The lights are on
Though the regular edition just hit stores yesterday, gamers who purchased the collector’s edition of Final Fantasy XIV have had access to Square’s new MMO for a week now. After burning as much time as possible in-game over the past week and reaching level 15, my feelings about the game border on schizophrenia. FF XIV has many unique ideas and gameplay hooks, but there are as many or more baffling frustrations.
The first word that came to mind as I fumbled through the installation, account creation, and patching processes for FF XIV last week was "archaic." Account creation in particular is full of incomprehensible terms for straightforward things. For example, instead of just setting up a subscription, you have to "add a service account." Once you’ve set up your recurring monthly fee, you also need to register for each separate character you want. But rather than a simple "add character" button, you need to click "add new options." Without the help of the manual, I’m certain I would have screwed something up while setting up my account or been lost for way too long trying to figure out what I’m supposed to click on next.
But that’s all beside the point. If you’ve purchased Final Fantasy XIV, you’ll muscle through the account setup annoyances. The question is whether or not what awaits you on the other side is worth that headache. The answer is not simple.
When FF XIV is doing things right, it does them very right. It is easily the best-looking MMO on the market, and one of the best-looking games I’ve ever played on my PC. FF XIV uses the same Crystal Tools engine seen in Final Fantasy XIII, and bringing those incredible graphics to a massively multiplayer setting couldn’t have been easy. The graphics come with a price in performance – on higher settings, the game is a resource hog that brings less powerful computers to a crawl. If you have a beastly enough rig, though, you’ll be blown away by a huge world where you can see for miles around you and ultra-detailed armor and weapons that fit and flow perfectly with the multiple shapes and sizes of the various races in FF XIV.
Unlike almost every other MMO in existence – World of Warcraft’s most recent improvements aside – Final Fantasy XIV also shines in storytelling. Each of the game’s three starting cities kicks off with an epic opening cut scene that introduces intriguing plot elements surrounding whatever region you’re starting in. My chosen area for the launch was Ul’Dah, which has a plot revolving around the aftermath of a monster rampaging through the city, as well as the imminent threat of invasion from the Garlean Empire.
My created character was implemented in cutscenes in a mostly believable way, although as the plot progressed and became more intense, I began to feel more like an observer than an active participant. Still, learning about the relationships between various city-dwellers and the political intrigue in the world is far more interesting than the tepid character drama of Final Fantasy XIII. Though voice acting is minimal, the quality of the writing and translation is very high. The characters and events feel more comparable to FF XII than any other previous game in the series.
Unfortunately, you can’t rely on the story to propel you through the world of Eorzea. By the time I finished the introductory story quest, my gladiator had reached rank five. Skill points and level ups were coming swiftly, and I felt good about my progress. I accepted my huge gil reward for turning in the story quest, eagerly talked to the NPC again to begin my next quest, and…nothing. I had been unceremoniously cut off in the middle of a very interesting storyline, and the game gave me no clue of what I needed to do or where I needed to go to continue.
After checking on various forums outside of the game, I discovered that the storyline is broken up into specific bits that you cannot access until you reach a certain point. Because Square Enix hasn’t commented, there’s a lot of confusion as to what milestone must be reached before the plot picks up again, partially due to the fact that character levels and class levels run along separate experience tracks. Some are theorizing that you only need to reach character level 10 for the next story quest. Others are saying that you need to get a single class to rank 10. For me, I had my gladiator at rank 10 and my character level at 12 before I was offered a second story quest. There’s similar uncertainty as to when the story quests continue after that; some people say it’s rank/level 15, some say 20. Apparently new guild quests open up at level 20, though nothing in the game has indicated this.
Phil, I wholeheartedly agree with you. After shelling out the money to buy the game, my guy is at level 10 for character and class, and it's awful. Crafting is harder than it should be, finding parties sucks, the interface is just a myriad of options, etc. etc. I'll be returning my collector's edition to the store to get some credit toward Lords of Shadow, a game that will be worth my time.
Wow. I didn't think I could be less interested in the game, but this article make me almost wish it didn't exist. Everything you've described is so archaic and off-putting, it's hardly justifiable.
It came, I was right, move along.
The fact that they make you level so slow, and put limits on how much exp you can get per week I believe it was, makes me think the game has pretty much no end game content.
I'm surprised you didn't mention the limit they put on how much exp you can earn in a certain amount of time Phil, unless they removed that.
Maybe I'll wait for DC Universe online...
Can't disagree more with most of this article, two negative points are picked out of what has mostly been a fantastic experience to me so far. @ above commenter I've been playing more than most people would and the 'surplus' system has never even came up for me, it's something square have implemented to counter RMT, ie it will affect characters who are grinding 24/7 and never log out (RMT accounts).
This is pretty much what I concluded from playing the Beta
For those who don't understand the leveling and fatigue system check this video:
It doesn't justify limiting players, but it explains why they do it.
Was going to get this but as soon as I heard about PSO 2 I dropped my preorder.
Sounds like I imagined it to be, good, but with its fair share of problems. Im gonna wait till GW2
Wow I am sooo glad I did not get this
aw, i really WANT this game to be great, so its a shame its not looking so good
This just means they didn't improve on Final Fantasy 11s faults enough.
Being a fan of the great parts of FFXI, I too had really high hopes for this game. I got turned off a bit during closed beta, and I've decided to wait it out. If things end up changing for the better, I'd most definitely consider purchasing the game. Only time will tell. After all, many games have a tough go-around in their early lifespans.
Looks like I'm skipping the second FF MMO too. I want to like a game like this, but this epic level of frustration and my hatred of subscription fees drive me away. Also it was dumb that I couldn't get into the Beta when I was less than a month away from turning 18. Stupid.
XIV just makes me want the inevitable XV to be announced sooner.
The most frustrating part to me is the things that are the biggest problems in this game are actually a step back from FFXI. They already have a perfectly good action house model and a workable mail system, there's no reason they couldn't of implemented them in this one and it would of made it so much better if they did. Even wings of the goddess (the last expansion for FFXI) allowed for better mini opt in quest events, hopefully in a few months they rework these errors SE does have a decent track record for post release fixes and content even if it is slow in coming.
i'm sooo glade i didn't get this game sounds awfull.
Wow...I was really skeptical about XIV at first, but now even moreso. I played FFXI for a time, and after hitting a wall around level 30 (I couldn't devote the hours needed to level up) I ended up leaving that game for good. What pains me about the FF MMOs is how grind-centric they are. Aside from that, without a really smooth way to interact with the economy, why would I want to waste my time trying to find a certain weapon or piece of armor by talking to a dozen or more NPCs? What was wrong the old auction house menu system?
What makes me even more disappointed is that in recent years, I've tried really hard to like the newer FF games, but never can. Looks like the trend will not be changing.
While I don't agree with everything Phil said in the article, I think its a fair assessment of the game. The game does a terrible job of easing you into how it works. It just drops you into the city and leaves you to fend for yourself.
However like Phil I find myself wanting to continue on despite the games flaws, as it has a lot of interesting ideas and potential to be something other than a WoW clone. I want to level up classes to mix and match abilities to my liking. I want to see the new areas.
But I on the other hand have yet to find myself lacking things to do. Rank 15 and level 19 and I still have many things on my "to do" list. I don't think the games lacking in content, more so that the range of content isn't very wide.
My best advice to everyone: If you plan on buying this game before January, treat it like it's still in beta. Because it still is for all intents and purposes.
Looks like I am waiting for Guild Wars 2. I was turned off FFXI after 5 hours of playing and it sounds like that would just happen again if I picked up FFXIV.
I agree about so much you've written, especially the part where you said you're going to keep playing through to the end despite the annoyances.
I wish I could say ( or not say ) this is normal for an MMO to go through these problems at it's start, but this is the only MMO i've played since launch. I have faith in Square Enix, but some of their decisions are total WTFs to me. No offense, but f*** the casual>hardcore thing. Hardcore players need to be taken into consideration first. End of story.
When i heard this game was launching in 2010, and then again in september, i thought both times "wow thats soon." I think I was right. A little too soon.