Blizzard’s core franchise has failed to age gracefully, and now FFXIV Dawntrail highlights World of Warcraft’s flaws even more.
As a World of Warcraft player who is only tangentially knowledgeable about Final Fantasy 14, today's reveal of FFXIV Dawntrail was rough. In many ways it felt like the Spongebob meme of Squidward watching Patrick and his yellow, porous friend run in joy and laughter from the confines of a dark room. While WoW has had a firm grasp on the MMORPG zeitgeist for the longest time, even I must admit a hard truth.
Those days are past. World of Warcraft is the old and busted game. Arguably, it has been for awhile.
Still trying to recover from the Taylor Swift releasing Look What You Made Me Do-like damage of the Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands expansion, WoW has never looked worse. I say that as someone who not only loves Dragonflight, but has lauded Blizzard for changing with the times.
But they're changing with the times as they were in 2015. Meanwhile, FFXIV Dawntrail looks more and more like what the future of MMOs should be in an era of always-online excess.
Ain't what she used to be
- World of Warcraft is showing its age more than ever.
- FFXIV Dawntrail doubles down on accessibility and enabling player fun.
- Two dyes are better than none.
World of Warcraft lost a lot of its charm at some point. A majority of detractors will argue it was around the second major war crime committed by Sylvanas Windrunner. However, many more who most associate WoW with its attempts at mainstream stardom (South Park, Mr. T jokes, etc.) haven't thought the game was fun for awhile.
Those feelings are reflected by the subscription numbers. While no hard data is available, it's thought the current active subscription count hovers around four million players. This is half the number it was at the start of the year if we account for WoW no longer running in China.
And the reason? Well, it's a lot of things, really.
For a game that was once all things to all people, there's also a laundry list of reasons why folks haven't come back to Azeroth. The game's tone. Difficulty spikes. Bad post-expansion content. The game's ever-aging graphics engine. It's unapproachable learning curve. The truth is that all of these things are correct, and that's reflected in the success of Final Fantasy 14--the arguable new king of the genre.
How did a game that, arguably, had one of the worst launches of all time turn into the trend setter? I think the answer is by catering to the actual fanbase and not turning into an end game content funnel.
Which is to say, Final Fantasy has whimsy, fun, adventure, and drama. World of Warcraft mostly has angst and cliched storytelling. This is no more apparent after today's reveal of FFXIV Dawntrail.
Set sails for FFXIV Dawntrail
At this point the reveal of a new FFXIV expansion is a total celebration. While my
Elon Musk Present's X Twitter feed is usually full of doom and gloom, that was replaced this week with speculation and joy over a new journey in FFXIV. Dawntrail didn't disappoint, as all afternoon each small announcement made the peanut gallery of Twitter pop with glee more and more. The reveal of the game's enhanced graphics engine was topped by the mere announcement that players can now use two dye colors on their custom gear.
TWO. THAT IS MORE THAN ONE.
And if we're being honest? If I'm a World of Warcraft player I'm looking at my busted and archaic transmog system and wondering if the ethereal cartel running things doesn't have my best interests at heart.
This might be a silly thing to focus on. However, the excitement at such a "it's somewhere in the patch notes" feature hits the nail on the head of WoW's problems. It's a game that has sucked all the joy and sense of adventure from its world, players, and experience. The gamification and min/maxing that goes on in all elements of World of Warcraft was once its greatest strength.
The WoW stigma
After all, when people think of WoW they tend to think of gear, raids, DKP, Leeroy Jenkins, and jerk holes. One of the biggest flag-carriers for the game, Azmongold, is known more for being the unwashed masses' online avatar than he is for championing the game. Meanwhile, FFXIV fans are over here looking at Dawntrail and getting excited about boat rides, grapes, and extra colors.
And I'm jealous.
There. I said it.
I want the best for World of Warcraft and it's current direction, though better, is not its best. Azeroth is no longer a joy. I long for an expansion akin to Dawntrail that its creators refer to as "the very best summer vacation a hero could possibly have." That sounds amazing!
Instead, it's yet another universe-crushing disaster, void monsters, and reused ideas for World of Warcraft. It's tiring. I'm tired. My Shadow Priest is tired. Let her go on a vacation, for the love of Old Gods. She needs less eldritch horrors and more time to ready Eat. Pray. Mrgle. on the beaches of Stranglethorn Vale.
And more to the point, the players of Azeroth need a new direction for World of Warcraft. Sooner, rather than later--before they find that the critically acclaimed MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV has a free trial, and includes the entirety of A Realm Reborn AND the award-winning Heavensward expansion up to level 60 with no restrictions on playtime.
Oh, wait. Even that meme is outdated now. The trial includes Stormblood now too.
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