FFXIV: You Think You’re in an Open World, But You’re Not

The thing bugging me most in FFXIV is probably “the world” itself.

I see the very same scheme as in Blade & Soul: yes, you’re kinda free to go everywhere you want – as long as your level allows it not to get killed by high level mobs. And no, you actually can not.

Let’s see one of the zone maps:

So, technically it’s not a circle (or a square) of landmass to roam free as we do in WoW. I would compare this to rooms connected by corridors among the impassable mountains, trees, ravines, and that ruins immersment a lot – you just don’t see the world in whole. Paired with the loading screens between all zones, so you can enter another zone only through a couple of corridors, it’s a no-no.

Of course, many WoW zones also have their chokepoints – for example, Tanaris has only 3 exits by foot (Thousand Needles, Uldum and Un’goro), and most zones do too. But at the same time you can traverse in any direction by flying mount – fuck the gyro bridge to Netherstorm, I can fly in from Hellfire Peninsula if I want to. And many zones are also seemless – for example, you can walk between Westfall, Elwynn and Duskwood at will – you could cross the rivers at literally every point at where you’ve arrived to the bank. Also, once you entered a WoW zone, you’re free to see the sights and walk around, not just traverse from quest hub 1 to quest hub 2. Imagine you could only ride the roads between settlements in Ardenweald, as they would put the impassable big trees in every terrain spot that does not contain quest mobs? I don’t think so.

In FFXIV I feel like I’m always indoors and walking through corridors, designed to bind points of interest, period. Exploration is absent, and that feeling of a hamster in a wheel – and wheel in a cage – is not comforting.

Other than that, it plays fine. I’ve joined the “navy” – one of the three friendly “nations”, the seafaring Limsa Lominsa, my Lancer class upgraded to Dragoon, I’ve learned to transmog, a ground mount, got level 33, and moving along with the story which throws its fun and great dungeons to me at short intervals. Can’t tell I’m not having fun, and yet the crude environment visuals and absense of exploration just don’t let me call the world of Eorzea “home”.


6 thoughts on “FFXIV: You Think You’re in an Open World, But You’re Not

  1. This is definitely a fair point and critique of the early FFXIV zones – they got rebuilt from the v1.0 zones (which were even worse about the corridor effect) and the team didn’t budget a lot of time to fix them to make the ARR re-release. Once you can fly in them (and you can now once you hit 50 and finish the launch ARR MSQ) it gets a little bit better, but still a series of zones. Zones added with expansions feel more worldly, in that they are larger, more open, and less a series of halls and connecting bits, but they are still zones unto themselves with only a faint suggestion of a larger world.

    It’s probably the thing I would most want them to fix, IMO – the early zones were limited that way to work on the PS3 and the game doesn’t support it at all anymore, but I think they’ll just always leave it that way which is a bummer.

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  2. I completely understand – and old mel Guild Wars – ‘my’ MMO of choice back in 2005, used to keep the players contained, albeit far more restricted than in FFXIV, so when I started playing Warcraft, the sense of freedom challenged my view of Guild Wars. The impact of feeling like I’m genuinely in an open-world was significant…it quickly became a (subconscious) prerequisite to what I’d consider an acceptable MMO. If it wasn’t vast, and open, then it wasn’t a true MMO.

    I tried to get into FFXIV since it first launched on PS3 – tried and failed, having opened accounts on all 3 platforms, even going so far as to buy the game last year; to no avail – I just coudn’t get into it.

    This past few days it finally clicked for me, I feel like I can see things for what they are. I’m mildly offended that Blizzard charges for WoW given the state of the game – a game spanning so many expansion packs, and coming upon it’s 18th anniversary. A game that’s gradually become smaller over the years, despite having more map space than ever before. Now I see, all the time spent in the vast open world, grinding to level up skills and earn items that will become obsolete after I pay for them to (courtesy of a new expansion). Meanwhile, all that space, has become much more sterile.

    You’d think seeing more people would make the game feel more lively, but it doesn’t. If I see somebody run past me in the open world, there’s a good chance their name will be suffixed with a server name. Now all of a sudden in some Truman Show esque boat-hits-the-edge-of-the-world moment, I feel like I’m running around a Petri dish with holographic projections of other players that are in their own Petri dish.

    For some reason, despite FFXIV having (God forbid) … loading screens…a clear indicator that it’s not vast, or open… I feel like I’m in a much bigger world. My actions have consequences… as I progress through quests, I gain access to air ships, and gates will now open with guards letting me pass. When I go AFK, the camera becomesm cinematic, and it jumps around showing players going about their business, from epic cinema-like


  3. If you think FFXIV feels restrictive now you should have seen it before! The first version, pre-ARR was literaly mazelike, with small, tight corridors linking not very wide-open spaces. And unless I’m misremembering, you couldn’t even jump over knee-high ridges.

    In general, though, I think zoneless open worlds are a little overrated. I like the individual zones to be open but I’m not really bothered about being able to move from one to another without a loading screen. Most gameplay focuses on what’s in a much smaller area than a whole zone anyway so it’s only on long trips that it notices. FFXIV does have a lot of very long trips in the main questline though, or it used to. I think they did something to reduce it a while ago but it’s a long time since i played.


    • Well, then I’m glad I didn’t see the pre-ARR version ))

      I’m just out of Assassin’s Creed latest games – and no, it’s not overrated. The feeling you could travel across the map is precious – and loading screens DO ruin the immersement. You cross the zone borders too often for comfort in FFXIV.


      • Well, open-world isn’t overrated, but it’s now a marketing buzzword that can make a game seem better than it is. In single player adventure games it can ruin the balance. Skyrim, BotW, Horizon:ZD, all of the most open-world-focused games have you become super OP without trying.

        Anyway in MMO, these balance problems are all handled well, so the open world truly is a great boon that lends to the “massive” in massively multiplayer. Going between load zones is *okay* but transparently just a technical restriction from the PS3. I expect that the game blossoms into something more free feeling and modern as you play in these bigger zones in the expansions.

        Sidenote: all those empty plateaus in the sky layer in starting zones are a bit weird, you can’t dismount there and walk around, it sounds like this wouldnt be an issue in WoW for example which was designed for big zones and flying from the ground up as far as I know. It would be nice to sit up there and watch the sunset and RP that I am meditating or something while I reconfigure my HUD and hotbars for the millionth time.


        • Yeah, I wish they reworked older zones someday. Apart from you don’t gain to sit on higher grounds when you get flying, there’s also a very low sky bubble, your flying is more like hovering, and then there’s a ceiling happening too fast for comfort.


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