Final Fantasy 14 used to be rather hard to get into. The combined class structure was alien to many players, as the concept of alts is all but unnecessary and things were extremely complex. The amount of stuff to do overwhelmed many players.
But when FF14’s 5.3 update comes out, things are going to change for the better. The new patch is called Reflections in Crystal, and it’s the perfect opportunity for Square Enix to reflect on the path that the game has taken. The update will change the way the free trial works, in a very positive way.
In simple terms, the free trial is actually being expanded. Most MMOs will have increasingly restrictive free trials as more content is added. Having to experience the first 20-30 levels of a game with a level cap of 80 is such a small window of time to feel out an MMO. With the old trial, you could only level certain classes to level 35, when the new patch drops, things are shifting and everyone is able to play for free until level 60.
The best thing about all of this is that Final Fantasy 14 is that kind of MMO you can actually play casually. Getting to play through 60 levels across most of the job classes in the game basically means you get the whole game up to a certain point. Your trading and some multiplayer options are a bit restricted, as the developer doesn’t want free accounts exploiting the economy, but it’s still a great way to handle introducing the game.
New players coming in for the first time all already overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in the game, but counterintuitively, opening up more of it is actually helpful. Knowing and experience the later stages of the game before you pay is a great way to really learn if the game is for you. And with the incredibly helpful Final Fantasy 14 community out there, there’s plenty of veterans ready to assist new folks.
PC Gamer sat down with game director and producer Naoki Yoshida to talk about the thought process behind this change, and it’s very illuminating. The general feeling of the trial experience is that it was too cookie-cutter. To explain, Yoshida uses the concept of a basic fetch quest where the player has to get some water from a nearby river:
“You’d have to collect the bucket, then you’d go to the river, and then you couldn’t collect the water in one go so you’d have to collect it three times to get the right number, and then you’d go to a person to deliver the bucket, and then you’d go to another person to collect the reward,” Yoshida said. “We thought that the amount of time that a player would have to spend versus the gameplay experience that they would get out of that particular quest line was very unbalanced.”
So by shifting the pacing toward more epic quests, the players get to experience more of what truly makes the game great. Rather than having to spend hours grinding public quests, players can jump further into the endgame much quicker. In short, the game is getting the fat trimmed. The hundreds of beginner quests across the world of Eorzea are being cut or revamped to make the game move a lot faster, and to redo a lot of the leveling will make the overall experience more fun and accessible.
One example applies going back to the bucket from earlier. In 5.3, the water collection and the bucket are basically automatic, making that single quest much quicker. Now quantify that across hours of play and see how much time is saved. As for removed content, the team estimates that only about 13 percent of previous quests have been deleted outright, so it’s not too bad.
A Realm Reborn will still be a bit of a slog, as it’s nowhere near as epic compared to later expansions, but the revamp is much-needed and very cool.