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FFXIV: A Look At The First Week (Part I)

September 30, 2010

It’s been a week since the collector’s edition headstart began.  I have put off making any comments on the state of the game until after Square-Enix gave us at least the first patch.  That day happened yesterday.  So here are my initial thoughts on the state of the game as it moves into the its official start date tomorrow.

Final Fantasy XIV is Square-Enix’s second foray into the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game genre.  I say that it is an MMORPG specifically because the term “MMO” is being handed out to a lot of titles these days.  The MMO part of MMORPG used to be able to be used as shorthand for the genre in which Final Fantasy XI, World of Warcraft, Everquest and Ultima Online stand firmly as the forerunners.  However, these days games other games such as CitysXL, Second Life and even first person shooters are referring to themselves as MMOs.

Final Fantasy XIV (hereafter referred to as XIV) is firmly in the RPG category.  Gameplay is based on attempting to strengthen your in-game avatar through multiple means.  Yet at its core, the game is a game of combat.  Yes the armory system allows players to grow as a gatherer or a crafter and gain physical levels while doing so.  However, the real center of the game is based around combat like every other MMORPG out there today.

I started to write this review trying to be open minded and in the words of Fox news … “Fair and Balanced”.  I simply can not continue to do that.  I am a final fantasy fanboy through and through.  I know a lot of people that are.  I know a good number of people who have looked at the franchise with an increasingly skeptical eye.  Ever since the release of Spirits Within all those years ago, we have been wondering what has gone wrong in the minds of these former visionaries.  Final Fantasy X was a truly great game.  Its sequel was a fun if worthless, fluff of a money grab.  Final Fantasy XI started off extremely rocky and after 18-24 months turned into a game that few others in the genre have matched in terms of story, music, and longevity.  Twelve was a flat and less than stellar game that tried to take some of the core elements from XI and placed them unsuccessfully into a single player game.  Even XIII was a decent game, yet in the end it had very little content or imagination.

Which brings us to XIV.  The game that many of us fanboys and avid MMORPG players alike saw as hope.  A shining light in the darkness that we had been so completely surrounded by during the course of the last 2 years.  We lived through a stagnant expansion cycle from XI.  We stepped into Northrend with the giddiness of a school girl with her first crush only to be bitch slapped by the boy after finally reaching the dance.  Hell, we even stepped into Aion, Warhammer and AoC over the last 3 years only to be disappointed.  Final Fantasy XIV was supposed to be the thing that took us away from WoW and the stagnation of the genre.  We could step into a world that was new yet familiar.  A world where we could be a Galka, Mithra, Tarutaru, Hume or Dhalmel err Elvaan once again.

What we have been given is a game that needs a great deal of work.

Do not get me wrong here, there are some wonderful aspects of XIV.  Some things that are a huge step forward from FFXI.  The sad part is, these improvements to the genre are just too few and far between.  We have many good aspects and many just plain bad aspects of a game that is being released after only roughly 3 months of beta testing.  Something that Square-Enix themselves had said they were not going to do again.  We were promised 6+ months of a test cycle before release.  We did not get that.  We were promised that we would be listened to.  We seem to have not gotten that.  We were promised that we would see better communication this time around.  We sure have not gotten that.  See a pattern here?  I sure do.

Whats good and whats bad, you ask?  I am not going to go into every little detail of how the game is played or what the Armory system is or the like.  If you want to see that type of review head on over to IGN.  What you will see here is a look at several of the best and worst the game currently has to offer.

The Armory System:

Square-Enix’s incessant need to innovate whenever it publishes a new Final Fantasy game is here once again.  This time it is in the Armory system.  By taking what was arguably the best part of its predecessor (FFXI) and tweaking it a bit, we have been given a whole new style of character growth and customization.  No longer is character growth a linear and vertical model.  Character grown is now both vertical and horizontal.

By being given the opportunity to use virtually any skill we have learned in the course of our adventures we are presented with becoming stronger the more we play simply by playing.  In other games, players at the level cap must kill monsters and see random drops of equipment in order to become stronger.  Gear is everything in those games.  Where thanks to the Armory system, gear is only one factor in determining how the game is played.

While there are implementation flaws in the armory system itself.  Some of which are based more solely in my true belief that the Job/Subjob system that its predecessor had, is far superior.  Yet the system does have many upsides and is a system that SE can honestly be proud of.

Guildleves:

As stated many times by the developers in official interviews and statements.  Guildleves are the manner in which they want you to level up.  This would be all fine and dandy if they fixed a few things that their tester base had been asking for since their Alpha.  Alas, because of this, we have a few problems with Guildleves as the base leveling model in the game.

First of all is the 36 hour lockout.  While this was changed from its 48 hour timer during the beta test period, this is simply not good enough.  For those of us who play an MMO daily, we are left out in the cold every other day.  Why is this 36 hours?  Simple, its because the rewards for guildleves are just too good.  It is not unheard of to see 15-30,000 gil plus an item from the midlevel leve’s you gain access to at level 13.

This brings us to our second problem with leves, the rewards.  Now, the rewards are quite nice but because of them, these become a way to make money, not a way to level up.  Others get a small amount of gil when helping you complete your leves, where you obtain a substantial reward for your own.  There in fact are players with well over 1 million gil 7 days into the launch cycle because all they do is sit at Aetherytes begging for invites to leech other people’s leves.

The biggest issue however, is not the rewards overshadowing the skill ups, its not with the overly lockout period.  It is the simple fact that they are one chance deals.  Fail a leve for ANY reason and you are locked out for the entire period.  Now you may start to think that its not a bad thing to only have 1 shot at a quest reward.  You many think that World of Warcraft has spoiled us by giving us easy quests with decent reward.  Well that is your opinion.  It is most certainly not mine.  Simply because it is incredibly easy to fail a guildleve.  If you disconnect for any reason you fail the leve.  Now you can retry the leve, but only after the 36 hour lockout period is over.

Guildleves are also incredibly unbalanced.  Some leves are incredibly easy even on 5 star difficulty.  While others are so lacking in polish that the difference between 1 star and 2 star difficulty are worlds apart.  As an example, there is a Wight based leve in Camp Horizon outside of Uldah.  This leve on two stars was better than a 6 member party.  This can easily lead to wasted leves unless you play like a “chicken” and only do 1 star leves even with multiple party members.

Which once again negates the stated purpose of Guildleves, skilling up.  If you do leves on 1 stars, you will hardly ever see skill ups.  While if you do them on multiple stars you will see a bit more, but you will never actually get the skill because you will die.  This is fundamental problem with how skill ups are handled.

Travel –

Travel in the world of Eorzea is a fairly painless thing.  Every player can teleport themselves and their party members to any camp or city they have been to before.  Making cross world travel time meaningless in most cases.  This is very important as Square-Enix has not implemented two of the core means of travel from any Final Fantasy game; Chocobos and Airships.

Even with the travel system being pushed into the realm of simple teleportation, there is always a catch when it comes to Square-Enix.  That catch is that telporting takes an internal resource called anima.  Unlike most MMOs that give players easy access to ways of teleporting “home”, Final Fantasy XIV is not one of them.  You start out the game with 100 anima.  With each “return” home costing 2 and each “teleport” costing anywhere from 4-6 anima, this stockpile is used at an extreme rate.  While only recharging at a rate of 1 every 4 hours.

Where in most games of the genre you have anywhere from 15 to 60minutes on a hearthstone or homepoint, in XIV you actually do not regen the cost of returning home for 8 hours after use.  This is far too punishing of a system.  Even with being able to tag along with friends, this regen rate is punishing.  With people doing leves in all 3 cities this rate is far too low to be functional.  After 3 days many players had less than ten anima.  With no other source of transportation besides running and teleportation, this is a huge problem.

I had intended to put this all in a single post but I will end this there.  There is good to be had in the game.  There is loads of potential there to be mined.  It is just a matter of if Square-Enix can find it in themselves to identify the good from the bad and polish the game to a level we have all learned to expect from games in the genre.

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5 comments

  1. I loved FFXI and have been looking forward to XIV since its announcement. Unfortunately the more I hear about it the more it disappoints me. It seems that Squeenix believes that it is acceptable to release an unfinished product and charge a monthly fee for it. In my opinion that’s just not right.

    It’s like selling a car chassis with only an engine and brakes while charging the full price for the “idea” of a completely finished vehicle after an unknown amount of time. All we really have is the framework. It will get us from point A to point B but not comfortably. While we make these car payments, they’ll send us new pieces in the mail. The thing is we don’t even know what the finished product will look like or how it will even function. All we know is that we loved the previous model and we are paying for the hope that this will be just as good if not better. It’s sad that this is how things are being made (or not made for that matter). Products being released before they can even function properly with the intent that future patches will fix everything. What happened to quality control?


    • wow… Gil, that was a great great analogy… Seriously that’s exactly how it is. Great Wording.


  2. hang on, this is written by a wow player. Forget about him. Enjoy the game, it’s totally new, totally different. Play the game for yourself before making a decision. To many preview haters. I say preview, as wow was unfinished when it was released. Lets see what this is like after a month before we pass judgement eh?


    • Actually, its written by a player who has played FFXI since North American release. I am as hopeful as any other long time Final Fantasy fan that SE can turn this around, but they need to do so very soon.

      We have to remember that XI was a broken shell of a game for its first 18 months of existence. That a large portion of the complaints that people are having with XIV were once the same early complaints about XI. The problem is that SE was supposed to learn something from its past experiences. What we are being shown is a game that should have been pushed back until 2011 and simultaneously launched with both PC and PS3 version.

      I do encourage you to play for yourself. Check out the game, see for yourself the good and the bad. I am merely giving you the opinions I have had in my first week of playing the game at its launch.


  3. […] That! A Look At Tanking & MMOs « FFXIV: A Look At The First Week (Part I) FFXIV: A Look At The First Week (Part II) October 3, […]



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