As so often happens I ended buying Final Fantasy XIV on a whim. I was not following the development of the game and did not know it was due for release. However Liore mentioned the game in her twitter feed and I did feel like experiencing a launch MMO. Going in I knew very little about the game other than it had a terrible launch some time ago – so much so that the game was scrapped and re-released as a new game. I have no experience of playing FFXI Online either after reading somewhere its an extremely grind heavy and grouping dependent game. Not sure if that is true or not but I guess that ship has sailed at this point.
Back to FFXIV – before I knew it I had installed the game, set up an account and was actually playing the game. The fact that this happened yesterday morning helped immensely since I could just log into the game following a very short queue. However other commitments stopped me from playing the game for too long. Needless to say after tasting the rush of a new MMO I was dying to go back home and playing some more. To my dismay (but not to my surprise) I found that the game was inaccessible during peak hours. Clearly the server capacity is inadequate for the number of concurrent players trying to access the game right now.
This happens for most MMOs but it still bums me out when I experience it. My mind is torn on this issue and I find myself suffering from launch love hate syndrome. On one hand I appreciate that servers cost money, launching an MMO is a risky business and investing in way too many servers at launch might make an unsuccessful MMO even more devastating for the investors. The number of concurrent players usually drops down shortly after launch anyways so having too many servers would possibly lead to many of them having a low population a few weeks/months after launch. On the other hand I find it hard to justify this situation from a consumer point of view, especially for those MMOs which ask you to pay for the product up front and demand a monthly fee. I feel royally pissed that I am not able to properly access the game which I have already paid for. Hopefully Square Enix will make amends by offering extra subscription time or other desirable freebies. As it stands I love the game when I’m playing it but ardently hate it when I am locked out. It does not help that I have this playing on repeat while stuck at login.
Its still very early days (or rather – early hours) to give any kind of concrete opinion. I just managed to reach level 7 right before the servers were brought down for emergency maintenance this morning. That equates to some 3-4 hours of playtime (I had another toon prior to this which I deleted at level 3 because I felt compelled to change the name). I am enjoying the game right now and cannot wait to get back in. Usually I am not a huge fan of Japanese art style in RPGs. More to the point I am not a fan of the Final Fantasy steampunk environments/androgynous characters signature aesthetic. However, from what I have seen up till now, this has been scaled back a bit. It somehow felt less Asian than, say, Tera. At the end of the day I cannot say I’m head over heels about the art style on offer here but the world seems very well crafted and interesting enough. There are day and night cycles which dramatically change the look of the environments. I was also delighted when the sky turned grey and it started to rain. One thing of note is that the game relies heavily on zoning. This means that Eorzea is not one seamless world but rather many zones stitched together. I personally don’t mind this but others used to the zoneless Azeroth mind find it irritating. I cannot say I like the writing and the naming conventions in the game (Limsa Lominsa – really?). Could be that some of the meanings where lost in translation. Having said that I’m still managing to read all of the quest text meaning its not that bad (definitely not as bad as Tera).
Race selection is very traditional and bland. Vanilla humans – Check. Anthropomorphic race with animal ears and tails – Check. Elf lookalikes – Check. Creepy children – Check. Burly race – Check. (I miss not having any Dwarves). The Job (Class) system is a bit more interesting but I still have to get into the nuances of it all. From what I have read so far its very similar to the one used in the ancient Final Fantasy III where you can get a primary and secondary job to create a new ‘class’. Moreover players are allowed to switch jobs at will depending on the weapon they carry although I still have to understand how any of this works.
Game mechanics seem decidedly western. Leveling up is done through questing rather than grinding (although grinding is supported too by way of a handy hunting log which tasks you with killing x amount of creatures for rewards). The initial quests serve as a good and unobtrusive tutorial which for the most part flow quite nicely by directing me where I need to be going next. There are also public quests here called FATES. FATES is an acronym for something completely silly which I cannot recall at present. However they work decently well and manage to add some flavor to the world. The true test of the FATES will occur in a few months time when the population in starter areas starts dwindling and it will be harder to find allies to help you out. Traveling is mostly painless with lots of fast travel options and the ability to sprint. Of course there will be Chocobos later on but I have not gotten to that part yet. Combat is ok thus far. Its not action based but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I still have too few abilities to make combat actually interesting but I can see the potential. I do wish there was a way to be able to queue abilities though.
There is still much for me to discover but I was pleasantly surprised and don’t regret my purchase (as long as I am playing!). Then again its hard not to be excited when a new MMO is released. Bar the login problems there seems to be a very positive buzz around the game which I am enjoying.