A refreshing and fun addition to our current generation of fantasy MMOGs
Graphics & Combat
Tradeskills & Unique Design
Some of you may remember the original launch of Final Fantasy XIV in September of 2010. To be blunt, the game was terrible and a failure. But Square Enix chose to do something different, they assigned a new producer and rebuilt the game, learning from the mistakes of the original release. The result is a polished fantasy MMO worth playing.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Release Date: August 27, 2013 Game Type & Platform: MMORPG (Fantasy) | PC Custom Features: Multi-Class System, Crafting & Harvesting, Grand Companies, Hunting/Gathering Logs Billing Style: Subscription ($12.95 or $14.95/mo)
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (FFXIV) is what every fantasy MMOG strives to be: innovative, fun, visually stunning, and immersive. And more than that, you will be blown away at how busy this game is. There are people… everywhere. And I mean everywhere. This is hands down the liveliest world of any MMOG I’ve played. Part of it is due to the population, but part of it is also due to the zone sizes and design.
Be prepared. There are aspects of this game that are different from any other fantasy MMOG you’ve played and will take time to learn. One interesting part is you can play through and experience the entire game with just one character. You can play any class and undertake any tradeskill. This is a nice new twist from traditional MMOGs where alternate characters are the norm in order to experience different play styles. Another difference is terminology. Player guilds are called Free Companies. The class you play is defined by the weapon you use, and the Advanced classes are called jobs. You don’t loot monsters; instead you auto-pickup items they drop and only loot chests. And the variation in monsters ranges from the cute right down to the bizarre. Want to pursue crafting and gathering? All resource nodes are yours. Little things like this make a big difference when trying to enjoy a new game.
If you want to get an idea of the effort that went into this game, be sure to check out the leading cinematic. It’s best viewed in HD.
On September 24, 2013 Square Enix released their first survey showing more than 1,000,000 unique logins. This game shows us subscription-based fantasy MMOGs are far from dead, and for good reason.
Races, Creation & Customization, Classes & Jobs, Story & Lore, Grand Companies, Quests (Levequests, Guildhests, Hunting Log, Duty Finder), FATE, World & Ambiance, Towns & Cities, Dungeons, Mounts, NPCs & Enemies, and Tutorial
The world is stunningly beautiful, and the combination of multi-classing paired with the main storyline, support quests and dynamic events makes for a great world to immerse yourself in. The mix of classes and jobs will keep you busy for a very long time, and the dungeons are a lot of fun to run. Pursuing the hunting and tradeskill logs and participating in FATEs ensures there’s always something to do. Strange creatures roam the world, and the ability to experience every aspect of the game with a single character is one of the strongest features of this game. The zone-based world has the traditional forest, desert, mountain, plains and swamp terrain types, each diligently designed and balanced.
The game features 5 playable races (Hyur, Elezen, Lalafell, Roegadyn, and Miqo’te). The Creation and Customization of your character is very in-depth and well done, and has a hybrid “anime” feel to it. First you choose Race & Gender, and then your clan. Each race has two different clans available, which changes the underlying look of your base race. This adds a nice level of diversity for the race/gender combinations. The player then gets to customize the core look and feel of their character through more than 20 configurable options ranging from eye color to face, hairstyle, for the chicks even their “bust size”. There is also the option of choosing the “voice” for your character from a set of 12 variances.
Classes in FFXIV are a bit different from the traditional fantasy MMO model. First, they break the classes into four categories: (1) Disciples of War; (2) Disciples of Magic; (3) Disciples of the Hand, and (4) Disciples of the Land. Disciples of War includes: Archer, Gladiator, Lancer, Marauder, and Pugilist. Disciples of Magic includes Arcanist, Conjurer and Thaumaturge. Instead of keeping crafting and harvesting skills separate as they do in games like World of Warcraft, FFXIV has made each Crafting and Harvesting profession an actual class. Disciples of the Hand (Crafting) are Alchemist, Armorer, Blacksmith, Carpenter, Culinarian, Goldsmith, Leatherworker and Weaver. Disciples of the Land (Gathering) are: Botanist, Fisher, and Miner. You can achieve level 50 in any (or all) of these “classes”. I will cover crafting below under Economy (Tradeskills).
The classes play differently, each having a different approach to combat. For example, a Thaumaturge has Astral Fire and Astral Ice, special status effects that increase damage and MP regeneration based on the spells cast. But cast too much fire, and you could burn out all your MP before the battle is over. This requires the class to use strategy for its actions while balancing damage and regeneration. A lancer, on the other hand, is more about positional melee attacks and stuns, taking advantage of flanking and strikes from behind, while an Arcanist uses Aetherflow charges to execute specific attacks to support its DoT based actions.
Here’s a great list of the classes and jobs available in the game.
When you reach level 30 in your main class, you have the opportunity of pursuing a Job relative to that class. This advanced version of your class as is based on also being level 15 in a support class. For example, I leveled my Lancer to 30 and then leveled my Marauder to 15. Once I did this, a Dragoon quest opened up and by completing the quest requirements I received a Dragoon Soul Stone. Now, all of my quests come from the Dragoon trainer, and as I level up, both my Dragoon and Lancer levels raise in unison.
One issue with FFXIV is you are not told at level 30 what your available Job is or what the support class required to secure the job is. You must currently look it up online. Once you gain level 15 in the support class, you can then return to your level 30 guild master for the job soul crystal.
The Story & Lore of FFXIV is fairly extensive and builds excellently through the main storyline quest, taking the player through all corners of the world and involving them in the major events tied to the back-story and legendary locations throughout Eorzea. The cut scenes and dialogue are immersive and make the player care about not only their character, but the world around them. Once a character has experienced the main storyline, it cannot be experienced again without creating a new character, but you can watch the cut scenes from an inn room. Ultimately, the main storyline is very well done, and held by many to be the best fantasy MMOG story currently available.
Grand Companies are predefined organizations a character can join once they hit level 20. These companies revolve around the main cities: Gridana (The Order of the Twin Adder), Lima Lominsa (The Maelstrom) and Ul’dah (The Immortal Flames). You can change your grand company by talking to the personnel officer of the other company you wish to join, but only after reaching the rank of Second Lieutenant. Once joined, a character can acquire “Seals” (a form of currency) which can be spent on special items and features the Grand Company sells. A player can also raise in rank, which unlocks the ability to exchange items for seals (explained below) and gain access to additional custom item purchases. For example, if you join the Order of the Twin Adder and purchase as set of gear using your seals, the gear will probably be better than anything you’ve gotten as a quest reward, and the visual look of the gear will represent the colors and insignia of the grand company you joined.
There are multiple flavors of Quests in the game: (1) The main storyline; (2) traditional NPC “side” quests (includes Class Quests, Grand Company Quests); (3) Logs (Hunting, Gathering & Crafting), (4) Levequests, and (5) Guildhests. The main storyline has numerous cut scenes, some voice acting, and leads the character through nearly every corner of the world. The quests are well done, mixing in the traditional “fetch me 5 turnips” to specialized quests, such as unlocking your fighting Chocobo. Most quests are soloable, but some of the storyline quests require the player to complete 4-man “light party” dungeons. While plenty of quests are “kill X” some of them relate to finding or manipulating items in the world, and these items are very well marked. Some quests contain cut scenes and narrative. Class quests become available every 5 levels and often reward a new class skill/action. Grand Companies have their own quests and hunting log entries as well, adding to the content a character can pursue. Hunting logs are a quite fun, providing a list of creatures for you to find and slay (and providing bonus experience when you do so). There are also tradeskill logs as well, focusing on the creation of specific items or the gathering of specific materials.
FFXIV has a Recommendations option under Duties. This will tell you all of the available quests and hunts in the current zone! This can also be configured to automatically display when you log in or change zones.
Levequests are essentially dynamic quests a character unlocks at zone hubs. Once unlocked, the character can go to the proper “starting point” and initiate the quests and select the difficulty (up to 4 levels above the base level of the quest). As with the side quests, Levequests can range from “kill x” to “place a rack of lamb here and hope the troll comes out – then slay it!” to “lead a stray sheep to safety”. A character can receive bonus rewards by completing the quests quickly and on a higher difficulty. Levequests take place in the world and are visible to other players, but only you can attack the targets specific to your levequests. Others can see them, but not interfere (except they can heal you). Some levequests give items, but most just give experience and Gil (gold). Each Levequest has the chance of having a Treasure Coffer the player can loot (and occasionally find a nice item in), and a Bounty Target which is often a more difficult mob that provides an added reward upon completion.
One issue with the quests is the current version of the game doesn’t have an item compare UI, so for storyline quests, you can’t compare the offered items to what you currently have.
FATES are world events that happen at random intervals that all players in the area can participate in. They are basically the same as the Guild Wars 2 and RIFT localized public group mini quests. Many players run from FATE to FATE in order to earn experience and seals. Some of the FATEs will give certain items, while others are just candy for character growth. There’s really nothing innovative about FATEs.
I rarely ran out of quests as I progressed to level 50 for the first time, but in the few times I encountered a lull, I simply focused on my Hunter’s Log or Leve quests. However once a player begins to level their second class, they often have no quests to pursue, and end up focusing on FATEs, dungeons and leves.
The World of Eorzea is very diverse and features forest, plains, mountains, swamps, desert, caves, and a mixture of common terrain types. Each zone is meticulously designed, balanced, and lively with not only critters, but players as well. The presentation of flora, trails, rocks, and other defining characteristics is some of the best I’ve seen in a MMOG. The Ambiance of these areas is a combination of common places we can relate to paired with the mystical and strange.
There are three major Cities in FFXIV: The woodland city of Gridania, the dock-city of Limsa Limosa, and the desert city of Ul’dah. Each zone has numerous Towns within it serving as merchants, quest, and transportation hubs.
There are currently 18 Dungeonsavailable in FFXIV, and each is unlocked through either the main story quest, or a level-based side quest. Players are first introduced to dungeons around level 15. The majority of the dungeons are built for 4-player parties, but three are built for an 8-player party (The Binding Coil of Bahamut, the Castrum Meridianum and Praetorium). The first 24-player raid (the Crystal Tower) is planned for the 2.1 release.
The core Mount of FFXIV is the ever-reliant Chocobo, an ostrich-looking creature that rides like the wind and pecks your enemies to death. Other mounts are available through pre-ordering, the Collector’s Edition and reaching level 50, but most everyone has the Chocobo. The interesting part is your chocobo can also be used as a combat pet (which is covered below).
You cannot talk to NPCs while on your mount, so one is constantly dismounting and remounting when engaging in NPC chat.
The NPCs spread throughout the world are a combination of the core races, come in many different shapes and sizes, and are dressed in attire based on their location and allegiance. Many offer quests, others act as merchants, and some will end up attacking you.
The Enemies are some of the strangest and most diverse of any fantasy MMOG I’ve seen. You will fight cute little fluffy white balls of fury, disgusting giant blobs of goo, traditional ogres and kobolds, and exotic bosses. The innovative design and wide range of enemies never seen before in any other fantasy MMOG sets a standard that adds to the unique feel of the world.
The Tutorial is very well done and helps a new player enter and understand the vast new world of FFXIV.
Free Company (Guild) Housing is planned for the 2.1 release, scheduled by the end of 2013.
It’s hard to tell how solid the game’s economy currently is and will be because it’s still so new. While high quality crafted items are generally better than quest reward items, it really comes down to what you can socket materia into. Ultimately, a MMOGs economy is really defined by its end-game content. It’ll be a few more months before we really see how good it is, but one thing is certain, the crafting and gathering systems of this game are very immersive and fun, but also very involving. Gear sets are also a very important (and very cool) feature of the game, allowing the player to switch classes and equipment with the click of a button. The marketplace is quite active, especially as players leveling up multiple classes no longer have quest rewards providing items, so they must either craft or purchase the items for the latest class they’re leveling, or use gear they previously acquired.
Until end-game there are only two types of Currency: Gil (Gold) and Company Seals (for Grand Companies). Once a player gets closer to level 50, they begin to gather Allagan Tomestones, which are used for purchasing various end-game items. The Tomestones come in two flavors: Philosophy and Mythology. Only one merchant exchanges them for items: Auriana in Mor Dhona next to the big Aetheryte.
Inventory is handled a bit differently in FFXIV than it is in other MMOGs. Instead of having bags for storage, your character has a predefined number of storage slots based on item type. There are three places where your items are stored on your character: (1) the Armory Chest; (2) Standard Inventory, and (3) the Key Inventory. This is a little confusing at first, but once you get accustomed to it, the system works. There are 13 categories of “Arms” for the Armory Chest: Weapon, Helm, Chest, Gloves, Belt, Pants, Boots, Shield, Necklace, Earring, Bracer, Ring, and Soulstone. Any items of those categories you receive (unless it’s crafted by you) will automatically be placed in one of the 25 slots. This means there are 325 slots available for storing weapons, armor and support items. Then we have the traditional inventory where crafting materials, food, potions and other such items are stored. There are 4 tabs for these items, so 100 slots in total. At first it seems like a lot, but a player will begin to run out of space around level 40 as they’ve gathered many crafting materials, potions and food. There is also the Shard tab, which stores any shards/crystals/clusters you find (Fire, Ice, Wind, Earth, Lightning and Water). These are for crafting. And finally we have key items; items specific to quests or for opening locked objects. You can have up to 95 of those. One exception to the Armory Chest is crafted items. If you craft (for example) a chest piece, it is placed in your normal inventory until it is either sold, moved or used. You can move items from your Armory Chest back into your inventory.
One problem FFXIV has is there’s no viable auto sorting or stacking system currently in the game. This makes it difficult to manage your inventory of crafting items. Rumor has it they will be adding this in the 2.1 release due out by the end of 2013. One way around this is to use the right-click menu when handing items to your retainer (covered below). This will auto-stack the items in your bank. To auto-stack them back into your inventory, simply right-click the item from the bank back to your character.
As shown in the Inventory Management above, there are numerous traditional Items in FFXIV. Swords, shields, jewelry, etc. There are five core levels of Quality to Weapons and Armor: White, Pink, Green, Blue, and Purple. However Crafted Items come in two levels of quality: normal and rare. This allows the player to craft an item that’s enhanced beyond the base quality. White and green rare versions have a small crescent symbol next to their name, and rare blue and purple items have a +1 next to theirs. Crafted items often have the most materia mounting slots (covered below). There are also Dyes which can be used to customize the color of some worn items, but you must first complete the level 15 quest Color your World.
When you use an item (weapon/armor) for the first time, it’s Spiritbond property will be 0%. As you gain experience (combat, gathering, crafting) the Spiritbond value will go up until it’s 100%. Once it’s 100% the item allows Materia to be melded, and you can also Salvage (explained below).
Items can be enhanced through the application of Materia. This is essentially socketing an item, but in FFXIV it’s called Melding. In order to Meld materia to an item, a catalyst is required, and a specific tradeskill, depending on the item. For example, if it’s a cloth chest, you’ll need a weaver. If it’s a scale chest, you’ll need an armorer. The higher level catalyst can be expensive, but can be gathered from nodes by Botanists and Miners. Note if you find an item that allows materia to be socketed, the item will tell you in the description exactly what skills are necessary. You can ask other players to meld items for you by right-clicking on their selected name and choosing “request Meld”.
Item Repair is a big part of FFXIV. Each town generally has a mender, and the condition of your items is shown through a vertical blue bar on the left side of each item icon, giving a quick glance visual representation which is easy to reference. You can repair items yourself if you have the right tradeskills, materials (Dark Matter), and tradeskill level. Items lose condition through experience gain and death (only 2% though). Since degradation is mainly based on experienced gained, players will repair their items a lot more at high (and end-game) levels than they will in the beginning. Broken items behave as if there is no item. The cost of repairing doesn’t become an issue until end-game.
You can also Salvage (or Assimilate Materia) from items, which destroys them. An item must have a 100% spiritbond to salvage from. In addition to Salvaging items, you can also turn Pink and Green items into your Grand Company through Expert Delivery Missions once you’ve achieved the proper rank.
The ability to Salvage is opened by quest “Forging the Spirit” by Swynbries in Central Thanalan (Level 19)
Item level is a secondary definer for the quality of an item. While the usable level may be one value, the item level can be above the usable level. This becomes very apparent at level 50 when items can have an item level up to 90. You can see the item level of an item in the grey header bar on each item when you mouse over it.
The weapon you have equipped defines what class you are. When you switch weapons, you switch classes. You cannot equip a weapon for a class you have not “unlocked”. Enter Gear Sets, which are very important. Gear Sets act as the core of class switching, but must be maintained. For example, say you just reached level 30 on your first class. When you are ready to train for your job and level the secondary support class to 15, you’ll first want to save the gear your current class has equipped. You do this by bringing up the Gear Set list and selecting Add (+ in the upper left). Once the class is added, your currently equipped gear is saved for that class. When you switch to level 1 of your next class, your equipped gear disappears. You then level up that class, equip new items, and add/save that gear set. This is the important part: you must “update” your gearset to your current Equipment Set before you switch, or you could “forget” your most recent configuration. You can create multiple gear sets for a single class, but the circumstances for doing that would be rare. While you can switch classes based on equipping a weapon, once you get a gear set configured, you’ll use that to switch between class builds.
Enter the Tradeskills. FFXIV has taken traditional crafting from other MMOGs and changed a few core elements to make it much more engaging, challenging and interactive. Tradeskills are handled like any other class in this game, meaning when you’re ready to work on weaving, all you need to do is join the guild, equip the needle, and you’re now a weaver. Save the gear set, and you can switch between your weaver and any other class you have a gear set for. When I’m waiting in town for a FATE to pop up, I often see players switch to their crafting classes and making items while they wait. When a FATE pops up, they switch back to their combat class and join the battle.
Where the combat-related classes fall into the two categories of Disciples of War and Magic, Gathering falls under Disciples of the Land and the three classes are: Botanist, Fisher, and Miner. Don’t let the fact there’s only three gathering classes phase you; gathering is very time consuming (and sometimes challenging) to level up. When you switch to a gathering class, you must activate the location skill (the first one you learn) which shows where the nodes are on the map. All nodes are your own. Nobody can steal them. Up to 8 items can be found on a specific gathering node, and they unlock based on the node type and your level. Also, you will use GPs (Gathering Points) to execute actions during gathering which impact the chance of you harvesting an item (including the high quality version of it).
You can purchase crafting scrolls from your Grand Company which will boost your experience by 50%!
FFXIV probably has the most interactive Crafting system I’ve seen in a fantasy MMOG. There are eight crafting classes: Alchemist, Armorer, Blacksmith, Carpenter, Culinarian, Goldsmith, Leatherworker and Weaver. Item crafting revolves around Crafting Points (CP), Materials, Progress, Durability, and Quality. Each time you Craft (synthesize) an item, you have a certain amount of CPs you can execute to create that item, and you must finish the item before it loses its durability. Every item you craft takes a combination of shards, crystals, or clusters. You find these off of elemental mobs, get them from quests, purchase them on the marketplace, and gather them from resource nodes. At the early levels of crafting they aren’t very important, but as you enter the higher tiers, they become more scarce and valuable. As you craft an item, the progress increases. Some items have only one progress step while others can end up having dozens based on the management of your crafting actions and in-process results of your crafting. As you craft an item, you want the quality to be as high as possible, but each time you try to increase the quality, you lose durability and crafting points (which can be regained through specific crafting actions). So as you begin to craft a multi-staged item, you have to actively adjust your crafting actions based on the success of each step. In the end, crafting is a lot like combat; don’t let your Durability (hits) reach 0 or your item will die, and try to craft the item with the highest quality possible in order to have the best results. One key factor that allows for a different experience each time is the Condition property, which is essentially a multiplier for any quality action. There’s no controlling it, and it includes: Poor, Normal, Good, and Excellent. If you get an Excellent condition it’s always Poor on the next step. But if you execute a quality action while the condition is excellent, you’ll get much more quality than you would for Normal. This sliding and unpredictable factor ensures anyone who is crafting has to interact with and watch the process. It is also incentive to manually craft each item as high quality as possible (regardless of hitting a high quality item) because you gain more experience.
Leve quests are often the best way to level your tradeskills!
At level 10, a crafter gains access to Quick Synthesis. This is an auto-crafting system to create a number of items sequentially. Sadly, it’s really not very fast and only gives half of the experience you would normally receive and has a very low chance of producing a high quality item.
Prior to level 15 (as a crafter) you can buy everything you need from the merchants. After that, you’ll need to venture into the world or buy from the marketplace
Different Guild Suppliers have different materials. You can go to the Weaver Guild Supplier and they won’t sell you key starting materials such as Hempen Yarn or Undyed Hempen Cloth (they want you to make them with Moko Grass, which they sell), but if you go to the Carpenter’s Guild Supplier, you can buy both. This is useful knowledge as you begin to level up and don’t want to waste time on making key components that make you hardly any experience. You can also purchase from a city’s Tradecraft Merchant, but often you’ll need to visit specific merchants. Once you hit level 15, you’ll find Merchants stop carrying the items you need, meaning it’s time to begin gathering on your own, or to purchase crafting materials through the Marketplace.
Leatherworking? Want to gather skins? There’s no skinning profession; you automatically loot skins/hides and other crafting materials from your prey! If you see high level characters slaughtering poor low level critters, this is probably the reason why.
Merchants are scattered throughout the world and sell numerous items ranging from weapons and armor to crafting materials. Some sell potions, while others sell minions.
Secure Trading can be done between characters, and Melding also has a secure interface where you can pay (or get paid) for the service.
The Marketplace is the Auction House. Right now it’s fairly basic, and allows for the easy look up of items, but there’s not a mechanism where you can search for items based on specific properties; you can only search based on classes, categories, names and by level. Retainers serve as the Bank and Marketplace posting system for players. You must first complete a quest to gain access to your Retainer, and once you’ve unlocked the retainer, you create and customize them (they are actual characters you summon and interact with). Each retainer has 7 tabs of 25 slots you can use, so one retainer has a total of 175 bank slots. You can post up to 20 items per retainer on the market at any given time. When you successfully sell an item on the Marketplace, the profit is placed on your retainer for withdrawal.
FFXIV has no Real Money marketplace.
Experience & Level, Chain Bonus, Attributes, Actions & Traits (Additional Actions & Affinity), Regeneration, Consumables, Status Effects, Mount, Travel, Instances & Duty Finder, Pets & Companions, Minions, and Death
FFXIV takes a different approach to the core number-based mechanics. Instead of grandiose high numbers where you fight monsters that have millions of hit points and obtain attributes in the thousands, the game functions on a much small numerical base. Doing 45 damage vs. 35 damage at level 15 is a huge difference, and by the time you reach you’re 40’s your often doing damage around or under 100 points. This shows a solid progression in the underlying number set used for combat and experience gain. The ability to share actions across classes is also a strong and important mechanic, allowing a player to refine their end-game builds. Food is quite important as it always provides an experience boost, and gives bonuses that affect your attributes for both combat and tradeskills. The duty finder works very well for matching you up with others to run instances, and travel is made easy through instant teleportation and mounts.
FFXIV is an Experience & Level based game with a max level cap of 50, and this goes for all classes (including tradeskill professions). The nice thing is you gain 50% more experience as a lesser class level than your main, so you always level quicker with an alternate class. When you die, you do not lose any experience. FFXIV has an experience bonus feature called Chain Bonus. This is a timer that activates when you kill a mob and appears below your experience bar (on the right side). Any mobs you kill during the bonus stage will provide extra experience, giving you incentive to end as many bad guys as you can as quickly as possible.
There are a number of attributes in the game and they depend on what your currently active class is. All classes have the six primary attributes of Strength, Dexterity, Vitality, Intelligence, Mind and Piety. When you level, you get points you can spend in these attributes. There’s additional Offensive, Defensive, Resistance, Mental, and PvP properties as well, each defined in a mouse-over highlight. Tradeskill classes have attributes related to quality, crafting (or gathering) points and durability.
Actions are class-based and serve as the basis of most world-related interactions. They are traditionally combat, gathering or crafting based. All actions are auto-learned upon level and require no special training. You can also see your “future actions” by looking at the Actions panel for your character. This allows one to study their character and look at what future levels will provide. Working in tandem with Actions are Traits. These are auto-enhancements your character will receive when they reach the defined level. As with Actions, you can see what traits you will earn as you level up.
Additional Actions are a key component to the multi-classed system and how a character benefits from leveling up multiple classes. Each action has an Affinity definition which shows what other classes have access to it. So if you (for example) gain Blood for Blood as a Dragoon, that action is usable by nearly all classes. This means when you switch to another class you can slot that action as an Additional Action for use by your class. This allows for interesting combinations that can allow a character to behave a bit differently than one who only has access to their own class abilities. For example, once you obtain the ability to resurrect a dead player, you can run around as an Archer and resurrect the dead if you have the action queued. For Combat classes, you get 1 action slot you can add per 5 levels, but can only have 5. For gathering professions, you have 10 active slots.
Regeneration is very quick in this game, and there is rarely any downtime at all. The Consumables actually do not impact Regeneration, instead they have stat and experience enhancements and generally last only 30 minutes. There are plenty of Status Effects including bonuses to experience, DOTs, and debuffs. Most of these are pretty traditional.
The primary travel Mount in FFXIV is the Chocobo. You can obtain the uber level 50 mechanical Chocobo (a big black robot-looking thing) when you complete the storyline, but until then you’re stuck with your little buddy (unless you’re a Conjurer, which gets a unicorn at level 30). The good news is you can use Barding to change his appearance to beef him up a little. There are additional special mounts provided through the pre-order, collectors edition, or 90-day subscription purchases.
There are many forms of Travel in FFXIV. The first form a player is introduced to is the inner-city Aetheryte shards. Nearly every zone has one big Aetheryte shard, which can be teleported to through the Teleport option on the UI. Cities have mini-Aetheryte shards spread around so players can move from point to point. It is confusing at first as traveling to and from these shards is based on a name (with no map) and the name is often something different than what you would expect. This means you have to memorize where places like “The Aftercastle” in Limsa Lominsa Upper Decks is… which is across from the Weaver’s Guild and the Blacksmiths’ and Armorers’ guild. The player can also rent a Chocobo and use it either to run to a place where a Chocobo run point has been unlocked (similar to flying from place to place in World of Warcraft), or for a bit of extra money, control the Chocobo themselves. This is for players who haven’t gotten their own mount at level 20. The primary method of moving long distances is to use the Teleport option which allows you to teleport to any major zone Aetheryte you have unlocked… for a fee. And it can get a bit costly. To travel from one side of the world from another with a single click can cost nearly 1,000 Gil. It adds up quick!
There are a number of Instances in FFXIV. The most common are Dungeons (which were covered above). There are also Guildhests. These are public light party instanced events players can create and/or join to engage in focused combat that rewards experience and Gil. They are only available through the Duty Finder, which is a great tool for matching players together to run Dungeons, Guildhests and Trials. Trials are storyline-based big boss fights. A player can define themselves as either Tank, DPS or Healer for the Duty Finder.
Arcanist, Summoner and Scholar are the only classes that get Pets, which are fighting variable helpers that come in three different flavors (tanking, DPS, healing). These pets have a set of custom actions, but the player doesn’t have direct control over them unless they set the pet to Obey, but then the player is required to execute all special commands. The player can set the disposition of the pet, which includes the traditional: Agressive, Guard, Follow, etc. A Companion is your fighting Chocobo which is gained by completing a level 30 quest. The details of this are covered below under Combat – Fighting Chocobo.
You can’t use your Companion while in a Dungeon, attempting a Grand Company Leve, or while queued in the Duty Finder.
Minions are little buddies who simply follow you around and look cute. They have no other value. Sadly, the game won’t let you have a minion out when you have your fighting chocobo active.
Death is only an inconvenience in FFXIV. If you die in the world, you can either be resurrected on the spot by another player, or return to your home binding. Either way, you take a durability hit on your items. If you die in an instance you can either be raised or restart at the entrance with a durability hit. There is no experience loss or status penalty.
There is no Magic Find in FFXIV.
Combat (Combos, Limit Break, Fighting Chocobo, Aggro), Movement and Targeting (Marks), PvE, PvP, Exploration, Progression & Achievements, Rewards, Macros, Learning Curve, Difficulty, End Game and Replayability
The combat of FFXIV is smooth as silk and very well done. The AoE and directional nature of the combat adds an extra level of strategy above other games like WoW. Progression for your first time through is quick with the quests and storylines, although it slows down after you take on additional jobs, forcing players to run FATEs or dungeons for the best experience. The game does have a bit of a learning curve beyond traditional fantasy MMOGs, but the fun factor makes it well worth your time. The end game is still evolving, but the replayability factor is definitely solid given the “one character can play all” approach of the game.
Combat in FFXIV is fun and interactive, which is what combat should be. While it’s based on the traditional MMOG combat model of single target, range-based AoE, or “ground paint” AoE, the game takes position into account for a number of the classes, so there is an advantage for a lancer to execute a flanking strike in order to get a specific chain of extra damage. Nearly all enemies have one or more form of AoE attacks, which are clearly shown through the red “ground paint”, often in a cone, circle, or rectangle. Get out of the way before the action executes and you’ve dodged the special attack.
There are some issues with latency and AoE attacks by mobs. Dungeons can be particularly unforgiving, so when you see the red paint, make sure you get out of the way immediately as the server may lag a second or so.
Limit Breaks are custom power-ups only available in parties that are charged by killing mobs. Any member of a party can execute a limit break when it’s full, and each class has a different type of effect. If a lancer executes the limit break, the attack is a single-target high DPS attack whereas if a White Mage executes the Limit Break, it heals the entire party.
Swinging swords and zapping monsters can be a lot of fun, but watching your Fighting Chocobo (which is the same mount you ride, just in a different mode) peck the heck out of your enemies is also quite enjoyable. In FFXIV you can train your chocobo to heal, defend and attack. The healing and defending can even extend to your party. When you summon your Fighting Chocobo (which takes a party slot and requires one Gysahl Green) you can command its stance, which dictates how it will behave. While you cannot command it to attack directly, as soon as you enter combat, the AI will take over based on the stance. Each rank gives you a number of Stat Points you can spend equivalent to the rank. So at Rank 5 you receive 5 SPs. You can only achieve level 10 in a skill by spending all points in that skill. Most people mix the skills of their Fighting Chocobo. Right now, there’s no way to reset your chocobo’s stat points, but the developers have already said it’s planned for a future version. You can also put new adornments on your Chocobo which change the materials it wears. This is done through Barding, which is available at your Grand Company. The adornments have no impact other than the visual look of your Chocobo.
Fighting Chocobos and Pets don’t draw aggro unless they engage in battle, and even then, it’s only with the mob they are in combat with.
Aggro is handled very well in FFXIV; not only is there a good sound played when you get hit with aggro, you also see a visual red line shoot from the mob that has just targeted you, so you can see what direction the aggro has come from. There are also two aggro indicators in the game, which are covered in the UI section below.
As mentioned above, Movement is a big part of Combat. Not just for executing attacks that give bonuses based on position, but also for sneaking up on mobs. The game assumes if you walk up behind a mob, it won’t hear or see you unless it’s a special mob that senses in 360′. This allows for classes that have rear attacks to sneak up and strike most targets.
Targeting enemies is a bit of a problem in FFXIV when there are multiple targets and you have to switch your focus quickly. The Tab key functions terribly, and more than often, clicking on a target doesn’t select it. This is especially tedious when you want to heal another player in a world FATE who isn’t in your group and you can’t click on them because they’re so little. They definitely need to clean things up in this area. You can also mark targets with icons using the right-click menu.
FFXIV is all about PvE. At this time there is no PvP, but it’s planned for the 2.1 release due before the end of 2013.
Exploration is fun, rewarding and visually stunning. You gain experience when you go to a new area (and its level based, so the higher level you are the more experience you’ll gain), and boy do you encounter some strange creatures. You also gain achievements for completely exploring an entire zone (including a Dungeon).
Progression is steady your first time though as there are quests to be had everywhere. It doesn’t start to slow down until the 40’s or so. Once you level up other classes, things slow down quite a bit even though you get a 50% bonus to your experience because there are few quests left. If your character has already done the quests, they’re done for good. New quests don’t open up when you choose a new class except for the class-specific quests every 5 levels. This leaves players to pursue FATEs or Dungeon runs for gaining experience as quickly as possible. Leves work as well, but most people use them for Crafting as you make more experience running FATE groups than anything else. The problem is it becomes repetitive and has a bit of downtime. The good news is if you really want a change, just switch to another class (or join a guild to start a new one) and level that up, then go back to the class you were working on when you’re ready to keep building it. This process will make you more and more familiar with the world, where mobs are, and where to go for the best results of your current goals.
There are 8 categories of Achievements a character can pursue: Battle, Class, Items, Crafting, Gathering, Quests, Exploration, and Grand Company. A character can acquire both titles and items from certain Achievements, but they must go to the proper NPC relative to the type of reward. A list of the NPCs that provide rewards is found here.
The Rewards in FFXIV are traditional in nature. Class levels, Actions & Traits, Chests, Items, Achievements, and Fun. It is very strange to not loot bodies or have weapon/armor drops come from mobs (they only come from chests, fates, or quests), but you get accustomed to it after a while and it does end up working out.
The Macro system is pretty robust and very well-done, especially for the initial release of a MMOG. The only issue I’ve found is you can’t program wait times connected to the variable global cooldown, which changes based on your equipment and buffs.
There is a bit of a Learning Curve to FFXIV due to the different terms, single-character multi-class approach to all content in the game, and the confusing travel/map system. It also takes some time to adjust to the Gear sets (switching between classes) and adopt the game changing quest rewards like salvaging, your chocobo, battle chocobo, and Jobs. Unfortunately, Jobs are completely undocumented (no tutorial notification), so when you hit level 30 there is no notification “now that you’ve hit 30, you can…”. The only way to know about the jobs and their requirements is to look them up on the web and gain level 15 in the support class, which then opens up the job quest at your main class trainer. I hope Square Enix fixes this issue with the 2.1 release as it’s unfair to players who are completely new to the game and haven’t researched this feature.
The Difficulty of the game is gradual, as it should be with any good MMOG. So far, I’ve found the game to be fairly easy, especially when it comes to 1v1 battle, but it can be a problem when you aggro additional mobs during combat. You also have to be very careful with the big world bosses. Some of them have insta-kills that don’t “paint red” on the ground as they spin up. If you have a good healer, most dungeons are easy as long as you know the mini and final boss fights. Ultimately, the game is fun, and that’s what is most important.
End Game is variable with FFXIV because you can do so many things. When you reach level 50 with a job, you can begin to pursue your job’s Relic weapon, which is held as the most powerful weapon in the game for your job. This is accomplished through a cascade of lengthy quests which take a substantial amount of time, energy and money. But pursuing your Job’s relic isn’t the only thing you can do. You can switch to and build another job, switch to and build crafting/gathering, meld some top notch materia to your items, or start running the high-end instances to obtain Tomestones to purchase end-game gear, or try and get drops from the end game dungeons. And remember, you can share up to 5 skills between jobs, so this allows players to create end-game hybrid builds with crossover skills. And with the upcoming 2.1 version adding a 24-person dungeon, PvP, new instances, free company housing and more, there’s definitely a lot in the pipe to keep players busy. I think FFXIV has a bright future ahead of it.
Because one can play every aspect of the game with a single character, the Replayability is excellent. If you get tired of running around as a level 47 Dragoon and need a break, switch over and try Archer for the first time. If you like it, take it to 30, then train Pugilist to 15, and obtain the Bard job. Want to take a break from combat? No problem. Start mining or making armor. There’s so much you can do, it would take even the most hardcore gamer a substantial amount of time to build all the combat jobs and tradeskills up to 50.
Community & Support
Player Guilds (Free Company), Chat (Linkshells), Parties & Squads, Social List, Population, Spam, Botting, Quality, Forums, GMs & Support Desk, Support Sites & Wiki
The in-game community is usually friendly and helpful, but the guild (Free Company) system is fairly weak, not even showing achievements from other players. Pick-up groups (PUGs) are common and can be very interesting depending on the player’s experience. Unfortunately, the spam is currently out of control.
A player guild is known as a Free Company in FFXIV. FC’s operate like guilds in any other MMOG. There really isn’t much in the way of innovation or difference. One negative aspect is achievements are not automatically shared with other guild members. Besides a shared bank, the only other feature being in a FC has is the ability to execute global buffs for its members that increase things like combat or gathering experience.
The Chat system is like most other MMOGs. There are 3 tabs to start with (General, Battle, and Event) that can be configured. One can create custom tabs and manage what messages go to what tabs.
Unfortunately, the FFXIV chat system has one major flaw. It does not allow one to link items.
Linkshells are custom chat groups of up to 128 people and are invite only. Anyone can create a Linkshell by visiting the “Linkshell Distributor” in one of the three major cities. You can create, rename, or delete a Linkshell you started. Once you create the Linkshell, you are the master. You can invite people by right-clicking on their name in the game world, party, social window, or free company. Linkshells are good for bringing friends together from multiple guilds, or to have a chat room with a specific theme.
Parties come in two sizes: Light (4) and Full (8). Parties share experience and allow members to roll on loot through the Need/Greed/Pass system. If an item isn’t “directly usable” by a character, they cannot need it, but only greed on it. There have been a few times where items I could use have dropped and the game didn’t allow me to Need on it, so I lost it to greed rolls. There are still a few quirks to work out with it.
The Social List includes a breakdown of Party Members, Friends, Blacklist, and a Player Search feature. The Player Search feature is a bit clunky as it always selects all classes and jobs, doesn’t inform you to right-click to deselect all, and it doesn’t save the settings between sessions. You can browse people by name, status, class, level, location, company and language. You can also browse by first and last name. It can be a nice tool if you (for example) need to find a level 50 weaver to meld materia for you.
As I mentioned, the Population of this game is just crazy. I’ve never seen a MMOG so saturated with players; but it’s more than just the sheer numbers, it’s the design and layout of the zones. Rarely do players find themselves completely alone with nobody else around, and even in the rare instance that happens, if a FATE pops up nearby, you’ll quite often find a gaggle of a dozen or more players suddenly converging on your position. You never feel alone in the world, and cities are bustling, just like it should be. But the true test of a MMOGs population is time. If this game is just as busy in 6 months, then we have a big winner on our hands. Right now, the population is excellent.
Unfortunately, the Spam is the worst I’ve seen in any MMOG, but it’s really the fault of the developers, and something they should be downright embarrassed about. While they got so many things right, they failed to add a right-click blacklist option to people spamming, and also failed to add a limitation timer between public shouts so cities are now nothing more than grueling shout fests of gold spammers. The only way to stop it is to manually blacklist each spamming character. This can be done with the command /blist add <name> or /blist add <r> where <r> is the last character that sent you a private tell. You can also macro this command.
I’ve heard Botting is a problem, but I haven’t personally witnessed any botting, so I can’t comment on how common or uncommon it is. My guess is it’s rare and those who bot are quickly banned.
The Quality of the community is good. Players don’t get angry at stolen mobs or nodes, and while you occasionally run into a problem player doing a PUG (pick-up group) instance, most players help each other. I’ve found the general chat to be quieter than other MMOGs. Given the population, I think that’s a good sign. People are busy playing the game!
The Forums are available in 4 languages: Japanese, English, French and German. At the time of writing this, the Japanese forums have 176 / 4,439 threads/posts, the English forums have 2,374 / 18,226, the French 134 / 1,040 and the German 283 / 2806. The content of the forums is fairly standard for MMOGs; very hit and miss. Plenty of trolls, but also a number of helpful people.
While I haven’t seen any GMs in the game (e.g. chat), FFXIV does have an integrated Support Desk system which allows players to report Harassment, Cheating, Bugs and Suggestions through the game. This system also has the latest news, information and history. It also includes a FAQ. The end result is a nice built-in support system that integrates well with the game.
There are tons of Support Sites & the Wiki is well-done. Many of the links at the bottom of this review share some of the more important sites.
The graphics of FFXIV are top notch and stunning on high-end video cards. Sound and Music are well-done, and the interface is very well designed. Connectivity is strong with little to no downtime, but without an authenticator, account security can be a problem. Patches aren’t deployed very often, but the good news is there are very few bugs.
FFXIV has some of the most stunning Graphics currently on the market. The game is absolutely beautiful. Granted I’m running a 780GTX with all settings on ultra, the overall presentation of the environment, including day/night cycles and weather changes is incredibly immersive. It’s awesome to be fighting in the middle of the desert and suddenly a monsoon sweeps in, or to be running through the cold mountains of Coerthas late at night while the snow is gently falling around. The creatures of the world are beautifully animated and everything you see has a refined hand-crafted feel to it. A lot of love, dedication and time went into the visual look of this game, and it shows.
The Sound is very well done and the most enjoyable aspects (in my opinion) are the strange, unusual, entertaining and crazy sounds made by the various creatures you’ll encounter and fight. The game even adds bonus battle sounds to large group battles making it sound like a real battlefield. There are many signature sounds including the whistle of the chocobo, which fills the air after a group of people has completed a FATE. The only time I have heard the sound overlap and cut off is when there are so many people in the area (I’d guess 50+) the sound engine can’t keep up with the volume of combat actions. The Music is well done and enjoyable, especially the trademark chocobo riding music. The only music I don’t care for is the pipe organ music for Coerthas.
The Interface of FFXIV is one of the best MMOG interfaces I’ve seen. It’s crisp, clean, and has innovative enhancements that address many of the deficiencies of other games. The minimap does a great job of pointing you to quest mobs, hunting targets, fates, and important markers. Targeting shows not only what your target is doing, but who they are aggroing. You can also see what your aggro is on the left side meter, and in your party window. This allows you to plan and balance your attacks accordingly, especially when it comes to complex boss fights.
There is currently no support for Addons.
The Connectivity is very good, and I haven’t seen any Downtime since I started playing save the occasional server maintenance. I have witnessed some lag in instances which can be a major problem with dodging AoE attacks, but it has been quite rare. I have also occasionally seen the annoying error 90000 which can insta-disconnect you, but that rarely happens as well. Overall, the game plays great and hardly has issues or hiccups.
Security is a problem with FFXIV. Not relative to Square Enix, but relative to hackers and keyloggers. As such, many people are having their accounts hacked into and taken over. Some hacked accounts are even used for spamming gold sales, which can get the account banned, and the character blacklisted by the majority of players. I highly recommend all players set up the one-time password (authenticator) for their account. I use the SDEX Token application on my Android phone. This will pretty much guarantee your account won’t get hacked… unless somebody knows your account details AND steals your phone.
I haven’t noticed any real Patches for the game over the past month, which tells me they don’t have a living/dynamic patch system (like GW2). I consider this a negative thing and it may explain why they’re taking so long to address fairly basic issues like gold spammers. Not being able to dynamically push out content and fixes is a problem in today’s market. Granted, I see no Bugs beyond the latency and occasional disconnect, they need to address problems faster than they have. Regardless, in the end, this is a very solid game.
This is the first time I’ve seen a company take a failed MMOG and re-release it years later only to create a fantastic product. FFXIV is worth your time even if you aren’t a Final Fantasy fan; the game as a whole is refined, beautiful, fun, and immersive. Like any new MMOG, it has its quirks and learning curve, but the single-character approach to experiencing all content in the game is in my opinion one of the best features I’ve seen in a fantasy MMO. Want to tank? Just level up the class! Want to craft? Just level it up! Want to heal? Just level it up! No need to create multiple characters unless you want to re-experience the primary storyline. In the end, this game is more than worth the initial $29.95 digital purchase (which comes with a free month) and the $12.95 monthly fee ($14.95 if you want multiple characters per server).
I’ve had a blast playing it, and believe it’s enough of a refreshing change from the other products to entice any fantasy MMO gamer to give it a shot. Try it out and enjoy!