Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Final Fantasy XIV - Thoughts and Impressions

So I purchased Final Fantasy XIV the collector’s edition and it came in the mail a few days ago. I’ve had plenty of time to explore it a bit more beyond the few hours on the open beta.


Don’t get me wrong, I really love the way the battle system has been set up to work. Unfortunately, the servers are taking a beating and things just feel super laggy. From initiating attacks, to healing, to special moves, everything feels sluggish. But dang it is awesome to look at when you’re using everything. From the movement of the character to the attacks – I really am just in love with the graphic feel of the fighting.

It took a bit of getting used to, but its not too bad once I got the hang of how it should work. In order to attack or defend against something, you need to put yourself in fighting stance. This is done by hitting “f.” then you target the mob you want to attack and after gauging its strength compared to you (via a colored dot on its name plate), you want to hit “enter” or one of the attack buttons to bring up your bar with your abilities on it. You then approach the monster and just spam the heck out of your abilities. You can maneuver around it sometimes to get crit hits in, or you can continue standing in front of it. However, make sure you hit “c” to lock onto your target or be sure you’re good about not clicking around the screen or hope you don’t lag yourself and end up on the wrong side of the mob.

Initially, I had a lot of trouble with locking targets. You can’t move with your mouse like you can in WoW and your strafe keys don’t act like they do in WoW either. It all feels like some weird keyboard turning. Though strafing is more keyboard turning on a dime while its normal turning is like, they hit forward while they tried to turn. So my issue with lock was, I’d try to shift about and move with my mouse, only to accidently lose target and target something else while trying to move. And then I’d have to try to retarget the mob while taking damage. It led to some frustrating moments. Blarg. (Lock = “c”) Then sometimes I would realize I couldn’t win the fight I’d picked and I’d try to run. Only I had used “c” and it wouldn’t allow me to run off until I’d released it. I’ve not been killed yet forgetting this, but I’ve had some pretty fantastic close calls.

Other frustrations, is I pictured things would be a bit more solo friendly. And I suppose it has been up to 11 which I currently am on my main specialization. If you could call it that. But I’m already barely handling ‘decent challenge’ monsters and ‘easy’ monsters take a while to kill. It has left me with the impression that this will be much like 11 where you can solo those mobs, but you’ll be grinding them a very long while before you make much headway. Whereas with the group, you’ll be able to pull more, faster, once again. But we’ll see how it goes further into game play.

I am also frustrated that the color system doesn’t really tell you what the real level of the mobs are. I made the mistake of attacking a red “incredibly tough” raptor that was near the starting area and across a bridge. There had been some tiny “easy” monsters a few steps away from it and so I had thought perhaps it would hit a bit harder or be harder to hit, but that I could perhaps handle it. However, the thing one shot me for 4k with a non-special attack (I don’t have 1k health yet).

Death is also kind of a bugger if you’re not planning ahead. They have a system set where you stop at a camp for your guildlevels (daily quests) and check in with this crystal. This crystal has been made your ‘home’ in a sense. So when you die, and if you have no one who can resurrect you, you use ‘return’ and it will put you back at that camp with about 3 min of 50% HP and all sorts of other negatives that will have you huddling by the crystal till you’re ok again. So if you forgot to set it, you were in for a long run back to where you needed to be.

But things I found as I played that I liked was how they have their stamina system with the battles. As a pugilist, I do a lot of fist fighting. Each move will have its own guage that will appear when I mouse over an ability. And part of that bar will have a grayed area representing how much ‘stamina’ that ability will need to be set off. Similar to a rogue in wow really. You don’t have enough stamina, you won’t set off the ability.

Also, I like they kept TP. Like most FF games, you get points for successful attacks that build up throughout the fight that can be spent on special attacks. And what I’ve found fun about some of the attacks that they didn’t have in FF11 is a sort of proc attack that I learned. Where if I evade an enemy attack, and have a certain amount of TP, I can use this particular ability. I don’t dodge nearly as much as I’d like, but when I do, its pretty cool to shoot it off! I’ve also got an attack now that uses both TP and mana! Which I thought was unique.

So its been nice to see them breaking off into some different types of attacks and adding a bit more to the system at this point. From what I understand, as I develop other jobs, I’ll possibly be able to use some of those abilities in whatever class I’m playing. So I’m curious to see how that will work out as I begin to branch into those.

Level System

FF14 has a really interesting leveling system. To take from one of their promo vids: you can level horizontally and vertically. And this is facilitated by leveling through weapon skills. Howso?

SE really doesn’t want folks to reach the end game too quickly. They want the game to last longer. And they’ve developed a brilliant time sink that is interesting. Anyone who has played MMOs is probably familiar with THATGUY who can play pretty much all day and reach max level about a month before the rest of the player base.

To this end, SE created a slope system that causes a player’s experience gain to go through ‘fatigue’ that slows the gain the more they get throughout the week. The more hours they put it in on that one job, the less experience they will be gaining – despite the level of monster they may be fighting. The casual player will probably never see this ‘cap’ and fatigue and shall continue his vertical leveling without much notice of anything different. But THATGUY will see a slow halt to his vertical. However, SE doesn’t want to see him run off. So they dangle a carrot.

You cannot keep leveling vertically… but how about horizontally. With each rank of physical level you gain, you get points you can distribute amidst some stats. Also, you can blend together skills from other classes that you’ve been ranking up. So you could… say have a lancer who has the pugilist ability to heal themselves for a couple hundred health every min or so. So ultimately, while you are not growing vertically, your character’s skills are expanding and you are still becoming more powerful.

They try to encourage using this system as well with the easy access to all the rank 1 weapons and tools that you need. Vendors selling them or guilds are all in your starting cities. And once you’ve completed your first guildlevel quests and the first storyline quest from the adventurer’s guild, you’ll probably find yourself with the funds to buy your first couple weapons to test out the other classes. Typically, weapons will go for between 800-1.2k gil depending on the item. With your gathering and crafting tools though, expect to fork out about 2k-2.5k for the two tools you’ll need.

Crafting and Gathering

Again, FF14 takes an interesting approach to these fields of play. And really, that is what you are doing while leveling them. Many games will require to just push a button and wait while the game levels up your professions. In this case, you have to be paying attention and active while you craft. There is some unfortunately RNG involved in some of them. And the learning curve can feel steep for some as well.

In the world of FF14, you collect items from creatures or from gathering, and then you melt them together using elemental crystals you collect from all living things in the world. Crafters have to learn to bend these elemental crystals to their wishes to properly “synthesize” the item they desire. And as a crafter, you are taking up this task.

With crafting, you face a few difficulties. One is just getting the items you need. At this point, the economies of the servers are all getting laid out. So buying from other players is going to be hit and miss with what you want, and then the prices could be way over the top as well. Or you may buy from the vendors, and those are certainly not cheap either.

Your best bet will then be to pick up gathering classes. Now here is some of the interesting side effects of crafting and gathering. For each success you gain a large amount of experience for both your skill rank and your physical rank! And you stand to profit. While you may not participate necessarily in some of the fighting scenarios, you can see the highest levels in the game simply by gathering and crafting!

Something else that makes all of this interesting is, you don’t simply get what you need, sit down, push a button and watch yourself gain skill. No. You have to pay attention and actually interact with what you’re doing. And if you don’t, you may fail your activity and lose all your materials. You’ll still get a small amount of experience, but you’ll get less than a fraction of what you could have had.

In most cases, you can pick up on how the activies are supposed to work pretty quickly. I personally didn’t have too many issues… with the exception of fishing which I think is stupid and not very clear. And the many youtube videos I’ve gone through have just been rambles while people try to do it and who don’t see much success themselves. But someone must get it because I’ve seen some people getting rank 17s recently. Gar!!!

But returning. If you’re going to be a crafter --- save everything and be prepared to drop some money. And be aware too, that as you progress, you’re going to have to branch into other ‘professions’ as well to make the materials you need for crafts of interest to you. Its all no less of a time sink in the end than the leveling. But it is still very entertaining and not as mind numbing as crafting and gathering might be in other games in my experience.

Item Storage and Item Sales

In other games you may see an Auction system that might be put in place where people can deposit their items for a small fee and have them sell and get the money. In this case, I’ve not actually found such a place. However, the Bazaar system is up and running. Unfortunately, you are currently limited to 10 items that you can sell at a time (when your bags can hold up to 80 things).

Gone also is the personal housing as it existed in FF11. In 11, you had a house minded by a moogle. Now, the Adventurers guild hooks you up with a paid servant (that you never actually pay that I’ve seen…) that you can somewhat handpick and even give a nick name too. Then you can place them in town or in the designated bazaar area they have set up in your city. They will not only hold 80 items for you, but they will also hold 10 items in auction for you while you’re out leveling.

They do seem to have a limited number of times they can be summoned in a certain time period however, so you have to be careful about where you call them. But they are now your mobile home bank and bazaar. I do miss the idea of having my own house with fun decorations. But with the amount of running around I’ve been doing in game at this point, the absence isn’t as noticed at this point.

Chat and other things

The game is really lacking in shortcuts I’ve found. And there isn’t really many options to create them from what I’ve seen so far. And many of the official online help has been anything but with figuring out some elements of the game. Such as chat, or emotes. A lot of things I’ve found simply by trial and error or by some heavy google browsing.

Such as… If I’m low on health but am not a healer, do I just stand here and wait for it to slowly regenerate? In 11, you could /rest and you would kneel and regen very quickly. Through a google search, I found that /sit was the new command. And when you sit, you really sit and cannot move. Even if you’re under attack. Instead you must open your command window and use the prompt to stand.

Actually most of your in game interactions with bazaars, npcs, crystals and commands for gathering will be done thanks to prompts that will open the command window on the side of the screen. It’s a bit tedious and I’m not too thrilled with constantly going back and forth with it.

I’m half hoping there is a macro you’ll be able to write out for some of this, though I’ve not yet found it.

As for chat… I picked a server where I knew I had a friend playing and he created a linkshell there. Now, in 11, inviting people could be done simply by trading them a ‘pearl’ to their shell. However, they’ve changed up the system a bit, so you don’t have to trade them to get them in. But you have to be next to them in game and have them targeted in order to invite.

In order to see who is online in the linkshell, I have to open the command window, go down to the linkshell option and then click a button in that window in order to see who is online. It is the same way for any friend or ignor list person I may wish to see and add to. Something I found that also was not covered in any official instruction was how to respond to someone who sends you a private message in game. For a while I was having to “ /t “ in order to talk to friends privately. And sometimes I would mess up and it would come out in an embarrassing emote. But thanks to google, I did find the solution to responding to someone without typing out their entire name over and over.

Conclusion… for now

I’ve still not decided how I feel about the game entirely. There are of course some aggravations. But I’m very fond of other elements. And it is very different than other mmo’s I’ve played, but similar enough to my first to be something I find myself feeling fond about. I shall probably continue playing this casually for a while. Everything is still very interesting and new for me there and I’m really enjoying its change of pace, despite its huge time sink dangers.

I’m sure I’ve missed some points that I meant to cover on this subject, but its early morning now and I mostly couldn’t sleep and needed to tire myself a bit. Thanks for reading!

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