Thursday, January 22, 2015

Final Fantasy XIV: Initial Impressions

This is currently the last entry in the mainline series and I needed to give it a shot.  I was actually really excited to get into a MMO since I haven't played one since World of Warcraft in February of 2011.

Before I start, you should probably know where I stand with MMOs.  My first true MMO was Everquest when it originally released.  I played it for the first years of it's life through the second expansion.  I tried out a few MMOs after that but World of Warcraft was the only one that ever stuck for more than a month.  I played it a little bit with each expansion through Cataclysm.  Basically, I would play until max level and then let me subscription lapse.  Overall, I've probably sampled 10 different MMOs over the years for a month at a time.

Final Fantasy XIV is my first MMO in almost four years.

As I understand it, I'm actually playing the second version of the game.  The original game launched in 2010 with tons of issues and caused lots of unhappiness with players.  A new producer was brought on and the entire game was reworked and relaunched as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in 2013.

Currently, I've played up to level 20 and I'm having a lot of fun with it so far.  It's definitely not a single player Final Fantasy game, but it's much better than most MMOs.

It's very cinematic in the main story questline.  There are cutscenes and voice acting for all the important events.  I really like seeing that in a MMO.  Although, the main story takes too long to unfold.  It feels like arbitrarily low stakes and a slow reveal just because I'm a low level in a MMO.  If this were a single player game the story would have taken off by now.

The game has a distinct Final Fantasy feel.  From the look of the world, the jobs, the chocobos, the airships, and especially the music.  I can tell the developers of Final Fantasy XIV are pulling from their vast experience with the series.  I truly appreciate it.  Having the name Final Fantasy attached is what got me interested in this game so it's good that the game reflects the series.

The biggest drawbacks for me are common MMO complaints.  Leveling is too slow.  Groups can be hard to find, even with the Duty Finder (group finder).  There are unimaginative quest hubs all over.  Those quest hubs don't have enough content to level you up sufficiently.

Hotbar combat is the same as it's ever been.  There are no cool and unique battle systems to write about like I have for the other Final Fantasy games.  Enemies are the typical "don't stand in the fire" while keeping your optimal ability rotation going.

None of this was unexpected, but I'm a little jaded with typical MMO design.

There are other things I like about Final Fantasy XIV.  My Free Company (guild) is made up of a bunch of cool bloggers and twitter people I know.  I can play my character on the same server across both PC and PS4.  I never have to make an alt because one character can become every class and job in the game.  Just switch weapons to a different class and your character starts leveling it from wherever you last left off.  Player housing seems interesting and well done.  Character creation had a ton of options.  The dungeons are pretty fun.

I'm planning on playing Final Fantasy XIV until I either complete the main story quest or I run out of game time.  When one of those happens I'll reassess if I want to keep playing.

I already know I'm not going to put this into my Final Fantasy rankings when I write my wrap-up post.  It's just not the same comparing a MMO to the rest of the single player series.  I love the single player games so much.  I know I wouldn't be fair to the one MMO of the bunch if I were to rank it.

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