My FFXIV subscription ran out yesterday, so the initial part of the project – spending Blaugust investigating the game – has come to an end.
Having played for a month, I don’t think I will stump up for a further subscription. That’s not because the game doesn’t warrant payment, but more because I felt like it was a game that should be played with others. Not surprising given it’s an MMO, but a little surprising given the reputation it has a strong story based game.
As I’ve covered, the story has failed to grab me in the first ~15 levels I’ve played on two separate characters. Which sounds like it’s a common experience when people discuss the original MSQ. The enthusiasm seems to come with the expansion packs, with Shadowbringers in particular getting very positive reviews, but I’m not ready to commit to pushing through the lower levels to reach the expansions and their stronger story modes.
I had thought that the end of the sub meant the end of playing, but thanks to Bhagpuss’s coverage I’ve realised there’s an endless free trial mode. Knowing how the game works now, it’s a very generous trial, much more so that Warcraft’s which ends at level 20.
The trial allows you to have up to 8 characters (though really you only need one), and caps you at level 35. Given you can have all the classes/jobs – 10 combat and 11 crafting – on a single character, that adds up to about a billion levels and many many hours of trial play. So I’m sure I’ll be back once the Classic fervour wears down, ignoring the story but enjoying the world.
It’s certainly a beautiful game, with graphical detail that matches or surpasses many single player games. I still love the Warcraft aesthetic, and I’m even finding the Classic engine is capable of producing striking environments, but FFXIV is quite stunning.
That’s mainly evidenced in the staggering wardrobe choices that are available to players, ranging from neatly simple to incredibly complex, and serious fantasy to ridiculous humour. I found myself constantly stopping everything to take copious screenshots as a player wandered past in a brilliant outfit. And the main gathering area in Limsa Lominsa is a people watching paradise.
In celebration of the players who must spend much time and in-game money creating the displays for us to enjoy, and to sign off on my FFXIV adventures (for now), here’s a selection of the best outfits I captured.
Instead of fumbling around trying to find my way from Ul’dah to Limsa Lominsa, I rolled up a new Marauder to simultaneously try a new city and a new Class, and be ready to fish the moment it was available.
Turns out that was probably quite a lot slower than researching how to fly or sail from Ul’dah, but it was also much more informative.
The Marauder is another Tank Class, which was a bit unfortunate but it was the only melee choice for Limsa Lominsa. I had wanted to try a Rogue, but strangely you can’t choose that Class until you’ve already levelled to 10 in another – it seems to be the only base Class with that kind of restriction. Maybe it was added slightly later?
Still, it was interesting comparing the Gladiator and Marauder. The latter wields a big axe, and seems to be more about punishment and fury than the more classical stance of the Gladiator. In many ways they are very similar though, and the action unlock sequence was the same – combo skills, AOE skill, defence buff. One small difference was a guaranteed crit buff which was fun to use despite a appropriately short uptime.
Limsa Lominsa itself was much more alive than Ul’dah, though it was more confusing to navigate with multiple levels and layers – if Ul’dah was Ironforge, this is more like Undercity.
There was dozens of incredibly dressed PCs standing around the main Aether teleporter, mostly just posing and looking cool. I get the feeling it’s a bit of a runway for showing off your new outfits, and I spent quite a long time just standing around there and taking screenshots.
Eventually I drew myself away and went about the business of levelling. The story was better than the Ul’dah mire of politics, with pirates and an identified ‘bad’ guy in someone called Sevrin. There was still an awful lot of courier and delivery quests though, so it still wasn’t particularly compelling. From Kaylriene’s comments it appears that it is well understood that the original ‘Realm Reborn’ questing leaves something to be desired:
For those who haven’t had the…”pleasure”…of playing the base 2.0 and 2.x quests of FFXIV, let me paint a word picture. The game is fun and charming, and has a clear sense of Final Fantasy about it, but questing in FFXIV is not really a gameplay exercise as much as it is a story one. Quests are often simply relaying a message from NPC A to NPC B, or killing no more than 4 enemies, or going to a spot in the world, clicking the interact-able spot, and watching the cutscene that unfolds. That’s not to say they are bad – I like FFXIV’s storytelling overall – but it is definitely not the gameplay-driven questing you might be used to from WoW and the like, where the game simply uses quests as connective tissue to make the gameplay have some degree of reason to it.
As a result apparently the devs are considering a reboot of the early game questing, though hopefully it’s not as world-changing as the Cataclysm event was in Warcraft, which steamlined everything but also permanently changed the environment of a lot of the earlier zones for the worse (Thousand Needles comes to mind). Until then, I think Bhagpuss’s approach makes the most sense: ignore the MSQ and just enjoy the world, which is pretty spectacular.
So I churned through the MSQ chores in pretty good time, skim reading the text this time (having realised just how trivial most of it is from the Gladiator run) and taking advantage of the Aethernet teleports whenever they were on offer (something I avoided on the Gladiator in order to experience the world better). And finally at level 12 I was finished with the Marauder initiation questline and permitted to choose new Classes.
I made a beeline for the Fishing Guild, and before long was the proud owner of a primitive rod and a can of smelly bait. The Lalafell seem to run the Fishing Guild by trying to out-pun each other, which doesn’t have the same appeal as the inimitable Nat Pagle, but at least they do take their fishing seriously.
My first job was to fish up some anchovies to learn the ropes. It’s a much more sophisticated system than Warcraft, like the other crafting and gathering I’d seen in FFXIV. You equip bait, then cast, then wait for the telltale bend of the rod to reel in your catch. You don’t seem to be able to see the bobber in the water, which is a nice touch in Warcraft, but the animation on the whole is much more fishing.
Once you start catching, you start revealing entries in your Fishing Log (I love the Log system in FFXIV, nothing quite beats an endless checklist). Again it’s far more detailed than Warcraft, and more compelling as a result. There are day/night cycles, weather, different baits for different fish, advice not to just stand in one place and fish as they’ll stop biting, etc.
There’s also a wealth of skills to be learnt over time – including ‘stealth’ that allows you to sneak past enemy mobs when you just want to Fish. And you can upgrade not only your rod, but a full set of fishing gear too which has bonuses to gathering and looks entirely the part – it’s fishing gear not just gathering gear, and that attention to detail is lovely.
If FFXIV were my main MMO, crafting would get a lot of attention, with fishing top of the list. For now, with my subscription about to expire, I’m going to enjoy pottering about and filling my bags with fish.
FFXIV continues to impress with it’s in-game help and training systems.
I’ve reached a level where I can queue for Duties (aka Dungeons/Instances) as a Gladiator tank, and I was tempted to do one, even getting as far as queuing before quickly bailing and saving the poor Duty Finder group from a rookie tank. It seemed a bit soon, and for a new player it would probably be a tough ask having never tanked before.
I was surprised the game was willing to throw me into it, given its propensity to introduce concepts first. However I think I’m slightly ahead of the level queue due to completing all the Hunting Log quests, side quests, training professions, etc. For that reason I hadn’t returned to Ul’dah recently, and when I did I found there was an excellent solo training function available.
By talking to a trainer, I was queued into some solo Duties which introduce you to the concept of tanking step by step. The first was about avoiding enemy tells (the orange warnings on the ground), the next was using combos to draw enmity/threat, then how to draw multiple mobs attention, etc.
I’d already worked most of this out just by running around, but then I am well versed in the MMO combat style and tanking as a concept. If you weren’t this kind of systematic training is a terrific way to help people learn a Class and that Class’s in-game role.
The training was tailored for Gladiators, naming specific abilities and how to use them. Which is very impressive as it means there is no doubt the same kind of thing for every other Class too. It’s a lot of work to put in for the developers, but I think worth it as a way to show a new (or old!) player how tanking, healing, and DPS works. This is something other games could really learn from – Warcraft provides precisely zero help for learning how to tank or heal, or even the basic DPS rotation.
During all this I’ve been following the M(ain) S(tory) Q(uest) – I’ve even learnt some of the acronyms now – which I’m finding rather uninspiring. It seems to be a story of political intrigue, with various named factions and figures all trying to gain power in Ul’dah. The problem with it is that as players we have no investment in any of the people being talked about, and it does seem like a political game rather than something of world shaking importance which a hero like us (ahem) would be needed for.
I have also failed in my quest to get to Limsa Lominsa to learn fishing. I was pleased when I stumbled on a map reference that seemed to show I could catch a boat there from a nearby town, but when I arrived there the harbour-master told me the way was temporarily closed. I suspect it’s because I haven’t completed some pre-requisite, but it was very disappointing.
Both the political nature of the MSQ and the Fishing failure are making me ponder rolling a second character who starts in Limsa Lominsa, just to see how different it is. I have five days left on my 30 day account, so that might be a good way to spend it.
Having discovered professions, my next goal was to hit level 15 so I could catch an airship of some kind to Limsa Lominsa in order to train Fishing. If FFXIV is only going to be a month long project, fishing has to be part of it.
Levelling didn’t take long. Following the main storyline and the nearby side quests netted most of the required experience – and a taunt skill which will come in handy.
During the questing I answered my question about what happens if you’re equipped for a profession when you encounter an aggressive mob: you run away. I hadn’t worked out how to tell which mobs would attack when you passed through their aggro radius and accidentally drew the attention of three angry ants. Fighting them with my pick wasn’t going to work, and I couldn’t quickly change outfits, so I sprinted away. Luckily they are on rubber bands so I was soon safe, but I learnt the lesson. It does make gathering seem a little hard to do at low levels – it might have to wait until I’m a bit more powerful.
I discovered that my ‘shield bash’ ability is an interrupt for the telegraph abilities of mobs. Smacking them when the ground effect appears stuns them and cancels the special move. Very handy and easier than running out of range. I suspect that later mobs won’t be quite so easy to disrupt, but for now it’s a fun ability. I also polished off the first tier of the Hunting Log, which rewarded a good chunk of XP but disappointingly nothing much else other than a massive banner alert that things were about to get more difficult.
The final discovery in this play session was that I’ve reached a level where things are starting to be dangerous. I wandered into a camp of small sentient creatures and started mindlessly slaughtering them. There was some kind of glowing purple circle around the quest objective which gave me pause, but so far glowing things hadn’t seemed to make much difference so I pressed on. Suddenly a mini-boss of some kind was summoned and started casting something nasty, at the same time as the remaining trash mobs all decided to finally notice me and start attacking en masse. Bravery and valour took a back seat as I employed the sprint button again to get out of there, barely making it alive. I went back with a more methodical approach and succeeded, though it was still a lot tougher than anything I’d previously encountered.
I also had some close scrapes with some particularly aggressive mantis like creatures and some giant poisonous toads. I was looking for colour cues as to what will aggro and what will let me walk straight through, but I think it’s a small icon next to their nameplate that is the tell. Clearly I’ve reached some kind of tipping point between friendly newbie zone and somewhere with more expectations, and I may well be doing something wrong (or non optimally) too. From now on a more cautious approach is called for – and I should pay more attention to the swirly coloured magical stuff.
When I reached 15 nothing actually happened. I think I was kind of expecting a quest to magically appear, similarly to how flying does in Warcraft. Not that this was flying, but FFXIV has been very good at introducing new concepts as they become available and the ability to take airships to new cities seems to warrant that kind of notice. My guess is this is locked behind a quest chain I haven’t quite completed, like learning Professions was.
I’d forgotten that upon reaching level 10 I could start to train in the gathering and crafting professions – or Disciplines of the Land and Hand in game terms.
It wasn’t only level 10 that was required, it was that plus finishing the mandatory Gladiator introductory sequence. I almost felt guilty being tempted when my Guildmistress told me that much as she hated to say it, I was free to go and train in other Classes.
What I didn’t realise was that training the Hand/Land classes was the same as switching to an entirely different Combat Class. When I trained as a Miner I suddenly lost all my Gladiator skills, my action bars swapped, and I was suddenly near-naked in the middle of the Mining Guild.
Working out how to dress more appropriately, I soon found the ‘Recommended Gear’ button on the UI, which very smartly worked out what gear I should equip for my current Class. And then I could save that as a Gear Set, and switch between Combat and Profession equipment with ease.
I was equipped with a Mining Pick and had a single action available called Prospect, which promised to reveal mining nodes on my minimap when active. This is very different to my experience in other MMOs where gathering and crafting are very much secondary skills, requiring only a tool or two in your inventory. Here you become a miner, or goldsmith, or tailor, etc.
At first I was sceptical that this was a good idea – having to swap entirely to a new load out and skill set just to mine some ore seemed quite cumbersome. And it means that you can’t just spot a node as you’re adventuring and gather it on the move. You need to set out specifically to gather, or craft, and abandon your combat role entirely.
I do worry what would happen if you set out with mining pick and sub-optimal armour equipped, only to encounter some aggressive mobs that needed your full kit to counter. I wonder if you can swap mid combat, or if it’s like other games where once you’re engaged you’re locked out.
Mining pick equipped, I ventured back out into Thanalan and soon found my first node. They are much prettier than Warcraft that’s for sure.
I duly started picking away at it, and discovered that FFXIV has a much deeper crafting system than I expected. One you find a node, you can choose what you want to try and extract from it, and what the chance of recovering each possible reward is.
This kind of blew my mind, as this made gathering is a game in itself, with chance and gambling and decision making instead of just mindless clicking on shiny nodes. There’s a full list of levels and skills to be learnt, quests and objectives, and I presume you could play the game as solely a crafter if you were willing to forgo combat.
I’ve always been intrigued by Bhagpuss’s reports of the full crafting storyline in EQ2, and it looks like FFXIV has at least some semblance of that, though whether it goes quite as far as EQ2 does is yet to be seen:
It’s completely viable [in EQ2] to have characters who only craft and still have a well-developed, structured throughline from creation to cap that includes everything an Adventurer could expect. There are signature questlines at all levels, side-quests, storylines, upgradeable gear and tools, important NPCs to meet, titles to earn, achievements, you name it. There are even craft raids.
Training Mining also unlocked a Gathering Log full of lists of items to find while Mining. Similarly training Weaving created a Crafting Log, though it was more functional, containing recipes for how to make gear and accoutrements. Crafting an item involves chance, material wear, and action bar skills in order to make the object you desire. The animation is also pretty great, a full spindle or needlecraft pad appearing for weaving, and accompanying over the top excitement when you successfully make a ball of twine.
Exploring this has opened up a whole new world within FFXIV, and I found myself excited to start progressing the profession chains – perhaps even more than following the actual storyline. The fashion, armour, and weapons you see just wandering around Ul’dah continue to be astonishing, and I assume that much of it is created via crafting, no doubt at great expense. The bigger capitals and endgame hubs must be a sight to behold, and I can imagine setting up as a crafter of exclusive goods must be an excellent earner and satisfying game in and of itself.
My only regret is Fishing isn’t available in Ul’dah, for that I need to travel to somewhere called Limsa Lominsa – and to get there I need to get to Level 15 apparently. I’ll do that on my Gladiator given I’m 12 now, unless Gathering ore becomes more interesting!
I dipped back in to FFXIV today, spending some time following the main story questline.
At my low level it doesn’t seem to be terribly different from the non main story quests, or at least the objectives aren’t. One had me handing out exactly four treats to starving children, another dealing with precisely three bad-guy Lancers. Meanwhile the side quests were more or less the same – collect eight ribs, investigate four bits of ore on the railway tracks.
The main difference was that there were occasional cut scenes (still unvoiced), and the reappearance of the Handsome Stranger. I faced down a gigantic animated clump of boulders, and a mysterious black robed figure marvelled at my apparent skill in defeating it. So there is the hint of something larger brewing, though it’s hard to follow exactly what that is.
I found it quite hard to stay motivated, though it’s hard to say whether that’s the game or I just wasn’t in the mood for MMO style gaming. While I enjoy the open world of an MMO, sometimes the tight confines of an on-rails single player game can be more absorbing, or at least more distracting.
The other thought I had was that it would be more fun to be doing this in a group. I found the same thing in GW2 and SWtoR, where I would have fun playing solo to a point but then drift away and never complete any characters.
In SWtoR it was often because it seems a waste missing out on the group conversation options, which is one of the underrated features of the game. Playing in a group allows you to independently choose the dialogue option you want, and then a random roll determines which choice ‘wins’. It makes questing much more interesting as you often get to see responses you wouldn’t otherwise have chosen.
In GW2 I think it was more the same kind of problem I’m feeling in FFXIV, namely uncertainty about exactly why I’m doing all this if I’m not playing with friends, or heading to an endgame where I could.
The thing that makes me question that theory is WoW, where I will more often quite happily play completely solo, working on alts or grinding out reps and rewards on my main. The difference being that there’s a group of us that noodle about every so often, and with who I had a brief and vaguely glorious period of raiding, and one day might do so again.
I wonder if were I a GW or FFXIV veteran instead of a Warcraft one I would find WoW had the same issue. Or, more likely, I’m just having an off day and I’ll be back in the chocobo saddle tomorrow.
Last night I reached level 10 and unlocked a swathe of features, most of which I missed as the screen alerts and pop-ups flew by.
The main one was that I am now officially a Gladiator tank. While I’d unlocked my first clear tanking ability at level 8 with Rampart (reduces incoming damage temporarily), at level 10 several new abilities appeared. The main one is something called Iron Will which increases the enmity enemy mobs feel toward me. This looks like it’s a permanent taunt, making me much more attractive to mobs when fighting in a group. It’s tied to an ‘Oath Gauge’ which is a on screen icon that’s either on of off as far as I can tell – so less of a gauge than a switch.
A passive Tank Mastery trait also unlocked, which has the standard reduce damage + increase HP buffs based on my vitality and strength attributes respectively. One thing the game hasn’t done a great job of explaining – unlike many things which are explained very well – is the stats I should be aiming for on gear. Many of the quest rewards make me choose between Strength (leather) and Intelligence (cloth) upgrades, so I’ve been gravitating to Strength. But I did seem to see somewhere, though I can’t find it now, that Intelligence is important for tanking, so I’m not sure what to choose here. Given I won’t be tanking – or at least not yet – I think Strength is still going to be preferable, especially with the Tank Mastery trait bonus.
I’m enjoying the Gladiator, feeling like you can take a few hits and being well armoured and armed is always satisfying to me in a game. I should probably start thinking about starting a new Class now that I can, but for the moment I will stay true to the Gladiator way. One of the rewards for reaching this milestone was a piece of unique untradable body armour (though I suspect every other Gladiator is also wearing it), which had the unfortunate effect of exposing my less than ideal pants.
I was a little surprised to find there wasn’t much song and dance about reaching level 10 back in Ul’dah at the Gladiator Guild – just another clean up mission – but I suppose that’s the Gladiator way: all business. Level 10 should also mean professions are available, and given you can do all of them at once I should probably be a bit cautious that crafting doesn’t take over the gameplay for me. Fishing is guaranteed though.
I had been assuming the Gladiator missions were the main quest line, but there is a ‘Main Scenario Quest’ which must be the core story – I’d just been chugging through all the quests as I moved around the map so wasn’t following closely which was associated with what. Thinking back the core story did seem to involve a lot of courier deliveries and kill five thing quests, so maybe that’s why it hadn’t grabbed my focus. Time to pay attention.
Out in the adventuring world I have started to get a better handle on my survivability too. Handling multiple mobs seems to be ok, as long as you’re careful, though having only one AoE ability so far is a bit limiting. The FATES have become easy but I think I’m outlevelling most of those in the first zone now. They are a bit repetitive after a while, with most being a variation of defeat the waves of mobs and collect all of the things. I’m not sure that I’ll continue with them unless they sound interesting or different – I think GW2’s public events might be better designed on the whole.
The GCD feels a bit slow still, but I’m starting to enjoy the pacing of the attack sequences. It feels almost like a rhythm game, albeit a slightly ponderous one. It’s fun working it out without referring to guides, though I suspect I’m being less than efficient. The ability options are starting to grow too, so getting some kind of optimum rotation going will take some study.
I’m now level 7 and starting to settle into the gameplay. I made a few new discoveries, including the confirmation that there is indeed a telegraph warning when fighting, which will mean movement is going to become increasingly important.
There’s an excellent Help system in the early levels, that leads you through the concepts you’re going to need to be familiar with in order to play. It’s thorough and sensible, talking about BOP items, rarity, how experience is earned, FATES, and everything in between. It’s all pretty standard stuff, but excellent for the new-to-MMOs player.
Strangely I still hadn’t seen any general chat though, so no way to ask for help or hints. As I was despairing on how to find it I did finally see something come up in the chat panel (I guess it was a /say so not strictly chat): gold-seller spam. Ha. Sigh. Eventually I decided to research it online. Turns out there is no general chat channel – no wonder it was quiet. There are things called a ‘Linkshell’, which sound like custom chat channels with friends, but you need to be invited to those.
Luckily Nogamara had tipped me off to the existence of something called the Novice Network, which is a dedicated chat channel for new players. The trick is that you can only be invited to participate in it by players who’ve qualified as a Mentor – and you can only find them by the icon on their nameplate (just as new players have a sapling on theirs). It’s quite a few hurdles to get over to join, and I spent a fruitless time trying to find a Mentor in Ul’dah until today. A kind Lion-person invited me to the Novice group, and suddenly there was plenty of chatter – most of it unfortunately about the relative merits of early FF RPGs, but it was better than the silence! I think the idea of Mentors and Novices is great, and something I’ve thought about for a long time, but it’s quite odd putting it behind a few tricky mechanisms, things that I think would definitely trip up a player with no MMO experience.
I was excited to come across my first instanced FATE, which turned out to also have the first example of voice acting in the game. One was a squeaky voiced female Lalafell, the other a ‘Handsome Stranger’ with a deep and confidently male approach – both seemed appropriate to their model, though I’m not sure I could stand too much Lalafell if they all sound like this one.
The FATE itself was a mini-boss fight, with the stranger doing the tanking and me providing assistance and handling the adds – though I’m sure my good looking friend didn’t need the help. At the end I picked up a crystal which started a dream sequence of some kind. The lore is no clearer than it was at the start, but there’s something big brewing involving these Crystals of Light and pleas for me to ‘shine my light on all creation’ – I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that responsibility.
I also participated in an open world FATE, starting an on-level fight that I would certainly have lost had not a few other players joined in shortly after it started. That was fun too, though I couldn’t work out how to play the Tank role – I suspect I’m too low level just yet, not having any taunt abilities. In fact one hilarious Gladiator training quest back in Ul’dah had me finding some city brutes and drawing their attention from the citizens they were bullying – aka taunting them. The command to do that was /me, as in, ‘look at me’. Hardly threatening! I did in fact try /me during the FATE just in case that was somehow an actual taunt, but (thankfully) it didn’t work.
Combat remains interesting and looks better with each new ability you get. I’m looking forward to getting finishers and other specials that will no doubt have some spectacular effects.
My Gladiator Guildmistress also gave me something called a Hunting Log, which has a series of seek/slay quests within it to earn extra experience. It’s a grind checklist really, but in a new game it sounds like a lot of fun rather than a chore. The mobs you are hunting for are handily marked with an icon when you’re out in the world, which is a nice touch and saves having to refer to the Log constantly. There’s a series of other Logs that will become available, and I was super excited to see one called the Fishing Log – I can see myself spending way too long completing that book.
As soon as I left Ul’dah the game started to come alive. There were fantastic beasts, far horizons, and plenty to explore.
Unfortunately the weather went downhill rapidly, and my screenshots suffered accordingly – please excuse the dim light. As posited yesterday, I think it would be better design to start players in one of the small settlements outside the city (there’s even a cute one called Stonesthrow which is within…well, you get it) and work your way to the more established locales.
Naturally, we also get our first taste of combat: it seems pretty fun and looks nicer than your average MMO. There are great lighting animations to show sword sweeps and special moves, which I’m sure must be spectacular in mass group combat. The global cool down seems pretty mellow, so it’s a lazy style of attack. Having said that, I soon discovered that you can have weapon combos, which is a fun mechanic – time your second ability that has combo potential right and you deal more damage. I wonder how complex that gets, it could be quite a dance.
I’m not sure yet if there are telegraphs and dodging required from enemy attacks, so far it’s simple hotkey abilities and timing – my preferred style, I think, though I’ve not been exposed to much else. There also appears to be auto loot, I haven’t had to manually pick up anything from a defeated foe yet.
The minimap and map are very informative, though I was led slightly astray by what looked like a path to another zone along a railroad. Turns out it was a no through tunnel – the real zone links come from the larger red arrows on the map. Again a little surprised at how small the zones are before you need to load the next set of assets.
There are public quests or FATES in FFXIV terminology (the rather uncomfortable acronym Full Active Time Events), which appear as icons on the minimap. I was too low level to join any, but look forward to seeing how they work when compared to GW2. I was expecting to see people advertising for assistance in chat, but so far I haven’t seen a single chat message, whether in the city or the wilds of Thanalan where I’ve been exploring. I suspect that means I’m doing something wrong, though I haven’t changed any settings.
One final observation for the day is that the inventory system is very generous. I seem to have four storage bags with 140 slots total, plus a ‘Key Items’ bag for quest items, and an ‘Armoury Chest’ with 20ish spots for each gear slot. It even has a neat UI data visualisation of the spaces in your bags, and which slots are taken.
Quite a change from the normal MMO experience of eeking out precious space – it’s certainly a boost for the ‘one character’ philosophy!
After earning my freedom from the tutorial, I’ve been wandering around the city of Ul’dah and following the breadcrumb quests. Which do a good job of introducing you to the various facilities and zones of the city.
So far I’ve seen the merchants, Class guilds, and many a well dressed resident. The quests lead you sequentially from one thing to the next, all with inconsequential results. After a while I started to get an itch to get out of the city, but I have a bit of a completionist personality so continued picking up every quest I saw and dutifully fulfilling the requests tasks. During all the back and forthing I naturally started jumping about, but unfortunately the jump animation leaves a bit to be desired, you kind of hop straight up and down just like a GW2 character – none of the playful fun of a Blood Elf’s occasional spin for joy.
The city itself is quite unlike most fantasy worlds I’ve encountered. The people are preoccupied with fairly regular concerns – fashion being a large one. There is a lot of fashion on display, from NPCs to other players, and many of the quests were concerned with things like finding the ‘in’ colour for the season, or acquiring gems for a spectacular dress.
Also unusual was being tasked with performing some unsavoury jobs. During the tutorial you witness some thugs beating up a gambling debtor, and one of the early quests has you heavy a citizen quivering with fear – who then hands over her mother’s wedding ring for you to hock to repay the debt. You don’t get any choices in this, so there’s no consequence (I don’t think?), and nor does the game judge you in any way. I think I prefer the SWtOR light/dark model, where you at least get ‘rewarded’ for being bad, or good.
During all this running about the UI and how it works started to be exposed. I was very surprised to find loading screens happening within the city. It’s big, but it’s not that big – reminding me most of Ironforge with avenues and streets running off semi-circular hubs. Some of the UI is obviously carried over from the single player games, from massive QUEST ACCEPTED overlays to the old fashioned need to drag (or right click and select from a menu) an item from your bag to the quest window in order to hand it in.
I’m intrigued by the depth of some of information panels – there are a lot of stats and things to learn about and min-max, if that’s your cup of tea. Hotbars and controls are intuitive and seem to be very customisable, with good mouse and movement controls. And there are many nice conveniences like clicking on subquests and having the map open to where you need to go. The UI also confirmed and tempted the magic possibility of one character who can do anything.
A nice discovery is the ability to teleport to other Worlds (aka Servers) in order to be able to join up with friends. That makes the World choice less crucial, though there did appear to be some limits on what you could do when teleported.
One offputting thing is that the quest text is heavily heavily male skewed. Everything refers to men/man/he/him, no matter that I’m standing there as a woman wanting to learn how to Gladiator. I’m getting the feeling there will be a fair amount of sexism on display. As with any videogame, it’s a real shame when you encounter tired stereotypes such as the nagging wife and disobedient husband, given the scope for unlimited social creativity. Maybe it’s because these zones are old, and things improve once you start getting to expansion material, but I don’t recall experiencing the same blatantly one-sided dialogue in Warcraft, SWtOR, or GW2. Having said that many of leading NPCs I’ve encountered are women, including the leader of my Gladiator’s Guild (though she was wearing a chainmail skirt – maybe it’s a nod to the Roman Gladiator’s armor skirt). Like the Viera, benefit of the doubt for now.
I think perhaps starting in a city is a bad idea. While it allows FFXIV to do a good job establishing the mechanics of trading, crafting, fast travel, etc, it also limits the actual fantasy a fair amount. I felt like I was basically a courier travelling in a largish city, not too removed from real life.
There’s also no sense of beginning a heroic story, or not yet. The concept of the big-bang (or even small-bang) start is not on show here. Starting a Tauren in Warcraft has you defending the village from attack. In SWtOR you’re thrown into some local conflict or another almost immediately. In FFXIV I had to sign a charter to become an adventurer, then deliver some envelopes to stern looking administrative types. It’s quite amusing if not exactly compelling.
Apologies if this all seems fairly critical – I’m still very interested in finding out what makes this game tick. What I really want to experience is the wide open lands and strange wondrous creatures FFXIV is famous for. And the epic storylines. Fancily dressed citybound humans of various heights are still just humans. Thankfully I eventually started collecting the requisite ‘kill 10 rats’ missions, which will take me outside the city gates – into the real world.