Friday, March 2, 2012

So, FFXIV...

This is going to seem terribly delayed, considering how long ago the game came out, but if we've learned anything it's that a) I am a slacker and in general b) time means absolutely nothing to me. Perhaps I was simply waiting for my opinion to be justified, but it's more likely that I simply tried to block the experience out to the best of my ability. Because honestly, playing it was a lot like witnessing a horrible crime.

With the news recently that worlds (servers) are being forcibly merged due to population deficiency, I felt it was about due. Maybe because my harsh review seemed more justified now than it did before? I don't know. Anyway...

I'll preface this by saying, I could only stomach the game for roughly a week during beta. Mind you it was the final build in beta, only several days prior to retail launch so Square should've had their shit together. I presumed they would take what they had with FFXI and build/improve from there. That is not however what they did at all. It seems that for some reason or another they decided instead to start from scratch, rush, and then leave everything half-assed.

Let's begin with character creation. First things first -- this shit's weird. The arrow keys will filter through your menu options and do nothing to control the camera. For that you need to awkwardly use J, K, L, and I. Why? I don't have any flipping idea. But there you go. You're welcome. I probably just saved you a good three minutes of, "wtf???"

You have five races to choose from in FFXIV: Hyur (human), Miqo'te (cat-girl), Lalafell (elf-gnome-thing), Elzen (elves), and Roegaydn (man-beast). Each of those has two additional clan options with slight variances such skintone and starting attributes, but ultimately it doesn't seem to particularly matter a whole lot. Also some clans don't allow you to be certain genders so the whole thing feels a little last minute to me and I can't be assed to get into it in any amount of detail.

Selecting individual features is pretty lackluster, with no color wheels or true sliders to speak of. At the time in which I played there were, for example: five height options, three voice options, anywhere between seven and sixteen skin tones, between six and nine hair styles, and an impressive thrty-two hair color options -- though most are nearly identical to each other honestly, so you could probably half that. You can further customize your hair by selecting a highlight color on top of the base color, but honestly the lightning makes this process moot much of the time.

For faces you can choose the basic shape of the face and then further refine it by selectine eyebrows, eye color, nose size/shape, and so forth. Unfortunately for some reason your face shape is directly connected to your bust size if you're a woman, so you may choose the soft innocent looking face only to get in game and realize for some reason you now have a D-cup. The individual options aren't magnificent, but at least they're there.

There are four starting classes referred to as Disciples of War, Disciples of Magic, Disciples of The Land and Disciples of The Hand. Which probably means squat to you if you don't know wtf that crap means.

Disiciples of War are fighters who can choose between Pugilist, who fight with their fists and knuckle weapons; Gladiator, who specializes in sword and shield; Marauder, who wields giant two-handed axes; Archer, who clearly uses bows and arrows; and Lancer, who makes use of a lance.

Disciples of Magic are mages who can choose between Conjurer, who wields elemental magic; and the Thaumaturge, who wields spiritual magic.

Disciples of The Land are gatherers who can choose between Miner, Botanist, and Fisher. What those three classes do should be really quite obvious.

Disciples of The Hand are crafters who can choose between Alchemist, Armorer, Blacksmith, Carpenter, Culinarian, Goldsmith, Leatherworker, and Weaver. All of which should also be really quite obvious as to what they do in the scheme of things.

Incidentally, you can change what you are at any given time by purchasing a new weapon, so none of these choices seem to carry any significant weight behind them, cheapening your need to even make a decision.

After you've done all of this you can choose your character's birthday and patron deity. I still have very little idea what precisely these options did, as they had no discernible effect on my questing or storyline. But you can choose them, so I'd assume they intended to do something with the system.

After all of this, you choose your starting location, of which there are three, which I'm to understand is the key factor in deciding what storyline your character progresses through. Despite being able to travel freely, you can only witness the storyline of the city you started in, so I guess this is truly the only real option you've been given that matters. So I guess if you're really intent on hammering your way through this game, means you should choose wisely.

On to the rest of the game, then. The game is quite pretty, as expected of a Final Fantasy game these days, however from what I saw the story is sorely lacking (also kind of expected these days I guess?). The quests I did were very run-of-the-mill and left me feeling bored, even when faced with impending doom. Go kill obscene amounts of ______. Go collect absurd numbers of ______. And so on. The music left a lot to be desired, particularly for a Square title, and left me feeling outside of the world rather than a part of it.

The lag was a frightening experience itself, which strangely added more excitement to the game than anything in the actual game on purpose. To clarify, the issue was with the game servers themselves, not my internet. I'm fully aware of the difference.

Monsters were never where they showed up in the world, and since most were aggressive, this meant while slowly trudging along from one great distance to another, you'd get attacked by something you didn't even realize was actually in your path. Sometimes, the monster model wouldn't even show up, leaving you standing there trying to fight something invisible. Targeting was a nightmare and it had more to do with the targeting box-size (tiny) compared to the creature you were targeting (huge) than anything else. Though the choice to rely on software mouse rather than hardware mouse certainly did not help matters.

In fact, without a third-party modification for that game to enable hardware mouse, the game was effectively unplayable due to the effect lag has on software mouse. The fact that Square so adamantly refused to include hardware mouse as an option, forcing some random nobody to create the mod on their own speaks volumes as to what's wrong with FFXIV. Which, I suppose is a good place to end the review since just thinking about the game just disappoints me all over again.

P.S. I know it's Square Enix, and many of you would like very much to blame the last half of that equation for the woes here, but honestly old Square could've put more polish on a turd and sold it, with half the time. I mean, they know it's bad. Which implies they knew it was bad! They've sent at least two official apologies to fans, recognizing the poor quality of the product.

Edit: It should be noted, at the very least, in an effort to make up for the extreme failure, FFXIV is free-to-play and there are numerous patches in development meant to correct many of the glaring flaws that have existed tot his date. I would say, however, that these efforts are simply not enough and the release of this game -- no where near completion is the rock-bottom to the recent decline of the Square empire. At least there's no where to go but up from here?

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