|All my pretty paladin gear <3|
I'm hoping to get into organized raiding in FFXIV soon, so I can compare it to my experiences in WoW. The Free Company I'm in, Greysky Armada, is pretty active. I got roped in by The Bel Effect, of course, like many others, but I've stayed because the game has an immense amount of content that's quite polished. And the subscriber base is nothing to sneeze about, measuring at roughly half a million outside China by any searches I try. When compared to the behemoth that is WoW, 500k isn't very much, but compared to pretty well every other MMO? Easily in profitable territory.
So how do the games stack up? They're both Themepark MMOs, with your standard action bars, classes, real-time cooldown-based combat, small and large group-based content, and an expansive world. When your mechanics aren't terribly unique due to genre, what you have left to differentiate is the aesthetics of the game. Things like graphics, story, sound, and so on. So here's a few comparisons.
FFXIV has the benefit of a much newer engine compared to WoW. A friend of mine once commented that WoW's graphics looked like mud, and while I still disagree with him, FFXIV's graphics certainly shine in comparison. They're much sharper, a lot more details overall, and more vibrant. While WoW's stylized graphics have allowed it to stand the test of time a lot better than other games that go for semi-realistic, I have to admit, FFXIV's are pretty damn good.
|WoW on the left, FFXIV on the right. Not quite a fair comparison: Shadowmoon Valley on the left is perpetually night, but you can see the sheer lack of polygons in WoW's graphics.|
However, the interesting thing here is that in content such as dungeons, I'd actually say WoW has the better visuals. I'll touch on this later, but many of FFXIV's dungeons are pretty boring visually. Perhaps it allows them to shove content out faster, but compared to the details you see in WoW's dungeons, it's just not as interesting.
|WoW on the left, FFXIV on the right.|
That being said, the spell effects? FFXIV wins, absolutely beautiful.
I'm not a huge fan of the whole "ambient" thing Western RPGs seem to have going. I prefer my music to have strong musical themes and an actual melody. Warlords of Draenor brings some of that, and it truly has some great music, but FFXIV's music is fantastic. I'll admit to being totally biased in favour of the JRPG style of music, and FFXIV does not disappoint.
One thing that FFXIV does so well that WoW does not is music based on context. When in combat, you get different music. When in a dungeon, you have different music for the zone, vs. battles, vs. the bosses. Major bosses throughout the game even get their own themes, whereas WoW you only get music for the zone as far as I've ever been able to tell. Some of the zone music is quite good, but the variation and context I get with FFXIV's means I don't just turn it off in favour of my own music.
Not only that, but again music provides context. In a video later I'll show off myself doing Titan Hard Mode, and you'll notice the music changes depending on what phase of the fight you're in. During the DPS race to kill his heart in the middle of the battle, the music changes to something more harried, frantic, before going back to the heavy guitar of the rest of the fight if you succeed. It's an amazing touch.
Seriously, the music in FFXIV overall is just better in my opinion.
Interestingly, FFXIV ties a lot of content to the main story. You unlock things like dungeons, airships, mounts, and so on through the main story. Anytime you're not sure about when a specific mechanic will become available? Just keep going through the story.
And what a story. Very Final Fantasy in nature, with crystals, big summoned bads, some politics, and an evil empire. I've completed the initial main story up to level 50 and it was really quite good with a satisfying ending. However, that's apparently only about half the content available story-line wise.
One of the big things that differentiates WoW and FFXIV is who is the main character of the story. In FFXIV, it's unequivocally you. You're the star, the hero. In WoW, it's mostly about the NPCs and you're just there to clean up messes (friggin' kill-stealer Thrall, most of all). Heck, early kills that players made like Onyxia got ret-conned to be prominent NPCs. You're not important, you're just another pawn in the grand scheme. FFXIV, however, you're the lynchpin of most heroic deeds.
That's not to say there aren't memorable NPCs in FFXIV. There are quite a few, from the heads of state to the members of your merry band of heroes. Also, the name Hildebrand will conjure up both eyerolls and giggles from the FFXIV player populace.
There's also a number of cutscenes (oh man, are there ever a lot of cutscenes!), both in dungeons and in questing. A lot of showing, some telling, and a lot of cases where both are occurring. But there's rarely any plain old quest text that isn't explained in either a discussion with the NPC directly, or via cutscene. The quest text is supplemental to that to remind you of what you discussed, but you can get away with not reading it at all because all the information was handed to you already otherwise. A much more engaging way of questing than WoW's method of throwing a wall of text at you.
Honestly, I think WoW's story has a lot more potential than FFXIV's right now. There's so much more world in World of Warcraft. However, Blizzard's largely squandered it, because they don't really care. I cannot for the life of me find the quote, but it's been said by Blizzard that they're not Bioware, that story isn't the focus of their game. And that's okay, but if you want story, FFXIV right now is the stronger bet in my mind.
There's so much more to talk about--like the community and the tools that FFXIV uses to enforce/encourage better community interactions; or the content and how it rises in a pretty smooth difficulty curve; or how some of the end-game content compares to WoW's; or how FFXIV has more content each patch than WoW does, and patches come faster; or how gathering/crafting differs significantly from WoW; or just the sheer amount of content in general. So on and so forth.
The basics between the two games are pretty well equal: we are talking your bog-standard MMORPG. But so far it feels FFXIV is out-Blizzarding Blizzard in terms of polish and evolving the genre. And that's a good thing! Perhaps FFXIV will start eating WoW's lunch and Blizzard will light a fire under their butts. There's definitely more blog posts coming on my experiences, but here's a video of me in Titan (Hard Mode) to give you an idea of how some of the end-game content looks. #WoW, #FFXIV