At the moment we're all playing on our "free" month or our legacy days, extended as a goodwill gesture to compensate for the rocky start. Soon enough, though, everyone playing will have to decide, firstly whether they want to begin paying for the service at all and secondly, if so how much?
|Sun comes up, it's another day.|
There are two choices. When you look at the matrix it looks like more, but all but one of the variations relate only to how much you pay, not what you get for your money. The two substantive options are
- Entry - One character per world to a maximum of eight characters across eight worlds.
- Standard - Eight characters per world to a maximum of forty characters across up to forty worlds.
|I'm sure this is where he said he'd meet me.|
Which is strange, because the mechanics of the game would seem to be more than simply unsupportive of the playing of multiple characters, indeed positively inimical to it. It's not just that a single character can accumulate every single class, adventuring, crafting and gathering all, to the maximum level. Nor is it only that there are mechanisms within the game that make chopping and changing between these classes simple and effective. Nor yet is it even that there are powerful synergies available for multi-classed characters.
No, those are just the very considerable positive re-inforcements that make single character play by far the most attractive and practical option. There's also an equally powerful negative re-inforcement against playing more than one character, namely that significant elements of gameplay are gated behind the Main Storyline and playing through that narrative is extremely time-consuming, even if you don't mind watching the same movie over and over again.
|Sixth time's the charm.|
I listed some of the obstacles, somewhat inaccurately, here in the "Storyline" entry. As I discovered only last night, getting your Chocobo to fight alongside you is not dependent on the storyline (although having the Chocobo to begin with is) and you can get to and from La Noscea by ferry, which, unlike the Airship, is independent of the narrative. On the other hand, I omitted to mention that only by completing certain stages of the storyline can you add some of the dungeons to your Duty Finder.
Whatever the exact details, the substantive fact is that to have access to a number of important facilities and activities within the game each of your characters must complete various stages of the main plot. It's a very good story, but it takes a long time to play out, there are many, many cut-scenes and many obligatory fights and set-pieces. You might be ready to go through it again a year or two from now, but if you're the kind of player who tends to have half a dozen characters as works-in-progress by the end of the free month (guilty as charged) it's more than just a daunting prospect, it's more like a brick wall.
|Tell me about it!|
The structure of the game having undermined one of the foundations of my habitual playstyle, what's left to encourage me to continue once my single character reaches the cap in all the classes that interest her?
Completion of the storyline, perhaps, although if as I suspect the tasks required to pursue the narrative eventually spiral out of reach of my ability to complete them then any closure may well have to come via YouTube.
Exploring the world and what it has to offer is a powerful motivator to continue, of course, but eventually I'll have been everywhere, seen everything and have more screenshots than I'll ever need.
Without an army of characters to level up, sooner or later the Endgame will loom, dark and foreboding, filled with all the grim, joyless finality its name portends. I don't really do endgame. Repeated runs through dungeons to get gear with incrementally increased stats in order to make repeated runs through the same dungeons at a harder setting to get incrementally better gear to go on repeated raids to get incrementally better gear to go on harder raids...it's the worm eating its own tail forever and much though I dig repetition this is not the repetition I dig.
|Two Topaz Carbuncles. Winning ugly.|
Prospects for a run in FFXIV to match the uninterrupted twelve months I spent in GW2, for example, seem bleak. I won't be having nine characters at level cap in FFXIV any time soon.
It's not all doom and gloom though. Leveling up multiple classes on one character may not be as much fun as leveling up single classes on multiple characters but it is still fun. A lot of fun, as these things go. And leveling is distinctly on the slow side by modern MMO standards so it's going to take awhile, easily long enough to bridge to the first major update due, I believe, end of November/beginning of December, an update which brings both the first taste of PvP and, more importantly, housing, both of which offer the potential of open-ended content.
That's all in the future but for now there's more than enough to keep me occupied, plenty of new places to discover, sights to see and experiences to savor. And despite all the logic of the above I'll almost certainly go for the Standard Monthly sub with the extra character slots. Being contractually tied to a single character would be claustrophobic and anyway I'm pretty sure in time I'll think of something amusing for a few more characters to do that doesn't involve grinding through the narrative all over again.