The Final (Fantasy) Frontier

I’m a player of MMO’s, I’ll admit it. Now I don’t have many evenings when I’m not stupidly busy of course, what with having to record roleplaying games for you guys, planning games, and you know occasionally doing the social life thing. However I’ve lately been feeling the hankering for more social gaming. Dragon Age wasn’t cutting it, and planetside has fallen off a bit in the face of… well… terrans to be honest.

So I cast about for an MMO, and one of my friends suggested Final Fantasy 14 A Realm Reborn, and being as I’m very much a guild based leveller I jumped at the chance. Now I should stress I really havent actually had much experience with Final Fantasy games, shocking though that is to admit! I played a bit of FFX as it came along with my PS2 but I got a bit lost and confused. Luckily my friend was willing to help me out for the first couple of hours before I had to flee to run a game (that was then cancelled and resulted in me doing yet more levelling!).

First things first. I decided to make a DPS/Black Mage type character. I nearly created a White Mage, I quite enjoy healing having done it in Secret World, but as I am already way behind everyone else, thought that I would be better off with the damage to try and catch up a bit better! Having decided to do that I looked at the various character race options. Although I was very much drawn to the Mi’quotte (cat people) I ended up playing a Duskwight Elezen, which was actually a good choice for a Thaumaturgist, as they get bonuses to Intellect, the main stat for magical burnination, but was mostly chosen because they looked awesome.

I spent a large amount of time trying to get my character to look how I wanted it. I’d been warned that you can’t change how you look after character creation, and this combined with the fact that the game is so very pretty, meant that creating my character took me about half an hour all told. By the end I had created the most Bishi looking elf ever, made worse when he uses the /pose emote, and looks like some kind of male model showing off the latest in Thaumaturge fashion!

The Thaumaturge class was were I went for the damage dealing. I have actually never played a direct damage dealing caster in an mmo, I’ve done melee dps (rogue in WOW and witchhunter in WAR) and a sort of DPS healer (AR healer in Secret World), so I thought I would choose something a little different.

I should possibly have done a little more research before jumping it. My friend was most definitely doing most of the work, but eventually I realised that how the thaumaturge was supposed to work, burn the enemy until you run out of mana, and then switch to ice until it recharges. The combat is somewhat a cross between the button hitting of WOW with the search for the perfect rotation, and Secret Worlds situation awareness with the enemies strongest attacks being “telegraphed” with areas on the floor to avoid. The quests are standard MMO fare, Go here deliver this, Kill several of these, Take this to there and do something, but added to these are several very pleasant and interesting additions.

The first are FATE’s which owe a lot to the Public Quests of WAR. As you are wandering the world you will see areas marked out on the minimap, which if you enter you will be joined up to the FATE group. These are usually fairly violent affairs, either killing a lot of smaller creatures in a given time limit, or taking down a huge boss monster instead. Some however are a combination of this and a gathering quest, which keeps them interesting. I’ve yet to work out exactly how the FATES are scheduled, but its a skill I intend to pick up, as they are really the best way to earn experience. Your contribution to the FATE seems to be weighted by how useful you are in it, and then you receive a share of the pot of experience and cash at the end. I prefer this to the “loot chest” of WAR’s public quests, not least of all because the contribution counter of WAR was always a little on the finnicky side, and massively undervalued close combat dps compared to tanks and healers.

The other excellent thing is the addition of the “Hunting Log” for your career. This replaces most of the single step “Kill X Boars” quests by giving you a list of groups of creatures you can kill to earn an exp and gold bonus. Because they are not actually quests you don’t have to complete them to advance the story, but they are worth doing for the experience boost! This means that when you want to turn off Mr Brain and murderise critters for exp you actually can, and get more out of it than just some exp and loot trash. More usefully it seems the critters in the log tend to be clustered near FATES, so by searching for them, you also get shown where the best areas to increase your exp gains are as well.

More importantly, and this is truly the best part opf the game, you can level the same character in more than one career. Secret World had something similar with it’s skill wheel in that you could select to learn several weapons, but the issue was that for Secret World you seemingly HAD to have certain builds to pass some of the hard advancement blocks. This is not the case in FF14, you can advance in every class, but all of the classes are valid! This is a good thing, no longer do you have to have a million and one alts to allow you to try all the things you can do in the game. It also means that high level characters have a reason to go and level with the newbs (you know, like me) because they can switch to another class and level alongside them. This is a very good idea, not least because I always feel guilty making high level players “slum it” to help me out. In this game however they get something out of it, and with the experience bonus you receive based on having a class higher than your current class means leveling up a second (or more) classes is not such an onerous task. Plus you know helping the lowbies!

This also feeds into the Crafting system, which does away with the more usual “Here are the careers choose X you want to do”, by treating them exactly like the more… martial careers. Having a quest chain for tailoring and so on and also a crafting log like the hunting log, makes it feel a lot less “grindy” than other MMO’s I have played, certainly at the lower levels I have experienced. It is entirely possible that it will get grindy later on, but I certainly hope not! The crafting itself also seems to work a bit like combat, with a basic attack (sew) and special abilities (stitch up) that alter your chances of making more impressive items. It’s new and a bit more interactive than just clicking a button and making 20 silk bandages.

A lot of work has been put in to make the default UI as kind as possible, and I think it worked quite nicely. I used to HATE having to deal with the squillions of Add-ons you needed for WOW, but I’m glad that it looks like I’m not going to be required to do similarly for FF. Some very important things are already built into the default UI, including gear kits, which are absolutely necessary for the multiple class system, and threat meters which as a sword rogue in WOW I pretty much lived or died by. It’s also not too busy, although I suspect that as I level up I’m going to need to start mapping abilities to my mouse keys as well as keyboard pushes!

Anyway that’s enough writing for now, I have to go and find the biggest toad I can find and steal his Bile… nope I’m not sure why either by by the gods I’m going to go do it!

One Response to “The Final (Fantasy) Frontier”

  1. I certainly have to say, generally it is a nice game to pick up and the only irritating things come later on at the end game stuff and thats not due to the content or the system but the latency and transatlantic ping through poor server placement on the part of sqeenix!

    Saying about the UI, there are so many nice little things built in that are so easily missed but once you realise they are there its a massive help! (such as the threat meters bits you mentioned, which I didn’t notice until lvl 20-ish and even then it had to be pointed out to me by someone else!)

    The class system is very cute, and much handy only needing the one character. The bag space can be a little problematic, and the armoury chest while does help a bit with this, is just a little too small for my tastes, particularly later on when you have several classes on the go all needing different gear. However, the ability to cross skills over from one class to another is a life saver. It’ll definately be worth you dipping into Conj (the healer class that leads onto white mage) for cure, protect and later stoneskin, just for the survival benefits.

    You also have leve’s for the experiance boost, although best for leveling up crafting and gathering classes as opposed to the martial ones (not sure if you have come across those yet). Guildhests (micro dungeons in a sense) also yeild a massive xp buff when done the 1st time.

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