Sunday, May 23, 2010

Final Fantasy X-2 and its Potential in Final Fantasy XIV

We've all heard it before, hardcore Final Fantasy fans (like myself), whining about how bad the most recent Final Fantasy game is compared to the previous installments. Final Fantasy X-2 in particular got a lot of hate, from myself included. But how much of that was truly warranted? It definitely did not do the first Final Fantasy X game justice, but that was admittedly hard to do, and as horrible as the mission system was in X-2, the game had a great battle system and the storyline finished up where the first game left off quite well.

Deja Vu

The reason for this article is simply because of my renewed interest in the game many loved and others hated which is inspired by my current play-through of this well-timed sequel while waiting for the real focus of my current interests, Final Fantasy XIV. As I play through this game for the umpteenth dozenth time, I can't help but recognize so many similarities between it and other games in the franchise, even the most current unreleased installment, FFXIV. Although that may simply be the job system and other Final Fantasy staples giving overwhelming familiarity, it still makes me realize how often the same systems are used over and over again in these games.

We have seen the same systems reappear many times throughout the series in many different forms, for example; The 'Grid' system which has become popular lately, making appearences in Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XII, and Final Fantasy XIII as well as in spin-offs of those games. Don't get me wrong, I love the grid system, and familiar systems tend to work well because the learning curve isn't very big for returning Final Fantasy franchise players. Sometimes you have to wonder how many times Square-Enix can regurgitate the same systems before they become completely stale though.

Cloning What Works

This brings me to Final Fantasy XIV and the systems it is apparently set to employ. The class system has been in many Final Fantasy games, however this time around it is slightly changed up a bit by fusing classes together into hybrids which effectively slims down the overall number of battle-related classes and gives each class the ability to perform multiple roles at the same time in any given situation. This makes sense because of how the traditional class system in Final Fantasy XI ended up with certain--very specialized--classes that were useless for more than 90% of game content. I see this as Square-Enix fixing one of the biggest mistakes with their last Final Fantasy MMO.

But the one system which will be making a reappearance in FFXIV that has really piqued my interests is the way abilities and spells are learned from the skill level in your currently equipped weapon. We saw this in Final Fantasy II and most recently in Final Fantasy XI. However, magic in Final Fantasy XI was learned from scrolls you used when you reached the appropriate level, whereas melee weapon skills were learned automatically when your skill in a weapon reached sufficient skill level. Abilities in Final Fantasy XI were learned automatically as well, but like magic, they were based on character level.

Final Fantasy XIV seems to be set out to combined all of these into a single way for obtaining new action commands, based directly on the way weapon skills were acquired in Final Fantasy XI. For example; As a Conjurer, when your Elemental Magic skill reaches level 150, you may automatically learn Blizzard II. But when your Staff skill reaches level 150, you may automatically learn Chainspell. This kind of system seems to work really well for an MMO environment, and it also seems to be very popular among Final Fantasy XI players. However, that may be the sheer familiarity of it factoring into people's biased opinions.

Personally, I have played Final Fantasy XI for almost 8 years, and I did enjoy the skill up system, however; I am ready for something new and exciting. Unfortunately, Square-Enix has set out to do what it does best. Regurgitating already established and working systems from older Final Fantasy games, with a slight twist. This makes me especially sad when it comes to Final Fantasy XIV, because the majority of the game is seemingly cloned straight from it's predecessor, Final fantasy XI. I had hoped at the very least, they would have completely redone the battle system to make it more exciting and faster than the worn-out near-decade-old system from FFXI.

Craving Something New

This is where Final Fantasy X-2 comes in. The best part about the game, aside from the storyline finishing up where Final Fantasy X left off, is the battle system. Using Dress spheres to change classes on the fly, and each dress sphere having a list of abilities it can learn by gaining AP (Ability Points), is a great system that may be overused, but if they (Square-Enix) were going to reuse an old system like they are doing anyway, perhaps they could have used one that was actually a bit more interactive and entertaining with a better sense of control and accomplishment like the well-designed system in FFX-2 gives to the player.

The class system was already there within Final Fantasy XIV's development plans, as was the way to change classes on the fly, but instead of making an engaging way to learn new abilities and spells, it seems Square-Enix took the easiest route and built character progression in a way that simply throws new skills at you as you reach required levels.


Obviously it is a bit too late for them to spruce it up at this point, but perhaps they can keep it in mind for their next online iteration of the Final Fantasy franchise.