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FFXIV ARR – Phase 2 Review

This is a review of Final Fantasy XIV: A realm Reborn. No, I am not a “SE can do no wrong” fanboy. There are some problems with this game and I’m not going to make excuses for what doesn’t work, but it’s just as important for SE to know what things did work as well as what didn’t. Let me preface by saying my opinions are colored by a couple different factors that may or not be the same as your experience:

I played a CNJ to 25
I played Leatherworking and Carpentry to around 10 (give or take)
I played Botanist to 5
I played the DoW classes a little but not enough to really get a grasp on them
I’ve played:
FFXI for 1 1/2 years (first MMO)
FFXIV: launch to close
WoW for 5-6 years (primarily as a mage but priest and tanks as well)
Tera, FFXIV, Hellgate:London, Rift for a few weeks
Warhammer, SW:TOR, Guild Wars 2 betas

So if the above makes you feel that my opinion is stupid and/or worthless, please be sure to tell me so. Bumps are always welcome. Without further ado, here’s my opinion on what I thought worked really, really well and could PROBABLY be successful if left alone all the way until launch.

Botting
FFXIV Bots and hacks are live and well. Check them out over at www.mmoviper.com. They have FFXIV A realm reborn bot including ffxiv teleporting and ffxiv speedhacking. The bot includes a full radar, harvesting, teleporting, speedhacking, and general grinding.

FATEs
FATEs are easy to see, easy to join, and give a solid XP bonus to its participants. As a CNJ, I had an absolutely horrible time at first just trying to get any damage off at all. Eventually, I found that casting Aero once on whatever I could and healing anybody who was a sliver under full HP would usually give me the gold. One of the things I don’t like about the FATE system in other games is that sometimes they just tried to make them too complicated. In other games, there is just way too much emphasis on this system. Developers often try to throw in several different phases, special gear, and all this other stuff in the hopes that they can force people to dedicate a large part of their experience to this. The problem is that the system just isn’t that exciting. it never has been, in any game I’ve ever played. Zerg swarming an area can feel epic, but it’s not really strategic. It also breaks down quick if not enough people are around to do it.

In contrast, this game takes a very minimalist approach to the FATE system. You get in if it’s nearby, you fight, you get out and go about your day. The only reward is XP and gil, which is great, because then if you end up not getting the gold medal you don’t necessarily feel like you wasted your time. You can just shrug your shoulders and move on. I did have one experience where there was nobody at a FATE but just me. So I just didn’t do it. Easy. There was no gimmicky obligation to, no earth-shattering realm-spanning consequence for letting a FATE go unfinished, and no wasted development time being thrown away for a system that has never been anything more than a gimmick in the first place. Since the whole FATE system is relatively short and simple, its just not a huge time investment or a huge part of the game. It’s just a small little bonus that strives to enhance, rather than replace, the rest of the leveling experience. I think it works perfectly the way it is.

Transportation
This is one of those little things that so many games manage to get wrong, but FFXIV does it (mostly) right. The highlight of this system, for me, was the aethernet system. I had no idea this system existed before I started beta and I was just blown away. It was easy to use and just such a good idea for city travel. The teleport and chocobo porter systems are great. The price is appropriate, and I never felt like it was too difficult to get from one hub to the next. Having the option to hop off the bird in the porter system is wonderful and makes the porter system more interesting. But the teleport system gets you to your location instantly which is a benefit too. Then on top of that there is the traditional chocobo system which is nice but to be honest feels a bit redundant.

One improvement that I would like to see though is a more extensive porter system and less extensive teleport system. If porters only go to areas that are already easily reachable by a teleport, why bother having both systems? And although teleporting is instant and thus more efficient, the porter system really makes me feel connected to the game world in a way that the teleport system doesn’t.

In-game Hint System
Not much to say here but the system works really well. It seemed to pop up every time something new happened and was especially helpful at times.

Movement
This is one of those things that a lot of games just get wrong. As you can tell from my experience, I am partial to and a big fan of WoW’s approach to movement. The character should feel like an extension of my will, and FFXIV doesn’t fail in this aspect. Movement is crisp and there are few collision problems with the rest of the world. Jumping is fun. I had a lot of fun with certain aspects of the map, like climbing up a giant root to get to another area of the map.

Although I wish that every zone could be linked together and all the invisible walls could be removed, I understand that this is probably beyond the possibility of the PS3. Just so long as the invisible walls apply only to the edges of the zones and not the interiors, I can be happy as it is. Gamepad control was equally fluid and fun. I am a mouse and keyboard person myself but I had no problems with the gamepad.

Targeting
All I can say is: wow. The system here is top-notch and in my opinion better than any other MMO I’ve played. With a couple reset key bindings, I made tab target enemies and shift-tab target allies. It was easy. It targeted closer people first and generally went left to right so it became easy to predict how many times I would have to tab in order to target what I wanted to target. But on top of that I found clicking to be really easy as well. In FATEs, it’s easy to see who is not a full health because theirs is the only health bar that shows up. And also the health bar is clickable. It was so easy to click on one low-hp person among a sea of people in a FATE zone and heal exactly who I wanted to heal.

And then there is the mob side bar, this absolute pinnacle of group targeting. Mobs that are currently aggroed to you will have a bar to the left-hand side of the screen and given a letter of A through Z, and not only can you see their health, you can see their current threat toward you. AND it is clickable. This little gem here just absolutely reinforces my confidence that group play will be substantially superior in this game. The sheer ease of it, its efficiency, even its placement on the UI so that a healer can easily go back and forth between healing and dpsing without having to move their eyes too much. Whoever developed this system should get a medal as far as I am concerned. It is superior to anything I have ever seen. I could go on and on gushing about this but I’ll just leave it here. It is awesome and that is that.

My only complaint is that the targeting with the gamepad is just not up to par. But really, I don’t think a gamepad can ever compare to mouse and keyboard. I did use my gamepad here and there throughout the beta and although the movement was fine, targeting just couldn’t compare and I don’t think it will ever be possible for it to be any other way.

Combat (some of it) (and obviously this section is biased toward CNJ)
There are a lot of things that combat does right. For one thing, it’s comforting to see that my spells were not just carbon copies of each other with a different color. Every spell seemed to have a lot of though put into it with a different idea on what each should do. Unfortunately, the THM class wasn’t available so I didn’t get to see what a true damage caster’s spell list will look like, but I am very satisfied with the options that were given to a healer class. The initial spells I were given are a step in the right direction, but I think there is more work to be done here.

For starters, I never ran out of mana once, even after constant dpsing and healing for an hour straight. It got to the point where I felt like I could just spam Medica (aoe heal) and not even bother having to target people since I just never ran out of mana. Only being able to cast this spell on myself also limited my movement and position in battle. I should be able to cast this on somebody else in the party and let the AoE effect be centered around them. As a ranged class, I shouldn’t feel forced to be that close to melee combat for my standard healing abilities. Also, the variety of heals isn’t efficient. Cure is sufficient for a slow, big heal but there should be a spell that can heal a lot more quickly but also drain mana much more rapidly. That should add a lot more to the skill required to be a good healer and fix the infinite mana issue I seemed to have.

The passive traits I saw were also EXTREMELY boring. “Gain +2 MND” is not an acceptable passive trait. That’s hardly even a trait. You might as well just make it so I gain that +2 normally through leveling up and make the passive trait something actually interesting. overall though the combat felt fluid and although I think it COULD work if launched as it is, it would be in SE’s best interest to polish this up a lot before release.

Lore/Questing/Leveling/Hunting Log
It hardly needs to be said but Square Enix really knows how to tell a story. I wish I could have seen the cutscenes but I really liked the way we had to build ourselves up from nothing to start being seen as useful in the eyes of the untrusting Gridanians.

The quest objectives are standard fare but I don’t know what exactly people expect from a MMO. If you played WoW for several years then you’ll feel at home with this questing system. It is basically the same thing with more lore added on to it.

There are lots of choices for leveling and questing is only one of them. And one character can do every job, so rest assured that there will be plenty of grinding once you’ve finished every quest. The hunter log helps with this and is a really good idea, but it isn’t really sufficient enough to cover the XP lost from not being able to do quests any more. With questing, the hunting log and guildleves combined I only managed to hit lvl 14 before I completely ran out of things to do. I was just 1 level short of being able to do a dungeon so I had to solo grind. More on that below. Of course I understand that we are only in one small area and that there will be more quest hubs in the full game, but for those of us with aspirations to try and level up every job I just want to emphasize that I hope we will always have something to do.

Group Grinding
If there’s one thing that motivated me to make this post, it was the threads on how “grinding is worthless” and “group grinding is worthless.” Did you people even TRY to grind in a group? Or maybe you were playing a different game? My experience with group grinding was completely different from yours. I ran out of quests at 14 and had my guildleves on cooldown. So I started to grind solo and it was pretty rough. Then I came across a group of 2 and we joined up. Things got easier. We added more and more. Soon we had a group of about 6-7 people that was going through the East Shroud (near the imperial base, lvl 19-20 mobs) tearing through everything we saw. Mobs respawned quickly so we never ran out of things to pull. We were getting chain bonuses up to 10 and the EXP was pouring in. In an hour and a half, I went from 14 to 17. It reminded me a lot of FFXI grinding except that we were moving instead of staying put.

So for those of you saying that group grinding is worthless, please, please, shut up. You are wrong. You either didn’t try it or didn’t try to do it correctly. That’s all there is to it. My only complaint was that sometimes it felt a little TOO easy to just pull a huge number of mobs into a huge group and DPS them all down. I did do my share of dying though. As the only healer I occasionally had mobs that the tank hadn’t touched yet go directly to me. He was a good tank though and it didn’t take long to figure out a good system that kept me alive.

Exploits
FFXIV Exploits can be seen if you know where/how to look. Since www.mmoviper.com has a fully working teleport and speedhack exploit for ffxiv arr, its easily obtainable and downloaded. Not many people were using, but when you see somebody leveling from 0-30 overnight, you know they were using the ffxiv exploits found at www.mmoviper.com.

TL;DR: At least read the group grinding section, lazy person. And read this conclusion.

These are all the things I thought were done really well or only needed a little bit of touch-up. There are plenty of posts here covering things that didn’t work nearly as well like dungeon difficulty, latency, guildleves or the value of crafting items. My post intentionally didn’t really cover these things. Suffice to say that they can really use some work. Combat too, despite my praise for it, can use balancing and overall more abilities with more variety.

Thanks for reading.

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