Although there have been several attempts to create an MMO based on ancient Greece, most of them have petered out and been cancelled, or if they were released, failed miserably and faded into the sunset. For mythology buffs like myself, the idea of exploring the world of ancient Greece is very enticing, as it's extremely rich in history and lore. It has also become exceedingly popular in the mainstream in recent years thanks to games like God of War and movies like Troy, 300, and the upcoming Clash of the Titans. It seems that those hoping for an MMO based on Greek history and myth may have their prayers answered later this year, and by an extremely unlikely developer: Square Enix.
You're probably wondering what game I'm referring to. Surely you'd have heard about Square Enix readying a Greek-themed MMO. Well, I can assure you that you have indeed heard of this game, and it's not what you're expecting. Believe it or not, Final Fantasy XIV is actually based on Greek mythology, it just does it in a subtler way than one might expect.
If you've been following the game at all, the conclusion you've probably come to is that it's an updated version of Final Fantasy XI, and on the surface that is indeed what it appears to be. Everything from the environments to the character designs looks and feels like an updated version of Vana'diel. It's not until you look at the game's story, which Square Enix has begun posting on the game's official website, that the true basis of the game becomes clear.
While the introduction provides a bit of material to work with, the most clear and obvious comes from the "Age of Adventure" document within the "World" subsection of the website. These few paragraphs of material build the foundation of the world, and paint an almost mirror image of classic Greek history and myth. To start with, the people of Eorzea worship a set of gods and goddesses they call "the Twelve." In ancient Greece, a similar pantheon of twelve major gods and goddesses, known as the Olympians, were worshipped and played a major role in almost every piece of literature to come out of the period. The comparison grows further when it is explained that Eorzea is divided into several city-states, much the same way as ancient Greece divided itself. Cities like Athens, Sparta, and Mycenae governed themselves autonomously, though they all considered themselves Greeks. Eorzea's city-states also have a history of war and bloodshed with each other, another similarity.
The "Age of Adventure" continues by describing the Garlean Empire, an invader from the east arriving on "fleets of behemoth airships." This is a clear allegory of the Persian invasion of Greece, in particular the invasion led by Xerxes I in 480 BC, which included the famous Battle of Thermopylae. The story continues as the Garlean Empire manages to defeat and seize the city-state of Ala Mhigo, an opening chapter that bears similarity to Sparta's defeat in the aforementioned battle. After this defeat, the remaining city-states joined forces to repel the invaders should they turn towards them. At this point the story of Final Fantasy XIV diverges away from the Greek myths, and as the game opens, an uneasy peace exists between the city-states as they prepare and wait for an invasion that doesn't seem to be coming.
Although Final Fantasy XIV remains Final Fantasy at its core, the structure and history of the world has too much resemblance to Greece for it to be a coincidence. There are many other elements to the game's world that do not even remotely resemble anything from Greek literature, but the foundation of the world is clearly inspired by it. As Square Enix reveals more about Eorzea, I for one will be watching closely to see if any other similarities pop up.