Final Fantasy XIV was a huge surprise to everyone last year. Even bigger surprise was that it was already in it’s alpha testing. Square Enix really did play this one close to the chest. When they announced they expected a 2010 release date, I couldn’t help but feel like they were desperate in rushing this game out the door.
Still, the little fanboy inside me was ecstatic about this game. Having bought FFXI on launch day for the PS2, I was one of the few proud owners of a PS2 HDD. Now, I had played games like Diablo, Warcraft 2 on pc, and Phantasy Star on Dreamcast. I was no stranger to playing with others online but FFXI was my first real time open world mmo.
I later then found myself trying out and playing other MMO’s. Such as Guild Wars, Lineage 2, EQ2, Aion, WoW, Ashrons Call 2 and a slew of free to play mmo’s. The only other mmo I put some real time in was of course, World of Warcraft. WoW show’d me that MMo’s didn’t have to be so unfriendly and limited to be challenging or fun. I learned that pvp is a huge deal for me. Hate it or love it, WoW isn’t popular because it was the prettiest game in the market, it was user friendly and fun. I only now look back at FFXI and its flaws stand out like sore thumbs. I thought seeing as how FFXI borrowed so much from the contending MMO of it’s time, Everquest. That Square enix would take a few ideas from the WoW play book and other popular mmo’s in the market. No, I’m not saying I wanted a WoW clone like so many others have done. It’s also no secret that game developers see their competitors products and borrow ideas from one another. I want them to strike the right balance of creativity, game mechanics, and accessibility.
Now after playing the Open Beta for the last few weeks before the real game comes out. I really don’t know what to think of it yet. I’ll start with the things I am happy with so far.
On the surface, the game looks amazing. Yes, better then any other MMO out to date, I’d expect no less from Square. Plus there’s no annoying zone to zone load times anymore. I haven’t explored too much but so far what I have seen is beautiful and I don’t have to waste time staring at a load screen. Teleporting is available to anyone right from the get go, which is great.
I’ve got to say, one of the things I hated in FFXI in particular was all the unnecessary time it took to get from point A to point B. This’ll definitely come in handy. Soloing is definitely possible and it’s here to stay, although the levequest system is a bit too practical and plain for my taste; I guess it does beat wondering around looking for a certain npc for a quest. Lastly, and this one I like most above all else is its cinematic flare for it’s story telling. They did this with FFXI as well but it never looked this good. I just wish they did more voice over work, because those cut scenes are some of the best I’ve seen in any MMO.
Unfortunately, this game is riddled with a lot of disappointing flaws and missing features.
I’m going to touch on a few glaring problems. First is the fact that the good folks at Square-Enix decided to create carbon copies of FFXI races. When I caught wind of this last year I thought, that’s fine with me. As long as they throw in a new race or two in the mix. I remember one of the developers mentioning they wanted to add Bangaa’s as a playable race in FFXI but that due to the PS2 constraints it was not possible. What a great opportunity to bring those huge lizards over now right? wrong…
I suppose the best way to create a solid base is to have players from FFXI come back to something they’re familiar with. If we’re going to be using the same races, we should at least have a ton of customization options right? Wrong again. Now they did attempt to make sub-races with the already existing race by changing their size a tad bit or changing their skin color. Even with that, this game is seriously lacking customization which is crucial in mmo’s because players want to be their own unique individual. Sure they threw in a few options to add highlights to your hair, facial hair, and scars. But even the hair styles from FFXI was recycled in, with maybe one or two new styles. I don’t believe Square Enix lacks ingenuity, this was either sheer laziness or what I initially suspected and they had a deadline to meet.
The battle system and character development are hard to sum up. The point allotting system isn’t anything new in mmo’s. You can develop your character any which way you want by assigning points to specific stats. But for a game that is promoting the ability to change class on the fly by changing equipment, what good is it if you can’t reassign points to better suits the class you’re changing to? At this point, changing classes is a nightmare unless you do your homework first and learn how to manage macros. Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself wasting a lot of time equipping yourself properly and setting up your action bar with abilities because that also resets every time.
During a levequest (quick timed missions) I found myself wasting a lot of time stopping to mine a node instead of the actual mission it self because the professions/crafts are now considered it’s own dedicated class. So requip yourself, reassign abilities, and get ready for each classes new time consuming mini-games. God forbid I got attacked while crafting. What they did with crafting… I get it. They made the experience a little less grinding by trying to make it fun but at the same time managed to make it more time consuming. Quite the paradox if you ask me. The battle system seems like it would take more skill this time around. But it feels unresponsive for this style of game play and when dealing with multiple enemies, I always seem to be scrambling to aim at the mob that is beating the crap out of me instead of aiming at the mob 30 feet away from me. How could they get this crucial aspect in battle so wrong?
Lastly, my biggest complain has to be the user interface. Square aimed for something less obstructive than the UI FFXI utilized. In this, they succeeded. You get to see a lot more of the game world without those blue bars on the screen. In doing so though, they’ve managed to make the most laggiest and unfriendly UI’s I’ve ever seen. Almost for every action you have to open the main menu and the time it takes to execute its action is down right ridiculous. From opening your inventory, browsing someone’s bazaar or npc shops to of course, equipping yourself, teleporting, emotes, so on and so forth. It really kills the experience Square is trying to convey.
Luckily for us all, most of these problems can be addressed or probably already in the process of being addressed in the games final build. I doubt they’ll add new races, add pvp, or change the look of the UI. But they can add barber shops, tattoo shops, dye shops, and other ways to give your character a unique look. The unresponsive battle, the “ease” of changing classes, and most definitely the UI lag can be fixed with a few patches. Even with all these faults and a few I thought too minor to mention. I’m excited to play this game. I will be picking up my collectors edition to get a head start. I know Square can deliver a fantastic story driven game, the rest will have to evolve in time. See you guys in Eorzea.
By: Ron Vera