It’s time to confess. While i’d made a point for playing and sticking with one MMORPG, it doesn’t come easy for me, as well. Sticking to Rift is as good a plan as any, but when you don’t have any urge to login, something isn’t right with your choice.
On friday, i remembered there was going to be a Final Fantasy XIV ARR open beta this weekend. With time to play and the urge to find out why some players seem to be very happy with how the game turned out i decided to give it a go.
First off, i own a copy of Final Fantasy 14 1.0 – i didn’t like it, but one thing stuck out positively: in general, i liked the approach to crafting. I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but i saw similarities to Vanguard’s crafting system. After spending every available minute of the weekend playing FF14ARR, i’m happy to say that i still like the approach to crafting- and better yet, i also like the game.
I won’t go into changes from 1.0 very much, because i didn’t come to know the first iteration of the game, but one thing needs to be pointed out: the user interface is hugely improved, not only in design but also gameplay-wise. I remember it being quite a pain to group up in 1.0- while i didn’t group up at the weekend, i can’t imagine that it will be troublesome in ARR.
There’s an old school feel about Final Fantasy 14 that i liked very much. I liked the idea of (level-)gated content options. I wanted to craft as early as possible, but had to find out that you can only get your second class after finishing up the level 10 quest of your first class. I wanted to go to Limsa Lominsa to become a weaver, but had to find out that i’ll have to finish the level 15 storyline quest to unlock airship travel and so on. So there was always something i look forward to reaching- at first it was level 10, then level 5 of my first gathering profession (botany), then level 15 for going to Limsa Lominsa.
Final Fantasy 14: a realm reborn also has a remarkable love for details. I don’t know if this will continue through the zones, but the early ones around Gridania all struck me as being believable. I prefer to see some civilization when i’m out adventuring, and fact is that most MMORPGs lack that kind of design- you’ll start in a pretty wood, maybe with houses or small villages strewn about, but the second, or third zone at the very least is wholly devoid of many signs of humanity. The early adventuring zones around Gridania still have villages, houses and other buildings in them, which makes for a pleasant stay in those areas. Also, the scenery is very beautiful and changes a lot from day to night.
The combat also gets a positive mention here- it is on the slow side of things, but i like that. Action combat doesn’t leave much time for chats and so the whole experience in those games can feel somewhat lonely, despite there being 10 other guys doing the same quest as i do.
The highlight is still the gathering/crafting. It’s some kind of minigame- when you chop at a tree it’s not only lumber you can get- you’ll have a selection of items you could get out of that tree, each one coming with a chance to get it. You have abilities in your hotbar according to your gathering/crafting job. For botany, there were abilities to show the next tree in my levelrange, raise the chances for successfully farming the materials of a tree and so on. For crafting, i only came up to level 3, but it looks beautiful and most importantly: no crafting job is self-sufficient. You can, of course, level all gathering and crafting jobs, but my guess is that this will be a long term project- if you’d want to be self-sufficient all by yourself, you’d have to level all crafting and gathering jobs parallel to each other. I didn’t count, but i think that would be about 9 jobs to level- in addition to your adventuring job.
So my guess is that at first you’ll be better off just buying things from retainers when you need materials from other jobs. When you start crafting as early as possible i think you don’t really have a choice, since you can not travel to the other capitals to learn the other gathering/crafting jobs.
One thing i wish i knew before changing over to gathering: you should keep some level 1 clothes- otherwise you are going to begin your gathering life in your undies. Fortunately there’s new clothes when you get to level 5 in your job. I guess one could buy something from vendors or other players, but i just “walked it off”.
The hunting log also gets a positive mention – i understand this as some relative of the deed system from Lotro: you get a list of enemies to hunt down and get extra rewards for doing so. Tier 1 of those was quite easily completed just by following quests and backtracking a bit for enemies i fought before attaining the hunting log. There’s something similar for gathering- you can see where to get resources and what resources you already gathered. I don’t know if this one comes with experience bonus, as well.
And finally, i really liked that i could retire to an inn room before logging out to get resting experience, which amounts to experience bonus for defeating enemies as in most other games. As said, this game seems to have a love for details- resting in a guest room is one of these things.
Every MMORPG has them, right? So far, i’ve only encountered one- and a highly subjective thing at that- there’s cutesy stuff all over. But really, i’m happy with those as well if i’ll continue to have as much fun with this game as i had this weekend.
Other than that- well, some might call the game “business as usual”- when you look at mechanics, combat mechanics especially, there isn’t much new about this game- and also when you look past combat, almost everything has been there in other games.
FF14 won’t get your attention by proclaiming innovation and/or new features, but somehow it manages to bring older, missed ones back into a new game. I had a lot of fun with it, it even made me read quest and help texts…and enjoy it. It’s a long time ago that i chose to fight some more enemies or gather some more resources than needed just because i had fun doing it, but it happened to me in this game.
Once again, i was in for a big surprise- it’s funny that this seems to happen always with games where i don’t expect much. I’m really looking forward to next saturday when early access starts.