THE NEVERENDING STORY – WHOA WHOA, WHOA WHOA, WHOA WHOA
Multiple times during my hands on experience with FFXIV I heard the producer on hand use the phrase, “If you’ve played an MMO, then you know that [fill in the trope]”. Surveying the characters at my disposal, they were described as fitting into the traditional molds of Tank, Healer, Ranged DPS, etc.
Graham walked me through the ins and outs:
You should be able to figure out your stats and everything. Don’t remove any of your armor for the fight, it’s specially made for your character and won’t work with the other classes anyways. What you have on is optimal since it works best for your role.
He was right about everything: we all formed up as representatives of different classes, each serving our niche role to take down Ifrit with a natural automation that only MMO playing can breed. Anyone familiar with that basic gaming syntax will slide right in, no problem.
How can any of this be construed as a good sign for a series that desperately needs to try something new? With every passing Final Fantasy they further deplete their resources and exhaust their heritage: limit breakers are blunted, recycled fantasy lands seem like suburbs, chocobos become less and less adorable.
Even more damning, their core audience grows older and more distant to their childhood memories of FF joy. Perhaps deafened by too many Ultima summons, this Square Enix team seems to have no choice but to heroically forge ahead with their current model of mediocrity.
It has inspired a simple thought experiment: if we shipped Hiromichi Tanaka and his team to the moon, would they continue to create Final Fantasy clones for the rest of time? Would said clones at some point exhaust every logically possible different sequence of battle events in an RPG before another race discovers them? Would they be happy in their Sisyphean duties? Would time even be able to tell?