Final Fantasy XIV E3 2010 Hands-On Impressions

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Final Fantasy XIV was first announced at least year’s E3, before Final Fantasy XIII had even come out. It was kind of a shock, but a joyful one for FF fans. The game was announced as a PC/PS3-exclusive MMO (possible Xbox 360 version?), and the initial trailers were reminiscent of Final Fantasy XI.

Well, at E3 last week we got a chance to try out the PC beta build of Final Fantasy XIV (beta testing will start approximately in July). We created a character, joined a party and killed some a-hole crabs. Impressions, and more pictures of sexy cat chicks, after the jump.

Character Creation:
First we cruised through the character creation system. We started to create a Miqo’te, a cat-like race of attractive hunter/predator females. Yup. The Miqo’te are broken into two clans–the diurnal Seekers of the Sun, and the nocturnal Keepers of the Moon.

There appeared to be 9 different aspects of character customization: race, clan, disciples, jobs, etc. We took a pause at the “customize” screen, where you can alter your character’s face. Here we were pretty impressed. You can choose from a rather extensive list of preset faces, each one highly crafted, and dare we say, very pretty. Yes, the females looked very pretty in Final Fantasy XIV, like completely realized anime chicks with intricate facial features. We actually kind of got lost tweaking our girl’s hair, eyes and so on. There clearly is an impressive amount of fun to be had here making your character very unique.

One other thing to note about character customization in Final Fantasy XIV, is your character will no longer be locked into one class once you choose. Rather, your class is determined by the weapons and items you carry. Also, traditional character-leveling, via Final Fantasy XI-esque grinding, that’s going away, friends. Instead, a new system will replace it that focuses on how you play, and the skills you acquire.

Combat:

Next, we actually exited the character creation section, and entered the actual beta as a fully developed, strong character. She (yes, “she.” No, we didn’t get to pick this time) was a Midlander Gladiator armed to the teeth. We spawned in a purplish, craggy, mountainous region. It looked wonderful, very lush and magical, which you would expect from a Square Enix game. But really, damn.

After wandering around a bit, we formed a party with a fellow demoer. We accepted a group quest, and were actually able to choose the difficulty of the quest before proceeding, which was interesting. We then headed into a cave to slaughter some crabs. Here’s where things got a little messy. There were a few issues. Firstly, once we started running through the cave (which looked beautiful, I might add), we noticed the PC’s performance started to chug a little bit. It didn’t come to a grinding halt or anything, it just felt like steering a big, slow ship.

We got deep within the cave, and came to some luminous, reflecting pools. And there were the crabs. I targeted the crab with my Gladiator chick, and clicked an attack technique. She ran over to the crab, and started swinging, similarly to how I remember Final Fantasy XI. In theory, what happens is you have a stamina gauge, which fills gradually over time. When it’s completely full, it executes the next action you’ve selected in your queue. That is, in theory. In practice, it was kind of confusing and difficult to tell which actions were firing off, and when. The attack animations looked pretty cool, though.

Our crab friend, he became frightened of my strength, so he turned tail and ran (like a bat out of hell) across the cave. I gave chase, but was not gaining on him. I was told that if I sheathed my sword, I could run much faster. I pushed “F” to do this, and much to my dismay, my character came to a complete stop, sheathed her sword, and then finally continued to run. It was quite clumsy and took too long.

So, how did I feel about all this? Excited and interested, but with a couple of reservations. I loved the graphics, the world of Eorzea, the slick character customization, and the new innovations for jobs and character leveling. But the controls and combat definitely need some work. Hopefully the upcoming beta test will help Final Fantasy XIV get a few more coats of polish before it hits later this year.

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