Monday, September 6

FFXIV - A few thoughts and info

First thing to do with this game is forget everything you've ever learned in the majority of MMO's and approach it as a genre unto itself. Second thing to do is be prepared for a steep learning curve. On top of an open mind and a degree of patience you'll also need a half decent machine to play it on. It's been optimised a lot over the course of the betas and I'm guessing that work isn't yet finished. On my system ( Phenom 2.4ghz Quad, 4gb RAM and Gforce 260GTX) it runs very nicely, with visuals set at max, it's not a great system so I'm of the belief they've done a pretty good job to get something looking this good working so well on a machine of this level.

Controls have been one of the big bug bears since info started to leak from earlier betas, it's obvious that the game is optimised for using a controller. I find using the traditional keyboard and mouse set up works well enough for navigating the world, there is some lag with the mouse but not enough to make me dig out that PS3 controller buried in the depths of my messy drawer. The biggest problem with using keyboard and mouse is the menu, if you've played any of the Final Fantasy series on a Playstation you'll be familiar with the way it works. Mouse lag on the menu and the extra button presses do slow down getting through options, it's not a game breaker, just something else that requires some patience.

The fatigue system has been another cause for controversy - You get 8 hrs at full XP threshold (SE have some formula for the max possible xp earned per hour) , the following 7 hrs sees a slowing down of XP to zero. The system resets weekly. SE say the idea of this is to not give players with more time an advantage, the cynic in me says time sink. In effect it currently limits you to 15 hours a week of full level boosting play time but if your not a pure grinder it means much more than that. You can of course still get on with other things like being social or gathering and crafting.

There are five races to choose from, The Hyur (Human types), Elezen (Elf type), Lalafell (small childlike race), Miqo'te (Cat people but only female available) and Roegadyn (Big brutish humanoids, only male). Each race has up to 4 sub types with slightly different looks and stats. After choosing your main race and sub type you can customise your character, 4 or 5 face options, 4 or 5 hair options and colour, ears, nose, mouth, eyes and a few characteristics like facial hair and tattoos. Not the most far reaching of options but not the worst either, it is likely you'll see a carbon copy of you sooner rather than later.

Once you've picked your race and customised your character it's time to pick your class, there are 4 main archetypes which split in to further sub types:

Disciples of War
  • Gladiator
  • Maurador
  • Pugilist
  • Archer
  • Lancer
Disciples of Magic
  • Thaumaturge
  • Conjurer
Disciples of the Land
  • Fisher
  • Botanist
  • Miner
Disciples of the Hand
  • Carpenter
  • Blacksmith
  • Armorer
  • Goldsmith
  • Leatherworker
  • Weaver
  • Alchemist
  • Culinarian
Once you've picked your class you aren't limited to it, by simply equiping the appropriate weapon or tool you switch classes and have access to their skills. When you first switch to a different class you start at zero experience so they need to be leveled up individually.

Switching weapons will switch your class and the first weapon skill in your action bar, the rest of the skills need to be changed manually, skill slots need to be cleared before a skill can be replaced. There is no quick way to switch weapons and skills without setting up macros, patience is needed again to find your way around the system and set up the macros, once that's done life gets a hell of a lot easier, just edit your macro as you gain new skills. I currently use a macro to clear all skills except for slot one (switching weapon does that automatically), I then have seperate macros for each class that switch the weapon and add the appropriate skills in to their slots. Finding the skills wasn't easy, I was running around with only one skill for ages before I decided to take a closer look at that blank drop down menu which then revealed a set of skills for each class I had unlocked.

Getting the weapons and tools is of course your crucial first step in playing the other classes, finding them however isn't that simple. None of the NPC's have titles, which means that in that row of 8 stores one of the NPC's might have something you need, your going to have to speak to each one, the current problem there is that there's a significant delay between selecting the buy option and the goods window showing up, it gets frustrating after the fifth shop keeper has nothing you want and theres three more to go. Luckily a lot of what you need can be bought in the class guild shop, once you've located it in your local city, if of course they have a building in your local city. I've yet to find an armorer or blacksmith in my current starting city.

There is no ability for your character to jump, at first you think 'no big deal' but then you realise that as you explore your limited by terrain, some areas are worse than others, in a forest area I felt like I was continually being railed in, see that foot high hill there? forget getting over it until you've walked further to find a ramp, the desert area on the other hand felt free and open despite its elevations. While I'm on exploration - mob levels can seem quite random, you think you've conquered those mobs in your local area that are hitting you for 40 damage, you decide to explore further, see something new and before you know it you've been one shot for 3000, caution is your friend. Exploring in some directions is too dangerous for your health. Mob difficulty is colour coded - blue to red, blue being easy, green about right, orange getting likely it will kill you and red your pretty much dead when it looks at you, or so the theory goes. I've had blue mobs get me closer to death than some red mobs, the colours are a general guide but no guarantee of difficulty.

Instead of quests FFXIV has something called leves. Each leve has a starting point based at an aetherite (sp?) crystal based in some camp away from the city, there is also one in each city but so far no content for them has been forthcoming. Currently repeatable leves are on a 48hr cooldown. Leves can be scaled to match how you play, solo or various sizes of group. leves do not reward xp, they reward currency, faction and the occasional item. Completion of a leve will result in the spawning of another aetherite crystal at your location, use it to pick up your reward and teleport back to the starting crystal or let it disappear and carry on exploring. A leve is usually picked up in a city from the guilds, the leve will tell you which camp you need to go to start it. Leves are timed. Leves are available for all classes.

As you'll have seen from my earlier screenshot post this game is a stunner, it is very easy to lose yourself in the world if graphics are your thing. The animations are the best I've seen anywhere. The areas have environmental effects, from heavy downpours in the woods to sandstorms in the desert. The day night cycle is wonderful, subtle changes happen throughout the world day.

Combat is slower paced than what you would be expecting in an MMO, you'll either get used to it or run away bored to tears, I got used to it and now enjoy the relaxed pace. There's nothing innovative about combat and most of the time you'll just be button mashing to get through.

Content is really lacking in the Open Beta, having exhausted the first 4 adventurers leves your left with doing the crafting/gathering leves or grinding until the 48hr timer is up. Various speculative posts across the interwebz give the lack of content as SE holding back so as not to spoil the story or holding back so that you need to play the real deal to properly experience the content.

Reading through various forums and blogs it's clear that there are a lot of people non too happy about having to work just to grasp the basics of this game, if you need a solid tutorial and aren't prepared to live through some frustration then this game isn't for you. You need patience to battle through menu options and be prepared to work a little to get things moving.

I think this game has loads of potential, I'm enjoying my time, somehow within a world so beautiful, peopled with strange inhabitants the grind doesn't feel so bad and there's the clincher, is this world for you? I'd recommend anyone take a look while they can but to do so with an open mind and a willingness to learn a different way of doing things.

I was initialy anti a pre order, the lack of content has me concerned but as pre ordering is cheaper than buying the standard edition I'm throwing caution to the wind, getting it for sub £30 doesn't seem a waste to me and I'm intrigued to see what else this game has to offer.


  1. Sorry about the major wall of text - wanted to provide some basics in case anyone here is heading in to beta along with a few thoughts.

  2. I'm on the Bhodum world and my IGNs are:
    Nahkti Oomla and Logan Wusai (likely playing the latter)

  3. Great!
    The day I start not to do Walls of Text for once, you take it up :-)

    From what I read elsewhere, switchingclasses will allow you to continue gaining experience, in that other class. So if you play a lot you'll have to etieher accept you're not getting experience after a while or switch classes frequently. Personally i'd prefer to do that with Alts. But nothing won't stop me from doing that.

    It's a shame they haven't leanred from FFXI. It's commonly understood that it's lack of decent PC Controls was central to low adoptation of the game in the West. Strangely enough I don't have a PS3 controller for my PC, it sounds like you really need those. I'm wondering though, since it expects a controller... keyboard navigation through menu's mayhap?
    Keyboard controls. Square Enix really doesn't understand PC's. For some reason they just don't believe in customizable keyboard commands...

    Still, I'm eager to give it a try. Some things really harken back to Old Skool MMO's.

  4. Apparently there was/is a mouse hardware switch hidden away that stops the lag...

    I can understand why people are getting frustrated with the menu system, all those extra button presses accompanied by the mouse lag slows things down massively, I've learned to live with it and do expect it to improve, more so since the discovery of said hardware mouse switch.

    Todays patch messed up my install, cant connect to the network and my patcher becomes unresponsive. Looks like a fresh install for me *sigh*

    Do try it lani, it's worth the effort.

  5. Applications for the FINAL FANTASY XIV Open Beta Test have been temporarily suspended. Please wait until we are ready to accept new applications and then try again.

  6. Yeah that happens a lot as does the applications opening again, just keep at it :) Took me several visits to get a key.

  7. Your application to the FINAL FANTASY XIV Open Beta Test has been accepted.
    Please read through the e-mail we have sent to your Square Enix account's registered e-mail address.

  8. Yaay nice one, now lets see how you cope with the awful patcher.

    Todays patch seemed to have decreased my mouse lag but increased time between selecting 'buy' and waiting for the shop window to open, might take them a while to get it right..

  9. Unfortunately I'm now suck waiting till the Test site acknowledges my acocunt has access...

    I hope they're going to beta test their account management some too...

  10. I'm still in two minds with this game- to pre order or not to pre order? Crafting and selling always means my client not responding for several seconds, so many things take time, I'm not sure if I'm that patient with it and the combat is soo slow and unresponsive...

    Hope you get in and have a look Lani, be interesting to see your slant on it

  11. Thanks for the big write up, Geek! After reading all of it it still feels like a normal MMO to me. You go out do quests to get stronger, move elsewhere, do more quests and get stronger. Except they changed controls, and names things differently. If I had not seen the stunning beautiful graphics I would let this one pass. I think I will wait a bit till after release and find out how people like it then.

  12. Glad I didn't go for the pre-order in the end, if you've read any feedback since early start you'll have seen that not much has changed beyond the introduction of the hardware mouse.

    It's a game I'd like to succeed, I liked the multi-job system, leveling my axe wielding mauradar as a thermotage to get the heal was fun, you're never bound to one class on one character (hence only one character slot included in the monthly fee). The crafting system looked complex and worth exploring, once the UI is further optimised I would like to take a lengthy look and see how it progresses. The world is beautiful and the artwork certainly has charm.

    Give it three to six months and it could be worth another long look.

  13. The idea of one character one class is actually something I think is essential for keeping my attention a long time on a game. If one character can do it all, what is the fun/use to ever start over? One of the reasons COH can still bring something new after 5 years is because my new character has new skills.
    Of course in theory you could do the same with the open tree model as well. But it is in everybody's nature to take the path of least resistance. My second free tree model will still follow closely the same path, and I will be bored with it very quickly. Classes are great. It is something they should not remove.

  14. Yeah,
    while a classless system has its appeal I notice that it's rather hard in for example Elder Scrolls and other Bethesda games to not play the same type of pseudo-class each time. It can stiffle replay value for me. Luckily there's Mods 'n shit to help with that.

    In FF XIV I think I'd still be able to Alt, but mostly as a result of the XP cap thingie. I'm willing to do different things but I suspect my ratio of Adventuring/Anything else is 3:1 So I'd probably end up with 2 or three toons doing adventuring and one or two side jobs per.

  15. "Give it three to six months and it could be worth another long look."

    That was my thought too. Something to look at around the turn of the year then. Right now their PC version of the game is too much prepped for Chinese/Korean play-style and laws.