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Beta FFXIV: A Look at Ul’dah

September 3, 2010

Yesterday we took a look at the second city of Eorzea with our trek around Gridania’s lush forest setting.  Today we are taking a step into the Savannah type desert setting that attempts to bring the city of Ul’dah alive.

If Gridania is “Windurst in a forest” then Ul’dah is most definitely “Bastok in a desert”.  The more I thought about how to compare each city to its FFXI predecessors, the more it actually began to crystalize in my mind eye of what the development team actually did with the three Eorzean cities.  In FFXI, Windurst is a very green and water filled city but it located in a very desolate type place.  Sarutabaruta is a Savannah type desert location with Tahrongi, Buburimu, Meriphataud and Sauromonge most definitely full on dirt ground deserts.  Where San’doria is a very lush and green set of regions.  With three separate forest zones and a prominent waterway connecting them.  Then Bastok is a very rocky, seaside cliff area moving into greener areas as you move towards the Highlands.

In FFXIV we see three very similar starting area climates but the nature of the cities that make those climates their home has been shifted by one.  Gridania is Windurst in a forest, just as much as Limsa Lominsa is San d’Oria amonst the rocky cliffs.  Leaving Ul’dah as Bastok in the Savannah.  The beauty of the design is that each city feels incredibly familar and yet is different enough to not be the same old thing with a new coat of paint.

The Think, Feel… theme is here once again in the opening cutscenes of the city.  Which while has less “action” than the other two cities, focuses the action much better.  Your focus is a runaway goobue and the actual character interaction between multiple characters.  This is a huge step forward from Limsa Lominsa’s opener where the two characters introduced in its scene are really uninteresting and completely underdeveloped.  You actually get a feel of who these characters are, and there are 6 of them in this opener compared to a mere two in Limsa’s.

City Layout –

A Concentric Circle

Ul’dah’s concentric circle based layout radiates from the Adventurer’s Guild (AG) very near its center.  Making the city the most well thought out of the three city-states.  We start our adventure in the AG which allows us easy access to the city in its entirety.

Both of the shopping districts are conveniently located within seconds of the AG as well is the elevator to the upper level where you are treated to a beautiful view of the multilevel fountain/planter system that is the centerpiece for the city.  Once on this level you may also choose to visit the Alchemists’ Guild for your concoction needs.

The desert city is home to a number of other guilds as well.  Within the city walls an Adventurer may find the Gladiator and Pugilist Guilds as well as the Thaumaturge guild is located nearby in the western quadrant of the fortress.  The Gladiator’s guild itself is a sightseeing destination as you can see combatants fighting to the “death” in the Coliseum.  All the while being safe from randomly thrown weaponry or spells by remaining well above the fray.

The several Discipline of the Land and Hand guilds that make Ul’dah their home can be found quite close together in the southern area of the city.  The only downside of the guilds’ location is that they are a bit far from the Market Wards.  Yet even with their lack of proximity, they are still much closer than the majority of guilds in the other two starter locales.

Isn't that always the answer?

Ul’dah does have a bit of a flare compared to Limsa Lominsa and Gridania as it is the home of the game’s version of a casino.  While this is currently not functional in the beta, many players are looking forward to seeing what sort of traditional Final Fantasy mini-game fun will be had within the Platinum Mirage’s walls.

Conclusion –

Each city has its own specific look and feel that goes along with it.  Ul’dah definitely has a wonderfully familiar vibe to it that makes you feel right at home when you first start running around its tall earthen walls.  The concentric design allows for easy travel and more importantly, easy to memorize guild, elevator and Market Ward locations.  Match that with two easy to access gates to the outside world and an Aetheryte crystal that is close to the outside world as well as Market Wards and the AG you are bound to be a happy camper starting in this desert city.

When combined with the fact that the Platinum Mirage is here and will no doubt be some place that the developers intend as a hub for player activity outside the guildleve and grinding that the rest of the game has to offer, this city will more than likely become the “Jeuno” of Final Fantasy XIV.  The only thing the city is missing at this moment is easy access to an airship dock.  As a matter of fact out of all three cities, only Gridania has an Airship Dock within in the city walls.  This could be a make or break for some players when starting out.  However, if there is an “Airship Pass” questline like in FFXI, it will fast become a moot point.

I am torn right now as to whether I want to start in Ul’dah or Gridania.  Only a little more time will tell.

As always, after the break is a number screenshots from around town for you to look at your leisure.

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