Welcome to Mechanically Beautiful, where we look into the widely debated topic, “Are Video Games Art?” I am here to say that yes, I do believe video games are a form of art and I’m going to give you readers amazing examples of why I believe this. If you are not a believer of this idea, then maybe these articles will change your mind. But even if they don’t, you will get a chance to hear about and maybe look into some beautiful games in the industry. Today we look at Square Enix’s recent success in the MMO genre with “Final Fantasy 14.”
Now “FF14” is an MMORPG, so of course there is no way I could possibly talk about everything I want to; it is a huge game. Regardless, I will try to talk about some particularly awesome things I have come across.
The overall aesthetic of “FF14” is a “Final Fantasy” feeling in everything you come across. People call the game a giant “Final Fantasy” fan service to anyone who likes the series. The game feels and gives the impression of all the other “Final Fantasy” games in the form of things like riding Chocobos, the summons and enemies you fight, the high level gear you get; it all has that Tetsuya Nomura goodness in it. It also, of course, has some of that Tetsuya silliness too, with things like belts in random places for no reason, and characters’ outfits that have zero understanding of the laws of physics. But hey, it’s “Final Fantasy”, you have to expect it by now. Running around this world and fighting familiar enemies from the series is pretty cool. Seeing stuff like Marlboros crawling around invokes some fun memories; or awful ones, in the case of Marlboros, since they are still the worst thing to ever grace the planet. The colors and over-the-top look of things pull everything together in a pretty solid aesthetic that, if you’re a “Final Fantasy” fan, you’ll love.
Something I think this game does very well is making some pretty awesome looking towns, villages, and environments in general. There are three major towns that you can start in. depending on the class you choose; Limsa Lominsa, New Gridania, and Ul’dah. Each city has a special kind of theme to it and a grand company that runs things. Limsa Lominsa, which is my favorite, is a huge sprawling white city with two levels that sits atop giant rocks which sit in the ocean. It is a city of pirates and privateers that is raised up above the ocean so everywhere you look down you see the great seas. It is a pretty awesome sight and a cool idea for a city. New Gridania is kind of like a fantasy or elf town that is nestled deep in a huge forest. All of the architecture is minimal and simple, so as to let the forest and nature still grow free. In contrast to the bright whites and blues in Limsa Lominsa, New Gridania has earth tones of brown, green, and gray. It gives me a kind of Tolkien, Hobbit feel with the way it is built into the nature. Ul’dah is a huge, ostentatious city built in the middle of a desert, with big archways, giant buildings, huge. fancy-looking roadways. Ul’dah sits on and crushes the nature beneath it, unlike New Gridania and Limsa Lominsa, which try to be part of nature. It reflects the nature of its people as the residents and government of Ul’dah are very much about power and battle. Bright color or natural serenity aren’t present in Ul’dah; instead they have crazy over the top architecture and bustling streets. Each city has great personality and character that fits the “Final Fantasy” theme.
The gear you get in the game also has that old school “Final Fantasy” feel of being big and over the top. It looks more like it is from “Final Fantasy 6” and back rather than the new, more modern looks games like “Final Fantasy 15” are getting. The armor reminds me of the really cool portraits and art that was made for the early “Final Fantasy” games such as 1 through 3, and to some degree the way the character portraits looked in “Dissidia”. You get gear that looks as cool as the gear Cain Highwind is wearing in “Dissidia” if you play a dragoon, for example. You get big, loud, beefy-looking armor if you play a paladin that would make any enemy afraid. All of the sets of gear and weaponry you get once you get to high levels are really awesome looking and make you feel like a gear and legendary warrior.
Something I have to mention is the fantastic particle effects and animations for spells and abilities. This game is covered in flashy light shows, colors, and fancy particle effects. One of my favorite things is the summoning animation for arcanists and summoners. You pull out a quill and begin writing in your books with crystals and a circle of magic swirling around. Once it finishes, you flick your wrist and your summon materializes in front of you. This is one specific example, but cool abilities are present in every class. Even classes that visually are usually pretty boring, like Warriors and Paladins, get to do awesome looking stuff. One move of the Paladin I am a fan of is the shield toss. The Paladin jumps into the air, slips around, and the shield glows brightly and flings on the enemy, blasting with light on contact. They very easily could have just had you throw your shield at someone and have it come back, but it looks much cooler than that. As a summoner, you get a move called Bane which spreads diseases. The move causes a huge cloud of purple and blue smoke to explode out from your target and infects everything else in range. Having come from playing a lot of “World of Warcraft” where a lot of the spell effects are pretty simple and not huge, I really love the crazy light shows that come from the fights in “Final Fantasy 14”.
I could on and on forever about all sorts of things this game has to offer. This game is a gorgeous MMO and as far as I am concerned, is the second best-looking MMO in terms of aesthetic that I have seen, second to only “Guild Wars 2”. I think that this level of artistic greatness should be held up if MMOs wish to continue, and using “Final Fantasy 14” as an example is a good idea. In terms of recommending this game, it is still an MMO, of course, so as with all MMOs it is really only fun if you have buddies to play with. That being said, though, on the scale of how good or bad an MMO can be, “Final Fantasy 14” is definitely on the higher end of the scale as being a good MMO, but don’t expect it to absorb you in like a single player RPG; MMOs just don’t do that. If anyone is wondering, yes, this game requires a $15 per month subscription fee like “WoW”, so you should be aware of that; there is a free 2 week trial, though, so you should try it out!