Final Fantasy XIV is a game specifically engineered toward a very dedicated group of individuals. There aren’t any of the safety nets for new players like in World of Warcraft or Spiral Knights. Final Fantasy XIV is a game designed for fans of RPGs from the eight bit to the sixty four bit eras, who also happen to be PC enthusiasts. That isn’t a bad thing, for sure, and it doesn’t make the game suffer any more than it should, but it does narrow down the audience considerably. Right now, behind every mountain, every shop, every battle, you’ll see not the grandeur of the current experience but rather the sheer potential for something much greater.
Open up a copy of Final Fantasy XIV and spend an hour figuring out how to sign up. After signing up, spend another hour configuring your system to maximize system performance. From there, spend another hour configuring your character before you are dropped in Eorzea for the very first time. But when you take your very first steps into Eorzea for the first time, assuming everything is working correctly, you shall be blown away with your jaw to the floor; this huge, sprawling, and gorgeous environment you explore is a wonder to behold. It’s a shame it is incredibly difficult to navigate through it.
One of the best things about FFXIV are the graphics which make the game look like you’re exploring a world taken straight out of a storybook. All of the town environments are lovingly crafted; feeling like an eight bit world come alive. Then something happens, the illusion is broken, and you’re back to playing a game that isn’t finished yet. Either there’s a framerate drop, screen tear, or you’re interacting with one of the clunky menus. With the exception of the latter, much of this can be easily fixed if you have an extraordinarily hefty PC to run this game. To run FFXIV properly, you need more than just a single 200$ graphics card with a respectable dual core processor; ALL of the latest super powered personal home computer equipment is absolutely required to achieve the quintessential FFXIV experience. The system requirements for this game are incredibly demanding; they are about four levels above the recommended requirements listed on the back of the box. It is a real shame most players will not be able to see FFXIV’s graphics in full effect at this point since FFXIV has such a great world actually worth exploring. Now, in a few years after version 2.0 is out the door and the average user possesses a more powerful computer, things may change, but right now, you are looking at a three to four thousand dollar investment to achieve in the intended FFXIV experience.
Finding a mission or buying an item in this game is a serious achievement; the navigation in this game is so clunky and obsolete it is difficult to accomplish even the simplest of tasks. Although there are a number of waypoints on your mini map on the top right hand corner of the screen, you’ll spend a lot of time wandering around just because you don’t know where to buy the item you’re looking for, how to assign and embark on a mission (it is a two step process), or you don’t know where to buy even a weapon. Giving credit to the FFXIV team, the Navigation system has gotten a lot better over the course of the last year, but it isn’t up to the quality standard set by MMO’s such as World of Warcraft.
Once you’re inside a mission, the game becomes a lot better almost instantly. The game tells you exactly where to go/need to be, with a compass on your mini map, the game opens shortcuts to access your abilities quickly and easily, and since each of the classes in this game have their own style of play, it keeps the game pretty fresh and interesting. You don’t level up your character in this game, rather, you level up your class, and it is really easy to change what class you’re using by simply changing your equipped item. This goes a step further because each of the different classes has a different style of play associated with one another, with mini games built into the different activities. The quality of these mini games do vary (fishing being one of the weaker classes), but if you’re getting sick of a certain play style, it’s really easy to switch to something else. You’re not limited to a specific class per character like in World of Warcraft; you can make your characters specialize in as many classes as you want. This idea of switching classes on the fly is a truly intuitive concept, and hopefully the FFXIV team develops it further, but right now not everything feels entirely fleshed out. Some of the mini games associated with the different classes feel a bit shallow and repetitive right now, but that should improve with time, because the seeds have certainly been planted for the future.
The battle system in FFXIV expands upon the class changing concept, it is very fun and multiplayer oriented, but it is very similar to the battle system from Final Fantasy XII on the PS2 and the battle system in FFXIV feels very half finished right now. The biggest notable change between XIV and XII is that FFXIV is a multiplayer game that you can play with your friends first and foremost, and FFXII is a single player RPG. Most enemies in FFXIV are defeated easily using a combination of different characters with different classes; heavily encouraging the class changing and multiplayer gameplay. Whereas in Final Fantasy XII, you control three characters simultaneously who specialize in one class per character of your choice. A lot of the work that is being done for FFXIV right now is balancing the game’s focus between a single player RPG and a multiplayer MMO. If you pick up FFXIV right now, you’ll find that a lot of the combat is hack’n’slash, but in due time in may evolve into a system involving switching classes quickly in a large party of people as a means of strategically taking down various enemies. The battle system hasn’t achieved the vision it is desperately trying to achieve , but everything seems to be gradually improving.
Final Fantasy XIV has a lot of potential for something much greater. You can see some of the following glimpses of the potential if you pick up the game today: the graphics are stellar for an MMO and the battle system is actually fun. However it isn’t the best time to invest into Final Fantasy XIV right now. Everything in this game feels very shallow and underdeveloped at the moment; from the class system, to the menus, to the outrageously high system requirements, and even the sign up process is a hassle. There are sheer signs that things will improve in the upcoming months, but many of those improvements have not been implemented yet; Final Fantasy XIV feels like an unfinished game. Deep inside FFXIV is a very good game that will appeal greatly toward the old school Final Fantasy fan in terms of art, gameplay, and story. This is not a game that is worth paying fifteen dollars a month at this point, but give this game some serious time and take a look back in a couple of years, and I don’t think you will be disappointed.