My Time at Eorzea, Week One - On Queue

Hi. I'm TFP. I like to write stuff. A lot of it ends up on this website in the form of a review or game of the year list you may or may not have read. Today I thought I'd try something a little different. Twitch Prime, the service in which Amazon decides that if you link an Amazon Prime account to a Twitch account, they'll give you free games, decided it was going to throw Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn out for free in the middle of February, presumably to entice people to try out the new expansion coming this July. As someone who will try anything for free*, I decided I'd give it a shot.

*Subject to terms and conditions. Certain restrictions may apply. Offer void in Nebraska and Colorado.

Normally, I don't really play that many MMOs. I've tried out a decent range of free to play ones, but the only ones I ever stuck with to a level cap were Neverwinter and Guild Wars 2. I also popped a 30 day free trial of World of Warcraft back when there was a video feature, and have returned a few times over the intervening years, but mostly I just stick to not-multiplayer games. Plus, the MMOs I did play, I tended to keep to myself in. Some people like doing the PvP stuff, others enjoy doing Raids and big late-game content challenges, but I kind of just enjoy the general questing nature of MMOs. I tend to think of the other people running about as something akin to time trial ghosts in a racing game. Things to look at and go "Hey, that's a cool outfit." or "Oh, that class effect seems pretty neat." but never as anything more than that.

With that preamble out of the way, I made my character and jumped in. I just want to comment on the fact that despite the fact that Thief/Rogue was a job class in the original Final Fantasy, I find it incredibly irritating that not only did they later patch in a rogue as a job class later, it's also not available for you to start as. So instead I decided to start as an Archer, because Hawkeye's a cool lady.

I'm an adult.
I'm an adult.

As I got used to the myriad systems and teleportation options, a few things jumped out at me, the MMO novice. First of all, moving around is a bit of a bear. The fact that sprinting is your only option to move slightly faster near the very beginning of the game, and it only lasts for 20 seconds, then takes a minute to cool down before you can sprint again, is moderately irritating. (Later I would discover what those Aethernet shards were around the major cities, but it's not abundantly clear at first). Second, the fact that they let you give your created character a first and a last name is perhaps the best part of FFXIV, as the names run the gamut from mine, seen right, which is an old D&D name that sounded cool, to super edgy names like "Darkangel Reaper" that I forgot to grab a screengrab of, to pretty amusing jokes.

Anyway, I don't quite remember how the early story goes, because it seemed especially boring, even for Final Fantasy, but I eventually impressed the adventurer's guild and some grand lady of the forest to be whisked away via airship to the other sections of the map, and I was finally able to become a Rogue. I think the Rogue storyline has been my favorite part thus far, following a guild of heart-of-gold thieves and scoundrels as they try to reclaim stolen artifacts from various pirate groups. Along the way there's a somewhat amusing cop who tries to take you down for being dirty rotten thieves, and while it's not particularly original, it's at least compelling enough that I wasn't idly skipping cutscenes as soon as they started. Unfortunately, since I switched to Rogue, I had to spend a few hours grinding back up to the level I had been as Archer, because despite the main story quests primarily consisting of "Talking to people, then getting experience", I had to be above a certain level threshold to complete them.

Riveting gameplay.
Riveting gameplay.

After catching my Rogue level back up to where my Archer was, it was time to resume the main story. As I progressed, learning more about my character's connection to crystals and aether and assorted other fantasy-esque buzzwords, the time came to deal with some pirates. This meant queuing up for one of the game's many (presumably many, I don't know, I've only gotten up to the fifth one) dungeons. And here's where FFXIV started to lose me. I know, I know, it's a multiplayer game, I shouldn't be surprised when the multiplayer part of the massively multiplayer starts to creep in to the RPG.

But by that same token: Holy cow, those queue times. And that's like noon on a weekend, in the screenshot. What a way to just grind forward progression to a halt. Admittedly, after talking to some of my friends who regularly play this game, some of that time was "on me". When I would play with them, and one of them was playing as a healer or a tank, the queue times dropped from over 16 minutes down to just about instantaneously. Turns out: lots of people play DPS classes, not as many play healers or tanks. But by the same token, there has to be a better way to tell your MMO's story than pausing the quests to make people sit in a party queue.

And mind you, I think the quest design in FFXIV is pretty good. While a lot of the quests are just "Go to location A, talk to person A, person A needs you to go to person B in location B, repeat until someone sends you back to person A", they do a good job of breaking up the traditional MMO quests of killing a certain number of indigenous wildlife. Some of the quests involve doing certain emotes at NPCs, which is pretty novel, though the quest where you have to dance for a bunch of sylphs is moderately demeaning.

Artist's rendition of what playing a Ninja is like in Final Fantasy XIV
Artist's rendition of what playing a Ninja is like in Final Fantasy XIV

Rather quickly, due to starting on one of Square Enix's "preferred worlds", which seems to just mean a lower population server, I hit level 30, which is where the jobs unlock. See, in Final Fantasy XIV, classes and jobs are two different things. So while my class is a Rogue, my Job is a Ninja. It seems a little weird because after cursory research, only one class has the option of choosing between two different jobs, and most of the jobs added in the various expansions aren't tied to a particular class. Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to the rogue's guild I had enjoyed up to that point and become a ninja, which is significantly less cool. It also meant leaving the various guildmates I had grown to enjoy for a rather stuffy ninja man and his ninja sister. They taught me the ancient ninja arts of totally-not-japan-but-where-ninja-and-samurai-come-from-in-FFXIV-realm, which at early levels mainly consists of tossing a gigantic shuriken at people.

Tossing a giant shuriken works via "mudra", which are a set of up to 3 hotkey presses followed by pressing the ninja attack button. They start you off easy, since the giant shuriken only takes one mudra to use. However, they start to add in more mudra, meaning the Ninja class really just feels like Invoker from Dota 2 just popped in to design an MMO character. The colors of the mudra are even somewhat similar to Invoker's orbs.

Anyway, after about eight days (so this is really week one-ish), I've got a level 37 or so Ninja waiting around in front of a spooky forest mansion until one of my healer or tank friends decides to help me deal with a spooky ghost mansion. I'm bad at concluding these, so if someone reads this and has any FFXIV tips or anything they want me, random person on the internet playing FFXIV through a free trial to check out, feel free to let me know.

I believe we're 8 days down, 22 to--wait, hang on.

...what?
...what?

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