This week marks the beginning of a new column here at MMOGames. Every other week I’ll be discussing and comparing two aspects of multiplayer gaming, whether it’s concepts or actual games, and declaring a winner out of the two. Some of you might think, “Who is he to judge the better of two games?” While I do have more than 20 years of experience with gaming, these are also simply my opinions so feel free to disagree. If you do disagree leave a comment saying why, I'm always interested in hearing other opinions.
To start things off in a relatively controversial manner, we’re going to put the mighty World of Warcraft against Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. There’s no denying that World of Warcraft is one of the most popular games ever created and has always had significantly more players than Final Fantasy XIV, but does that actually say anything about the quality? Judging from American consumption standards, that would be the equivalent to saying that the Big Mac is the best burger on the planet or that Call of Duty is the best first-person shooter ever developer. Both of the aforementioned have been incredibly successful and sold a significant amount of units, but neither has been declared the pinnacle of its respective category. With that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at these two MMORPGs.
STORY – WORLD OF WARCRAFT
With the amount of storytelling Square Enix has under its belt you’d think that this would be a no brainer, but that isn’t quite the case. The storyline in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn drags out considerably and is honestly very uninteresting for the most part. Even though the player is constantly commended like a hero, most of the time it feels like you’re an errand boy. Go here and kill these menial monsters, deliver these reports, or collect these herbs. Of course this is the typical formula for any MMORPG, but from a game series renowned for making the player feel like someone special this definitely comes off as lackluster. The story really only becomes interesting once the Garlean invasion takes a forefront and the final story dungeons are unlocked such as Castrum Meridianum and The Praetorium.
World of Warcraft, on the other hand, takes a highly acclaimed background story from the Warcraft franchise, but it doesn’t have nearly as much depth to fall back on. Although much of the beginning is just as uninteresting as Final Fantasy XIV, the ramp up is significantly quicker. It’s relatively unfair to compare the story of vanilla World of Warcraft to Final Fantasy XIV 2.4, and most of its expansions have done justice to both expanding on the Warcraft storyline and making the player feel significant. Fighting Illidan, challenging the Lich King and laying siege to Orgrimmar are all very memorable experiences. Warlords of Draenor has managed to surpass its successors with the inclusion of dramatic cutscenes and memorable characters that have surpassed most other MMORPGs. In terms of the quantity and quality of the plot, World of Warcraft wins this round.
VISUALS – FINAL FANTASY
Eorzea is quite possibly one of the most beautiful places ever created in an MMORPG setting. Azeroth, on the contrary, is relatively drab regardless of the setting. The forests, deserts, beaches and mountains all resemble the same boring textures across the entire world. Even with the graphical improvements of Warlords of Draenor the game is still not that pretty. It does have a completely different artistic style compared to Final Fantasy XIV, but there’s no denying the graphical fidelity is also significantly lower. The detail in the characters, environment, monsters and armor is so superior in Final Fantasy XIV that it wins hands down.
GAMEPLAY – FINAL FANTASY
Generally this is one of the most important aspects of any game, except when we’re talking about MMORPGs. After returning to both Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft after 6 months of WildStar, they both feel incredibly weak in this aspect. Tabbing onto a target, pressing a single button and then waiting for the global cooldown to expire is not exactly exhilarating gameplay, but it’s been in the MMORPG formula since the beginning. While a few games have tried to venture outside of this relatively sluggish combat, looking at you Tera and WildStar, they’ve not been the most successful games due to various other reasons.
That being said, if the combat is not necessarily the most entertaining then it should at least be strategic. Unfortunately World of Warcraft also fails in this aspect. Most classes have a very short rotation, consisting of 3 to 5 skills, and the help of macros or addons really diminishes any player skill involved. The upside is that World of Warcraft also has a much shorter global cooldown, and more skills that avoid it, often leading to faster-paced combat, but the rotations in Final Fantasy XIV require a bit more precision and coordination. While neither game attempts to break out of the mold in this category, Final Fantasy XIV barely edges out ahead on the simple fact that it’s much harder to play while blindfolded. Having played Warlords of Draenor up to Heroic Highmaul, I can honestly say I spent most of my time pressing 1 through 4 on my keyboard without having to do much thinking in between.
PVP – WORLD OF WARCRAFT
While this might not exactly seem like a fair fight, player vs player combat is a significant part of any MMORPG experience. Although many RPG fans take a more casual approach to their PvP, there are also those who take it very seriously as well. This is also one of the biggest downfalls of Final Fantasy XIV; the Wolves’ Den is a very sad excuse for the extent of a PvP experience. This battleground takes place in one of the least inspired areas of Eorzea and only has a single game mode, which consists of 4 vs 4 combat. Classes seem fairly unbalanced and it’s often difficult for melee fighters to put on signficiant pressure because simply running away will generally disrupt their combos. The long global cooldown timer and overall lack of burst damage turns these fights into a contest of who can kill the other team’s healer the quickest. The upside is that players are rewarded with interesting new skills and equipment, but sadly they're also only usable in this single arena.
Having 10 years to fine tweak its PvP system, World of Warcraft has come a long way. Despite world PvP having died out years ago on most servers, there are a significant amount of battlegrounds and arenas to choose from. Having separate rated PvP instances also creates a more competitive aspect for those looking for it. The biggest downfall with World of Warcraft PvP is the massive weight that’s put on gear accumulation and how there’s usually a flavor of the month when it comes to class balancing. Regardless of these problem areas, World of Warcraft still dominates in the PvP realm.
END GAME – FINAL FANTASY
Usually consisting of hardcore PvP, raiding and world bosses, the end game is the culmination of every MMORPG experience. This is where all the hard work of grinding, whether experience or reputation, finally pays off. Unfortunately, once many players reach this point many games become simply logging on a few hours a week to show up hoping to get a spot in the raid. For World of Warcraft this has always been the case. Regardless of the expansion there have always been a handful of end game bosses and dungeons, but each one is usually a step to progress to the next. Currently there’s only really one raid in Warlords of Draenor, Highmaul, with various tiers that prepare players for the next step. This consists of very linear upgrades that can become pretty tedious by the time most players reach the level of Mythic.
Final Fantasy XIV follows a similar regime, but also offers a lot more. There is the typical end game raid, The Binding Coil of Bahamut, but there is also an array of other things to do after hitting level 50. First off the story doesn’t end here, so players looking for a little more lore will definitely have it. Additionally there are hunts and various tiers of primal encounters; these fights consists of a single boss, which eliminates the grind and gets straight to the action. Before the Fall Part 2 is also going to include the Gold Saucer, which is said to bring all kinds of Chocobo related events and even Triple Triad to Eorzea. While World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV have similar end game material, the latter wins out due to the sheer variety of things to occupy yourself with.
VICTOR – FINAL FANTASY
There’s no denying that both Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and World of Warcraft are both very influential MMORPGs with different strengths, but in the end Final Fantasy comes out as simply a higher quality experience. The visuals are gorgeous, the combat requires more intuition and the end game possess much needed variety. World of Warcraft might have a significantly larger player base, but all that means is it’s more accessible to the general public; easier does not equate to a better game. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying World of Warcraft, but Final Fantasy XIV offers an overall superior MMORPG adventure for those willing to give it a chance.