Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – Final Beta Weekend Impressions
I have been an on and off Final Fantasy player since the early days. I played the SNES ones (with the possible exception of II, I don’t quite remember any longer), VII on the PC, VIII, X, X-2 and XII at a friend’s, and XIII and XIII-2 on the Xbox 360. Haven’t really delved into the spin-offs, apart from a long bout with FF Tactics Advance, somehow missed IX, and certainly not tried any of the MMO stuff before A Realm Reborn.
This is actually the second time FFXIV is launching, hence the A Realm Reborn title. As I did not play the original I do not know all the details, but apparently it was dreadful. So dreadful that Square Enix had no choice but to take it down, put all the source code in a box, put the box in a cannon, and fire it into the sun. Then the development team were burned on a spiritual pyre to appease all the gods of the land, and gain their favour. This allowed a new development team to be possessed by videogame spirits from the digital aether, and they were set to work producing a new game that would hopefully appease the masses. This team consisted of five members. Everyone else on the credits roll are in memory of those who sacrificed themselves. Oh, and some voice actors.
Since I’ve not tried FFXI or FFXIV 1.0, my main basis of comparison will be World of Warcraft, and other MMORPGs I’ve played. Which is mostly western ones, honestly.
… Fuck me, where do I even begin? It’s massive. As you’d hope from a massively multiplayer online game.
Well, the first thing that struck me was how pretty it all looks. How fleshed out the world is. How polished it feels. How Final Fantasy it feels. The amount of stuff on offer.
And there’s tons of nice little touches and additions. Like the fast-travel chocobos that are dressed up kinda like mailmen, or mailbirds as the case may be. They even have caps with feathers in them. You can also rent chocobos as temporary mounts, but they don’t have hats. And the chocobo theme starts playing whenever you ride one.
There are also Moogles, of course. But now they’re some sort of elemental spirits that only ‘special’ people can see? And they have an affinity for booze? Because of course.
Let me back up a little, and talk about the character creator. Because it’s probably the most involved one I’ve yet to see in an MMORPG. So much stuff to edit, so many categories, so many curious little details. And it annoys me that I forgot to take a proper screenshot of it. The only one I have is where I’m almost done.
You pick race, gender, tribe, and then customise your appearance and even pick the voice you want. After all that is done you’re allowed to save your appearance data, and then you have to pick birthdate, patron deity, class and finally name before you select which server you want to go on. While it’s apparently not possible to switch servers with a character, you can have multiple characters on multiple servers.
The races have funny names, and a special racial starting outfit, but it boils down to this. The Hyur are humans, the Elezen are elves, the Miqo’te are cat-people, the Lalafell are either cutesified dwarves, or gnomes, or some combination, and the Roegadyn are orcs/giants. I of course went with the cat-people. Have you seen my Tumblr? I am cat-crazy.
Interestingly, there are three starting cities, and which one you end up in depends on what class you pick. Marauders and Arcanists have their guilds in the coastal city of Limsa Lominsa; Lancers, Archers and Conjurers begin in the forest city of Gridania; and Gladiators, Pugilists and Thaumatuges hail from the desert city of Ul’dah.
I went with an Arcanist first, mainly because I heard I’d get a familiar. They have an interesting concept. They love calculating stuff. They apply magic mathematically. You could call them mathemagicians (thanks, Jarenth). I expected arcane magic, but honestly it’s more like warlock stuff. Two of my three first damage spells were DoTs, and my starting spell is called Ruin. Makes sense with the familiar stuff, I guess.
The questing system will be instantly familiar to any WoW veterans, though there are a few interesting tweaks to it, like how you hand over and/or use quest items. On a less fortunate note, I would wager the fairly static combat is also familiar. Casting while moving is entirely out. You can move while casting ‘instant’ abilities/spells though, and this might actually be useful, considering I tried a lancer for my second character and found that the attack animation had some activation time, and I had to keep moving if I was fighting something that was also moving. It is still just pushing hotkeys to make things happen, though. Which could be an issue long-term, especially for those already well-experienced in the hotkey-MMO genre.
The UI is also a consideration, so let’s have a look at it.
It all looks very familar, doesn’t it? Even though there are some finer points to get familiar with, it will largely be an easy transition if you have played any other MMORPG in the last 8 years or so. As I was playing as Arcanist I wasn’t quite sure what TP was for, apart from activating my Sprint ability, but when playing Lancer I found that TP is what you use for activating martial skills as opposed to MP for magic skills.
One curious note… very early on I got abilities for replenishing my MP on my Arcanist, but I never actually needed them. My MP regen was so good, even in combat, that I never fell below 90% MP, even though I didn’t hold back. I think part of this is the 2.5 sec global cooldown which makes combat feel a tad slow. Most of my spells and the Lancer martial abilities had no cooldown as such, but I did have to wait for the global cooldown to activate my next attack. So spamming is out of the question.
Neat touches to the UI (that I admittedly found a little confusing to begin with) is stuff like how the inventory is separated. Gear goes to the Armoury Chest where you can equip and compare stuff, consumables and crafting items go to the main inventory (which you can also send gear to if you want to sell it), and then quest items have their own inventory again which is auto-accessed when interacting with quest nodes and quest NPCs. It’s nice to for once never having to worry about inventory space, because I think I saw the normal inventory had 100 spaces default, and the quest and armoury inventories didn’t seem to have a limit that I could tell.
The Armoury Chest is part of the Armoury system. See, once you complete your level 10 guild quest, you are allowed to apply to other guilds, and take up other classes. The way you change between the classes is as simple as swapping out what gear you’re using, as all weapon types are unique to their class. In theory you could max out all classes on a single character.
There’s also stuff like crafting, fishing, botanisting (that’s probably not a word) and more. The more I played, the more I wanted to just get the game and properly explore this world they’ve put before me. My main concern is the combat. It’s what has made me lose interest in more than one MMORPG before, but luckily the gameworld seems rife with quests and hopefully grinding will never be a necessity.
And I almost forgot to mention the semi-random Fate Events that are similar to Guild Wars 2‘s dynamic events. Just wandering around the field you can find stuff happening that you get to take part in and get rewards from.
And there’s weather, and a day-and-night cycle.
It is a subscription-based MMO, and I kinda felt done with those until I tried this beta. Now I’m tempted to get it anyway. I considered waiting for it to go free-to-play, but then I remembered how the SWTOR F2P turned out. So yeah, I’d rather play the unrestricted version and pay the 10 euros a month than struggle with a free version where half the stuff is out of reach.
There is a lot on offer here, and even if I get bored after a few months, at least I was entertained for those months. I’ve spent the past days trying to get people to buy a 2-hour long game, so I really shouldn’t be talking about length vs cost. I’d rather go for quality over quantity, and it’s hard to deny that there seems to be a lot of quality here. So I guess you’ll find me on the world of Eorzea.