Review by whoopeeragon

"An adequate game for those with patience"

This review is based on my experiences in playing a portion of FFXIV, as well as research and watching a plentiful amount of videos. Taking that into account, there will be a mostly middle ground stance with the good, bad and the ugly mentioned. I'll put them here. You can then decide whether this game is worth your time and money. Though I have taken care not to, spoilers may be present, so read at your own risk. Although at the time of this review, the November update has been launched, this review will adhere to pre-update FFXIV.

Note: Any examples used are for theoretical senses only, and are not to be described as part of what playing FFXIV is like.

Graphics/Sounds

Graphics
The graphics are mind-blowing in FFXIV. The lack of black waiting screen when the game is loading new areas is a nice addition and breaks from the continuous black screens as you try to navigate the world. Areas just seamlessly blend in with one another in this process. The landscape is also a marvel to look at. All in all, marvelous.

Customisation of your character is enjoyable, and the range of characters you can create is quite phenomenal. In-game, character's moves like in real life, and do not have choppy movements when in action.

But there are drawbacks. You definitely need a good computer to be able to run the game on default settings. If you want to maximise the settings, be prepared for lag. There are no other associated problems.

Graphics Score: 9/10 (One point taken off because of the high specs needed)

Sounds
The soundtrack used suits the game well. The normally ‘ambient' music in most MMO's has been cut down, with other genres present in the FFXIV soundtrack. Battle themes are not over-the-top, instead instantly getting into the fast beat. Area themes are not too distracting, and, though repetitive, aren't the type which you want to turn off because you've been listening to it too long. Sound-effects are also used in a succinct manner, not too demanding for attention

However, as said before, it can get very repetitive, especially the footsteps. It can get pretty annoying when, travelling from place to place, all you hear is your boots stomping on ground, grass, in puddles etc. Otherwise, sound choice is reasonable.

Sound/Music Score: 8.5/10

Gameplay
This section has mixed feelings, as it introduces most of the good AND bad points of the game. For one, there's a fresh uptake because of the freedom to be what you want, as well as trying to balance between hard-core and casual. On the other hand, the gameplay can get really tedious and long. Some people also don't like the new combat system because of the complexity. Journeying through the world takes up a lot of time. The major minus of the game play is the lack of tutorials to help you understand how to operate within the game.

Levelling
The levelling system has its share of good and bad. The multi-job aspect allows for freedom but also lack of diversity, as everyone can be everything. But this multi-job comes with benefits, as you can then assign different class' abilities onto another. For example, Gladiators can now cure. You can even assign attributes by yourself, turning yourself into a tank by increasing the VIT stat, or a mind-blasting machine by increasing the MND attribute. Basically, you can create your own ultimate character by your own choosing, although with limitations to the number of abilities you can allocate.

However, levelling up is a hard process. From levels 1 – 10, it's easy, but after that, it's grind grind, all the way up to level 50 for the current version. What is worse is the levelling up chances. The skill and physical increase is all based on percentages, so you could whack forever and not get a single skill increase. This is made more evident in party battles, where, even if you were healing the most, you might not get a single skill increase in an hour.

The levelling system also tries to blend in casual and hardcore players. One of those systems is the Fatigue system, where, if you play on one class too long, after 8 hours, you start to not gain anymore experience, forcing you to level up your other classes. Hard-core players will take this as an insult, as if they were punished for doing work. But it closes the gap between hardcore and casual by a great deal. This also allows soloing, instead of always getting into a party to get as much experience as possible.

Overall, the levelling system has potential, but definitely has small problems which need to be fixed, such as the grinding and levelling chances. For now, it certainly needs work.

Current Levelling system score: 6/10.

Combat
The combat system is set in real-time, and is relatively turn-based depending on which attacks and skills you use to take up the stamina bar. FFXIV upgraded the normal hack-and-slash battle into something with tactics. Using lancers as an example, lancers are more accurate when there is space between them and a monster, and, in special cases, if aligned, can attack two monsters with one thrust. The use of using the three pools (HP, MP and TP) means that the player must always think about what to do for the next attack. There are also TP abilities for special skills. In parties, there's the Battle Regimen where a party can employ tactics to cause additional effects, like lowered defence.

Damage factors are also made more flexible. If you attack a monster on the right for a period of time, the right arm may fall off, allowing for easier battles. Similarly, if you attack a monster from behind, or were attacked from behind, the damage is also higher. Area of effect skills are present for both enemy and players, so strategy is very important.

AI is upgraded, with enemies being smart enough to either move in and out of range, or sometimes turning tail and fleeing, requiring your character to chase. Movement is essential for FFXIV's combat. By running in range of the enemy, you can increase your accuracy or damage, and in the mage's case, not be totally still while casting. You are made to think about what abilities you need to use before combat, making it more interactive than other combat systems.

The major letdown is the lag. After pressing the confirm button, there's a lag of around 1 second before your character does the move. Server overload increases the lag. In parties, there's also problems where the Battle Regimen restricts when you attack. The Battle Regimen also depends highly on when each party member presses a button, leading to unorganized battles. Manual targeting of enemies is also a letdown, as you have to Tab through all enemies before you select the one you want. This causes time-wastage in selecting moves and targets, leading to potential death and frustration.

The lack of monsters hurt, especially for levelling, with some areas clean of monsters. The lack of tough monsters is also hindering the playing aspect, so there's not even a challenge for you to push yourself against. Monsters are also set up as hard or easy according to colour, red and blue respectively. But don't get misled: some blue-coloured monsters are capable of wiping the floor with you, while some red ones die from a few whacks of a staff.

Overall, the battle system is one of the best ones I've seen in MMO's, being interactive and tactical. There would need to be a fixing for the lag, and for the auto-targeting and monster aspects, but with future updates, the combat system should be sleeker with minimal troubles.

Combat Score: 8.5/10

Travelling
The area of FFXIV is expansive: it is simply too time-consuming to walk all over the place. However, FFXIV introduces Aetherytes, which are huge crystals allowing for teleportation to areas. However, every teleportation uses up Anima, which is not infinite. You need to wait now and again to get more Anima, around a day or so. It may not seem so much, using 4 Anima to teleport, but just watch as your Anima depletes rapidly. That's how easy it is to lose Anima.

The game hasn't introduced chocobos or airships, though those birds can be seen in places. I've seen them in Gridania, but the fact that you can't use them is aggravating.

This leads to travelling on foot around the map. That means a LOT of walking and running, as well as potential death from nearby monsters. This leads to tedious amounts of just roaming around following the map. You also have laggy maps and spending time for your location, let along other subjects like your party members' locations.

Aetherytes can be used, but the cost is too high. So you're left with walking, and the annoying boot sounds against the ground will soon annoy you.

Overall, it needs to be updated to a higher level, with chocobos and airships to be released into the world soon. It needs work.

Travelling Score: 6/10

Crafting + Gathering
FFXIV depends more on equipment and other skills rather than just fighting opportunities. As such, crafting and gathering are two major components of the game.

Crafting builds new materials which you can sell or use. User interaction is needed for crafting, so button-mashing is not an option. Although it can be highly rewarding if you successfully create a high-quality item, the time spent on the crafting and possible failures detracts from the fun. However, it which separates FFXIV from other games, due to its complexity.

It also becomes one of the more time-consuming aspects of the game. There's a long level time to level up one craft, as well as some recipes requiring more than one craft in order to make. With key precision to maximise quality, the lag sometimes ruins the work as well. And the time spent on each crafting can be tedious.

All in all, crafting allows for some thinking to occur outside of fighting as well as to pass the time because of the Fatigue system by providing challenges. Crafting is still a fine thing to be seen in the game, though the lag and low success rates does turn people off crafting for too long.

Crafting Score: 7/10

Gathering is one of the better time-usages in the game. It allows freedom as well as viewing the spectacular landscape as you ‘gather' items. It provides a reason for the on-foot travelling around Eorzea, especially in places with little Aetherytes. Although similar to crafting, the opportunity to go out and ‘hunt' materials down breaks Gathering away from Crafting.

Although it does take time, the opportunity to travel the world on a mission instead of aimless wandering provides interesting encounters. There's also the gleam of pride when you successfully harvest, mine or fish something. There's no frustration from nowhere to gather, as more than one player can gather materials at one source.

If gathering has one fault, it would be the large experience amounts required. This is, however, negligible because of the opportunities and rewards gathering can open up. Gathering is a suitable and interactive means by which to pass time in FFXIV

Gathering Score: 8/10

Economy
The economy in FFXIV is dire. Getting the materials needed to sell is an easy enough job, and the prospect can be very heartening. However, it turns to shambles when you try to buy or sell an item.

The first problem is the lack of vendor names. To see what wares they have, you have to click on every one, wait for the menu to show up before seeing what is in. You need to do the same process over and over again until you find the correct merchant. Huge magnitudes of money no longer seem to be that valuable compared to other Final Fantasy games; it is likely to be spending 10000+ gil in one sitting in FFXIV.

The second problem is the retainers. Each person can set up their own ‘store' with a retainer to sell to other people. However, imagine walking into an area with hundreds of these retainers and trying to shift through to find one item. This relates to vendors, where you have to browse through each individual retainer. The lack of auction houses seen in FFXI also hurts.

These two problems lead to lag as well as time-wasting trying to browse for the correct item to buy or sell. The menus lag whenever they open up, so more time is used trying to get around the interface rather than actually buying and selling.

This needs to be addressed, and at the current level, it is dreadful.

Economy: 5.5/10

Tutorials and Support/Help
Square Enix has two ways to request help, GMs and a support center. GMs are mostly there for security in game, so they're not much use unless you are being harassed. The support centre have an FAQ and send out responses to emails within a week. Support and Help is not an issue, however, one thing FFXIV lacks is the instructions.

You are given a tutorial on how to fight. Then, into your home town you go. You're thrust in with no idea what to do. You'll spend half an hour just looking for the right NPC. There's no reason for the game to not supply even the most minimal amount of information to the player.

This applies for levequests, crafting and gathering. You get the ‘card', then you're left to do the quest. The game doesn't remember the recipe for you, either, so you need to write it down somewhere, look it up on the net, or try to remember it when you start crafting.

There is no harm is not leading a player down every step in a game. However, this level of information is too little. Veterans may know what to do, but for beginners into the Final Fantasy series? Tutorials are essential, even small ones, to provide an indication of what to do.

To aid this, Square Enix designed the lodestone, a site where information can be gained about recipes, synthesising, how to make text commands, macros etc. However, it means the player must continually switch back and forth from the game and web browser to fully comprehend or note the particular recipe they are working on.

Support is reasonable, though more options to choose from within the game will be useful. Instruction and tutorials need to be upgraded or increased, as you'll spend half your time trying to figure out what to do next.

Tutorials and Support/Help Score: 5.5/10

Overall: Gameplay is a mix between bad and good, but the goods slightly outweigh the bads. Combat and crafting/gathering are examples of better gameplay, however, the economy and travelling around Eorzea definitely needs work. In general, the gameplay is adequate, though future updates should pay fix key problems shown.

Overall Gameplay: 7/10

Story – main and side (levequests)
FFXIV's story can be seen as 3 stories, with each major city having a different plot. These stories all have unique quests and ideals surrounding them. As this aspect is the most likely to spoil moments of the game, this section will be considerably shorter.

Sidequests are seen as levequests and other events such as Behest. These normally involve a hunt of some sort or to gather/craft specific items and gear. Levequests can be done an indefinite amount of time, though there is a limitation.

Main Quests
These quests start off as soon as you create your character. The first ‘quest' is meeting the main NPCs of your region, as well as your first fight. From then on, you are thrown into a story with twists and some flair to the whole plot. It's been designed so that if you chose one story, you aren't likely to be missing out on anything important from the other two.

What hinders this is the level requirements for the main quests. After finishing one of the quests, you must reach a certain rank or level before you're able to proceed through and finish the next quest. This causes a disjoint in the story quests for the player.

There is also a lack of content. Aside from the main quests, the only thing you can do is grind, craft, gather, or accomplish levequests. There are no side-elements such as mini-games. You are locked in the areas which have been released, so it is easy enough to see every allowable part of the Eorzea. To sum up, FFXIV needs to introduce more quests or other content in order to keep the players motivated.

The main quests are finely implemented as a story. However, the empty time spans in between each quest can lead to confusion, and the lack of content can be a glare. Future updates need to implement more content and lower the requirements for the main quests in order to be engaging and satisfactory.

Main Quest score: 7/10

Levequests/Sidequests (Behest)
The main sidequests are levequests and other events. These often involve the hunting or certain monsters, the crafting of certain goods, or the gathering of certain materials. These are typically rewarded from the aetheryte in which you started the levequest. One major benefit from these is that you can do the levequests an endless amount of times, meaning you can acquire those items more than once.

However, you are limited to 8 leves per day. This cuts down on what could be potential farming for items, and probably a more disappointing effort in bringing the lines of casual and hardcore gamers closer together. Even if you die and fail on a levequest, you cannot redo the quest until you get a new one, and it counts towards your quota of 8 levequests.

Other events are not as limited. Behest events are held every hour at the camps, which you must join as a party in order to participate. A ‘raid' of monsters comes to attack, and you fight against other parties to kill the most. This is one of the more engaging exercises, however, once per hour seems too long as a time gap for monster raids.

To obtain a larger variety of levequests, one must level up or get their job rank up enough to unlock their job-specific levequest, by first joining their job-guild. These normally offer higher rewards than usual, and are more challenging.

The lack of content is also seen here. You can repeatedly do the same quest over and over, and be doing those ones until new quests come out with an update. And to start off with 8 a day is a ridiculously small number.

These quests have been thought out quite well, and if they are done properly, can be used to yield successful results and satisfaction. However, much like the main quests, the lack of content as well as the limiting quota causes a negative response. With more content as well as the increase of levequests quota, these will be more enjoyable as a part of the FFXIV journey.

Levequest/Sidequest Score: 7/10

With the main story and levequests having the same problems, there will be a need to address these issues as a whole, or to change the requirements to suit the players' needs. Overall, they have been implemented well, though the problems they pose are limiting the satisfaction.

Overall Story score: 7/10

Controls
FFXIV can be played using two methods, via the gamepad or controller, and using the keyboard and mouse. I have never experienced a game using the gamepad or the controller, so I base my judgement off using the keyboard and mouse. Thereby, the gamepad is not included in this review. If you have both, my is to try the gamepad; if it doesn't work for you, switch back to mouse and keyboard.

Gamepad score: Not applicable, haven't experienced.

Mouse and Keyboard
Square Enix successfully tries to make full use of the keyboard. From left to right, nearly all the buttons have been allocated an action. The buttons also fall into a reasonably logical order, meaning that you don't have to reach around the keyboard trying to find a certain button. The mouse is mainly used for clicking on targets, examining stores, or moving menus around. It's job is simple.

However, the complexity for the keyboard means that you must refer to an outside source, the lodestone, because the game does not explain how to use the keyboard. The differences between first-person and third-person can also get confusing, and if you want to know every button on both versions, then you need to memorise a lot.

Despite this, the keyboard handling does not deter from the overall fun of the game, and actually helps to involve the player into the gameplay. There's not much to improve on in this section save to lower the complexity of the keyboard if it is a valid choice, but overall, the usage is fine.

Mouse and Keyboard score: 8/10

User Interface
FFXIV's interface is debatable to whether it is successful or not. It includes the nice and pleasant main interface, yet the atrocious downloader and poor menu allocations. As such, this section is one Square Enix needs to work on.

The main interface is rather elegant, not overcrowded, yet you don't lack the necessary detail to journey across the world. Chat boxes and other menus are placed out of the way, and in battle, the health bars and battle options are positioned as to not interfere. Overall, the main interface has been designed in a good manner.

Main Interface: 8/10

The downloader is a joke. Torrenting from other players? Even my word processor changed torrenting to ‘tormenting'. You spend more time uploading than downloading the patch. As a game of this generations, this level of patching is unacceptable. With medium bandwidths, a players should be able to download the patch, install, and play with no drop in interest because of the wait. However, this is becoming a common case for the players as they wait for the new patch. It forces players to use outside torrents such as u-torrent to download the patch separately, or to just bear with it for a few hours.

This needs to be changed, and Square Enix definitely has the potential to implement a downloader which is not a headache.

Download/Update: 4/10

Menus
Within the main interface are the various menus by which you distribute your attribute points, customise your characters, buy your gear and sell your loot. Now, these are fine, and expected of any game for a MMO. However, the lag associated with the menus opening up is horrendous.

Let's start with a scenario. You found a piece of gear which you want to try on, and are excited about it. You open up your menu, spend seconds waiting for it, then go to the appropriate section, take a few seconds for each menu to appear, and then you have to MANUALLY search through your inventory, as the game doesn't have a sort feature. Once you found it, you need to press it, confirm, and wait for the lag before you equip it. By then, all excitement has gone, and you probably don't even care if the helm or shield improved your attributes or not.

There is the lack of sorting in inventories. If you're trying to find an items among dozens, it gets very tedious as you browse through your entire inventory to select that shard or recipe item.

The amount of confirming screens is also a time-waster. If I'm selling something, of course I know I'm confirming to sell it, and of course I then confirm that I am selling this amount of that item, then confirm that I will sell that item. There should be a shorthand method such as a right-click in which you only need one confirm screen before you can sell the item.

However, these all pale before the lag of the menus, which is major downfall. No longer do you spend time navigating, once you find yourself scrambling for items or equipment, be prepared to put aside an hour just trying to navigate through the complex field of menus as they pop up seconds after you initiate them.

Menus are currently atrocious, and need to be fixed. They can be fixed, and these problems were already present in the beta version. What has Square-Enix done to correct this over the time period between beta and the launch game? Obviously nothing, because the menus are still as slow and unresponsive. They definitely need more work before they can guarantee player satisfaction when going through the menus.

Menu Score: 5/10

Following these bad points, it certainly draws the player away from interacting with the game. The downloader already detaches the player from the game before it even starts, let along the laggy menus. The only plus is the lack of blockade or misplacement of any of the screens around the game's window, but that still does not excuse the problems seen.

Overall User Interface Score: 6.5/10

Overview and Conclusion
As a game, Final Fantasy XIV effectively provides a degree of complexity and strategy not commonly seen in other MMOs, allowing players to experience more than just travelling and fighting monsters. However, with the many problems present, FFXIV fails to completely gain player satisfaction. I recommend it for those with the patience to look under the problems and see the gameas the experience will be enjoyable. But it will deter beginners to the series as well as people wishing for a simple gaming style with lack of obstacles.

Updates should pay key attention to problems reducing the fun of the game, mainly the lag seen nearly everywhere. Close priority should be the need of faster travelling around Eorzea, as well as an improvement to the downloader system and making the game more optimised.

Overall, FFXIV is an adequate game, though lacking in terms of content. Future patches should introduce more content for players to enjoy, as well as fixing most problems. My ideal release date would have been in conjunction with the PS3 release, to fix up small problems and to extend the beta. For now, it is playable, albeit with small errors which hinder the enjoyment and experience of playing. It is worth a try to play and take part in the journey of Final Fantasy XIV.

Overall Game score: 7/10


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/08/10

Game Release: Final Fantasy XIV Online (EU, 09/30/10)


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