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.