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Final Fantasy XIV

Square bravely attempt an accessible console MMO

Square's last MMORPG (massively multi-player online role-playing game) was Final Fantasy XI. We reviewed it way back in issue 49 and gave it 85%, citing its major problem as a lack of accessibility. Because if you didn't have a large group of friends, all with PS2s, special PS2 hard-drives and import copies of the game, the fun was severely limited. But that's all changed in XIV, a timed PS3 exclusive. We interviewed producers Sage Sundi and Hiromichi Tanaka at GamesCom and they explained the changes they've made to make new MMO, FFXIV, fun for everyone, not just groups of friends.

"In FFXI the focus was on working together to take down large monsters." Explains Tanaka. "In FFXIV you'll be able to play on your own for a lot of the game. Later, when you encounter higher level monsters, you'll need to co-operate with other players and take up your own role in that group."

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The core of the game has also been simplified. Rather than level your character up with traditional experience points earned by killing enemies, a new job system is in place. "We didn't want the user to be restricted by having one job; we wanted them to have more flexibility" says Sundi. "Not having levelling up is nothing new in the genre, it's just that it has been made 'the norm' by games like World of Warcraft. If you look back in the Final Fantasy series, FFII had a skill-based system instead of a level-based mechanic, so we have it in our heritage too."

This means you'll be able to switch easily between classes depending on how you want to approach a situation. Maybe you need to back your team up with healing spells? Then become a white mage. Or maybe you favour strong physical attacks? A knight is probably your best bet. This flexible system means you won't be stuck with one playing style, which increases the game's overall accessibility.

So what's the truth behind FFXIV's apparent PS3 exclusivity? Despite the bombastic announcement at this year's E3, the reality isn't quite as dramatic. FFXI was cross-platform, meaning you could play with PC users, and Square want the same for the sequel. But because of some internal Microsoft rules, they won't let Square implement this into the 360 version at the moment (negotiations are, sadly, underway though).

Sony on the other hand, don't mind that kind of thing, so we get the title first. And we get the added bonus of playing with people on PC from the start. There will also be a subscription fee, though Square isn't talking about how much it'll be yet.

Just like in XI, you choose from a selection of races when creating your character. These are the Hyur, who are similar to humans; the Elezen, who are a bit like elves; the Lalafell, tiny humanoids with superior intelligence and agility; the Roegadyn who are huge, powerful brutes; and the Miqo'te, a race of cat-like creatures. Your appearance is determined by your job, although you'll be able to customise your looks with additional armour.

It's all set in a totally new world called Eorza. After a long and brutal war, the world is at peace leaving thousands of soldiers and mercenaries without work. This leads them to become full-time adventurers for hire, forming guilds and seeking their fortune by performing odd-jobs, killing monsters, and hunting down hidden treasures.

XI failed because the PS2's network was a mess. But now nearly every PS3 user is hooked up online, and the steps Square Enix have made to making the game easier to play for newcomers and solo players should make this a fantastic first introduction to MMORPGs on PS3.

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