I had always planned on playing Final Fantasy XIV. The problem was the PS3 version of the game never materialized. Once I had a PC that could handle the game, I was always off playing something else, usually Rift. By the time of the start of the 2.0 beta tests, I had convinced myself I wasn’t going to bother with the game, mostly on account of the videos I saw on YouTube of the painfully slow combat and my jaded attitude toward guilds and casual MMORPG players. However, as I am wont to change my mind, after returning to Midgar in Final Fantasy VII on Steam, I thought I could at least give Final Fantasy XIV a try with Beta Phase 4.
I chose marauder as my starting class, and, yes, the combat is painfully slow for me. As there is no ability queue, I found myself watching nothing but the turning of the global cooldown on my hotbars as I was finding it difficult to judge time by the marauder animations and the thrown in auto-attack throwing off my rhythm. This slow, staring-at-hotbars combat is a deal breaker for me. Fortunately, I found lancer, and even gladiator, more playable, with casters even having an ability queue. I fail to see why it’s so difficult to eliminate the GCD, eliminate auto-attack, and make combat in MMORPGs flow and look sweet. It turns out 1.0 was sans auto-attack, and for all the criticism that version of the game got, that was a move in the right direction. The plus side of combat is the music is sweet, and I have over twenty years of pleasant memories tied into variations on the Final Fantasy battle theme.
The gear in Final Fantasy XIV isn’t fugly the way it is in Rift and SWTOR, but with the oven mitts, eye patches, and odd colors, I can’t say I particularly like it. However, the gear does have a certain charm to it. It is Final Fantasy in design the way SWTOR gear wasn’t Star Wars in design. Also, it’s pretty cool Square Enix went ahead and made all the gear unisex, even if the designs aren’t considered unisex in our world.
What Final Fantasy XIV has going for me, though, is that like TERA and unlike Rift and SWTOR, I actually feel like I’m in a living, breathing world. Walking through Limsa Lominsa and out into the countryside gives me the feeling this world is alive, that things are happening in the lives of the NPCs, while in Rift and SWTOR I always feel as if I’m just moving through gamespace where there are quests to run and mobs to kill. Rift is the superior game, but Final Fantasy XIV has the superior world, and the immersion that grants me is enough to keep me going and seeing if the combat improves for me.
My progress was cut short during the final beta weekend because I managed to contract the Another World bug. However, that might have saved the game for me, as it caused me to roll new characters to check out other classes, which I found I liked far better than marauder and arcanist, and to see the opening cutscenes for the other two cities, which I liked better as well.
Early Access is now less than twelve hours away, and I’m pretty excited to get moving on my character and heading off to Gridania and Ul’dah to start leveling lancer and gladiator. I can be found on Excalibur as Xylene Cablepunk.