a more seasoned player that is just very nice and comforting to me, like a warm blanket to the soul. Experience has taught us that nothing lasts forever but until that time, I’m along for the ride.

FFXIV Endwalker Reveal

There was a lot of hype regarding a big reveal for FFXIV this week and some 10 hours ago Square-Enix finally answered the community’s most pressing questions:

  • Yes, there’s going to be a new expansion and it’s called Endwalker
  • The approximate release date is Fall 2021
  • The story will be taking the Warrior of Light to the Moon and Garlemald
  • Yes, they’re finally adding a fourth healer to the game: the Sage
  • Another new class will be melee dps (to be revealed in May)
  • Level cap will be raised to 90

While the teaser trailer didn’t particularly blow me away, the over two hours long announcement showcase covered a lot of ground as to what to expect for Endwalker. As final as the title of the next expansion sounds, Yoshi-P was quick to point out that it marks both a ‘New Dawn’ while simultaneously ending the long story arch of Hydaelyn and Zodiark in 6.0. He was also very clear that he had no intentions personally to go anywhere and was going to remain at FFXIV’s steering wheel for the foreseeable future. Good news.

Thavnair Zone

As for the Garlemald Empire, nothing concrete was revealed other than that it will be part of the Endwalker storyline. A final showdown between Zenos and the Warrior of Light was hinted at while Yoshi-P mentioned it was all going to get complicated (again). Considering how great an expansion Shadowbringers has been, I really look forward to finding out where the story is going!

The design approach, or ‘cultural flair’ if you will, of some of the Endwalker zones scream sub-tropical (some commenters have said latin American) and are very colorful. I’m not much into the whole Dancer class vibe so I’m steeling myself for another experience à la Stormblood rather than Heavensward. Us high fantasy, renfair dragonslayer types can’t always win.

Thoughts about Sage

So the fourth healer class in FFXIV is going to be Sage which came as a surprise to me personally. Yoshi-P has pointed out many times in the past how difficult it is to balance the healing meta in FFXIV while keeping the gameplay fresh and different for each class. Playing a WHM myself when I’m not melting faces, I prefer the pure and powerful healer type (why play anything weaker than the best healer?). For this reason I’ve never been much into SCH or AST.

The Sage has been introduced as another ‘varied healer’ in the showcase which means a mixture of healing, mitigation and dps. What I’ve seen of the play style so far with the 4 Noulith weapons performing different actions, it’s not gonna be my cup of coffee.

Sage FFXIV

Maybe the most exciting reveal about Sage for me personally is the fact they will be revamping AST to become the second pure healer next to WHM in Endwalker. SCH and Sage will occupy the varied healer role and thus become more distinct from the other two, registering differently in the duty finder as well. AST has always had fabulous class design so maybe I’ll be able to enjoy it more after the changes.

No words as of yet on glamour overhaul

One area the announcement showcase sadly didn’t touch upon was the glamour system and glamour inventory issue. While the system has been improved over the years, it is still leaps and bounds behind many other MMORPGs, forcing players to deal with physical items (and physical single-use dyes) that occupy a fairly restrictive inventory space. Considering FFXIV has the one-character-for-all-classes approach, keeps adding 2-3 classes per expansion and is piling on gear sets like no other game does, this is an increasingly pressing and frustrating matter for FFXIV players.

Gear is the true endgame and we all know it, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed we’ll see great changes in this department for Endwalker. Keep your varied healers, gief more shinies space!

The Cosmic Heights of Final Fantasy XIV’s Combat Music

I will love MMO music until the end of my days. It is the only thing about MMOs that has consistently made me happy over the past 16 years and has never let me down. Games come and go, so do posts, blogs, people – but the soundtrack is here to stay. It is a constant source of wonder and joy for me. Battle Bards, the MMO music podcast I share with my friends Syp and Steff, is turning 3 years old this April 2016 and we have a special anniversary episode upcoming next week. These three years, I have not missed a single recording and I regret not the times when I re-scheduled appointments or popped another pill so we could record together across the pond. Above all the things that I do in connection with gaming, the podcast has become my number one priority.

We recently did a second show on FFXIV on Battle Bards, with focus on the Heavensward soundtrack.  While slightly smaller in scope and narrower in focus, Masayoshi Soken has once more hit it out of the ballpark with Heavensward. The music celebrates everything that Final Fantasy means to people, treats its legacy with great respect and comes with a large variety of tracks for both day and night time. And as usual, the combat and boss music knocks you off your socks!

The Cosmic Heights of Final Fantasy XIV's Combat Music

King Thordan is very serious about kicking your butt.

The Cosmic Heights of Final Fantasy XIV’s Combat Music

Combat music is one of the most overlooked themes in most MMO soundtracks which is weird considering how often we do it. Many games don’t have any or only for special occasions, great raid bosses and such. Other games are so terrible at them, you get fed up after the first three times of hearing them. Only FFXIV cannot seem to respect its battle tunes enough; there are a total of 40+ tracks dedicated to different combat/grind/dungeon/raidboss occasions and even the standard field combat themes vary from greater region to region. Fates, leves, guildhests, exploration missions, dungeons….they all get their own dedicated music. As for primal fights, they are bewildering, unique arrangements players will either love or hate but never feel indifferent towards.

But enough gushing, let the music speak for itself. Here’s my very selective list of amazing combat tracks from both ARR and HW for you!

1. FFXIV ARR: Tenacity (Leve theme)
My favorite battle track from ARR, this gets you pumped from the first second and never ever gets old. Leves can be a grind but when Tenacity is on, I couldn’t care less. If you keep listening, you’ll even hear a bagpipe show up!

2. FFXIV ARR: Minstrel’s Ballad (Ultima Weapon theme)
Ultima Weapon is back and don’t let the choral intro to this track fool you, for it takes off at the 1:20 mark. This special story fight was the first time I lost my composure during my ARR journey – just how much more epic can a fight get thanks to the music?

3. FFXIV ARR: Good King Moggle Mog!
If this track isn’t a direct hommage to Jack Skellington and Danny Elfman’s “Nightmare before Christmas” soundtrack, then I don’t know – I’ll eat my hat!

4. FFHW: Ominous Prognisticks (dungeon boss theme)
If A Realm Reborn had great dungeons and raid bosses, Heavensward has taken everything to new heights both in terms of gameplay and music. This particular track comes up in various dungeons for boss encounters and is one of the greatest pieces of music in the entire expansion. I cannot sit still when I hear this!

5. FFHW: Heroes Never Die (Thordan Extreme theme)
The Thordan encounter is one of the most intense multi-phase challenges the game has seen up to now. I have only beaten this boss on normal so far and have been awestruck as he reigned down fire from the heavens while everyone was dying like flies. Such sweet death to such wonderful music packed with familiar FF cues!

6. FFHW: Ravana’s Theme / Thok Ast Thok
Unlike with so many other primal fights, there are only two phases to the Ravana fight as far as the music goes but boy, was I not prepared for that transition after 05:30! This boss fight is a condensation of what only Final Fantasy has mastered time and again, all at once: to be both grandiose and martial while very goofy and unserious at the same time. All hail Ravana, master of roses and death!

Looking for more? Thanks to the tireless work of Mekkah Dee on youtube, you can find a playlist of every single FFXIV combat track here. Enjoy and spread the love!