Sunday, October 27, 2013

FFXIV: A Realm Reborn - Review

I've been playing Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn for the last two months or so. I finally finished the main campaign and got a maximum level character. So it's about time for a review.

FFXIV is a themepark fantasy MMO in the WoW/EQ model. However, it has a very old-school feel to it. In a lot of ways it feels closer to Vanilla WoW than to modern WoW. The global cooldown is 2.5s, leading to a slower, more deliberate style of play. Rotations are simpler, usually being actual rotations where you go A-B-C, repeat, while throwing in some cooldowns.  A lot of people don't like the long GCD, but I rather do. I'm not a fan of the way haste has sped up WoW.

However, there is more emphasis on movement. Many mobs will do area attacks indicated by a red shape on the ground, which you have to move out of. I find that this works will with the slower pace of the game.

The setting and storyline are very Japanese/anime style. Personally I find it interesting because it is askew from Western sensibilities. For example, nations are divided by philosophy, not race. Each nation, even the bad guys, is composed of the same races as the others.  The story line is pretty decent as well, full of the anime tradition of bad guys philosophizing. (The bad guys are pretty awesome. There's one guy who dual-wields shields. With guns on them.)

The only problem with the storyline, in my mind, is that the final climax comes during an endgame dungeon. People farming the dungeon become very impatient as you watch the cutscenes. SWTOR had your main storyline be entirely single-player (though others could tag along) and it worked much better. You could watch the finale in peace without inconveniencing anyone.

The major mechanical attraction is the class system. A single character can level up in multiple classes. Each class has a specific weapon type. Switching to that weapon switches your class. This is a particularly elegant mechanic, especially with the built-in armor system. To qualify for advanced classes, called "jobs", you have to level up multiple classes. For example, my character's main job is Paladin. I had to level Gladiator to 30 and Conjurer (healing priest type) to 15. Paladin is essentially an advanced Gladiator, so leveling as a Paladin also increases my Gladiator level.

Each class can use some abilities from other classes. Some abilities can be used by any class, while others can only be used by closely related classes. For example, my Paladin pulls some abilities from Conjurer and Marauder.

Now, each class must be leveled up separately. You can grind mobs, kill specific mobs listed in a hunting log, do "levequests" (repeatable quests), dungeons, scenario-like "duties", or "FATES". FATES are essentially public quests like rifts in RIFT. They appear on the map, have an object, and then disappear when done. Regular quests can only be done once per character. Somewhat unfortunately, FATES are the best way of getting experience, and that's how most people end up leveling secondary classes.

The class system extends to crafting classes. Each crafting and gathering class is a fully realized class with 50 levels. You get xp by crafting or gathering. Crafting is kind of like combat. You use different abilities attempting to get as high a quality as you can without running out of durability. I actually like this system a lot. It's very interesting if you like crafting.

FFXIV is also rather group-centric. The main storyline requires that you do several dungeons. Dungeons are old-school. Threat matters a lot, as does marking and killing in order. Thankfully it seems like the people who do play can follow the rules. By and large, my grouping experiences have been excellent. Of course, I am playing a tank, so I do get to exert a fair bit of control over the run.

Endgame is also very old-school. Here is the current endgame in FFXIV:


The first raid is the very bottom of the chart. There's lots of grinding and work to even become raid-ready. It reminds me a lot of running dungeons in Vanilla, trying to get my class set.  As well, several fights in the list are supposed to be very difficult. People are already selling carries for HM Titan, among others. But there is a real sense of progression as you work your way through. The path is there, and I am on the path.

So would I recommend FFXIV?  I think it's worth taking a look at, if just to see the way the class system is handled, and to take a look at the crafting classes. If you're craving a more Vanilla-style WoW experience, but in a modern game, with several modern innovations, I would strongly recommend checking out FFXIV.

Will I continue to play FFXIV? I'm not sure. Truthfully, I'm not really a fan of grinding for experience or currency. I've seen the story, which was my main motivation. I suspect that I will play for a bit longer, maybe take a look at a couple of the harder fights, but will ultimately drop it.

8 comments:

Helistar said...

The problem with those nice endgame flowcharts is that they work NOW, when there are many players participating into the early levels. Will it still work 1 year on?

Lost Forever said...

I have been playing FF14 for about a month and a bit and I am currently a level 40 Paladin.

Initially I had issues with the 2.5s global cool down (some spells are off GC) but I am used to it now and in some ways appreciate the slow paced combat it bring. As you mentioned lot of movements are required in combat and the slower paced combat helps with that. My reaction times aren’t all that great so I appreciate slower paced combat!

FF14 is my first exposure to the FF world and in fact my real exposure to the “eastern” style MMO. The lore, settings, story, characters, world design (absolutely beautiful) and monster design are breath of fresh air for me. I look forward to seeing a monster design I have never seen before!

I have levelled at steady pace and the game didn’t feel like a grind. I have used main quest and dungeons to level. Pretty much skipped all the fates and side quests (saving for next class?). I have repeated dungeons multiple times mostly to collect and complete gear sets. This didn’t feel like grind since I have enjoyed the dungeon runs. Green quality gear from dungeons are lot better than quest rewards and they last for 5 – 10 levels. For example I have the full “cavalry” set from Brayflox's Longstop (32) and it seems to last till Cutter's Cry(40) so dungeons are worth running multiple times for gear and exp.

My opinion of the game might change when I get to 50 and do endless grind for gear with nasty people but so far I am having pretty good experience with the game and definitely recommends to people who enjoyed EQ2 and WoW vanilla and prefer slow paced combat. Also the community seems to be very decent at level 40. For example we wiped repeatedly in Sunken temple last night due to 2 new members with slower connections but people seems very civil and we killed the last with only 30sec reaming on the clock!

RJ said...

One thing that's to the game's benefit with regards to playing with other people is that the primary audience of the game is comprised of people who are FF11 players; people who don't really know what a modern MMO involves, and are used to a party-heavy style of game. While a lot of FF14 is very new and strange to them, the core concepts are still something they understand.

Two of my friends who play 14 directly came from 11, and it's constantly amusing to see them running into modern conveniences or design.

Probably the only thing I don't like about 14 is that it's quest->level progression is VERY rough. After L30 you are frequently left with a bunch of XP you need to get on your own after clearing all the side quests and story quests before you can start the next one. While one can certainly grind FATEs and dungeons to catch up, FATEs are not constantly popping in an area and dungeons rely on there being other people in that level bracket wanting to run that dungeon.

Also, the story and quests dump you out at ~L46 and expect you to grind your way to L49 through whatever means you want. I think I just need to get myself to L47 so I can start the next dungeon and just grind that out, but pushing to 47 is being kind of a pain.

Rohan said...

@RJ, I wanted to mention that but totally forgot. After 40 or so, quests only cover half a level, leaving the other half to be covered by dungeons/FATES/grinding.

Also, there are side-quests for levels 46,47,48, and 49. Go to the Waking Sands and check the large common room area. At each level a new side-quest chain appears. Still have to grind, but some quests help.

RJ said...

I can't remember what level it was, but I think it was around when I was in the area with the Not-Space Marines there was one level where I finally grinded my way up to start the next story quest, completed a couple of story quests, and then had to grind 75% of a level in order to start the next chain of quests.

That said, if there's some sidequests in the Waking Sands, I'll check them out. I'm most of the way through 46 right now, so that might just finish me off.

FATE grinding really doesn't appeal to me, and the XP you get from leves is pretty insignificant for the battle classes, sadly. Dungeon runs can be really profitable in terms of both XP and money, however, even if getting into one could take a while. I've been leveling Arcanist with a focus on Scholar for this reason, though. I can do Summoner for quests and stuff while waiting for my Scholar queue to pop.

I just wish the dungeon finder would let you choose any job as you're queuing up, instead of only the job you currently have equipped. That would make the system so much more usable.

marcleoseguin.com said...

I think a lack of quest experience is a good thing in a game. It gets you looking for social features for options. There are extremes, granted, but it allows for a more gradual integration to end game activities if you've had to socialize before max level.

Especially given the rather crazy grind/gate process you've illustrated.

The more I read about FF14, the more interested I am in the design implementation. Seems like an interesting blend of east/west.

neowolf2 said...

I found the game's graphics performance was unacceptable. I barely made it past the initial cutscene before I gave up. Very disappointing.

dOxxxicle said...

neowolf2, I'm surprised. I've found the performance of the game and its appearance at lower quality levels to be quite good. I've been playing it on a 4 year old PC at medium quality levels and the framerate and visual "flair" was fine.

What kind of system were you playing it on?