The Final Fantasy XIV Chronicles: A Trip to Eorzea

April 12, 2011 / 02:47 PM EDT / (@admeady)

Welcome to Eorzea – a home to a vast variety of places, people, species and spells. For the foreseeable future, I’ll be documenting my experiences as I climb the ranks of Final Fantasy XIV. Although the format is hardly set in stone, I’ll be writing in a ‘stream of consciousness’ style, talking about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Of course, I’ll include descriptive and critical prose, too.

Please, feel free to critique, comment or question below.

A Fantasy Fraught with Frustration

Final Fantasy XIV feels like an antiquated mess. It ostensibly abandons design elements that lifted the genre from the depths of mouse-clicking obscurity to the realms of pop culture ridicule, leaving Square’s efforts to invite players to ask “why?” at almost every turn. It indulges in design choices that often seem arbitrary, counter-intuitive and, ultimately, detrimental.

Naturally, one might be inclined to assume that an unwieldy interface is simply the by-product of a deep, complex and rewarding system. Here, however, this simply isn’t the case – Final Fantasy XIV is perhaps so obsessed with distinguishing itself from its contemporaries that it forgets what makes them work in the first place. And here, it forgets accessibility and convenience.

There’s little doubt that the omission of spoon-fed, screen-spanning tutorials is a valiant attempt to retain the integrity of those “oh, wow!” moments – those moments of discovery: a new ability, a new region, or a new friend. But it often left me to wonder if I had a missed something; it seemingly assumed that I had an intimate knowledge of the games’ systems.

Even as somebody not unfamiliar to the genre – and a Final Fantasy XI Paladin of four years – Final Fantasy XIV could be an incredibly confusing and infuriating experience in its opening hours. Although “why?” was certainly at the forefront, XIV will prompt you to constantly question the game’s intentions.

Final Fantasy XIV is, at first glance, an antiquated mess. Its ability to evoke frustration is only matched by its ability to crush its promising ideas under the weight of its own incompetency. And in a genre that demands and rewards the world’s inhabitants with a level immersion matched virtually by no other, Enix’s flagship, just an hour or so in, is making it difficult to care.

Here’s a snippet of my adventures so far:

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  • Zero

    I currently play FFXIV, I’m on the Trabia server, my character name is Raidou.

    I read the article and watched the video on youtube.

    I can’t be for sure you have only just started the game, by just watching the videos. I can comment a little bit about the small improvements the game has made.

    Like you point out in the article, the game is very messy in spots, and has a very steep learning curve for beginners. It’s not just about learning to play the game, but it also is about finding something in the game that makes you want to keep playing.

    I know that sounds absurd, but, believe me, it’s the sad truth. I know lots of people still play because the game is free. And, when you think of it that way, its one of the best free to play mmorpgs out there…lol. (Not to say this excuses it in anyway.)

    You have the crafters, who play to craft. The really hardcore crafters will play a moderate 8 hours or so a day, and perhaps never engage in battle even once. Or, depending on materials, never leave town.

    Another group simply log on to do leves once the leve clock resets, they log in and get new leves from one town or several, and usually log off. Most likely they log back in and do the leves before the next reset.

    Despite the state of the game, it still has the hardcore (level up) players. People who play as much as possible, taking up one or several jobs to the current rank 50 cap. I’ve even heard of people going solo to rank 50, before a recent patch, one could solo coblyns/doblyns with ease, and get acceptable sp. The most recent patch made the stone spider like creatures tougher.

    Then, last, you have the average player, which I suppose is me. I’m in a few linkshells, I play with a select group of friends, but sometimes I play with strangers. I craft on occasion, but mostly to make repairing my own gear less of a hassle. I’ve taken up a few different jobs, and have experienced winning battles with some of the current higher lv Notorious Monsters in the game.

    From my view, this gives a decent perspective of the type of players in FF14. The main point is, everyone finds a reason to play, and that keeps them coming back. If by chance that reason to play no longer is important to them, or becomes dull, they usually quit.

    As you likely already know, anyone playing the game right now is not the least surprised to see someone quit the game. It is an incomplete online game, that lacks many things, but most importantly, it lacks a reason to feel bad for leaving or quitting.

    I also played FF11 for 4 years plus, and the first thing to get out of the way is, FF14 is not FF11, it’s really nothing like it at all. The things FF11 had that were good, were very good. What I mean by that is, they were so good, despite the faults the game had, it kept people playing, and still does today. You felt bad about wanting to quit, and not only leaving the game, and the friends you made behind, but your legacy of sorts as a character on whatever server. Reputation was very important in 11, and unfortunately, many of the servers had very greedy players.

    I could go on about 11, but this is about 14. For the most part, the people on Trabia are nice people. I think the population on all 14 servers, despite being small, is good, and that is one of the things that keeps the game going. People enjoy playing an online game with nice people. Even if you are not friends, positive emotion always helps.

    After they turned the servers back on a few weeks ago, I’ve noticed that a decent amount of players did not return. The new dev team is working hard to make the game better, and they have added lots of things, but they were handed the keys to a car that was just barely running, and needs lots of work.

    Some of the main problems in the game are small, and they add up to create the annoyances you describe above.

    I. Transportation – You see chocobos and airships, but currently they are not in the game for player use. This leaves you with running or using anima. Anima goes quite quickly, and the regen rate for it is very slow. It hurts the active player, more than it does the one that plays on occasion. From day one this has bothered me. If you want people to play the game, and play it often, they should not run into problems like this.

    II. Physical Level – The physical level system was a pretty cool idea, but it really has been broken from the start. It makes it tough to play other jobs in the game, which is one of the good parts about 14. I started to play mage recently, but all my stats are built for a Lancer, Lots of STR and poor INT doesn’t help me with nukes. Yea, you can change the points, but only a little bit every hour, you can’t change them in one setting, this creates problems when switching back to your other jobs too.

    III. Content – This one is obvious. The game needs more content at all stages. Content for lv 50 players, and content for lv 1 players. A good example was the different things you could do in FF11, despite the level you were currently at.

    An example of the small improvements can even be seen in that starting cinematic for Limsa Lominsa. They added music, during the active scenes, they added text to somewhat explain things, gave the player more information on the monsters, and even some tips on targeting. None of that was in the game before. For a decent idea, you can download the 14 benchmark, it runs the exact same cinematic, but the way it was before the additions.

    That’s all for my random rant, for now. :) I’ll continue to follow the articles. If you have any questions about the game, I’ll do my best to answer them.

  • Adam Meadows

    Amazing comment! I was going to detail these as I progressed. Much of this is the source of my frustration. Although this article is largely negative, I’ll be attempting to strike a balance as I become more familiar with the game.

  • Zero

    I look forward to more. Hope you can enjoy your time with the game!