This weekend makes four weeks with Final Fantasy 14, and I think I’m starting to get into the solid middle of the main story, so I thought I’d put up a post on how things have been turning out.
Obviously, I’m getting to it after a couple of years of patches and quality-of-life fixes, so I’m not qualified to comment on how it might have been at one point, and certainly not qualified to comment on the state of the game in its 1.0 form, but what I’m playing right now is a very polished MMO with a wealth – perhaps even an overabundance – of stuff to DO at any given time.
I’m particularly in love with the class/job system, because I have a lot of bad memories related to MMOs where you selected a class at level 1 and stuck with it to level cap. Everquest, in particular, had a bad habit of straight-up breaking classes and leaving them broken for months at a time, so there were times when just getting into a group to get XP and progress would take hours on a waitlist or pity from guild mates.
FFXIV does not have this; you can level any class at any time and switching between them is just a matter of equipping a different weapon. This lets me level up a tank class for playing with people I trust and a healer class for grouping with strangers. It DOES mean that I’ve got a bit of an identity problem going on; I have both roles at roughly the same level so it’s hard to say which is my main job.
It is also VERY pretty. TERA was my previous gold standard for good-looking MMOs, and I still think that my Elin bunnyzerker had a combination of cute and dangerous that hasn’t been topped in any other MMO, but FFXIV is a huge step up visually. The weather effects along have spoiled me of the notion of going back to older games – most games are comfortable with “sunny”, “dark”, and occasionally “rainy”, but FFXIV has a huge spectrum of weather and lighting effects and isn’t shy about showing them off.
And, of course, it IS a numbered, main-line Final Fantasy, so it has a story that’s a little more sophisticated than “I don’t like wolves. Go kill eight of them and I will give you these shoes.”
…not that you’re never asked to kill eight wolves, with a promise of shoes on your success, but at least the wolves-to-shoes conversion quests are usually the ones that are labeled as optional. If you are cool with wolves and don’t NEED shoes, you probably don’t ever need to do them.
While the main story quest line is mostly done solo or with NPC helpers, it IS a “massively multiplayer” game, so you are occasionally sent into instanced dungeons to do stuff like kill dragons and get cheese.
So far – I’ve only seen the first half dozen of these – they’ve been very low-key affairs that take about twenty minutes to stomp through. It’s been very easy to get groups, because higher-level players can join even very low level dungeon groups and still get decent experience, so it’s not too unusual to be fighting through a level 16 dungeon with three temporarily-depowered 50-somethings. They can be a little annoying as a tank, because aggro in FFXIV is WAY more jumpy than I’m used to, but that’s where the whole playing-with-friends thing comes in handy.
The ones I’ve played through haven’t been much more than temporary speed bumps in keeping the story going. At level cap, when the story is presumably done and it’s time to get down to compulsively grinding for shinier and shiner gear, I understand that they can actually get rather difficult and stress-inducing. I definitely won’t be tanking THOSE with random people.
In addition to the main story quest, every class has a unique story quest to go through. These can be surprisingly challenging, and they’re mandatory to get certain class-defining abilities. I’ve never gotten stuck at any given step for TOO long, but I’ve certainly had to repeat certain parts until I figured out the trick to them.
So to sum all of this up, it’s been a good first month with a new game and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.