News are also out on patch 2.55, the final part of Before the Fall – it’s coming out on March 31, which is soon. I still got a lot to do in the previous 2.5 patches, so I have my work cut out for me. I’ve had some issues with PUGs in The Chrysalis, which has blocked me from further progress (that Meteor-phase has really been killing my groups, for some stupid reason – it’s not my fault, I swear!).
We don’t know very much about what will be in the patch itself, but during the Letter from the Producer Live, Yoshi P revealed a couple of details. The World of Darkness weekly loot limit will be removed (that was quick) and the Final Coil of Bahamuth will be added to the Duty Finder for the masochstic players out there. MGP rewards in Gold Saucer will be tweaked – hopefully farming MGPs through Chocobo races will be more viable after 2.55 compared to now. Triple Triad is getting some attention as well, with some changes to tournaments and the challenge levels of certain NPCs.
And, of course, we’re getting the final pieces of story before we go off to Ishgard. I’m expecting it the whole thing to be epic. After all, this is the end of A Realm Reborn, the story that has been running since 2.0 came out, if not before. It will be a long wait between 2.55 and Heavensward. I expect a proper cliff hanger.
So, have you pre-ordered yet Heavensward, ready for early access so you’ll be able to continue the story as soon as possible? I’ll wait for a while, allow everything to calm down a bit, before jumping on the pre-order train. That hippogryph must be mine though!
Speaking of which – let’s talk about those flying mounts, shall we?
As we all know by now, Heavensward will feature flying mounts – including a kick-ass dragon which looks like it will actually have a nice tie-in with the lore (at least that’s current speculation, but I’ll leave that part out because of patch 2.5 spoilers) and the classic flying black Chocobos. These mounts will only be useable in the Heavensward areas, since the rest of Eorzea really isn’t built to be seen from the air (like Azeroth before the Cataclysm revamp). Some of the vistas shown in the trailers have been really breathtaking.
While flying is always cool, I always get a bit worried when MMOs introduce them. There’s a lot to gain, but you also lose out on some stuff. So let’s start out with the bad stuff, so we can end on a good note. Nicer that way.
A cliche when discussing flying mounts in MMOs, since it’s brought up in every thread about the subject in the history of the Internet, is that the world instantly becomes smaller. Getting from point A to point B becomes trivial – in most cases you can just reach a comfortable cruising altitude, press auto-run and off you go in a straight line, passing any obstacles that would be in your way on the ground. Instead of a place you move through, the world now becomes a simple backdrop you pass by. A lot of details are lost, exploration loses a part of its charm (even if it is of course still available, if you turn your camera downwards and keep your eyes open).
I find this argument quite compelling. The counter argument is of course that you don’t have to use your flying mounts (in most cases), instead you can just ride wherever you like normally. That is true, but let’s be honest – we are creatures of comfort, if there’s an easy way to do it we’ll probably chose that most of the time anyway. For all the people who proclaimed that they’d never use fast travel when The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion came out, I wonder how many actually stuck to that once they had actually been playing for a few hours? Once the flying mounts are in the game, 99% of us will use them more or less constantly anyway.
Bypassing the world like this also means flying past danger. In an MMO, that argument is less compelling for me. In most cases and games, there is no actual danger to run into. In games like Rift, with its random encounters and spawns, it’s different. In Final Fantasy XIV, unless you happen to stumble straight into and face-pull a S-rank hunt mark, you’ll be fine. Eorzea, for the most part, simply isn’t a very dangerous place – at least once you’ve reached level 50.
Random mobs pose no challenge and if you’re not in the mood, you can simply out-run them on your Chocobo anyway. At the same time, most mobs make up the mood and theme of the zones – be they bandits, animals, monsters or whatever else fits in. While more of an inconvenience than actual danger, they are a part of the world.
Of course, game designers know the impact flying mounts will have on their game – which is one reason why Blizzard, for every new expansion pack, keep taking them away until we reach the new level cap. While I understand why they do that, it still rubs me the wrong way. You’ve made your bed, you gave us the ability to fly, now you sleep in it and design with that in mind. It has always struck me like a cop-out, turning flying mounts into a convenience you’re rewarded with over and over again instead of being a major part of gameplay overall. If you’re so worried about players going off the path you’ve prepared, just take away the flying mounts once and for all instead of constantly grounding us. Having to learn skills like “cold weather flying” is just silly.
As it stands right now, the world is just in the way before we can get back to flying past it, earning our right to convenience again so we once more can ignore everything between point A and B. This is my fear for Final Fantasy XIV as well, that this circle will simply repeat itself. If you’re going to add in flying mounts, own it. Only allow them in certain areas, or restrict usage in other ways. Keep them in Heavensward, for example. Don’t keep taking them away just so that we have to unlock them again. And again. And again.
So let’s end on the good note then, shall we?
Flying mounts are freaking cool. Soaring through the air, seeing places we’ve passed through on foot before, from the air, is amazing. Remember that feeling when you unlocked your first flying mount in an MMO? For me, like for many others, it was when I hit level 70 in The Burning Crusade. The rush was incredible. And when Cataclysm revamped Azeroth, finally seeing the capital cities – cities we had spent so much time in – from above was fantastic. Sure, Stormwind suddenly felt quite small, but it was still a thing of beauty.003
And I’m not going to complain too much about convenience. Because it is nice to be able to get from point A to point B quickly. These days we’re so used to fast travel anyway. Seriously, how much gil have we all wasted on teleports by now? Do you ever travel by foot to new areas? Or do you, like me, tend to teleport all over the place? Hell, I tend to teleport to aetherytes in the same zone as I’m in. As someone who even uses Chocobo porters to get around, complaining about bypassing the world feels slightly hypocritical. I’m lazy. Flying mounts help me being lazy.
We don’t know how flying mounts will impact Heavensward and my gut-reaction against their inclusion is quite silly. As long as they are done right, they can be a fantastic addition to a game.
Also, as I’ve said before, I need that hippogryph.