Final Fantasy XIV: Enough is Enough (So Far)

During my recent two week experience I have developed a love-hate relationship to the game. This post will be devoted to criticism, listing the drawbacks due to which I quit playing for now, so approach with care.

Visuals. It’s the very first thing that grabs your attention when you launch the game. FFXIV is very crude, especially in the environment department, as if they put square polygons together and forgot to add textures to many items. All in all, the environment looks like painted cardboards put together. It’s a bit better with NPC, character and monster models, but humanoids still look like wooden dolls – and move as such too.

The game is also very bleak and dark. It’s 50 shades of grey, and you often can’t really appreciate the monster design, cause in the dark environment it’s mostly unintelligible silhouettes and shades. God forbid you’re clad in darker gear – then you can’t tell your character from the environment too. A most common dungeon run is colored nameplates and spell animation, is all you see.

Sound. I’ve mentioned this too – it’s a very silent game. All you hear is music, spells (if you happen to fight which is a ridiculously uncommon event here for an MMO) and an endless sound of steps as you run. By the way, only two step sounds are present: the one like the sand steps applies to sand, ground, carpet, snow, and there’s also a sound for stones/metal slabs. There are no ambience sounds, no NPC responses, and multiple cutscenes which take about 70% of normal gameplay time are not voiced by 98%.

Map Layout. The game does not allow you to explore the continent in full. You feel like a hamster in a wheel, in a cage: basically you move between quest hub “rooms” bound by corridors.

For example, if we take a Thanalan map, the dark grey places are out of bounds, which you cannot reach in any circumstances, and red lines mean loading screens as you traverse between the zones:

So if you wanted to walk along the coast, for example, it’s a no-no. You’re only allowed to see the ocean in a couple of places in the whole continent (and only see, don’t touch, mind you). You cannot pick your own path to a location, as you enter another zone or subzone only through certain gates. In short, this is not an explorer’s game. There’s nothing to explore – you have one tunnel to follow to any location.

The World. The nations (states) which are a mix of races have their own smell, but what of racial differences? You get none. Local races don’t have any language, culture or fashion peculiarities, I met no history or background for them, so basically you pick and deal with the looks. A local elf of a forest nation would talk and behave exactly the same like all other races that belong in the forest nation – and to get something a bit different you need to go to another country.

The big baddies are a shameless ripoff from the Star Wars Empire, by the way. The very same color scheme, methods, motivation and behaviour.

The Gameplay. If you download FFXIV, I hope you like to read, because that’s what gameplay is all about. About 90% of gameplay time you will be reading cutscenes and quest dialogues. They need 10 screens of dialogue to send you for a trivial 10-bear-asses quest. They need 20 for a story quest. And you can make a cup of tea for any major story hook.

I entered the final “vanilla content” raid yesterday which finalizes the initial content arc of levels 1-50. Guess what? I managed to have dinner and a cup of tea with a dessert. In a raid where a PUG killed everything without wipes. Because there was like 50 minutes of unskippable cutscenes and unbearable talks beating around the bush, and 10 minutes of actual action, like running, fighting bosses, and all normal dungeon activities. Cue another 20 minutes of cutscenes and talks when you finish.

For example, this is one of a zillion dialogue screens in the raid you cannot skip, and he goes on, and on, and on:

The Story. The Main Story Quest, or MSQ, at least doesn’t let you to distract for collect-me-5 or kill-me-10 crap, focusing on the, well, story. But the story itself is not too outstanding. It’s quite a generic questline of uniting in the face of a greater enemy, a Chosen one, and stuff we’ve seen a million times before.

Lore NPC characters serve more like functions, and I can’t tell I developed a deep bond to them, although they were pleasant enough. In fact, their pleasant-ness is a cornerstone of the game. You’ll find no character development, no conflict, inner or otherwise, no inner struggle, no hard solutions to make – it’s a total Candy Land where everyone is sensible, agrees with everything and acts like they should by common sense.

Uniting the nations was like: it’s wise to stand together against a common enemy – yes, it is wise to stand together against a common enemy. Nation 1 will stand against a common enemy! And Nation 2 will stand against a common enemy! We’re Nation 3, and we will stand against a common enemy too! Thank you hero, because you’re with us too! Only you need to spread this simple-dimple idea into 40 dialogue screens, like FFXIV always does.

Oh God )))))

Well, it’s time to conclude my rant I think. I’ve completed the initiate story, and I definitely need to have some rest from Final Fantasy XIV before and if I proceed any further.

It may seem that the game has no strong spots, but I’m actually not too mad about the game, or I would drop it way earlier. I genuinely like the slow paced combat system, the encounters of the group content of dungeons and raids, the class system (come on, I dare you name me any other MMO with a lance-specific class), exciting Asian-style spell visuals, monster design, and the story, if generic, cannot be named bad, just not too inventive.

I think I put it on the shelf for a while. Once I miss reading a book, and have nothing else to play, or get tired of anything else, FFXIV is not a bad go-go. It’s just definitely not an MMORPG to feel for, to feel like home, to get too excited about story and characters. Not a WoW-killer anyways or even an equal competition – not for me :)

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