After days of planning and character tuning, I finally logged into FFXIV today. Well, after waiting for the 13 player queue to clear I did. That was a novelty – a logon queue! Haven’t seen one of them in a long time – even Warcraft expansion launches don’t have queues these days. A healthy sign for popularity.
My immediate thought was that the engine looks very much like that of GW2 – very high fidelity graphics, with beautiful colours and landscapes. Very different to Warcraft and SWtOR with their cartoony style and simpler palettes, both of which I enjoy despite the detractors.
Interestingly it starts like more of an RPG, like the Witcher or Skyrim, setting the tone via cut scenes and slow story telling. We start in a wagon, moving across a desert landscape, being given gentle world cues by an elderly trader. The journey is interrupted by some brutish border guards, who in turn are attacked by our first sight of world mobs, before eventually we arrive in the starting city of Ul’dah.
Again reminiscent of GW2 in scale and grandeur, though the city itself is rather empty when I arrive – even the NPCs seem scarce. I wonder if the intro is phased? I was quickly beckoned by my first true NPC, someone decidedly different to your regular fantasy stereotype.
I decided I’d ignore him for the moment and go exploring, but the game refused to allow me to do that – I hit some kind of invisible wall within a few metres and was forced to turn back to my sunglassed friend. That was unexpected. My new friend advised that I needed to be registered with the Adventurer’s Guild in order to… adventure. Makes a kind of sense. My freedom of movement grew slightly larger, but I still couldn’t wander to my heart’s content, so I went with the flow – I guess it’s a tutorial of sorts, which seems sensible.
More cut scenes followed, complete with facial talking animations but no actual voices. It is kind of jolting not hearing what is being said while being forced to watch (SWtOR spoils us there), but it also allows quicker progress through the conversations. I was witness to a gambler being beaten by local heavies, and strangely wasn’t called upon to do anything about it. Welcome to Ul’dah indeed.
And with that I was free! Suddenly other players appeared, and quests, and the world was waiting. Time to explore.