Overwatch: The power of two

Today Overwatch introduced the Role Queue, a feature that forces players to queue as one of the three character archtypes: Tank, Support, and DPS. There are two slots of each role available, which means every game will end up with two Tanks, two Supports, and two DPS.

For MMO players that will be a very familiar concept – it’s the holy trinity but in an FPS, something I don’t think many people would have expected to see.

Even the queuing system looks familiar, with rewards for queuing as a particular role based on their current popularity. As usual, Tanks and Healers are scooping up the loot, and DPS have the long queue. Which suits me fine as DPS is not my forte in Overwatch.

Being able to queue as a Support or Tank makes me much more likely to try out Competitive play more, as you can be fairly confident you’ll be able to play one of the characters you know well. I can play two Tanks relatively well (D.va and Orisa) and one moderately (Reinhardt), and Mercy is my favourite Support character (aka Healer).

One odd artefact of this is that the non-healing Supports have been moved to the DPS class. In fact they should probably rename Support to Healing, as that’s all that’s left there now. For example Symmetra (another favourite) and Mei used to be Support, but now have to compete in the far more populated DPS category. And both being low DPS output compared to the more pure damage dealers means there will probably be a fair bit of finger-pointing if they’re chosen. Though apparently Mei-meta is the new hotness – I’m waiting for the Sym-meta for my moment of glory!

It’s a bit of a controversial change in some ways. As Skyline says in that video, one of the pleasures of Overwatch is the fluidity of the teams, and the ability to adjust on the fly. Coming up again a heavy tank team? Double your DPS and see if you can overwhelm them. Switch to a specific character temporarily to counter someone on the other team. Just want to have some fun – play a 6 Healer composition and be unkillable. That will all be much more difficult – if not impossible – with the new system, and while fluid comps will still be on offer in Arcade mode, that’s less appealing than the main game.

And another great feature of Overwatch has always been the strength of character, and how different they all are. With Role Locking there will have to be more consistency across characters to ensure balance. We can already see that some of that happening in the patch notes today with Bridgette being nerfed into more of a Healer than an all round powerhouse:

Developer Comment: The goal of these changes is to make Brigitte more of a primary healer for your team, at the cost of weakening her survivability. Since Brigitte will now be only one of two support heroes for your team, it is important that she can provide enough healing to be valuable in that role.

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out, and whether it boosts or dampens enthusiasm for the game. One wild theory might be that this is being done in order to allow Blizzard to launch Overwatch 2 – dare we hope for Overwatch PVE – at Blizzcon. Overwatch Classic (heh) can be the eSports version, with closely balanced characters and locked roles, and Overwatch 2 can be the one where the creativity can run wild. Unlikely, but then so was Blizzard doing Warcraft Classic.


Warcraft: Name day

The reserve-your-name event for Classic seemed to start about as well as the original launch by the sounds, which is appropriate.

I dutifully logged in at 0800 with a bunch of names ready to go, was briefly queued, then connected only to find that all the servers were showing as ‘Locked’. Mysterious.

Clicking on Arugal loaded up a ‘Logging in to game server’ message that sat there doing nothing until I clicked Cancel and tried again. Unfortunately the same thing happened. At that point I decided this could go on for a long time, so I bailed and went to work for the day.

Tonight I logged on again, and immediately got through and onto the Arugal server. A few moments configuring a Tauren Hunter later, I tried my original name – ‘Stroeb’ – and was successful! It pays not to want a real word or popular fake name. I also managed to get ‘Banehammer’ (a favourite WotLK character of mine and my original tank) on the Remulos server, and ‘Angler’ on Pagle – perhaps my favourite of the lot. Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza here we come (if/when Blizzard upgrade Classic to v1.7 that is!).

The idea of Classic has continued to curtail my time on Live, other than the Alliance dungeon progression crew. I’m occasionally dipping in and doing a few Nazjatar dailies, but it’s nothing like the dedication and enjoyment I got working toward Pathfinder I. While I will eventually unlock Pathfinder II I suspect it will be some time coming. Doing things very late in an expansion often works in your favour as buffs and rewards tend to be increased toward the end of days when Blizzard gets everyone ready for the New Thing.

Classic may turn out to be too much hard work once the reality sets in, but for now the idea of a true fresh start – no imported gold, no heirlooms, no muscle memory – is still tremendously appealing.


FFXIV: Unlocked

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.

The armour design continues to be beautiful

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.

At least my leggings are long

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.

Quite an ensemble

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.

And I need to find some pants.


FFXIV: Settling in

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.

At least they didn’t call it the noob-network

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.
Brooding: check. Good hair: check. Handsome: check.

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.
Edited for clarity

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.


Warcraft: What’s in a name

The Classic server names have been released, and it’s an interesting mix. Some are names of famous lore characters – Mankrik(!), Faerlina – and some are well known factions like the infamous Hydraxian Waterlords or the Bloodsail Buccaneers.

There are twelve EU servers, eleven US, and only two for the Oceanic zone. That must reflect the active player base numbers, so we Oceanic players should be thankful there are any local servers – it would have been easy to leave them off, though given the infrastructure is already here for Live the incremental cost would be low. Still – thanks Blizzard.

Another interesting aspect of the Classic servers is the breakdown of types. I wouldn’t have guessed that PVP would be the most popular, but the US realms are broken down PVP (five), PVE (four), RP (one), and RPPVP (one). So overall one extra PVP server. In the EU zone it’s a similar story though the numbers are evenly split six each.

I assumed PVP was the minority these days, especially with the outcry over the factional warfare focus in BfA, but it turns out there’s an even demand for both – at least according to Blizzard’s analysis which we should probably trust given they’re putting hard money behind this.

So while the US and EU have a lot of chioce, for Oceanic there are only two: Arugal (PVP) and Remulos (PVE).

Now obviously the server name doesn’t really matter, but it’s always fun to choose a good name. If we look at the lore, Keeper Remulos is a famous Druid of the Grove – his father was Cenarius and grandparents Elune and Malorne. That’s some serious heritage. But he’s Alliance affiliated and not really part of the Horde story, so not a good match for a Horde player.

Archmage Arugal on the other hand is infamous for two things: unleashing the Worgen and being the final boss of Shadowfang Keep. In WotLK he is raised as an Undead and ends up leading worg packs throughout Grizzly Hills. All in all an entertaining and creepy figure, and much better suited to the Horde – you could even argue, as Rohan at Blessing of Kings does, that the Worgen should have been a Horde race.

So Arugal it is – though because it’s a PVP server I think an insurance character on Remulos is a good idea. And for my third reserved name there’s no question. There’s a US realm called Pagle after the legendary and heroic fisherman Nat Pagle.

Love at first bite


Warcraft: Delight and Delay

By the time I logged into the stress test today I think it was no longer stressful. The US realms were packed, but the sole AU realm was only at medium pop. It’ll be interesting to see if it gets full tonight when more people will be at home to give it a try.

I rolled a few Alliance and Horde characters to see how each zone was playing and what differences if any there were. The Alliance zones seemed a lot more popular – especially the Humans, but even the Dwarves were fairly busy. Chat was full of either people trolling each other, or full of wonder at the nostalgia hit. The Tauren zone on the other hand was relatively lowly populated, and chat was much more helpful and gentle, as befits the Tauren nature.

Not being overly familiar with the Alliance, it was entertaining to hear how their intros were far more heroic when compared to the Horde. The Dwarves were going to war with the ‘merciless Horde’, and the Humans were being told ‘now is the time for humans’ – racial supremacy seems to be their thing. I wonder if the current voiceover intro is the same…

…nope. Updated for Cataclysm, and also doing away with the Horde bashing and Human trumpeting. I guess Cataclysm was good for something after all!

The experience is very familiar, yet also very different. A Paladin starts with precisely zero melee abilities, having only the Seal of Righteousness buff to apply before you auto-attack with a hammer. Everything feels slightly slower and slightly more challenging, though I think respawn rates have been upped – maybe just for the test? Start zones have aggressive mobs again, and it feels like you have to put more thought into your play. Much of this is simply due to the overpowered nature of Live now we have heirlooms and streamlined levelling, but there’s also a sense of delight at a world which is a bit rough around the edges and a bit more dangerous.

I didn’t play long, partly because the characters will be wiped, but mainly because I started to get the thrill of the new, strange as that may sound. Despite incredibly familiarity with Mulgore and the Tauren starter areas, it felt like I was doing it for the first time. Things seem more like work, more like you have to earn your quests and loot and upgrades and skills. Looting a grey drop and equipping it because it’s better. Having to read the quests to find directions, and understand and learn the map as a result. Dealing with mobs dying slowly, and being cautious on pulls. Knowing that getting through a zone, or a dungeon, or even a quest, is going to take concentration and effort.

It felt like there was a real journey ahead, and one which would take time. It will be fascinating to see if the glow wears off once it launches, but for now I’m excited.

I jumped onto Live shortly after, and attempted the Nazjatar dailies, and the comparison was stark. Even though they’ve made the zone hard – I died a few times – it doesn’t feel like it’s hard because you’re learning, it feels hard because that means it will take longer, and because the map is frustratingly difficult to navigate.

Earning flying almost seems not worth it, and disappointingly punitive with the two new factions you have to advance – as Grimmtooth says, it feels like a slog rather than fun gameplay. I was looking forward to working to the flight unlock, but I think I’m starting to agree with Kaylriene’s theory on the curse of the x.2 patch:

I’d like to talk about what I’ve taken to calling the “ChoreCraft” effect – the point where playing the game distils down to a set of chores you have to do in order to enjoy the game … Since Pathfinder was introduced, no matter how good the underlying content is – no matter how artful the zones, beautiful the music, fun the raid and/or dungeon – it always will have the stink of being the place you go to do the chores.

I think Pathfinder should probably just be a single part, followed by a token quest chain unlock when the patch that enables flying drops. That would be far more satisfying, and allow the design of the new zones to focus on flying and fun instead of repetition and delay.

Despite all this I still like the idea of being land-locked for the first period of an expansion, but delaying it now via rep grinds is just busy work. It’s a worry for Blizzard when the initial narrative for a point release is that it’s annoying. There is some hope I guess as people seem to enjoy Mechagon, but there’s no avoiding Nazjatar.


Warcraft: Classic stress

A break from the regular FFXIV posts today to catch up with the goings on in Warcraft world.

The big event tomorrow is the Global stress test, starting Friday 9 at 0400 Australian time. For a moment I was excited to read that it would be ‘tomorrow 4AM’ on the official announcement page, thinking that meant 4AM California time and a perfect 9PM here, but quickly realised Blizzard have developed some kind of clever tech that displays the time relative to your OS locale or something. Curses.


Still it will be fun to hop in and see the chaos and excitement. Also in that post are ‘minimum’ specs, nothing to worry about there – you can even play with (relatively new) integrated laptop graphics. And for those wanting to try it for the first time, remember to download the client in advance – quoting from the post:

  1. Open the Blizzard Battle.net Desktop App and select World of Warcraft in the game selection menu on the left.
  2. Under the Version dropdown menu, select World of Warcraft Classic. If you have more than one World of Warcraft account, you’ll see a second dropdown for Account. In that column, select the active account to associate with your WoW Classic install.
  3. Click the Install button. You’ll see an installation progress bar that will show you when the installation is complete.

There was some news released about the Classic realms, with the welcome announcement that RP-PVP worlds will be available. Slightly less welcome is it appears to be US and EU only for the moment, but we in AU live in hope.

Blizzard have also created something called Classic Connections which guides you through drilling down from faction to realm-type to your original server, and then posting your name and class in order to try and reunite with some of the people you played with. It’s a nice idea, though the pickings are fairly slim at the moment. Maybe as we get closer to launch it will perk up.

And finally, name reservations are opening August 12 at 3PM, translating to 8AM August 13 for Australia (and I think 11PM GMT on the 12th). Blizzard have done pretty well here choosing a time that means most people will be vaguely awake. An important job before leaving for work that morning – choosing which three names, and which servers, is going to be more stressful than the stress test I think!

Meanwhile on Live, our Alliance dungeon questing is almost at the end of the Classic dungeon set – tonight we finished off Stratholme, so only Blackrock Depths and Blackrock Spire and to go. The latter is a real favourite, a classic long dungeon crawl with amazing design, so I’m looking forward to that. Stratholme too is a great instance, full of tricky pulls and deadly postmen. And Baron Rivendale, who, typically, didn’t drop his mount. Though he did drop a very nice sword – 10% movement buff and constant self-heals? Now that’s a weapon for Classic.


FFXIV: Combative

Ahh, freedom.

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.

This was a mob, not a plant

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.

I’m beginning to understand these glyphs

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!


FFXIV: Citybound

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.

From the sublime…
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.

…to the ridiculous
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.

So the Viera can dress. Phew. The little guy seemed to be her pet?
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.

Time to start filling in the blanks

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.

Yes you are indeed handsome
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.


FFXIV: Arrival

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.

I suspect those bird ‘horses’ are going to be a very common sight
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.

Then why are you hiding yours?
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.

Here we go