Or, How SE made the Final Fantasy Fanfare into the most annoying sound ever…
I have been lucky enough to have access to this particular game test since about the 4th Alpha Test. (That god for friends.) The game has gone through quite a bit of changes since that first test and I will go into more detail about the changes and specifics of Phase 3 later on. For now, these are just a few simple impressions on how far the game has come and what changes have immediately caught my eye between Phase 2 and Phase 3.
1) Level Up Fanfare –
The addition of an audio and visual cue of gaining a level or class rank was something that just about every tester gave feedback on from the Alpha through Phase 2. Finally, the traditional victory fanfare is here. Its just unfortunate that its not just here, but its everywhere. Due to the unconventional Rank/Level system that FFXIV uses, you will see, but mostly hear the fanfare over and over and over again in the course of an hour of gameplay.
If any of you were around in World of Warcraft when Lil’XT was first implemented, you will know how annoying his screaming and wailing were to everyone in town. Now crank up that level of annoyance a level or two and drop in some less than flashy animation and you got the new XIV level up fanfare.
2) Leveling Up –
The developers are trying their hardest to remove the grind from their MMO. Which is a good thing and a bad thing. Grinding is a part of every MMO, both good and bad. Their answer to the grind is a daily quest derivative called a Guildleve. Right now Guildleves (or just leves for short) are the most efficient manner of leveling/ranking up in the game.
These Guildleves have a cooldown timer and a cap per cooldown on how many of each different type that you may endeavor to complete. The cooldown timer works like a raid timer does in WoW for no other better way of describing it. It comes off cooldown on every 3rd morning at Midnight Japanese time. You make obtain and complete (or fail) a maximum of 8 guildleves per cooldown period.
With Beta 3 comes ramped up skill points and experience while “Bound by Duty”. Which is the fancy way Square-Enix uses to convey you are under a quest invoked time restraint. Right now, this pretty much means, 1 Guildleve = 1 Class Rank. If you sit like a Hobo with your “Will Guildleve for Food” sign at your closest Aetheryte you can level from 1-10 in a matter of an hour or two. A huge change from XI (the games predecessor) and a fair change from the Guildleve plus monster grinding for 4-6 hours to reach level 10.
This will obviously need to be toned down as the rate of skill point gain during guild levels does not seem to diminish as you raise your level higher. It actually remains fairly constant from 1-12 at least.
Guildleves biggest problem right now is that they are 1 time only Pass or Fail quests. If you disconnect, crash, or just outright can’t find the monsters in question, the guild leve is a failure. The latter of which is common on some cave dwelling level targets. What happens when you fail a leve? To put it simply, it over and done with. Well, not quite that simple as if you are lucky, and if you can find someone with the same guildleve that will let you share it, you may complete it. If you are not lucky or prefer to solo, you must accept your fate and wait til the lockout is over to get another chance.
3) Interface Lag –
The biggest problem with the game since Alpha has been interface lag. If you ever played Final Fantasy XI you will know about interface lag. Well, its back in XIV and its worse than ever. In the previous game it was understandable. The game was made for a different generation of console. Just about everything required a call to the server. Its unfortunate that Square-Enix has followed that pattern once again. Everything from changing gear to adding abilities to your actionbar is lagged. Its not make or break at this phase of the game testing, but if its not fixed soon, it will break the game at launch.
4) Crashes –
I know, I know, its a Beta test. Crashes and bugs are an expected part of the game. However, the problem is that these are the same “random” crashes that have been occurring since the beginning of Beta 1. Some of them were fixed, but a good number of them are still there and running rampant on the population.
5) New Animations –
They’ve added a lot of new and more interesting animations. Everything from the Gladiator classes basic damage skill to new monster skill have been added since Beta 2. I can definitely say that these additions are not just meant for aesthetics. The new combat animations help to enhance the pace and feel of combat.
New monster abilities such as the Mole’s burrow and return is quite fun to watch and it shows that the developers are thinking outside of the normal box when it comes to programming monster AI. We can only hope that interesting monster abilities appear on other monsters.
These are just the first few things that hit me while taking a step into this phase of the Beta test. While some are negative, the game itself is making tremendous progress towards its release in 5 weeks time. There won’t be much sleep in the Square-Enix facilities in Japan during the next few weeks, but we can hope that they continue to push patches and improve the game for launch.