FFXIV: On The Road Again

So, been playing a bit of FFXIV on Lamia server the past few nights. (Frail Gesture, if you want to friend me.) I haven't gotten too far (level 11 as a Gladiator), but I figured I'd throw out a few initial thoughts/quibbles. Overall, I’m enjoying the game, but it’s not hard to see some areas for improvement in the early game.

A Slow Start: The first few levels that you gain are...kinda boring, unfortunately. Starting you in a city (the gladiator starts this way, not sure about every class) is a bad idea that I thought most MMOs (Rift, WoW, GW2) had gotten away from. Most of the above games start players off in small starting areas with just a questgiver or two, letting people get familiar with the basics of combat--you know, that thing you’re going to be spending most of your time doing--before shoving them off into an overwhelming city. (To its credit, Ul’Dah isn’t as bad a starting city as some of the massive cities in other MMOs. But I should probably stop before I go off on a never-ending tangent about city design in MMOs - a subject for another blog, perhaps.)

I don’t necessarily mind town-time in MMOs, but I do generally dislike questing in them, with some rare exceptions. FFXIV doesn’t do any favors to its early game here by making the first few dozen quests you encounter mindless fetch-and-deliver stuff. Now, delivery quests are never, ever going to be eliminated from MMOs, and there’s a good reason for that: they’re a great way to lead new players towards areas that they need to explore. Unfortunately, that’s not really the case in FFXIV; many of the fetch-and-deliver quests here lead you to various guilds around the city...which you can’t join until you’ve completed the level 10 quest for your class. It’s handy to get the teleport markers early on, but apart from that, there’s pretty much no reason to visit these guilds at the beginning of the game. I would’ve ditched most of these fetch quests until you can actually join the guilds and sent players out into the outside world much earlier on, or just allow players to join guilds right off the bat.

Lightly Interactive Combat: Again, this might be a complaint exclusive to Gladiators, but I’m level 11 as a gladiator and there are precisely two combat actions I use in any given fight: Fast Blade and Savage Blade. I got Savage Blade at level 4, so I’ve spent seven levels, or the majority of my character’s life, mashing the same two buttons over and over again in every fight. (I do have some other skills, but they’re either relevant only in dungeons, which I can’t enter yet, or are damage/armor boosts that are useful but not very exciting.)

Compare that with the life of a Warrior in World of Warcraft. By level 11 as a Warrior, I would’ve had Heroic Strike, Throw, Charge, Victory Rush, and Execute to use in combat. Battles, even in the early game, feel dynamic and exciting, whereas here I basically hit Fast Blade, wait for the global cooldown to end, and hit Savage Blade. Repeat ad nauseum. It’s not a great way to spend five or six hours of game time, and it seems like someone should’ve figured that out while playtesting, although perhaps this is a problem that’s specific to Gladiator; I’ll try some other classes eventually to figure it out.

Speaking of, the global cooldown here feels just a tad too long; 2.5 seconds feels somewhat punitively long when Rift, WoW, TOR, etc. mostly stick with a 1.5 GCD. This is especially true when I only have two buttons to hit. Would’ve been nice to reduce the damage on some of these skills and let you hit the buttons more often, just to give combat more interactivity, but I’m sure that might’ve interfered with skill chains and such later on. I’ll hold off judgement for now.

Disregard Everything I Just Said: Overall, the game seems fun, but this stuff does cut into my enjoyment of soloing at the moment. And yeah, I know that it’s a bit passe to compare an MMO to WoW, but that’s my reference point, and a lot of the stuff I mention above doesn’t exactly require heavy lifting or years of research to suss out. Not every game has to be or should attempt to ape WoW, but there’s enough of FFXIV that seems to draw heavily from that well that it’s a bit surprising to see them stumble in some of the most important stuff, i.e. the introduction to the game. If players don’t enjoy their first five or six hours of the game, you’re putting yourself in a position where you have to win them back towards a subscription rather than getting them excited to pay for more content. I’m not necessarily saying that I had a bad time in my journey to level 10, but I’m pretty neutral on the experience so far.

Anyway, a few initial thoughts; obviously criticizing the game's first few hours won't mean much if the rest of the game is a superblast. I’m looking forward to trying out some tanking, for sure. I played a bit of FFXI when it came out, but didn’t progress very far due to the lack of viable solo play for most classes. They seem to have fixed some of those issues here, at least, and it’ll be interesting to finally be able to get into a dungeon or two. It’s pretty goddamn annoying to hear that you need to form a party before entering a dungeon and that they’re attuned to quest chains; both of these are things that WoW got rid of a long, long time ago, to its credit. But we suffer where we must.

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Posted by zombiemantra

Nice screenshots!

Edited by Zeik

At level 10 you unlock the means to join the other class guilds, which is how you'll get your hands on some new combat skills through the cross-class skill system. Granted, you'll be locked out of most of them until you can leave Ul'dah, but the Pugilist has some skills that would help a Gladiator.

I agree the opening is not a great representation of the game. I wasn't really feeling it until I hit level 10, but after that point it starts to pick up. I don't mind the cooldown though. It seems fast enough without feeling like I'm just spamming my skills. It gives me enough time to position myself in-between attacks without screwing up my rotation.

Posted by reelife

Bah, Everquest next is the game that could take the crown. The first MMO that finally does something different from WoW. Will there be a quick look of this game?

Edited by Rorie

Also, one more: quests that tell you to run around and /emote things are pretty lame. They lock you into the animation for too long and result in me just standing there and looking at my second monitor until I can move again.

Staff
Edited by falserelic

I got to get myself a cute dog one of these days.

Edited by agemyth

My experience was basically the same as some kind of mage class in one of the betas three months ago or so. It is shameful that MMO designers still restrict so much of the supposedly fun stuff in their games from the low level players. I say that as a passionate fan of the genre though :(

Posted by onimonkii

from what i've read, these things are deliberate, to ease newer players who may be fans of final fantasy but not mmo players, into the genre. it starts you out in a city, but the quests you start with have you learn the layout and where to find things in it. combat/skills are extremely simplified, so by the time you're level capped you don't have more than maybe 30 abilities on your hotbars, instead of as you pointed out with most other mmos, it becomes a huge list of redundant skills.

that said i agree it's an extremely slow start. the first maybe 20 levels feel like it's just slowly opening systems to you, but after that things pick up significantly, in my opinion. the first 3 dungeons and ifrit fight are really cool, as someone who never bothered with mmo dungeon/raid type stuff very much before.

also you're incorrect about needing a party before entering a dungeon, that's what the duty finder is for. the quest even tells you "use the duty finder to do x". you do still need to do the quest to unlock them, but most are a part of the main storyline, or a one off quest that's basically "go to the front of this dungeon and talk to a guy".

Online
Posted by Zeik

@rorie: I didn't mind it the first time, since it just felt like a means to show you they exist and how to use them, but by the second time it did get kind of annoying. Having done the early quests in the game upwards of 10 times at this point, those were definitely the most annoying to have to redo.

Edited by amlabella

@rorie said:

Also, one more: quests that tell you to run around and /emote things are pretty lame. They lock you into the animation for too long and result in me just standing there and looking at my second monitor until I can move again.

Was wondering where my comment went, apparently you have two blog posts with the same content it looks like...

Anyway, yes, those quests are totally lame. Have you done any of the ones where you have to /beckon someone and have them follow you? Those are just the worst...

Posted by Y2Ken

I've enjoyed my time so far (got a pugilist to level 14). I quite like the combat with that class, it revolves around switching between three stances and gaining a buff when you manage to transition through all of them. So far it's only one skill for each stance transfer but it seems like eventually it could make for an interesting mechanic.

I really enjoy the world and character design, but I agree that the opening levels are a little slow (as gorgeous as they are). Haven't really played much this week because I figured I'd wait for the servers to ease up, so I can't pass much more judgement.

Edited by TinAutomaton

YO DOGG WERE THERE CHOCOBOS?

Posted by Zeik

@agemyth said:

My experience was basically the same as some kind of mage class in one of the betas three months ago or so. It is shameful that MMO designers still restrict so much of the supposedly fun stuff in their games from the low level players. I say that as a passionate fan of the genre though :(

Would it still be a proper RPG if they didn't though? Part of the appeal is starting with nothing at the lowest level and gradually working your way up.

Posted by Chumley_Marchbanks

FFXIV is very heavy on class roles, and so tanking classes (Gladiator and Marauder) are probably the most boring to play early on and in solo. However, once you start doing dungeons and FATEs with other people they become much more enjoyable as you would expect. I would suggest either changing class if you want to focus on solo play or make sure you get into plenty of dungeon action.

Edited by DonChipotle

You have the unfortunate problem of being a tank class. The tank classes, both of them, are probably the least fun to solo with. Marauder at least gets you more abilities early on, but gladiator is pretty slow going. But once you can start cross classing, you get a lot more options, provided you're willing to put the time in to get some better skills to use. Also, Ul'dah has the best night time music but it is the worst starting city. It's too big.

But on the positive side, since you're going a tank class you won't ever have to wait for dungeon queues. So though you have to do some dungeons for story quests (there are non story dungeons to be had too), you're probably not going to be waiting 45 minutes to get into a dungeon via group finder like every DPS class.

Edited by insane_shadowblade85

Nice write up, I'm feeling the exact same way even though I'm kind of enjoying the game. The story dungeons will require you to use the Duty Finder (you'll learn about this for the first dungeon) which basically forms a party for you before you head in. I believe the party layout is: 1 Tank, 2 DPS and 1 Healer. The Duty Finder fills this out so you won't have to stand around LFGing for hours. Especially if you're a tank since apparently there are only a few of us around in the game.

Posted by onimonkii

@donchipotle said:

Also, Ul'dah has the best night time music but it is the worst starting city. It's too big.

and who the hell puts the markets WAY in the back?

Online
Edited by Petiew

I'm a complete newbie to MMOS which might be why I enjoyed the opening levels enough to actually keep playing. I think FFXIV does a really good job of teaching you how to play the game in general. The level 10 gladiator quest actually taught me a little about enmity, dodging attacks and protecting the healer. The start is slow but it eases you into the most important aspects of the game.

Most of the main quest that I've done is soloable apart from a dungeon or boss battle every so often. There's a feature that automatically puts you into a party with relevant classes across the servers which is really handy.

Also switch to Ultros and join the GB Free Company!

Posted by DonChipotle

@donchipotle said:

Also, Ul'dah has the best night time music but it is the worst starting city. It's too big.

and who the hell puts the markets WAY in the back?

They had to move them to make room for those three dancing miqo'te ladies.

Edited by cloudymusic

If it helps, do know that every class I've tried (lancer, conjurer, arcanist) has gotten plenty of abilities to work with as time goes on. My familiarity with gladiator is a little bit low, but I assume that applies to it as well as you get higher in level. I'm currently having a ton of fun with level 50 content right now and have a pretty huge handful of abilities to juggle, but I totally agree that the leveling process has to be fun as well, and can see how the situation you describe could feel sparse for someone who's used to games like WoW, Rift, TOR, etc.

In generally, the dungeons from 1-50 all make the leveling process pretty fun, as they're all largely well-done and pretty challenging especially starting at around level 30, but that doesn't mitigate the fact that soloing on a Gladiator pre-15 (when you can get into the first dungeon) sounds pretty simple. You might try another class, or just stick with Gladiator a bit more and see if things change for you!

One other thing that's different from other MMOs is the crafting system (and to a lesser extent the gathering system), which is a bit more in-depth than WoW/TOR/etc. If you're interested in that stuff at all, check it out sometime!

Posted by agemyth

@zeik: Giving players more options early on does not have to deprive them of the sense of character progression.

Edited by Zeik

@agemyth said:

@zeik: Giving players more options early on does not have to deprive them of the sense of character progression.

What more options would you propose then? I'm trying to think of all the things that are restricted from the player at the beginning and most of it doesn't make sense to throw at you right at the start. There is a point where you have too many options too soon and the game is simply overwhelming.

Posted by FLStyle

@rorie: The idea of someone going through the installation and Play Online set-up experience of FFXI just to try to play solo seems inconceivable to me.

Online
Posted by Petiew

@agemyth: You unlock guildhests from level 10, they're mini party instances that teach you about various systems. Dunegons start from level 15. It doesn't take too long to unlock stuff in FFXIV.

Posted by yoshimitz707

I just can't believe they stopped sales of the digital version because of the server problems. They're actively refusing my money!

Edited by Rorie

@flstyle: I don't really get what the installation would have to do with anything regarding my playstyle? I'm not in a guild and I'm on a server where I don't know anyone, so soloing's my option for the moment.

Staff
Posted by Rorie

@amlabella: Sorry yeah, it looked like it errored out the first time, but I guess it didn't!

Staff
Posted by Rorie

@chumley_marchbanks: @donchipotle: Yeah, I mostly only ever tank in WoW now, mostly just because I hate waiting around to get into dungeons. Plus I enjoy the experience of having to put the group's survival on my shoulders. I hear the level of play is actually pretty decent here. Looking forward to trying it out myself. Hopefully tonight sometime.

Staff
Posted by FLStyle

@rorie said:

@flstyle: I don't really get what the installation would have to do with anything regarding my playstyle? I'm not in a guild and I'm on a server where I don't know anyone, so soloing's my option for the moment.

I'm not talking about XIV!

Online
Posted by Rorie

@petiew: No server switches yet, alas, and Ultros is too difficult to get into most nights.

Staff
Posted by Rorie

@flstyle: Oh, I see. Well, my expectation for any MMO is to have a competent solo path to max level; I don't want to have to group up every single time I login, mostly because sometimes I just want to play for a few minutes without having to worry about anyone else. At least MMO design has come along to the point where that's mostly accepted as a basic feature nowadays.

Staff
Posted by Aetheldod

@rorie: I just came for the puppies pics ... the first one kind of reminds me of you and Alex hanging out :P

Posted by Zeik

@rorie: That was one of the things that turned me off of FFXI. XIV is definitely way better in that regard.

Edited by EXTomar

I find what has happened to FF14 so fascinating. I have never seen an MMO so universally reviled, shutdown, brought back to fix live/extended beta, and relaunch to a lot of praise.

Would the crew be interested in doing a Quick~ish Look~ish at the PS3 version?

Posted by FLStyle

@rorie: Why anyone would willingly want to play a MMO that isn't a team-based time sink is beyond me. Soloing is for single player games! XI was the perfect team-based time sink. Its version of limit breaks and combining each players' into elemental chains was the best MMO experience I've had.

Online
Posted by Zeik

@flstyle: Probably because they enjoy aspects of MMOs outside of group content and don't want to be forced to group up to do anything and everything. I prefer MMOs where I can pretty much do what I want when I want, not stand around for hours waiting for a group to form so I can make any progress at all.

Posted by Hailinel

@flstyle said:

@rorie: Why anyone would willingly want to play a MMO that isn't a team-based time sink is beyond me. Soloing is for single player games! XI was the perfect team-based time sink. Its version of limit breaks and combining each players' into elemental chains was the best MMO experience I've had.

Because sometimes all people want is to have the option to solo in an MMO. Yes, there is the community aspect, but participating in groups isn't what draws everyone to these games.

Posted by Rorie

@extomar: I suspect we'll do a QL at some point when we have some time to get into it. I know Brad's playing too.

Staff
Posted by FLStyle

@zeik: MSORPG?

@hailinel said:

@flstyle said:

@rorie: Why anyone would willingly want to play a MMO that isn't a team-based time sink is beyond me. Soloing is for single player games! XI was the perfect team-based time sink. Its version of limit breaks and combining each players' into elemental chains was the best MMO experience I've had.

Because sometimes all people want is to have the option to solo in an MMO. Yes, there is the community aspect, but participating in groups isn't what draws everyone to these games.

So why not just play a single-player RPG instead?

Online
Posted by Hailinel

@flstyle said:

@zeik: MSORPG?

@hailinel said:

@flstyle said:

@rorie: Why anyone would willingly want to play a MMO that isn't a team-based time sink is beyond me. Soloing is for single player games! XI was the perfect team-based time sink. Its version of limit breaks and combining each players' into elemental chains was the best MMO experience I've had.

Because sometimes all people want is to have the option to solo in an MMO. Yes, there is the community aspect, but participating in groups isn't what draws everyone to these games.

So why not just play a single-player RPG instead?

Because most single-player RPGs have a different game flow. The thing about an MMO is that it presents the option to play with others in addition to going solo.

Posted by Zeik
@flstyle said:

@zeik: MSORPG?

@hailinel said:

@flstyle said:

@rorie: Why anyone would willingly want to play a MMO that isn't a team-based time sink is beyond me. Soloing is for single player games! XI was the perfect team-based time sink. Its version of limit breaks and combining each players' into elemental chains was the best MMO experience I've had.

Because sometimes all people want is to have the option to solo in an MMO. Yes, there is the community aspect, but participating in groups isn't what draws everyone to these games.

So why not just play a single-player RPG instead?

You say that like the two experiences are identical apart from being able to play with other people. An MMO is not structured or played like most single-player RPGs with or without people. Not to mention that just because you don't want to play in a group all the time doesn't mean one doesn't want to do it sometimes.

An MMO is basically just another genre of RPG. Just like I enjoy playing single player JRPGs or open-world WRPGs, but never just one of them all the time forever.

Posted by Nev
@flstyle said:

@zeik: MSORPG?

@hailinel said:

@flstyle said:

@rorie: Why anyone would willingly want to play a MMO that isn't a team-based time sink is beyond me. Soloing is for single player games! XI was the perfect team-based time sink. Its version of limit breaks and combining each players' into elemental chains was the best MMO experience I've had.

Because sometimes all people want is to have the option to solo in an MMO. Yes, there is the community aspect, but participating in groups isn't what draws everyone to these games.

So why not just play a single-player RPG instead?

Very few single player RPGs have the massive world, and progression of an MMO, though. I've spent several years playing MMOs entirely solo - and hell, from 2004 to today still play WoW on and off, and all those years were spent probably 95% solo. I love Bethesda games like Morrowind/Oblivion/Skyrim, and Fallout, but nothing has the huge world of an MMO, the exploration, all the skills, and yes, despite me largely ignoring them, the real people. It's just a different experience you can only get from an MMO.

On topic: I've played some of FF14, but between the early access and first week of hellish log in problems, it really killed my buzz on the game. I like a lot about it, but truth be told, it's done more to just make me want to renew my WoW account then anything else. Hoping to get into it though anyway, as there are a lot of things about it that *seem* very neat.

Posted by EXTomar

To give some reference how much better the rebuilt game is here is a two year old video on what you had to do to sell 20 items in FF14 "classic" compared to WoW):

Posted by WarlordPayne

I guess the lack of skills and fetch quests didn't bother me early on because I find the world so much more interesting to be in than most games. The writing is a hell of a lot more interesting than I've seen in other multiplayer RPGs and the world is so beautiful and detailed that I just enjoyed wandering around in it.

If all you're there for is the combat I could see why it'd be underwhelming early on.

Edited by tread311

I'm not really an MMO guy. I have played many of them but always seem to fizzle out in the level ~20 range. I never really find this to be a problem as I will play enough of it to get my money's worth but I'm not really into the group play or PvP aspects of these games. I do believe my experience with this game will be the same. I'll play it until grouping up is no longer optional and then move on to something else. It just isn't interesting enough to keep me playing for months. I do agree with Rorie on the slow start, I made a new character on another server and going through the initial quests again is painfully slow going.

Edited by Darji

FFXIV does a fantastic job to introduce you to the whole mechanics through their quests and dungeons and for a veteran nothing really is difficult until you see the credits. After that the difficulty spike gets really high. Then you will see the difference of people doing dungeons before or just were in fate exp parties all the time. Also the story is really good but it is a shame that only a bit was voiced...

Oh yeah and fates aare the only real problem with this game which is really really enjoyable even the dance to 8 people quest XD

@tread311 most of the main story is solo but there are also a few dungeons starting at level 15 where you need a light party (4 people) and later on a full party (lvl 50 8 people) but through the duty finder it should be no problem to get some people for that.

Posted by Panelhopper

Great post! Really starting to feel like this game might be the thing that gets me back into MMOs since I realised WoW was taking me to a dark place way back in 2007 (ahh youth)

Edited by Seikenfreak

I am both looking forward too and cringing GBs discussion and Quick Look on this game. I love the way you guys do things but I'm afraid an MMO is going to get the usual treatment they tend to get from reviewer type sites.. Someone will play through it in a rushed sort of way and maaaybe make it to the level cap with one character, sample a little crafting by getting to 10 maybe and that's probably about it. Unfortunately, I don't think that is enough to give a well rounded opinion on this game (or any other MMO) other then the Main Story line (which I've heard is veeery good from a number of people). Crafting really picked up around 20-25. That seems to be the case with the combat classes as well. Gathering has been the same grind from 1-42 for me so far.

I have been thoroughly enjoying the game. And all I've really done is up to the lvl 20ish Main Quests and one of the extra non-story dungeons (Halatali). I've spent 90% of my time since Early Release leveling Armorsmith and Miner. The Crafting system is addicting but the Gathering is pretty dull. It is a necessary evil for myself though as I can farm some of my own crafting materials. Just hit 45 Armorsmith and 42 Miner today.

Now granted I am using my 1.0 character so I have Gladiator/Paladin and Lancer/Dragoon at 50 already so I already know what it's like to play these classes with all the possible abilities while using a controller. The global cool down is fine and there are more skills than I can easily use. There is positioning involved as well for some classes. While leveling Pugilist and doing the level 15-20 Story Dungeons I was constantly moving to try and take advantage of every skill bonus. It was a combo of rear > rear > side or rear > side > side mixed in with the occasional DPS buffs. It was more than enough for me to be having fun and felt very active with having to pay attention to the monsters facing and making sure I was in the right place at the right time hitting the right skill.

I do use a controller/keyboard/mouse combination to play the game. Feels relaxed just the way I like it. They offer plenty of controller and target filtering customization.

The world and animations look great IMO. The music is phenomenal everywhere you go. The English voice acting is poor but you can easily change to Japanese voice overs at any time. I just have a few small issues with specific things in the game so far but the rest is great I think. In GW2 I was at the level cap, 95% world completion, and capped two crafting professions in a week and didn't want to play anymore. I've done the same thing here in FFXIV and I have barely begun to scratch the surface. I would probably give it a 8/10 or 4 Stars at this point without having really even seen the Main Story.

Posted by kishinfoulux

The beginning didn't really bother me much. As you said it gets you around your starting town and familiarizes you with it, which is a good thing. The first 10-15 levels or so come pretty quickly, between Story Quests, Class Quests, Side Quests, Levequests, FATE's, and Guildhests. Lots of options for leveling (plus the Hunting Log). I think the game does a good job of leading you along, and never keeping you in the same area for too long. Just when you get bored you're in a new map. Hopefully you'll enjoy the later stuff a bit more. I just find it super fun.

Posted by kagato

@rorie said:

@flstyle: Oh, I see. Well, my expectation for any MMO is to have a competent solo path to max level; I don't want to have to group up every single time I login, mostly because sometimes I just want to play for a few minutes without having to worry about anyone else. At least MMO design has come along to the point where that's mostly accepted as a basic feature nowadays.

Im actually the same, as much as i like grouping for activities i do expect and need some stuff i can do on my own, thankfully FFXIV is way more open to this kind of gaming than FFXI or most of the others i played are. The story Thau/Black Mage has been fun and the whole thing with the Scions for each region also keeps the game going at a brisk pace until around level 30ish. I hate to have to grind too much killing low level monsters which is why im thankfull for FATE and Guild/FC Leves, sometimes being able to run a few dozen of those to gain a level or some rare gear is enough to at least make the grinding less obvious. As some of the other guys have pointed out Hunting log is good up until the 4th lot and then you quickly find yourself too low a level to kill very much on the list.

Posted by Aviar

I'm really surprised to read some of the issues that you are noticing with this game considering it's first release was such a flop and you would think that this second release would be much closer to flawless. It will be very interesting to see how long this game keeps its subscription based services before moving free to play.

I played FFXI back in the day, and I agree with Rorie 100% with the lack of solo-ability in that game. Once most of my friends moved on to other games, trying to level solo was nearly impossible and just way too much of a grind.

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