Final Fantasy XIV Review

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Square’s long-awaited sequel to Final Fantasy XI is finally out, but should you spend your time and money playing it? The answer to that question will really depend on how much of a blind lemming you are to the Final Fantasy games. I say blind lemming as that is the only way anyone really could choose to play Final Fantasy XIV over the multitude of actual working MMORPGs on the market. Square has released a nearly unplayable game that’s in-excusable even when compared to other MMORPG launches. Star Wars Galaxies was better at launch than FFXIV is.

First off, the game is a lot less punishing than Final Fantasy XI is. On one hand you really don’t have to worry about losing a level anymore when you die, but on the other repair costs for your gear (once you get out of the newbie starting stuff) are astronomical. It’s also easier to level with most quests offering difficulty levels ranging from solo to large parties. But the unfortunate thing is that due to the 36-hour cooldown on quests, once you finish the limited number offered at each location; you can be stuck grinding for a while. However with the game’s fatigue system, which completely disables your experience gain after a set amount of time, that limits your grinding. Once you hit the wall with the fatigue system, you need to switch to another job (even if you don’t like the job) to continue leveling up.

Gone are the static jobs of FFXI. Instead of going to your Moogle house (which is also gone in FFXIV), you simply equip the weapon/item tied to that job to switch to it. Want to be a Gladiator? Equip a sword. A miner? A pickaxe. And there are apparently hidden sub-jobs as equipping a shield will give you one. But the problem with this system is the horrible interface. When you switch a job, your ability hotkeys do not save. That means you have to manually reassign all your abilities every time you switch a job. That wouldn’t be a problem if there wasn’t such horrible interface lag. It can take anywhere from ten to thirty seconds for your input to be registered in almost anything you do within the interface. Add to that the fact that the interface really hasn’t changed much from FFXI and you have a recipe for frustration.

FFXI had great travel options. From Chocobos to Airships, it was cool to get around in the game. Not so in FFXIV. While you’ll see Chocobo stables, you can’t ride them. There are no Airships either. Thankfully, it’s much easier to walk between the three big city states in XIV but that still doesn’t excuse the lack of travel options.

One of the most frustrating things is the economy. FFXI had an auction house and players could also sell items on their character. There’s no auction house in FFXIV so buying things from other players is reduced to wandering around and randomly looking through other player’s shops in the hopes of finding what you’re looking for. As there’s no way to tell what people are selling, this is another frustration in the game. Square says there are improvements coming to the market system, but no auction house is on the way despite demand for one.

Combat is one area where the game has improved for the better over FFXI. Despite the interface similarities, combat is less menu-driven than in FFXI with a hotkey bar that should be familiar to any MMO player. However, the interface lag does raise its head again in combat as you can input commands and not see the results for a few seconds. This could be understandable in towns when you aren’t fighting, but in combat it’s absolutely something that needs to be fixed.

Crafting works similarly to FFXI, but the class interdependency goes way too far. To craft (or synthesize) something you usually need harvested items, usually something from one or two other crafting classes, and items from combat drops. Requiring crafting classes to work together can be a good thing, but not so when it adds so many levels of complexity that it can nearly cripple crafting and the economy. One of the reasons the game’s economy is non-existent is because crafters simply cannot find what they need to synthesize items due to the lack of an auction house and the difficulty finding items for sale.

Graphically the game is gorgeous. Even on the minimum system requirements, the game is completely playable; if you can put up with a low framerate. But with a slow paced MMO like this, you really don’t need it running at an eye-blistering framerate. Texture detail is excellent, and the character models are fantastic. The music is also a marked improvement over FFXI and long time FF fans will smile when they hear a new version of the famous theme music playing at the character select screen.

Unfortunately the stability issues the game had in beta are still unresolved. The client would be considered unstable in an Alpha test of any other MMO. It crashes all the time and with the game taking so long to get from login to the gameworld, it’s extremely frustrating just to get from point A to point B due to the random crashes the game is still suffering from.

Is Final Fantasy XIV worth your money? Well if you’re a die hard Final Fantasy fan you’ve probably already bought it and only reading this as ammo for your apologist defense of the game on your favorite gaming forum. For normal MMO fans I’d say stick with your current game for the time being. FFXIV may improve in time for the PlayStation 3 release, but right now it’s a painfully unfinished game. It does fix many complaints people had with FFXI, but it brings to the table a whole selection of new problems.

Pros

  • More forgiving than Final Fantasy XI.
  • Great graphics and music.

Cons

  • Steep system requirements.
  • Extremely unstable client.
  • Possibly the worst MMO interface ever.
  • Interface lag creates a frustrating play experience.
  • Non-existent economy and nothing to foster economic growth.
  • Travel options (Chocobo, Airship) from FFXI are missing.
  • Experience system favors casual players and penalizes other paying customers.
  • Overall feels very unfinished.

Final Score: 2 1/2 out of 5