Final Fantasy XIV: Realm Reborn: First Impressions

29 08 2013

FFXIV Emblem 

 

So as many as you are probably aware, Square Enix bravely decided to reboot their own MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV after a less than cordial reception upon its release. Originally, I had been so turned off after playing the original FFXIV beta that I wasn’t interested. However, after I began to really think about it, and just what they were undertaking, while publicly acknowledging their own failures, I decided it was well worth a second look.

Before I launch into my first impressions after a week of play, and why I think you should give this re-launch the time of day. Let me first start by acknowledging, and repeating, exactly how much of a big deal it is that Square Enix was able to basically say, “Yah, we know our game sucks, and we aren’t happy with it, so here’s what we are going to do…” Based on the sheer amount of effort, time, and money it takes to release an MMO ( and I know first hand, as I physically work on an MMO at Arena Net ) it dawned on me just how humble and revolutionary this idea was.

From a design perspective, designers have a classic mantra to the effect of, “We learn to eat our young”. Basically, that means that you have to learn how to be told that your game, idea, or work in general, sucks and needs help. So because of all of this, and my first week of experience inside of FFXIV: RRB, I believe it’s worth your attention. ( +1 Point )

Story

So, first things first, if you played the first FF XIV, you are probably wondering, well how are they going to tie the story in? Well have you ever heard the expression, “Nuke it from orbit, and burn it with fire.” Well, this is literally what they’ve done. Without going into TOO much detail ( and spoilers ), an event happens that basically nukes half the planet, and a few years after that, that’s where you pick up. So far, it seem pretty interesting, and from what I can tell, there looks to be several quality story arcs developing along my chosen characters path. Suffice it to say, my curiosity is piqued. ( +1 Point )

FFXIV CharacterCreation

The only oddity that I’ve encountered, and this may be patched over time, is that you start the game, and there are ZERO VO’s ( voice overs ). While it’s a Final Fantasy title, this doesn’t inherently bother me, just feels a little retro. Except, once you start to get into some of the important story cutscene’s, you start to hear VO’s…. and some of the English voice actors, are well… pretty terrible so far. So to remedy this issue, I switched the VO’s over to Japanese, and even though I can’t understand what they are saying, the passion in their voice acting is apparent, and I have subtitles to read besides. So needless to say, I know voice actors are expensive, and it costs a lot of money to get all of the proper localization and post processing done, but so far, the English voice actors sound like shit. ( -1 Point )

Closing with the story, the questing appears to tie directly into the story narrative, and FFXIV: RRB does a great job focusing your attention on what you should be doing, and when. In the first twenty levels, there was never a moment where I stopped and asked, “WTF am I supposed to be doing here?” ( +1 Point )

Classes

During the beta phases, I tried playing several disciples of war ( didn’t have time to check the magic users ),  and I finally settled on Lancer while picking the “Miq’ote” race ( which some of you fondly remember as “Mithra” ). I don’t profess to fully understand the class system yet, but it appears that you can basically play ANY of the base classes with one character, but you can only specialize in one or few of them with that character. What I mean by specialize is that my “Lancer” will eventually be able to turn into a “Dragoon.” ( +1 Point )

As is traditional with oriental game developers, and audiences I think, the game restricts you heavily on what you can do early on. It forces you to finish your quests ALL the way through level ten ( which is a hefty amount of quests ), before you can begin to learn other classes from other guilds, etc. While this doesn’t bother me, I believe it’s a common method in oriental games, which is to heavily teach the game, or class, before physically letting the player explore other areas of the game. This may sound very heavy handed to some of you, but I assure you, the game keeps you engaged enough, you won’t even notice ( that much ). ( +1 Point )

Combat

Ah yes, COMMMMMMBAAAAAT… ( wait… wrong game.. shit ) everyone’s favorite, and rightfully so, one of the most important topics of the game! As if the core gameplay mechanics suck, well, then so must the game no? So let me first start by saying, if you played Final Fantasy Eleven, there’s enough here in the combat mechanics to make you reminisce, but with enough innovation and improvements not to scare away everyone else. Interested yet? Well you should be! So basically, they took the traditional tab targeting system, and the class based combo system from eleven, and gave it some crack cocaine…. By that, I mean they sped it up. So a lot of the structure operates the same, as far as chaining kills, targeting enemies, doing combo’s off of other’s skills, but at a much faster rate of speed, which I believe was much needed. ( +1 Point )

Related to this, once you attain other classes, your character will switch classes by just changing your gear out for the appropriate class, and all of your stats and hotkey items swap with it. It’s fast, seamless, and you don’t have to talk to a damn kupo to do it! ( +1 Point )

Crafting

Here is a topic that I can’t talk to heavily on, as I currently have two crafting professions started, but not very high. The point I’m going to stress, is that the way they handled it is very interesting. Basically, you go to a “guild” and learn the crafting profession that you wish, and all of the regular hubbub that you would expect ensues, you get some crafting tools, some quests, a speech about how you suck and show learn the trade to be super awesome, etc. etc…… except one major caveat. Crafting professions behave identically to a regular character class, so that means, when I’m running around as a botanist, or a carpenter, I have my own unique stats, gear, hotkey items, etc. This is interesting as it presents a sort of, “meta” game for cutting down trees, or for whatever you are doing. It singlehandedly makes crafting more interactive, and likely more difficult in the long run. ( +1 Point )

The only point of contention that I have here, is that they make you wait till your level 10 quests are done on that character, until you can begin to think about cutting trees down, so far, not a fan. ( -1 Point )

Graphics

Not a whole lot to say here, but that the game is absolutely gorgeous, well if you are fortunate enough to be playing on a PC, if you are playing it on a PS3…. I’m sorry for you! ( +1 Point )

Although, speaking on that point, I’ve been asking myself for years, “Why the hell isn’t there cross platform MMORPGS??!” Well, they have just proven that it’s a matter of policy, and political arrogance and likely not much more, that is keeping more MMO’s from being on multiple platforms, and to that, I say boo! ( +1 Point )

FFXIV Gridania

Quests

In FFXIV: RRB, Square Enix decided to keep with the traditional method of having a “Journal” and tracking your quests as you collect them. Normally, I’d say, “SCREW THAT!” especially after being spoiled by Guild Wars 2 and their questing system that they built. However, so far, it seems like you are never overburdened with too many quests that you lose track, and I always knew what was the most important, and never really had a hard time tracking them. ( +1 Point )

That being said, and this could probably deserve its own category, but when you receive a quest or an objective to navigate to somewhere else, the map is not very helpful, it’s hard to explain, but if it’s somewhere you haven’t been, the quest marker doesn’t give you shit for a clue on how to get there. What they really need here, is some type of pathfinding tech that will kinda “point” you in the right direction of a new area that you need to go to. ( -1 Point )

Economy

 Last but not least, the “Economy”, probably one of the most critical elements to an MMO for success, and easily the hardest to create, innovate upon, and balance. Well, I don’t have shit for you at this point. As an obvious effort by Square Enix to “ward” out gold sellers, my character is level 17 and doesn’t have access to sell items on the auction house yet. Essentially, you have to purchase a “retainer” to help you sell your items. While this is frustrating, if it helps keep gold sellers out, then I’m all over it. As if any of you remember in eleven, gold sellers nearly ruined the game! ( +1 Point ) ( -1 Point )

Events

 So, in traditional video game industry style, Square Enix shamelessly copied some dynamic event ideas from Guild Wars 2, Warhammer online, and probably a couple of others. In FFXIV: RRB you have what are called, “Fates” that randomly spring up on the map, and anyone who runs into the area, automatically joins in to receive progress ( assuming they contribute ). It’s a nice touch, and it automatically lends itself as a design to getting players to work together naturally. ( +1 Point )

Conclusion

Obviously, I know that you can hardly judge and MMO based off of the first 20 levels, and the content therein. However, I felt that they deserved the attention based on the leaps and strides the game has come since the first FF XIV launch. I can honestly say I’m legitimately interested in seeing what they have to offer, and how the proverbial “End Game” plays out. I know the game has a subscription model, which will immediately turn many of you off, as we’ve been spoiled by F2P business models in the past few years, but I say don’t let that discourage you. If you like the art direction, or have liked ANY Final Fantasy game in the past, this likely deservers a second look by you.

I doubt I’ll reach level cap in time to do a quality “End Game” review before the hundreds of people that don’t know how to sleep beat me to it, but I felt this initial review was necessary, and deserving.

I hope you got some helpful information out of it.

 

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