Sunday, June 16

From the ashes.....

Gone is the horrendous, mind numbingly painful to play game that was the launch of FFXIV and here we have, some years later, a quirky, well produced, jaunty little theme park ride that is A Realm Reborn. There was a lot of soul searching after the initial failure, the game was rebuilt  from the ground up, a new game director and a new vision, a vision that took its inspirations from the major western MMOs like WoW, GW2, Aion, Rift, etc. You can see their reflections in the initial gleam of the game. This is a smooth theme park ride with the FF twist....

Momodi: The diminuative matriarch of Ul'dar Adventurer's Guild

I've had the pleasure of spending lots of time with this game, sadly I can't talk about anything other than this weekends beta test (First part of CB 3, open to anyone who purchased the original game), but I will say that the developers have really listened to feedback. I'm impressed.

A run of the mill themepark?

We have the trinity, we have a heavily quest driven linear path, we have zones segregated by level, we have dungeons, gathering, crafting, guilds and the modern requirement for  'dynamic content ' (FATE system). We have several classes BUT, this is one of the obvious differences, one character can play all classes, no need for an alt unless you seriously can't control yourself and your altitis. Switching classes is easy as switching a weapon.

My wizard wielding a pointy stick and a chopping board, don't mess.

Character creation and the class system

Character creation is OK. You can choose one of four races: Big Guys (Roegadyn), Half Human/Half Cats (Miqo'te), Humans, Tall Pointy Eared Elves (Elezen) and Little People (Lalafell). There are also clans within each race. Starting attributes are affected by race/clan choices.

Visual choices start with a height slider, body definition (two choices), a few face choices (no sliders for individual pieces),  hair/colour choices, eye colour, eyebrows, nose shape, mouth shape, ear shape and voice etc. Not as detailed as Aion or GW2, it's a  fairly limited set of options. I couldn't find anything I was truly happy with for my Elezen. I'm hoping a few more face options come in before launch, the current options of  young or weird didn't cut it for me.

At character creation you choose a class, once you hit level ten you can go off and train any other. Interestingly I saw no options for starting with Disciples of the Hand or Land (crafters and gatherers), something that was available in version one.

Nahkti is off on his second job (or was it his fourth?) logging wood

Leveling is mostly done through questing, thankfully the stories are nicely written and characters have  personality. There is lots of dialogue to get through and cut scenes are very common, if you don't want story in your game this game is not for you.

The game does a great job of teaching you what you need to know as you progress, there are plenty of help screens that pop up at pertinent points in the action.  You can choose to switch them off if you don't want your hand held.

Each soldier/mage class has a hunting log, finding and killing each creature in the log gives you bonus xp.

Once you've completed your level ten class quest you can start to learn other classes. This is when you wish you hadn't sold or binned that level one gear....

On first equipping an axe, Nahkti's clothes fell off
Equipping a weapon/tool changes your class and your level changes to that class level, so when you start out on that second class your clothes dissapear, you can't wear those level eight trousers any more.. Luckily the game has been set up for this, there's an  inventory for armour, weapons, tools and jewellery, alongside that theres a gear manager that lets you save up to ten gear sets, each gear set can be over written so as you level a class and get better gear you can overwrite the save.

You need to go see the guild for the class you wish to learn, these are spread throughout the world, you dont get access to air travel until level 15. As a Thermatauge I wanted to unlock the Conjurer's heal skill to help me through some difficult content, I had to run through a few zones to get over to the area for the Conjurer's Guild to start learning and get the class quests (you can just equip a weapon but you'll miss out on skills if you ignore the guild).

Eventually the Jobs system kicks in, this is when you get two specific classes up to max level, and they combine to become one new class or 'Job'.  As an example I believe that Thermatauge + Conjurer = White Mage, a  healer. Classes are for solo play while Jobs are for specialist party roles.

Skills are earned through leveling and via your class guild quests (guild quests are available every five levels). What the game calls traits are really passive skills that auto unlock and offer no player choice.

You can use skills from different classes in your current build, these are limited, my lvl 17 thermatauge could use three skills from other classes he had learned, so he had a DoT from his level five  Conjurer along with a cure.

By the end of this beta I had a level 17 Thermatauge, level five Conjurer , level six Miner, level eight Botanist, level nine Weaver and level five carpenter, all on the same character.



Combat is run of the mill MMO combat, it's not as actiony as TSW or GW2, my mage couldn't move while casting, there is no dodge. Foes special attacks will show an area of effect while casting, giving you time to get out of the red circle before it hits. Fans of the series haven't been impressed with the loss of the slow, tactical skill usage of previous incarnations in the series but modern MMO players will delight in the death of the slow paced action that went before. It flows nicely and feels smooth, a completely different feel than the original games version. I think this alone will help it reach a much wider audience than it otherwise would have. It's fun now.

seriously; this UI needs a scaling function

During group play you'll get access to a group skill called a Limit Break, you can see it in the screenshot above, these are extra powerful skills, how they behave depends on which class triggers it. During this dungeon run, as the caster, I was asked to use it to trigger a massive AoE damage skill. First time was great, hit it at the right time and killed a mass amount of mobs, second time not so good, misjudged the size of the AoE and aggroed a couple more groups *grin*.

Dungeons are forced activities, solo players are going to find that one tough, the main quest line insists you complete them before you can progress. It does mean getting a group is easier because everyone has to do them but it also means a much higher chance of a bad PUG.

I did two dungeons this weekend both level 15, both on timers, both completed easily, I could have been lucky but I think their difficulty needs increasing, it was way too easy, both still lots of fun. Fight your way through trash to an end boss, nothing unusual. Because of their ease the timers had no effect, never felt like I was up against the clock, even had a healer go afk for ten minutes and we did fine.

Gathering & Crafting

I worked on two gathering classes: Miner and Botanist, they both operated in pretty much the same way.

When you approach a resource your interface shows you what items you can gather and your current percentage rate of success. This is very helpful for gathering the right resource for your crafting needs. Thankfully the horrendously slow mini game from version one has gone, now you can just gather away, sadly nothing much has been done to make it more than a grind. As you progress in levels you unlock skills, such as increasing your percentage chance of gathering items, you use your GP (Gathering points) on these skills, GP builds back up really slowly, there's a lot of downtime for your skills. You can increase GP by wearing the right clothes. There is an RNG chance of collecting a higher quality version of an item. As with all classes there are quests at five level intervals, the rest of the time it's grind your way through...If you have a lower level fighter class you could always switch to your gathering class when handing in quests to get their xp.

As with the Hunting journal there is a gathering journal,gathering the right items will give you bonus xp.

In the same way that your are given Hunting and Gathering logs, Crafters immediately have a set of 'work orders' to work towards in their logs. Initial completion of an item gives good bonus xp. At present there is no way to craft multiples of an item so it becomes pretty boring quite fast when you need to create 60 Hempen yarn, the process is pretty quick for low level stuff but still requires a couple of mouse clicks and a short wait for each one.

Skills are unlocked as you progress, they use Crafting Points, your clothes can increase the amount you have, like the Gathering Points they are slow to replenish. Skills so far have increased the success chance, quality level and given some CP. There is an RNG chance to craft a higher quality item.

It looks like there is potential to craft usefull stuff if you start early enough, I found it useful for those switching to a new class and ending up naked moments :)

I doubt gathering and crafting will appeal  unless you're a committed crafter in other games, there's a significant grind involved.  

In closing

This weekend has been great fun, SE should be proud in what they've accomplished here, they've turned the game in to something that has the potential to be a real success, I'm rooting for them and missing the game already. Combat is smooth, graphics are lush, story is great, what more could you want from a modern themepark?