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 Final Fantasy XIV Professional review- Game Directors

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Posts : 52
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Join date : 2010-11-17
Age : 23

PostSubject: Final Fantasy XIV Professional review- Game Directors   Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:38 am

Cheeky-faced warbler Lee Ryan once crooned, alongside Elton John, that sorry 'seemed' to be the hardest word. Given that he was laying down a track in an expensive studio, you think he might have been a little more sure about it, but that's selfish celebrities for you.

Regardless, if he had six words to play with, there'd be no 'seeming' about it: the hardest words to say are *obviously* 'Final Fantasy XIV is a bit rubbish'.

It doesn't always seem that way. First impressions are, in typical Square Enix style, polished. Luxurious cutscenes welcome your arrival into Eorzea, and early story quests - including escorting an NPC to a camp and breaking up a fight using the various emotes available - are different enough from the MMO norm to signal promising things.

Also promising is the vast open-endedness of the game's character development system. One of its core differentials is that it doesn't impose a single class upon you: simply equip a weapon or tool related to a particular role and, voila, you're a whole new man/woman/cat-thing.

It's a liberating and intoxicating system - initially, at least. Jobs rank up separately to your 'physical' level, and performing actions related to the job type - fighting for fighters, healing for healers, crafting for crafters - gives both job-specific skill points and physical experience.

The initial flurry of trying out the different roles leads to almost effortless levelling; and the ability to choose exactly which attributes will be increased when doing so further pushes the possibilities beyond anything that's been seen before.

Visually, too, the game is a treat. Powered by Square Enix's Crystal Tools - the same engine that put the muscle into Final Fantasy XIII - the game is a startling visual treat on high-end PCs. In particular, it's satisfying to see an MMO that can provide vistas as dramatic and sweeping as its concept artists' most fevered of scribblings.

The castle-like town of Limsa Lominsa stretches upward against a sheer craggy coast, connected to the mainland with a vast and intricate bridge that evokes Tolkienesque imagery. One area features as its landmark a colossal dragon that lies entangled around a fallen aerial battlecruiser, so vast as to always have a presence on the horizon and so intriguing as to inspire adventure in even the most battle weary of adventurer.

Naturally, such imagery comes at a price: some pretty demanding system specs. That's not much of a surprise, really, given an MMO's expected 6+ year lifespan. Except that even if you've got a high-end system, so much of the visual detail is server-dictated that you'll spend an awful lot of time watching other players pop into view alarmingly close up, or standing at closed doors waiting for the server to get its arse in gear and open them.

Visual fidelity means nothing when the spell is so frequently broken by sluggish communication. In fact, the game's complete reliance on the server is one of its major undoings. You'll no doubt have heard about the game's interface, and in particular its laboriousness and sluggishness. Yes, it's not going to win any awards, and it's so pad-focused that it almost might as well not bother with mouse support at all, but it's passable.

What can't be forgiven is its insistence on validating every single click with the server, which often means that it's laggy beyond use. Just flogging all the trinkets and lint combed from fighting enemies to an NPC vendor can take five minutes as you wait for each and every item to be checked. To describe it as torturous is no exaggeration.

Part of Final Fantasy XIV's problem is that, really, it doesn't quite know where it wants to be. We live in an age where World of Warcraft defined the possibility of a mass-market MMO and catapulted its publisher into grotesque levels of profit.

Final Fantasy XIV doesn't quite know exactly where it wants to be, seemingly reticent to stray far from its grind-heavy predecessor so as to not disenfranchise any old players, but semi-aware of how expectations have changed across the world. What we're left with is a mish-mash; a game unafraid of making its players grind but with the concessionary inclusion of 'guildleves'; short, repeatable quests that never stray from 'kill 5 of these monsters' but give far greater skill point rewards than just grinding.

Annoyingly, they're done under a time limit - 30 minutes - which makes them unsuitable for short sessions (especially by the time you've obtained the leve in a major town and travelled to its starting destination). Even more annoyingly, you're limited to doing 8 guildleves every 36 hours - basically an admission of their imbalanced (but necessary) effect of levelling up.

Aside from these, there's the 'main story quests' - a whopping eight spread across the 50 levels, no less - and some faction and job specific stuff, but that's it. It's all very, very bare. If you're expecting a game that delights in always providing you with a bulging quest log, look away now. This is the exact opposite.

And that's a massive, massive shame. Square Enix has concentrated on telling a great story with lavish cutscenes but, by choosing to view quests as a mere side-dish rather than the main course, it's given up the prime storytelling and world-developing opportunity. Eorzea is a beautiful world, but it's not a very interesting one. I could write down almost everything I'd learnt about it in my thirty hours on a single side of A4. In really big letters. With a crayon. In my left hand.

Even if you're happy to grind - and you'll have to be once the slog sets in post rank 10 - there's an alarming lack of monsters roaming Eorzea's various fields. Whole vast areas will serve as home to only one or two different types of monster, and even then either all at the same level or 30 levels apart. If you're expecting a gradation of challenge as you move through the area, as you might experience in World of Warcraft or even this very game's predecessor, forget it. Here, you'll walk for miles facing the same easy foes only to be suddenly killed in one hit by some stupidly advanced foe.

Even after all this, it feels wrong to say that FFXIV is bad. What's there, at the core, is a functional MMO with a character progression system so open-ended that it should, by all counts, rewrite the rule book. How could I have spent 30 hours playing something 'bad'? Plus, a large proportion of the problems I've highlighted here have been specifically isolated by Square Enix as areas that will be improved in the next few months. It just needs tweaking, right? An awful lot of tweaking.

But, try as I might, I can't come to any other conclusion. Final Fantasy XIV just isn't very good. The simple fact is that, right now, the game isn't worth your money. There's just not enough to do, and too much missing content, to recommend it to anyone other than the most determined of front-line pioneers.

By the time the PS3 version is released, it'll no doubt be a very different game. But right now, it's barely a game at all.

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