I know a lot of people have been posting on the subject lately, most of it negative. I'm going to throw my hat in the ring regardless. My opinion of the game, though there are a lot of bad things, a lot of them are simply "new to the game" feelings which have diminished thus far. Let's start with the good.

First off, the graphics are beautiful. Even on my not so high end machine, the textures and details are incredible. I started my first character out in Gridania, which is the woodland area. It actually feels like a massive forest and not just a bunch of trees stuck together.

The quests are done differently than other games. There are the traditional quests, which take the form of storylines. These story lines are not entirely based around combat. The kill ten rats quests are not present here, and they instead display some kind of creativity to them. Currently, I've only done the opening storyline quest and I haven't found any more of this kind though I've heard they have removed all of these quests until release. Likely because they don't want beta testers blowing through them and putting up walkthrough sites before the game is released. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, though I hope they have internal people testing out the "yet to be released" material so it's not buggy when it comes out.

The other quests take the form of levequests. Basically, the way they explain it is that instead of having a bunch of people standing around with exclamation points over their heads, any of the NPC citizens that have jobs for people to do like hunting deer or killing pests goes to the Adventurer's Guild. They probably pay them a hefty fee, and the guild says "We'll get someone to take care of it for you." Then you come along and the guild pays you a bounty to do these jobs. This makes much more sense from a logical standpoint to me than having people just standing around because it makes the world feel more vibrant with the cities having citizens actually going about their business. It also avoids any potential legal entanglements with quest givers handing out dangerous "Go kill Billy the Guy who Got My Daughter Pregnant" like quests.

They also have seem to mixed things up and are now allowing people to be in multiple linkshells (the FF version of guilds) at once. I don't remember the exact number, but this is a great idea as it allows you to have several pools of people to play with, and maybe even a way to distribute message easily (as there doesn't seem to be any mail system that I could find).

Now let's talk about the bad.

This game is very clearly a console MMO with a keyboard/mouse interface tacked on hastily. The keyboard controls are a bit awkward, and though you can remap a few of the keys, most of the functions such as opening the menu and not remappable. The game comes with a utility that you must use to map all of the functions if you want to use a gamepad. And I highly recommend using a controller. Be prepared to remap these keys several times as you figure out what the functions do and get everything in comfortable positions. The control scheme becomes much more natural once you do and the game becomes more playable.

There are large floaty crystals called Aetherite scattered throughout the game. They act as hearthstone bind points (which need no physical hearthstone item), graveyards for the corpse run, and starting points for levequests. They allegedly also act as waypoints for fast travel, though having discovered two of them already I have yet to get it to perform this function and am starting to doubt it exists. (EDIT: Found this function. Unlike everything they tell you about this, the crystals are the endpoints. The command is in the command menu, apparently.)

Most of your storyline quests are done instanced. Other players who are on that part of the quests will share your instance, so this isn't the isolation effect. However, if you fail one of these quests and get teleported out, you end up back at the floating crystal you last used. This is a massive pain when the area you restart the quest in is another five minute walk on foot. On top of this, there are escort quests in this game. If you get more than 10 or 15 feet away from the NPC you are escorting, you automatically fail and get sent back to the crystal. Sometimes this occurs without warning. Is it really too much to ask that when you fail a story quest that it sends you back to a point near where you entered the instance so you can try again without having to run back for five minutes?

There are no tutorials anywhere. Well, there is one tutorial quest, but it's for using emotes and it doesn't even show you how to do it exactly. This seems to be the general design. Don't tell players "This is what these numbers and bars mean". Let them figure it out themselves. There is a small display in my upper left corner (it starts somewhere else). It has many numbers and fractions and a few icons on it. I have absolutely no idea what any of these are, and they seem to change at random. Two of them I though might be coordinates, but after running in a straight line north and seeing them change in all directions, I have determined that this is probably not the case. Some moves (and by that, I mean the only one I have) are available sometimes, and sometimes they aren't.

There are a few minor points which can mostly be ignored: The fact that there are spelling errors in a lot of the text is probably going to be ignored by most players. There are also several bits of quest text where some words haven't been translated from their original Japanese yet.

A lot of people have been talking about the surplus exp, but I just haven't seen it kick in yet. Or if it has, I haven't noticed it. Looking at how these skills work, it is probably beneficial to switch classes and level them anyways, as it looks like there are good and useful skills spread across all of the class trees. (I find it ironic that most of the resources can list all the skills, but can't tell me what those damn numbers in that little box do. >_>)

I don't think this is a bad game. I think it just needs a bit of work. Keep in mind that I say this after only having played it for a matter of maybe 10 hours total. It seems to be getting a little better now that the initial "I don't know what the hell is going on" feeling is starting to wear off. Hopefully when the game goes to release, they will add in that extra quest content they were talking about (which hopefully is not a lie) and add in some tutorials, or at least some freaking tooltips that explain things when you hover over them. Maybe add in a glossary or some diagrams to help console players that don't have a mouse.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 9/05/2010 11:35:00 AM


Syl said...

I admire your persistence - I was looking forward a lot to FF14 and I agree it looks beautiful, but after more and more really essential things turned out to be so lacking, I knew I wouldn't be able to enjoy it and decided to stay away. =/ That said, there's no reason why things shouldn't look better a few months from now, I might give FF14 another chance then.

Glyph, the Architect said...

I know they said they were keeping all of actual story content out of the game until release, and coupled with the fact that many of the current beta players will be able to keep their characters with their tradeskills levelled will make the game much better than it is now at release.

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