I was finally able to check out the Gold Saucer in FFXIV, and its a rather great piece of content IMO.
The area looks great, and has plenty of nostalgia bits from previous FF games (FFVII sticks out in my mind mainly because I spent an ungodly amount of time in it). The music is also fantastic and keeps the mood up. Finally the place feels more alive than in non-MMO FF games, not just because you have a ton of players running around, but also the wandering NPCs are a nice touch.
The mini-games are fine; you will likely play them a few times and move on, and I’d say that bit of content, as well as the initial tour quest, will take an hour at most. The juicy bits are the Triple Triad card game (returning from FFVIII) and chocobo racing (FFVII, maybe others?).
Triple Triad is as good as I remember it. Its a surprisingly fun card game on its own, and then you mix in the MMO aspect of playing against other players, as well as scattering NPCs you can play against across the different zones, and its near-perfect MMO content. Building up a great deck and refining strategy was already fun in FFVIII, but now you also have the ultimate ‘pay day’ in tournaments against other players for unique and ever-changing rewards. Funny how entertaining this stuff can be when a dev actually takes something and enhances it due to playing it inside an MMO, rather than just going down the lazy route and tacking it on.
Chocobo racing, based on a dozen or so races, is awesome. The fact that you race against other players rather than bots alone increases the fun-factor big time compared to the single-player FF games. You also have the more familiar systems, like your chocobo gaining levels, being able to train it (pay casino currency to buy stat increasing items), and the biggest time-drain of them all, breeding. This bit of content has a LONG road to travel to reach the upper end, which again is perfect IMO for sorta side fluff that can also get you ‘main game’ upgrades (you can buy a bit of gear with casino currency, though how strong it is I’m not sure since its lvl50 gear and I’m still just 29 on my main class).
The racing itself is also interesting. Your chocobo runs along the track automatically, but you can move side to side to grab power ups, run over speed boosts, or to avoid other players using abilities. Your chocobo also has stamina, which is drained when you sprint. The basic strategy for the race is to finish with zero stamina, using every bit of power to finish as fast as possible, but the various abilities you and others can use tends to mix this up for you. At higher levels, different abilities can be trained to further add some depth/complexity, but I’m not there yet.
What FFXIV does better than most, if not all MMOs is add content rather than replace it. When new stuff is released it rarely if ever makes something else obsolete, which is why, even now, there is so much ‘stuff’ to do in the game. The Gold Saucer follows this design, adding a fun bit of ‘side’ content that fits in perfectly with everything else already in place.
I agree with that …except for the bit about the “music”.