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Naoki Yoshida Is Right, Final Fantasy XIV Should Be More Stressful

Image: Square Enix
Image: Square Enix

After wrapping up a decade-long story with 2021’s Endwalker, many fans have expected the next Final Fantasy XIV expansion to be something of a vacation for the Warrior of Light. Dawntrail, which is set to release this summer, sure does look like it would be a relaxing jaunt given its tropical setting. But Director Naoki Yoshida has other plans, saying that the MMO has gotten too approachable in recent years and that it’s time to bring some stress back to the experience. The thing is, he’s absolutely right!

Talking to Famitsu in an interview translated by IGN, Yoshida said that the development team has “made the game more approachable, so that it can be played without stress. But looking back on the last 10 years, we may have overdone it a bit.” He asserts that video games need that element of stress, even if it is a delicate balance. For FF14, that balance was in shambles during the 1.0 release, which is why Yoshida was brought on in the first place. Under his direction, the once-failing MMO made one of the greatest comebacks in gaming, relaunching as A Realm Reborn in 2013 to wide acclaim. Subsequent expansions like Heavensward and Shadowbringers have only raised the game’s reputation higher. But much of A Realm Reborn can be retroactively seen as an attempt to overcorrect the difficulty of 1.0. Injecting more stress into the game is a necessary decision both to reach that balance that keeps players excited and engaged, and also to offer longtime players for whom the game has grown overly comfortable a fresh experience.

It’s easy to conflate difficulty with stress, but Yoshida has a specific approach in mind. “If you play a side-scrolling action game and there aren’t any gaps you could fall down when you miss a jump, the game would be free of stress,” he explains, “But it would also not be fun.” FF14, with its constant influx of new systems and story quests, isn’t in immediate danger of becoming not fun. Additional jobs, high-end raids and trials, and more new things to do offer players a cornucopia of ways to experience the world of Eorzea. Recent changes have also included the removal of some of the game’s superfluous quests and the introduction of mechanics like the Trust system that make the game easier to catch up with as a new or solo player.

Image: Square Enix
Image: Square Enix

But for many players who have stuck with the game for over a decade, a familiar cycle forms in how you play, which can lead to things feeling routine.. It’s only natural that veterans would need a challenge. “By [restoring that stress somewhat], we could offer players the right kind of challenge, and do it better than ever,” Yoshida says.

As a longtime player of FF14 and a new player of the franchise’s first MMO, FF11 (which is still kicking!), I have some idea of what I would want. FF11’s approach to its systems and world is much more willing to hold things back, and the game allows its refusal to explain everything to generate points of friction. That includes things like locking essential systems such as teleportation and trusts (summonable NPCs that support you in battle) behind quests you may not even know exist. The world is much more willing to exist on its own terms and let you find your own way through it. After so much time with the relatively player-friendly FF14, I want to see Eorzea push back just a bit.

Of course, it remains to be seen just how Yoshida and the FF14 team may actually go about introducing some stress back into the game. If that idea sounds intimidating, well, don’t worry too much, as this isn’t an immediate change, but rather a long-term goal for the next decade of the MMO. Warriors of Light everywhere might still get that much-deserved vacation during Dawntrail after all.

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