The lights are on
I play a lot of MMOs. I try to play them all, WoW, Star Trek Online, EQ, EQ2, SWG, FFXI, you name it, I've played it. Apparently no one at Square Enix has that same experience.
Let me start by saying that Final Fantasy XIV looks fantastic. It is easily the best looking MMORPG out on the market, by a long shot. FFXIV has definitely raised the bar on what can be expected in the graphics department from an MMORPG. The characters are the most noticable, they look great, the animations are fluid, and the characters look and move naturally. FFXIV has the longest list of well-animated emotes for any characters ever. The capital cities are gorgeous and have very unique feels to them. The environments look great as well. FFXIV does a great job of implementing mini-cutscenes into the game. Great graphics, if you have a $2000 gaming rig. If not, you might as well not even bother with this game.
Unfortunately, graphics are about the only thing that FFXIV does good. The designers at SquareEnix blatantly and purposely ignored every improvement an MMORPG has made to itself, and thus the genre. If you play any of today's popular MMOs, WoW, EQ2, Aion, etc., you will have one hell of a time figuring out how to even control your character. The game's default controls lay out your keyboard like a PS3 controller, with sets of 4 buttons acting as the two thumbsticks. Once you get your keybinds fixed to the way you like it, I might add that the game won't let you bind any key you want, certain ones are restricted, then you can start playing semi-normally. Until you hit the space bar trying to jump and realize you can't. Your character cannot jump in FFXIV. I know it ultimately isn't a big deal, but seriously, no jumping? Every other MMO has implemented jumping, platforming, even flying, into their games, and you can't even jump?
Alright, now that you can control your character and figured out that the spacebar starts chatting instead of jumping, we can move on to quests. Right? You start with, and follow, a single quest for the entirity of your newbie experience in FFXIV. So, you'll just track it, hit your map, and see where to go, right? Wrong again, senior poopie pants! You have to navigate through your UI to your Journal, then go through 2 sub-menus to get to the map that shows where you need to go. So you make your way to the quest area, I might add that the entirity of the beginning quests are "Go-fer" quests, and talk to the NPC you are supposed to. However, they are not clearly marked, are not listed in the Quest Journal, but for some reason you can see who to talk to on the quest map buried deep in the UI. You parade around doing stupid crap for several hours, then, abruptly and with no further guidance, you are done with that quest chain. At this point the game pretty much says "You're on your own", and you really are, because there is nothing telling you where to go or what to do. You'll finally get to doing what are called "Guildleves". Guildleves are a good idea, in theory. Basically they are quests you can do, within a timelimit, for Gil, experience, and items. You generally have 30 minutes to do Guildleves, and they are pretty much "Go here, kill this" quests. For some reason, the Guildleve UI implementation is leaps and bounds more helpful than the quest UI, Guildleve objectives are clearly marked on your minimap, default map, and in a quest tracker in the top left of the screen. When you are done, you "talk" to a crystal thingie, turn in the Guildleve, and then teleport back to camp to start another one. The problem comes when you finish all of your Guildleves. If you are just starting out, you have about 1 hour of doing nothing but walking to the next city to do 4 more, then another hour to another city to do the other 4. They reset daily, and as you level up you gain access to more. This makes it very hard for people switching from another MMO to get going. The main problem with these is that you can only do one at a time, and that can be very annoying.
Combat flows fairly well, though the game does a very poor job of letting you know what's going on, though that can be said for every other aspect of the game. Combat does take a little getting used to, and it is very, very slow, even at higher levels. It's not turn based, but is not very interactive. Moving does no good for any class, even the Archer, which I started off with.
FFXIV's market is absolute garbage. The market consists of teleporting to a "Market", which is just a bunch of AI partners of players that stand in a large room selling their stuff. There is no obvious way to search through the items on the market without going through each individual player's personal market. No auction house, at least as far as I could tell after spending about 30 minutes looking for upgrades to gear.
The entirity of the UI is clunky, non-responsive, slow, and is not user friendly at all. Use of the chat pane is radically different from any other MMO, and your usual hotkeys are not available to function chat.
The environments look great, but they do a miserable job of making the game feel like an MMO. The envirmonment works more like a linear set of paths than an open world. Also, the areas are recycled throughout the game. There is a forest where you literally run through the same grid a dozen times running from one end to the other.
In short, SquareEnix completley ignored everything that every other MMO has done to improve the genre, instead opting to go with their own ideas which fall completely short. The only place where FFXIV excels is in graphics, namel the character models. Far too often I was forcing myself to play this game, and was completely bored whilst doing so Clunky character controls, piss poor UI, terrible level design, absolutely horrid quest design, and slow, boring combat make this quite possibly the biggest let-down of 2010, and probably ever, in the MMO genre.
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