Here’s what I’m thinking about Final Fantasy XIV so far

This post is about online video games. It’s probably a post that should be ignored unless you are someone who likes to read what other people think about online video games, especially the one called Final Fantasy XIV (FFXIV)

I feel like I should post some credentials here before I start flinging my opinions around. I mean, I am happy to share my thoughts but maybe I should let my readers know my background and how I came to my opinions or something?

I am not a hardcore gamer. I don’t identify as a geek, though some would argue that point (Gabe) However, I do like games. Board games, card games (NOT card games like Magic: The Gathering because who came UP with that? Talk about a lot of work for little reward, at least in my case), running-around-in-the-yard games, video games. As long as there is an element of fun (per Mary Poppins), I’m in.

I’m an old lady (middle-aged female) and have been around the ol’ online gaming block a time or two. I started with a MUD back in my college days and have since dabbled in the end of Diablo II where you could get online with other players (that was weird),  Star Wars Galaxies, Elder Scrolls…Morrowind? Maybe it was Daggerfall. I don’t remember now because I didn’t even last a day. I got bored waaaay too fast, World of Warcraft, Club Penguin (I have nieces and nephews, ok?), Guild Wars, WarHammer, City of Heroes/Villains and others that I have forgotten by now.

The point is that I have some basis for comparison among online games but probably can’t give a review like some woman who actually schedules time for raid nights and has maxed out every character she’s ever rolled. I guess I’m saying this is more than an apprentice review but less than master-level.

  • Good: It’s pretty

I don’t think I’ve come across many games in the past several years that don’t have this aspect down pat. You kind of have to, now, to make an impact. It’s important to be visually appealing in all markets (that’s a broad generalization, by the way) and this one is no exception.

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See? There are even sunspots and sunrises. It is charming.

  • Good: Storyline 

It appears there is one long storyline, something like you’d find in a standalone console game. While this is mostly kind of true for other online games, this story is obvious and it builds up, offering glimpses into your progress via cut scenes. I don’t remember any of the other online games being so story-driven.  According to Gabe, there are pieces of the previous Final Fantasy games spread all throughout and it seems this storyline is loosely based on the demise of the online FF game that preceded this one. Cool!

  • OK: Character creation

So here’s something neat this game does: Your starting area is not determined by your race but by your class. All pugilists, regardless of being littles, cat people, elves, humans, or green dudes, start in the same place and run the same beginning quests. Ditto the lancers, the thaumaturges, the arcanists, the marauders, so on and so forth. I rather enjoy that.

The creation engine is decent. It’s better than WoW but not as good as Star Wars: Galaxies or even City of Heroes/Villains. When you get out into the world, not everyone looks exactly the same, which is refreshing, but there’s not so much variety that you see anything unique, either. I do like that you can choose your vocal stylings, again like a console game, but I wish there were more size and shape options for all the body parts. Most of the cat people and the littles look the same while the humans and green dudes seem to come in a wider variety of appearances.

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Here’s my elfy arcanist. She’s very pretty.

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This one’s my favorite. Not only do I like how she looks but I like how she fights. I enjoy playing her the most so far.

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Ruby Smidget, my highest level character at this time. She’s a lancer, has run the training dungeons, and is on the third page of her hunting log. This is mostly because I run her with Gabe’s little person.

  • Bad: The game mechanics are clunky

From trading items to crafting, there are so many unnecessary little steps. When you’re turning in a quest item, you can’t just click on the quest giver and have all transactions happen in the background. Oh, no. Your inventory opens up to the bag of quest items (which is quite nice, really – a whole bag for just quest items! Brilliant!) and you have to select the item you’re going to turn it. But just selecting it doesn’t work. You select it, then choose to turn it in. Another little window pops up and the item you’re turning in shows up there and then you have to press the little button underneath that says “Hand Over.” Seriously. You have to go through all of that to give a quest item to the quest giver. What a waste of time!

Crafting isn’t much better. It’s cute that you get a little mobile crafting station to work at. If you’re learning to cook, you get a tiny little campstove-type thing. If you’re making jewelry, you get a little bench. But when you learn to craft, usually after level 12, I believe, you have to replace whatever weapon you’ve got equipped with the crafting implement, be it a saw, a frying pan, a fishing pole (not technically crafting but just go with it) and then all your clothing falls off and you’re left standing in underwear and sandals. You have to re-dress yourself in low-level gear or complete the first crafting quest in order to obtain a hempen robe to wear while you learn your trade. This happens because while you might be a level 16 pugilist, when you learn to craft, you start over at ground zero. You’re level 1 at that craft and cannot, therefore, wearing clothing of a level higher than 1. So that level 14 tunic you love? It falls off. Same goes for your boots and gloves, belt, wristcuffs, earrings, pretty much everything but the ring you got at the beginning of the game.

Then you actually start crafting. You have to buy all the pieces you need if you don’t already have them in your inventory, and let’s face it, you probably don’t. You equip your crafting implement, go to the crafting journal, choose the craft you’re going to work on and a window pops up. You choose the item you are going to craft from the window and hit the “Synthesize” button and THEN you have to hit the action button on your action bar so you can make ONE THING. Once that one thing is made, you synthesize it again and action button it again and you do this until you run out of the materials you need to craft the item.

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Ruby learns woodworking. This is what crafting looks like.

Granted, I’ve only been playing this for a few weeks and I’m running 3 characters simultaneously, leveling them by fives (get everyone to level 5 then 10 then 15, etc), and am learning slowly, as a result. I have no doubt I’ll find the faster way to get this all done once I’ve played awhile longer, made friends, learned cheats, but for now? This is a ridiculous way to craft, especially after WoW or Star Wars Galaxies (the only other games in which I took a crafting interest)

  • Bad: This party ain’t no party

This game is not party-friendly. Gabe and I, we tend to run together in games. Sometimes we even hang out with friends, though not right now because I don’t think any of our friends are here. We’re good at the in-game party lifestyle and let me tell you, this particular game seems to hate people hanging out together. We started noticing problems when we’d get double-pull while grouped, meaning we’d be out gathering Little Ladybugs, as requested, and every time one of us shot one, two monsters would come running. It always pulls two because, I am assuming, there are two of us? That gets irritating when all we need are a couple of moles so he goes after one and I go after a different one and suddenly, we’re swarmed in attacking creatures. Then there are the instances and cut scenes. Even if you’re in the exact same spot on the exact same quest line, there are things you cannot do together. You cannot have a cut scene together. You cannot do certain instances (little, personal mini-fights) together. You have to leave the party to continue in your quest and then you regroup when the solo moment is over. So there we are, sitting side-by-side, watching the same action on each other’s computers because we can’t play it together in-game. Why? WHY? It’s quite unfriendly and it makes me sad.

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Gabe and me. A funny thing? Gabe’s the human girl and he based her on me. She’s got two different colored eyes and her name is Librerica which is my Twitter handle. She’s an arcanist and will grow up to be a scholar. Sweet, right? I think so.

  • Frustrating: Dungeons

I’ve only run the training dungeons, so far, the three beginning ones that teach you how to use the duty finder and play nicely with others. For me, these have been an exercise in frustration and here’s why: This set of dungeons is part of the quest line. While I’m sure you can bypass it and not come to harm, it is part of the main storyline so probably you want to see what it’s all about, especially on your first character. So, in essence, you have to run these practice dungeons. When you get to the first one, you find out that you can’t run the dungeon until you have a party of four – 1 tank, 1 healer, and 2 damage-per-second players (in layman’s terms: a thug, a doctor, and two knife-wielding stabbers). Looking around, you notice a lot of NPCs loitering about, tanks, healers and DPSers. It makes sense that there would be a way to hire these people to help you run this dungeon, right? That’s what I thought. Only that’s not how it’s done. These characters who are hanging around, talking about going through the dungeon, they’re not available for hire. They don’t even interact with you. No. You have to go to the duty finder, select the dungeon you want to go through, and then wait until others who have done the same thing round out your team. You could wait for half an hour or more for a healer to show up and be assigned to your party. Then you and these strangers are all dumped into the dungeon together and you just hope for the best. Thankfully, I’ve run all the dungeons with Gabe, so far, and the other two members of each party have been capable and not-mean. But this isn’t fun for me! I don’t like being forced to play with people I don’t know if I don’t want to but unless you have already made your own group, that’s really your only choice. I am not a fan.

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Ruby in a dungeon with strangers…not Lucy in the sky with diamonds.
It was uncomfortable but we got through it and no one died so…yay.

  • Best thing EVER: All the little pets

More than likely, this is what will keep my interest: collecting the pets. WoW just implemented something similar and it is just as delightful though maybe in a different fashion. Here in FFXIV, you can collect little dudes to follow you around. They don’t do anything but look cute, as far as I can tell, but that’s good enough for me! These pets can be collected by anyone and they can be won, purchased, or come as a result of a quest or an event, and who knows what else because I don’t have anyone higher than level 22, so far, so don’t know how else to gather pets. Right now, I have a tiny golem (sandstone, from the look of him), kittens, wolf pups, little flying ships, a mammet (robot), and a hatchling chocobo. Every one of my little people has pets, all available to be summoned in order to traipse along with me throughout the lands. This appeals to my love of collecting weird things as well as my love of having cuteness following me everywhere.

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Ruby is barely bigger than her coeurl kitten (no, I don’t know what a coeurl is. I mean, I do, I’ve seen them in the game, but they mean nothing to me because they’re just…cats with long whiskers that are in this game)

  • And the rest

The music doesn’t do anything for me. I see the soundtrack is available and I have no desire to buy it. It’s not like the Diablo II soundtrack (I wish I owned that) or the WoW soundtrack (I do own it); the music isn’t evocative nor even memorable, at least not for me. I will probably turn it off altogether.

The cities…oh good grief, they’re all crazy and winding around and you can’t just get from one place to another but, instead, have to pass through gates. Not gates…I don’t know what they are. There are blue dots that separate one part of the city from another and when you go past these dots, you get a black screen while the new part of the city loads, and then you’re back in. Why did they do that? It’s neither fun nor efficient.

The other players are nice enough, so far. There aren’t too many gold farming shouts yet, though they do exist. Gabe and I both get bombarded to join guilds (which are not called guilds here) regularly but no one pressures us.

So, to sum it up: I keep reminding myself that the game is still new, probably an elementary-schooler right now. I am new to this new game, as well. We’re all working out bugs. I don’t know whether or not I will stick with it, yet. My free trial period ends in a little over a week and I’ll probably renew in April (I won’t have time to play in March) but I don’t think this is my new WoW. I’m still looking for that place.

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