Monday, September 27, 2010

The Other Grass: Final Fantasy XIV

After all my drama's a few weeks back I had to settle for waiting for the official release of FFXIV, that day came this Wednesday with the week early Collectors Edition.

I apologise now this will be a little long.

I got the game home and opened up the box, a beautiful box about average CE size with some very nice box art. Please excuse the slightly below average quality photos as they were taken on my phone.

The first item pulled from the box was the Security Token (Authenticator) which I still stand by is a very good idea and I am still surprised that Blizzard did not follow suit with Cataclysm.

Following the token was the world map which came on a very nice silky fabric, its almost the kind of material that a window polishing cloth is made of. Despite what it is printed on it is printed very well and it is a nice change from the paper, cotton or stiff burlap maps I have had in the past.

Next was the game itself which came bundled with the behind the scenes DVD and a the case itself with again very beautiful artwork on the cover.

Next item was the Journal, a leather covered notebook which was to include art from the game and some never before seen work. This book is about the size of my hand but made very well. Inside the art is beautiful again however the pages contain the same set of artwork looped 3 and a half times. The back few pages consist of some new art and some landscapes that been scaled down to fit sometimes even two a page, far smaller than work of this quality and detail should ever be and certainly to small to be truly appreciated.

Finally we have the Travelers Tumbler, a metal flat bottomed cup with a FFXIV branded leather wrap and a lid. For a started I thankfully received mine in good condition but many report their Tumbler showing up covered in mold, then we have the fact that the cup lid won't actually stop liquid getting out. Finally as shown by this warning the Tumbler is not fit to hold anything at all bar water and air, anything else will probably break it.

Aside from a few minor problems the items still at least look good on my desk where they will probably stay not used.

Once I had my fill of the CE items I went to install the game, one solo disk was all it required and the install of the client did not take long. After the install had completed the client needed to run some patches the first was only a few Mb and took a few seconds. The second larger patch put me right back where I was with the Beta, downloading a large slow patch on SquareEnix's P2P network with no download and alot of upload. I was not about to get our second plan this month capped so canceled the download and sat there frustrated at the inability for me to play.
After a short time I did what I should have done in the Beta and hit the fan site forums looking for a direct download, sure enough I found one quite quick and 10min later including search time I have it on my PC and patching was done.

What happened next was nothing short of pure stupid. I in my infinite wisdom miss read the card in my case and simply saw the words "Registration Code" and assumed this was the code to let me play the game. I registered to the EU SE site (Yes SE thinks New Zealand and Australia are in the EU not NA like everyone else), when I tried to log in it would not take this user name only the one I previously registered through the NA site. That NA site gave no option to add a code ordered as mine was. For the next day and a half I posted on forums and mailed SE trying to get this fixed, until that night something clicked. I read the card again and it said "Members Registration Code" and then sure enough on the back of the manual was the "Game Registration Code" in the format I needed.
With my tail between my legs I apologized on forums and input the code, signed up my Security Token, set up payment details and finally unlocked my first character slot. (BTW yes you do pay per character slot in FFXIV so no alts for me.)

Thankfully my code worked, there have been quite a few stories from people that have received games with expired game codes so even if they did sign up right they could not play.

After creating my new toon I logged in for the first time as my new Roegadyn Gladiator Orthien Lightsguard in the Forest City State of Gridania.

I will state now that I had planned a lot of screenshots from the opening to show you all but as it turns out "PrintScreen" does not take Screenshots in FFXIV in fact there is not Screenshot option at all, so sadly no images from the first part of the game.

The first part of the game if full of alot of cut scenes all featuring your own toon interacting with others, a very cool feature. My first taste of game play came in the form of a fight, a fight where I had no instructions and almost no help. There were some in game help tips but they were small and hard to get to anyway.
After the fight there was more cut scenes and then a little more game play then more cut screens. That is the way it has gone so far for most of my first 4 levels.
There has not been much action, most of my playing has been spent running or killing stuff just because I could and not because it had to. The whole experience has been part of one quest so far with everything being a run to this place for a cut scene with the exception on my first introduction guildleve which sent me to kill 3mushrooms for 1000gil.

The game as a whole of what I have seen in the first few hours can be sumed up by a character the I saw run past me when I first got to town, his name was "Disappointing Gameplay" and I feel its rather appropriate.
For a game that was meant to have studied games "like WoW" in an effort to make it more casual friendly and fun to play very little has changed from FFXI to FFXIV bar the obvious graphical and UI changes.
Very little is ever told to you as the player most of what I know about the game came from fan sites/podcasts before hand or my own MMORPG knowledge.
The menu system is clunky with everything being in the one main menu that you have to open up like a windows start bar, each new option from there opens in a new window that will have to be closed one by one when you wish to leave. This is made 1000x worse by the fact that despite improvements to it the mouse it still moves incredibly sow.

To make the multiple windows and slow mouse worse is the systems strange designs and over complication.
Here's an example for how all this adds up, my toons just dinged level 2 and to show it I get a small "Rank Up" message on my screen. Down in my chat window a single line appares saying "You learn ability Red Lotus" which is quickly pushed out by and action you do as they all display messages in the chat window (this includes looting as the chat window is the only evidence that you got something).
I hit home to open the menu and slowly drag my mouse down to ability and skills.
Selecting that I open the next window and am showing my hotbars and list of skills.
To assign my new spell I have to click box two on the hotbar then right click the skill I want to assign, then I have the choose which hand I want to use it (a nice feature but a useless step when you are a tank without a shield yet). Picking Mainhand it is then assigned to the second button, in a few levels I have to do the another 2 times for the next spells. I finish off by closing that window then the main menu and return to play.
That is far more complex than it needs to be. Things like this and many other of there game systems make me think that their "Study" of WoW consisted of someone being told a quick overview of the game and no one ever playing it.
Even the camera is done badly, it sits right behind you even at max zoom and making it far to easy to click yourself as you run into a mob and end up not being able to attack for a few second while you try to pan around your large body to click a squirrel.

In the end there are a lot of things that this game really has going for it, first and foremost its the amazing graphics.
My thoughts can really be summed up nicely by Mike from the BFF report where he basically nails my initial thoughts on the head, he even picked up some things I missed. This is a game that I have waited a long time for and really was kind of hoping would be my personal WoW killer but all I have been given is a semi unfinished disappointment. The BFF report on FFXIV can be found at
(Sorry for some reason blogger would not link this).

So Cataclysm seem like it will be my MMO future for now, with both of the games I could have seen leaving for being not up to the task I hold slightly reserved hopes now for the next in Warhammer 40k: Dark Millennium.

I will finish out my free month of FFXIV what happens from there can only be swayed my a radical change in game in the coming levels and several patch's.

No comments: