Trying Final Fantasy XIV: Newbie Experience Round 3

Alright, the gaming news and blogs are overwhelming me with FFXIV, so I decided to gave it another roll.

It’s my third time trying this game in the course of 5 years, and now I moved farther than previous tries, so there’s some ground for impressions.

On my first experience several years ago I created a character, entered the desert Ul’dah capital, got lost there for an hour of talks and navigation, getting lost, before they actually sent me to kill some stuff. I finally engaged some lv.1 bugs, and the fight seemed so ridiculously stupid and uninspiring, that I just quit the whole thing for good.

On my second try with another fresh character I started in Gridania the “elf” forest town. This time I nearly completed the first zone questing, but UI was overwhelming and unconvenient, and graphics settings killed my eyes – no matter how much I tried with the tunings, all this grass and foliage didn’t look fresh and lush, it’s been a pixel insanity that made it painful to look at the screen! Besides, even if my computer back then was great enough for WoW and many games, I experienced not-so-smooth movement, delays and what not.

The third try is now, and here’s what we got.

First of all, no technical difficulties at all. Either the game was optimized during the course of time, or now I have a better computer, or both, but it runs quite fast and on highest settings – so this impediment is off the grid and I can actually appreciate what’s going on.

Second, I guess my previous experience helped, but there was a lot less struggle with UI and settings. I’m playing it almost as easily as I’m playing WoW. Once I tuned hotbars a bit and switched off the overwhelming amount of player/pet/NPC names, it became possible to get immersed – now I found myself one-on-one with the game at last.

Third, I watched a number of guides on YouTube before playing. The most vital recommendation was to ignore everything – except MSQ (main story questline) and class quests. Therefore, you don’t spread yourself thin over kill-me-10-bugs and find-me-10-herbs boring side dish which adds little to immersement, and level through more or less consistent story. You still outlevel the main story quests – as they have to tune you down a couple of levels for story scenarios.

Fourth, I’m spending a lot – like a lot of time in Google and YouTube, learning about how different stuff works, cause I have so many questions. I guess I would do the same if I were a fresh WoW player, it’s probably natural for newbies in such a MMO juggernaut. Nevertheless, it’s like 60% time in the game and 40% time spent googling things. I don’t think it’s bad, I’m ready for this kind of determination. Learning how new stuff works is a great training for the brain, beyond all else!

That all said, I’m comfortable with gameplay systems and settings now to an extent that I can focus on actual playing.

What Do I Like About FFXIV?

The biggest thing for me is that it’s an Asian MMO in every sense. Asian design of characters, haircuts, faces, outfits, asian classes and their flashy spells, ridiculously oversized animals and weird, very uncommon creature design – all create an ambience different from WoW, so you can find yourself in a totally different world, based on a very different culture. I’ve mentioned that I’m no stranger to anime and Japanese/Chinese/Korean cultures, so “j” in jRPG doesn’t bother me at the very least – on the contrary, it’s a big profit.

The learning streak – despite I have to google many things – is actually pretty great. You never get lost what to do next, and they dish you out all the systems like transmog, dungeon finder, leveling and what not in most comprehensive way through quests, tips also included.

Leveling is fast and exceeds the actual quest requirements – the farther the more as I progress, so no grind or extra quests are required at all. In fact, I think they could slow it down a bit, but I guess they whipped it as WoW did.

Combat is a lot more slow-paced than WoW, as you have a 2-sec GCD after EVERY spell or hit you cast. I’m actually enjoying the style, as it gives you plenty of time to think and plan, and you’re not pressing buttons frantically. Besides, spells are very, very flashy, so it’s only fair you enjoyed their rich animations. It’s a different kind of great compared to WoW – and I say I like both approaches equally.

Dungeons – I’ve played through 3 by main quest storyline and about to enter the 4th – are super fun to play! Despite the slower pace of casting spells, it doesn’t feel slower than WoW at all. They’re just as exciting and quick, and take approximately the same time of 15-20 minutes. Dungeon finder at your service, it’s also convenient to just pop the queue and play in the same manner.

Finally, MSQ – Main Story Questline – is obligatory for obtaining spells, mounts, dungeons, systems and all that. I think it’s great because you won’t miss anything important, and keep updated with the events.

What I Don’t Like About FFXIV?

There are few concerns that bother me though and don’t let me get enthralled with the game.

First of all, FFXIV is not beautiful at all. While I appreciate the character, spell and creature design, at the same time environment is doing me pain. Whether it’s a tree, a road, a mountain or a house, all I see is painted rectangles put together at straight angles, so fuck immersement. The world simply fails to sell its potential magic.

Speaking of beauty, it’s also bleak and dark. I’ve seen all three major nations’ zones and capitals back and forth, and it’s 50 shades of grey so far. In certain dungeons and in the night you even fail to tell characters, NPCs and enemies from the environment. Also, the night/day change happens maybe in course of one hour, which is too much for me. So half of the game I’m simply walking in the darkness.

All said things are easily illustrated by this: I never, ever had a wow! effect by arriving to any places, and I never, ever had the urge to make a single screenshot except for my character’s portrait/transmog.

Second, the story. Please tell me it gets better, because the nations’ alliance prequel and flashbacks against the Galactic Empire and urge to unite against it in present did not impress me much, and leveling local questlines are so far pretty generic “waily-waily, help-me-hero” MMO stuff. I’m quite ready to give it a chance, as it’s obviously been a while since these quests were written, and hopefully it becomes more fun later? Now I’m at level 26, and about to kill Ifrit in dungeon after lizard men quiestline in Thanalan.

Third, it’s… silence. The music is brilliant, but it’s actually all you hear. Oh, and the sound of feet on the ground. So far the game is 10% fight, 50% legwork and 40% dialogues/cutscenes. Very few of them – almost none of them – are voiced. There are no responses as you interact with NPCs, too. You think that you got tired of Well met! in WoW? You’ll miss them dearly when you play FFXIV. Compared to WoW, or Blade & Soul where EVERY quest briefing and dialogue is voiced, FFXIV radio silence ruins the immersement even more.

Conclusion

I’m ready to give the game a chance – at least I plan to play through the story as far as basic game without expansions allows me, and then I decide if I crave for more.

It’s not bad, it’s fun to play, and group content so far is amazing. But it definitely lacks in immersement department due to silence, so far generic story, and cardboard environment. In short: WoW surpasses it so far in oh so many aspects. Yes, it’s very different from WoW, and this is good, but it also has these flaws of its own, and it’s not the difference that bothers me.

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