When it comes to MMOs the only one I’ve sunk any amount of time into is Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). I’ve been playing it on and off since the beta around October 2011. In that time, I’ve taken 19 characters to the current level cap of 75 and had a taste of pretty much everything it has to offer. I’m very excited for future releases as well.
I have wondered over the years what other MMOs are like and with the launch of New World today and recently taking the plunge into Final Fantasy XIV (FF14), I’ve discovered that I really like MMOs. I’m getting drawn into FF14 and loving the game overall but it is very different to SWTOR and I’m finding there’s things that are unique to the two MMOs. I’m also rediscovering some things that drew me to SWTOR in the first place that have taken a back seat to other in game priorities. No doubt New World will ignite more new feelings in me.
So in honour of my new found love for MMOs, here’s 7 things I learnt starting a new MMO.
The World Is My Oyster
When I first started SWTOR I didn’t just go where the missions told me. I went everywhere! If there was a spot on the map not filled in I would search and search to make sure it was completed. After a few characters that sense of wonder I got from exploring slowly receded. What’s the point in getting the map filled in when it’s exactly the same as the other maps you’ve filled in?
FF14 has reinvigorated the explorer in me. I love finding every nook and cranny and seeing if there’s any treasure or other shiny things. Being a tourist in the land of Eorzea is amazing, visiting the landmarks and taking in the amazing vistas.
I Am A Lore Whore
It’s no secret that I’m a major Star Wars fan. I want to learn every little thing about it I can. And when I find another universe I like I’ll throw myself into it and want to learn everything I can about it. Another benefit of loving exploring is finding lore items like signs explaining the world more, or side quests that introduce new characters and add more to the experience.
The level of detail in MMOs is incredible and quite often the most interesting things happen in side quests. So pick up all the quests you find and learn all you can. Although that can lead to other problems.
Creating A Character Is Hard
I want my character to be unique and stand out from the others. But there’s so many options! Don’t get me wrong I like that there’s different customisation options and giving the player more choice is great, but trying to work out which race and class combinations work well together without resorting to an online guide is tricky.
MMOs have the holy trinity of DPS (dealers of damage), healers (fixers of damage) and tanks (takers of damage). I spent considerable time reading the descriptions of the races and classes in FF14 to work out which would be best for me. I like to start off with a DPS class when learning as they’re generally the easiest for me to play, which I figured would be important when starting a new MMO. In the end I went with a Conjurer because it sounded the closest to the ranged magic user I wanted with what I thought was a good (as opposed to evil) alignment. I didn’t realise I’d picked the only healing class in the game and wasn’t aware it until I was a few hours in. So now I’m a healer and while I’m enjoying it, it wasn’t clear that’s what I was picking at the beginning.
And that’s all before I even try and come up with a name.
Doing all the side quests and taking in all the story content available has the unintended side effect of being incredibly powerful when it comes to story missions, inevitably making the combat trivial. SWTOR tried to remedy this by making entire planets have a level sync, reducing your stats and level to something more appropriate for that area but keeping gear stats so you still had some advantage for playing further through the game.
FF14 has its own level sync, but instead of being by region or planet it’s done for certain missions. These missions and small world events called FATES will prompt you to lower your level to participate, keeping combat interesting. Certain story missions will also sync your level.
You can always not do the side missions and keep your level low, but I feel that’s not for a first playthrough.
Gameplay is important but I find that if a game doesn’t have a fitting story, I can get bored with it. Both SWTOR and FF14 have interesting stories (at least the bits I’ve played so far), but one key difference between the two is choice.
SWTOR gives you some agency over how the story turns out. Your choice to help certain people or do certain things can either aid you in future missions or make things harder because you killed the person that can help you. FF14 tells its epic story without input from the player character. Whatever the game needs you to do, you do.
Each story telling method has its pros and cons. Choice makes the player feel like the character is truly theirs and makes roleplaying easier but makes future stories complicated. Did player X kill this NPC? Alright well they can’t appear in future expansions, but they can still appear for player Y who didn’t kill them. Linear stories also end up in the same place and it doesn’t feel like the player is (at times) being railroaded into a particular choice that’s out of line for their character.
Free To Play Is Great To Capture New Players
One thing I was glad to see SWTOR introduce was the free to play model, even if I’m constantly subscribed and don’t use it. FF14 also has a free trial so that made my decision to jump into FF14 easier as well. If I can try a decent portion of the game without having to buy it or subscribe, I’m more likely to try it out and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
SWTOR offers a free to play option that lets you rank up to level 60 and covers the base game which includes 8 separate class stories, plus the first two expansions Rise Of The Hutt Cartel and Shadow Of Revan.
FF14’s free to play option also lets you level up to 60 and contains the base game and the first expansion Heavensward.
Free to play generally has restrictions on what you can do as well, like locking you out of some daily missions, trading restrictions or the number of characters you can have.
Where to go after Free To Play
Free to play is great, but what the game devs really want you to do is to spend money on the game. Subscribing is the main way MMOs make money and the access that gives you does vary.
SWTOR has a fair in depth system for players that have never subbed, always subbed or were once subbed but aren’t at the moment. Subscribing gets you access to everything. And by everything I mean everything. All story content up to the very latest expansion, player vs player (PVP) content, no cap on in game items. EVERYTHING! And if you choose to stop your subscription you become a preferred player, still having access to your characters but also having restrictions on some content.
FF14 does things differently. Their free trial is only open to new characters and cannot be used for existing characters so it encourages new players coming in. You also need to buy new expansions separately, as well as be subscribed to use them. If you don’t subscribe you can’t play the game at all.
There you have it, the 7 things I learnt starting a new MMO. What do you think? Have something you’d like to add? Lets us know on Twitter.