Tobold's Blog
Monday, September 06, 2010
Final Fantasy XIV second look

I was going to write a detailed description of how my first play sessions in Final Fantasy went, but then stumbled upon this blog, where Rank-n-Vile describes exactly my play experience, up to and including the point where our spellcasters get killed by fungus due to the combat interface being as unintuitive as it is sluggish. Quote: "One thing of note is there is next to NO hand holding. You are basically told NOTHING." And that is key to the new player experience of Final Fantasy XIV: Everything works differently than you'd think it would work, and the only way to find that out is by trial and error, as the game refuses to tell you anything. I strongly recommend reading some FFXIV websites with player guides before trying to play the game.

Several hours of struggling with the game later, and armed with a lot of previous experience of similar games, I got to the point where I understood the game much better. Unfortunately the frustration doesn't end there. Even after you understand the UI, it remains overly complicated and sluggish. The game is pretty, but you pay for that by looking at black "now loading" screens often and for long whiles. And every command you give seems to lag by several seconds, so even gathering and crafting are slow to the point of draining all fun out of the activity.

The basic premise of Final Fantasy XIV is that you not only *can* play many classes with the same character, you more or less *must*. You've already read about the hard xp cap of 8 hours xp gain per character class per week, but long before that you will run out of quests for your class. Then you either grind, or you equip the tools of a different class, which lets you level and quest as another character class.

What is really good is the epic main story quest lines, of which there are three, based on which starting location you chose. These are told with extensive cut-scenes using in-game graphics, and putting your character right in the middle of them, just like they did in FFXI. The problem is that at least in the beta that sort of content is limited, and you better not make a second character in the same starting area, because the long cut scenes are only really good when you see them for the first time. And while that sort of storytelling works great in a single-player game, it isn't what I'm looking for in a MMORPG.

So I remain with my decision not to buy Final Fantasy XIV. Not only is much of the gameplay rather tedious, but the general slowness of the unresponsive controls make the basic elements of the game not much fun. If the basic elements aren't fun, then I just dread having to repeat them over and over. Final Fantasy XIV is a game which looks great on screenshots and videos, and even the feature list doesn't sound so bad. But the implementation is so convoluted and often just plain bad that it makes Final Fantasy nearly unplayable. Try the open beta and give the release version a miss.
This matches what I' have read almost everywhere else, too.

And it reinforces this:
The core gameplay is one of the most important things in an MMO (or any game). If anything, Blizzard has proven this. This is the one lesson to learn from WoW, Diablo, StarCraft and the Warcraft RTS.

If it where just for the features, I'd be playing Dawntide right now.
So far I like the game and will probably buy it.

Not liking the fact that I couldn't get the camera to move when turning, I switched to a logitech gamepad with two thumbsticks (and a cross control) so now I can do everything easily without using the keyboard at all (apart from writing texts). And the camera rotates when I turn too, much better !

My only hesitation is about grouping and crafting. I haven't tried grouping yet to use special group attacks etc. Will it be easy to find a group ? Hard to say so far. Will that be strategically interesting with lots of combos/possibilities ?

Crafting looks so good, having to learn recipes etc and be able to craft high quality stuff if certain conditions are met seems fantastic, but how will the economy turn out and will better stuff be available anyway on drops ? It will take time to find out.

Solo fights seem pretty boring even if I noticed certain spells work a lot better on specific monsters, it's fun to test out what works best.

Recolting skills are quite fun (cutting trees at right angle, jiggling rod while fishing are nice touches for example).

It's a bit laggy atm, but I hope they'll find the correct limits of population per server and stick to that. One of the goals of the open-beta I would think.

All in all I'm still very excited, and will keep on testing this and next week before making my final (fantasy) decision.

It's such fun to explore again and discover things, even if I agree all is far from perfect.

The worst thing is that my PC only rated 2567 in the speed test for FF XIV grr (and my children's PC rated 645 lol, it's only three-four years old ...)

I have to agree with Tobold here. I'm currently playing the open beta, and each time i play it i'm tempted to cancel my CE pre-order

The UI is a mess, more suited to a gamepad, but they are releasing it on the pc first? I can't imagine how healing in a group will be like, and i think i spent more time trekking from place to place than actually fighting 'epic battles' or gathering 'epic resources'. (Sure 70% of lotr was walking from place to place, but that doesn't make it a good game! lotro doesn't do that...)

Battles feel laggy and combat text lack basic information. You even get a 'You defeat you' message from the first guildleve mob you fight in gridania (After it kills you with a massively overpowered DoT).
There's a hardware mouse hack available that is supposed to make a huge differennce. Not tried it myself because it's still double XP weekend on EQ2X and I won't be back in FFXIV til that ends.

Here's the link
Tobold, you really should give the game a chance and try it with a PS3 gamepad, the way it was apparently meant to be played.

At first I was completely lost and unable to use the interface, but I spent a half hour last night setting up the PS3 gamepad - I followed the directions here:

The difference is night and day. You are pretty much able to play this game sitting back on your couch with the gamepad. The only time I needed to type is to chat. I was able to do a few starting guildleves last night and the game is quite a bit more fun that I anticipated, after reading all the bad reviews.

I think the problem with SE right now is that they are delivering a game that is obviously meant to be played with a gamepad for the PC platform. They should have just skipped PC and released it for PS3 only, and it would probably make a lot more sense in the MMO marketplace.

I feel like right now we are testing on their "developer workstation" setups, which obviously consist of PCs with PS3 gamepads attached via USB...
It's honestly one of the worst game experiences I've had in years.
Tobold, you really should give the game a chance and try it with a PS3 gamepad, the way it was apparently meant to be played.

I'm playing with a gamepad now, but that solves only a minor part of the problems. The UI is a bit more "intuitive" with a gamepad, but the game is still horribly unresponsive and slow. And that in spite of me having upgraded it with the latest generation of graphics cards, and the FFXIV benchmark telling me I'm fine.

Especially crafting is driving me nuts, there is a several second wait between every menu command involved in crafting, and there are a lot of commands involved.
Yeah, the game definitely has it's issues, even with a gamepad. Unacceptable lag - although that's most likely due to the servers being in Japan and being overloaded.

Also, the seamless world technology they copied from WoW is pretty cool, except for the fact that you get annoying hitching and lag spikes when you're walking between zones as your hard drive is loading the new texture files into memory. I guess Square-Enix is designing a game for the future when all of us have SSDs in our gaming computers.

The only problem with designing a game for the future when we all have supercomputers is that their game mechanics are pretty dated and remind me more of FFXI than anything else. By the time everyone can finally run their game on their computers, we will probably be playing Blizzard's next gen MMO and FFXIV will be a distant memory.

Maybe this game has more appeal to asian markets. I guess I'm not overly impressed after doing a few of the guildleves.
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