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The End Comes Beyond Chaos

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By Nelson Schneider - 09/09/11 at 03:19 PM CT

Having been a stalwart supporter of the game-creation endeavors of both Squaresoft and Enix since 1989, it pains me to say this: Square Enix is dead. No, they aren’t going out of business or anything official. It’s worse than that: They have turned their last unsullied franchise into an MMO.

While the merger Squaresoft and Enix in 2003 prompted many to rend their garments and gnash their teeth, it ultimately turned out okay, combining two of Japan’s most beloved developers/publishers under one roof. Indeed, the merged Square Enix managed to produce some very nice sequels in their core franchises. But that’s all they did. Non-sequel games with new ideas diminished to a trickle from the Square Enix tap, and what did manage to leak out wasn’t particularly good. Square Enix has become a company that ONLY does ‘Final Fantasy’ and ‘Dragon Quest.’

So, knowing that the only Squaresoft and Enix games that are worth a damn have some combination of ‘final,’ ‘dragon,’ ‘fantasy,’ and ‘quest’ in the title, it was a shocking and painful blow when Square revealed in 2000 that “Final Fantasy 11” was to be an MMO in emulation of “Everquest.” Subscription fees, thin plots, thinner character development, and reliance on remotely-maintained servers: This was not the future of ‘Final Fantasy’ that fans wanted, with many calling foul on the fact that Square had the gall to put this online gaiden into the main, numbered series.

“Final Fantasy Online”? Fine. “Final Fantasy 11 Online”? NOOOOOOOOO!

Not only did Square think this was a good idea, the now-merged Square Enix has continued to maintain the vacuous moneypit. Even worse, Square Enix thought we needed another MMO and released the disastrous “Final Fantasy 14,” another main, numbered ‘Final Fantasy’ title shot to Hell.

Of course, ‘Final Fantasy’ is a series renowned for re-inventing itself (for better or worse) with each sequel. Brave (but stupid) experiments are part and parcel of the series. But ‘Dragon Quest’? Not so much.

‘Dragon Quest’ is a series steeped into tradition. It’s a series that hangs-onto its gameplay roots like Grim Death. MMOs are completely incompatible with this mindset. MMOs aren’t about tradition, gameplay, or storytelling; they are about money. Square Enix’s grand experiments are becoming less and less about what makes an RPG or Action/Adventure game a compelling, engaging experience, and more and more about how Square Enix can squeeze as much money as possible out of their devoted fanbase.

While I am saddened by the decision to turn “Dragon Quest 10” into an MMO, I can’t say I’m surprised. The horribly disappointing “Dragon Quest 9” was already showing signs of becoming an MMO and served as a Trojan Horse for a variety of distasteful MMO gameplay mechanics.

Weak plot?
Check.

Cast of mutes?
Check.

Repetitive ‘Quests’ as a central gameplay mechanic?
Check.

Repetitive ‘Raids’ through random dungeons for loot as a central gameplay mechanic?
Check.

Grind-centric ‘Crafting’ system for equipment?
Check.

Exclusive equipment that can only be purchased at an online-enabled shop?
Check.

More content after the Final Boss than before?
Check.

While “Dragon Quest 9” gave us the dubious ‘privilege’ of this type of gameplay for free, it wasn’t actually free at all. It was an experiment in acclimating a new generation of RPG fans to a new normal. Those of us who have played every ‘Final Fantasy’ and ‘Dragon Quest’ since the NES are no longer Square Enix’s market. They know we hate these decisions and they don’t care. They want new blood, and if the bags that the new blood comes in can be deluded into thinking that paying a subscription fee to run around with other bags of blood and complete repetitive quests in a visual chat room, that’s money in the bank.

In closing, I would like to thank Square Enix for adding a subscription fee to “Dragon Quest 10.” Had the game been free to play or had a full offline mode, I may have ignored my better judgment and purchased it anyway (much like I did with “Phantasy Star Universe”). Instead, the addition of a subscription and mandatory online play has made the decision for me. I will not be buying “Dragon Quest 10,” and neither should you. Instead, I recommend importing “Xenoblade” from Europe to fulfill your RPG needs.

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Chris

Wrote on09/14/11 at 06:31 PM CT

I am shocked and appalled. I knew things were bad, but this bad? I wholeheartedly agree Dragon Quest just doesn't seem like it's suited to be an MMO at all. I have a feeling that we're in an RPG wasteland right now. Will we ever get back to the traditional RPGs of old? There are a few examples, but I don't know if we'll ever get back to that golden age.

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