Friday, August 26, 2011

FFXIV - A lowbie review

As I said in my last blog post, I recently got FFXIV for extremely cheap, so given that it still is not charging a monthly fee to play, I figured I would give it a shot and see how it was. I will put this on the table now; when I was in beta I said they game would flop terribly in the Western areas if released the way the game was back then. I wasn't at all shocked to find out I was fairly right. I still would not have been willing to get the game now if it wasn't for the above circumstance.

So the review itself is going to be fairly newbie, as I have only reached Lancer11 and Personal level 9. I will discuss hat I can, and what I have had to find out as I went.

First thing first was the account set-up. I have to say the original account set-up was on par with most other companies, put in the registration code and you're good to go. Except that once you registered the game to yourself, you also needed to set up your monthly subscription, which forwards you to a third parties credit website to make (or use) an account there. The is something that I think does come off as rather unprofessional. SE should be able to have subscribers make the entire account on one website without jumping through numerous hoops. Unfortunately this seems par for the course for FFXIV (FFXI was only barely better).

So once my account got going, I got updated relatively quickly. I believe I got completely patched up in about 45 minutes, so nothing really to complain about there. Jumped into the game and started making a character. At some point though I had to alt tab, and a familiar and annoying ghost appeared from the past, and yet something I also warned SE about during beta. As soon as I alt tabbed out of FFXIV the game crashed. Same exact thing would happen all the time in FFXI until form folks came out with the windower program. Of course I cursed a little bit, because honestly, what company programs a game without the ability to alt tab? I tried to find a working windower for FFXIV, and was unhappy to find that SE had already sent a C&D order to the windower programmers. Eventually I did find a fix, kinda, but certainly nothing as fluid as windower was. I had to download a program called ShiftWindow, which basic makes any screen in a window act like full screen, effectively doing what SE should have done in the first place.

So back to character creation, as now I could safely alt tab out without crashing the game every time. I made a Elezen Wildwood male, more or less a High Elf for those that don't know the FFXIV races. The character creation was more intricate then FFXI, with you being able to pick a few features, and whatnot, but it certainly wasn't up to par with newer games like Rift and certainly not CoH or Aion. It can get the job done well enough, but it didn't take me long to start running into clones of myself with or without the scars on my face. I started in the city state of Gridania, which reminds me a lot of Windurst from FFXI, with forest like walls everywhere, and nothing ever in a straight line of each other.

The game starts you off with a cutscene specific for whatever city state you are starting in, so I saw a airship crashing and  found a couple strangely dressed people in the forest. Anyhow eventually you end up in the city, and a questline that guides you around. The quests so far in FFXIV is better then FFXI by far, but once again, not as good as other quest based games on the market. The quests in FFXIV are more or less standard affairs of 'Bring me X from Y mobs', 'Visit character/place A for character/place B', ect. There still isn't a ton of them though, so do not think you will level only on questing.

In addition to standard questing there is a special mechanic in game called Guildleves, and these are more or less dailies you can do. You can do a max of eight personally, but can assist with an unlimited number for other players. The lowbie leves are simply enough kill quests, but as soon as I reached the level 10 levels, the mobs started running away (faster then I could run in combat), calling for help, ect. The difficulty ramps up fast for even a solo challenge leve. It is my understanding that eventually leves will take you into dungeons and whatnot, but I have not seen that thus far. Once you are done with your quests and leves, you will be grinding mobs in good old FFXI style.

So, character combat... is a hybrid of FFXI and WoW/EQ/Rift. You still have to gain TP through hitting or getting hit, you gain new abilities for your weapon career (I will go into this in a bit), and you can still mix and match classes (kinda, once again will talk more detail in a bit). However now you have a hotbar and bit faster combat then FFXI. It still isn't super fast like Rift, Aion, WoW however, and you will spend a good number of lowbie fights waiting for TP to build (Except the Pugilist, which gains TP like MAD).

Combat itself is rather tedious, you simply can not go into combat, first you have to switch between either passive mode or combat mode. In passive mode you will slowly regen your health and mana and move at a normal speed, but can not fight. On the flip side combat mode lets you battle your enemies, but slows you down slightly as well as hinders your characters regen. It does take some getting used to switching to combat mode before going into a fight, but once you are in that mode, you stay in that mode until you decide to go back to passive, unlike FFXI where you could easily sheath your weapon after each fight if you weren't on top of your timing.

So I mentioned weapon careers and mixing and matching classes earlier. In FFXIV you can switch careers on the fly just by equipping a new weapon (including hatchets or whatever you need for crafting). So far I started off with Lancer, but have also level Archer and Pugilist just for keeping a bow/arrows and Pugilist fists on me. As your weapon class levels up you get new abilities every even level, but you might not be able to actually use those abilities, which is rather annoying. You are giving only a certain amount of points per level of hotbar space which you can use, and sometimes you simply are capped out for one reason or another and have to sacrifice the use of other abilities. When you do level up your class, those abilities are available to all your weapon classes, so my Lancer could use most of my Pugilist and Archer abilities and vise versa. When you do use an ability from another weapon calling, you will find that ability will be 1/2 effective then normal, but this is just like FFXI, so should not take long to get used to.

In addition to your weapon level, you have a physical level, this affects your stats and resistances. As you level you can put your bonus points where ever you would like. This of course means it is very easy to get weapon level 1 and physical level 30+ if you decide one day to level an entirely new weapon type.

Mechanically, that is more or less it. now onto the community....

I intentionally picked the highest pop server of Selbina just so I knew I would have other players around, and I have played a few days at both Western and Eastern primetimes, and there is a hue difference in players in the city. During the Japanese primetime, it is easy to find your system lagging slightly as it tries to load the many players, and there is actual talking in the city (although I admit to not understanding a wortd of it). The USA primetime however, and most of the day included, is fairly quiet, I've only ran into a few players and have never ran into trouble hunting mobs in the wild due to over hunting. I can't explain why the Japanese primetime is so much more different then ours, so I won't try.

Other then the weird surge or lack of players, I haven't seen anything that would hint, thus far, that the community is any worse then FFXI was (and I consider it one of the best), and it is far better then WoW/Rift/ect. Of course this could easily change once I get some more levels under my belt.

Since this is a low level review, that is more or less the only stuff I can currently comment on. I will probably post again later on when ever something worthwhile happens to my character.
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