Final Fantasy XIV Review

Massively multiplayer online roleplaying games are often compared to spreadsheets with pretty graphics.

Well, Final Fantasy XIV is the most attractive version of Microsoft Excel as a game I’ve ever seen. The problem is, it’s also one of the most complex and obtuse experiences in existence next to actually managing a real spreadsheet.

Final Fantasy XIV is not a typical modern online RPG. From a complicated account creation system, to a game that doesn’t bother to teach new players how it works – there are lots of obstacles in your way if you’re not determined to overlook most modern MMO conventions.

The trouble starts at the beginning. Even creating an account is an arcane process involving optional add-ons and fees. Players signing up for access to the game can buy multiple character slots, which is a nice ala cart concept except for one thing: the basic $10 fee doesn’t even get you a character slot. It merely grants access to the game and allows you to log on. You have to buy any and all character slots for $3 a pop.

This choice of splitting up access and character slots is illogical. If you have to rent a slot to even play the game, why is the basic access $10 plus $3 a month and not $13? Why not bundle the first slot and offer add-on options normally?


Final Fantasy XIV (PS3 [Reviewed], PC)
Developer: Square-Enix
Publisher: Square-Enix
Release Date: August 10, 2010
MSRP: $59.99

Account complexity aside, Final Fantasy XIV is a gorgeous game. The visuals are truly impressive, and with the right video hardware it’s hard to imagine ever playing hours and hours of older games with lower visual refinement, like WoW. Players can create characters from five visually distinct races and three starting zones, each with a cinematic story to tell. Unlike most MMORPGs, Final Fantasy tells a story and it involves the player from the beginning.

After introducing the storyline and the area the player chooses along with some key supporting cast, the game falls apart as a new experience. Most games recognize that new players will not know how the systems work, and good designers work in the introduction in a fluid way. Final Fantasy XIV, however, is an abusive host. Instead of easing players into the game world and teaching them the core skills needed to succeed, it simply leaves you standing there wondering what the hell to do next and then smacks you if you make the wrong choice.

Early levels and opponents are cruel lessons in frustration. Monsters, like forest mushrooms and small rodents, can kill a starting character easily. While they are not aggressive, they sure do know how to work together for protection. During my first six hours of play, I died multiple times. Luckily, the death penalty is forgiving.

Another frustration is the game’s quest system itself. Instead of wandering the world encountering creatures and picking up missions, the game works from an instanced challenge system. Players accept jobs and then usually have a fixed time to complete them. Logging out during a quest is grounds for automatic failure, too, so the game is not very friendly to real-life intruding on your gameplay.

Along with not grasping systems intuitively, I found that even the level up process was inscrutable. Until I began buying more gear from completing small hunt and kill quests, I was left with no special abilities other than “swing light axe.” It took research for me to discover how the skill system worked since there is no tutorial on this aspect, either.

Final Fantasy XIV is a game that allows players to quickly switch between classes, and one where races are merely a cosmetic affectation. You don’t need multiple characters to experience different forms of gameplay. Simply change your gear, and surprise! You’re now a magic user, or gladiator. Gear and character level combine to grant class abilities. Attaining class levels unlocks skills, in concert with the character gaining physical statistics which are not tied to class.

This is actually an interesting approach that offers a lot of tactical flexibility to players. Respecting your toon is pretty simple, and done on the fly using the game’s macro language. There is some reward for exploring the various roles and spending time learning each skill system and play style, but it often feels like Final Fantasy XIV punishes players who prefer a certain style of play, at least in the first few hours.

There are a number of technical glitches that prevent immersion. When entering new populated hubs I found that it often took noticeable time for key NPCs or other players to even register in the environment. Seconds would pass before the crowd would suddenly pop into being around me.

The game has a very console-centric menu system. Text is oddly broken up within dialog boxes and the game interface lacks many of the refinements other MMOs introduced to streamline or enhance gameplay. Final Fantasy XIV does not “feel” like a PC MMO.

This Final Fantasy MMO is not going to find itself challenging World of Warcraft anytime soon, as its core features just don’t “pop” and it fails at the one thing it must do to survive – teach new players how to play.

There are some commonalities here between Final Fantasy XIV and XI, Square’s last MMO. Players familiar with the previous game might feel at home. Only new players up for a challenge or willing to learn the game’s complex systems through trial and error should even consider signing on at this point.

I didn’t expect Final Fantasy XIV to be just another WoW clone, but maybe it would be better if it was more like the industry leader – there is a lot to admire about a game that can attract millions of active players. MMO’s evolve over time and often have rough launches. Final Fantasy XIV is not a bad game at its core, but as a new player option right at lanch there is a lot of need for adjustments and improvements.

Pros:

  • Visually stunning
  • Class system favors quick changes and multiple gameplay styles

Cons:

  • Does not teach you how to play
  • Spawn Lag for NPCs and other players
  • Timed quest system

Verdict: 55/100

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15 Comments on Final Fantasy XIV Review

LightAce

On September 28, 2010 at 11:16 am

Honestly, I kinda saw this coming. It doesn’t look nearly as revolutionary as Guild Wars 2

Shawn Sines

On September 28, 2010 at 11:49 am

To be fair, it does some new things, but it’s not very new player friendly.

Daj

On September 29, 2010 at 7:43 am

Part of the issue I think is most people who got the preorder like myself have been waiting for two years and researching every scrap of information they could. It does have tutorials for doing things and learning the system, most I found is done in the story line if you choose to follow it right off the bat. There are also tutorials at the aetheryte and guildleve npc’s. Though they didn’t make it easy it also just came out. No one can compare a week old mmorpg to any other, even runescape. They all took time to fix little problems and ffxiv will be perfect IMO once the little annoyances are fixed.

Thanks for writing the only fair review I’ve seen so far.
Daniel

psycros

On September 29, 2010 at 12:54 pm

And by “fair” Daj means “extremely forgiving”. FFXIV is an epic fail by any measure. For god’s sake do not waste your money on this steaming pile.

Alex

On September 29, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Been playing this game for only 4 days and every time a try to enjoy the game it does something to kick me in the nuts. The crafting system is a monstrosity that should have been left in the dark recesses of Square Enix’s basement than implemented into a game. Just to craft a single hood, I had to craft yarn, then craft 9 pieces of cloth from the yarn to make 3 components to the item, and then I needed even more items. And if I failed even once, I would have been screwed given the lack of ability to make any significant amount of money outside of crafting!
Then there is the storyline quests. I got to this one quest where I had to fight a gladiator in the Ul’dah arena. So I fight the guy for about 30 seconds, get him to 0 life, and he doesn’t die! They literally made a situation where you fight a guy and you are destined to lose by design, no matter if you can kill the guy or not. I must have used enough firepower to kill him 2-3 times over before the time limit.
Also, the economy in this game is horrifyingly bad. There is little to no communication, things cost far more than any starting player will know how to make, and finding people to repair your stuff is completely up to chance. Combine on top of that the crafting system described above and its a total mess. I’ve consigned to strip my character naked and have her fish for a while to see if I can’t make end’s meet selling the fish that I catch, but I bet that won’t work well either.
I could keep going on about all the things that this game does wrong, but it certainly wasn’t worth $80. Heck, it isn’t worth the $40 that the regular edition costs. I can’t recommend this game to anyone who is sane…

Alex

On September 29, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Just to clarify, the “horrifyingly bad economy” has no Auction House, relies on a localized bazaar system (aka, players hire NPCs to set up stalls to sell stuff to players), is completely dependent upon the players’ abilities to craft goods (which is not very good considering the crafting system I described above), and repairs are handled by players rather than NPCs (well, there are the NPCs that charge exorbitant fees to bring items back up to 80%). Actually, its kind of hard to gauge the worth of the ingame currency at the moment given that there is no basis to judge the value of goods. Of course, that is because its an 80% player run economy, so its up to the players (and the pacing of the system) to eventually create a stable economy. When and if that will ever happen without Square’s intervention is yet to be seen, however.

jeklor

On September 30, 2010 at 1:03 am

Having played FFXI for about 3 years, I can honestly say I was eagerly anticipating this game. However, I was very worried right off the bat when I first saw the races when the early info was released. I sat in disbelief and disappointment looking at the same old races from FFXI, just with new names. “How damn lazy are these designers, anyway?” I said to myself. I tried to reserve judgment, but then as more and more information was released, my heart sank. No new races, same era, same settings, just bigger. “Why not a FF Online set in the FFVII universe, or something similar? Kind of a JP steampunk FF with old-future technology” I thought. Alas, it was not to be. The final nail in the coffin was when a friend of mine got into the beta. We were huge fans of FFXI, and we often played together and had a blast. Well, the reports I received from him were of a game that was anything but fun. That pretty much killed all hope I had left for thie one. Truly a shame. I honestly hope SE will learn from this, listen to the beta testers next time (instead of overthinking everything – are they THAT terrified of making a WoW clone?) and make a game its fans want to play.

Demethir

On October 1, 2010 at 9:30 am

It sounds like they were trying to extend the MMO genre beyond WoW, and I don’t blame them. There are hundreds of thousands of gamers looking for exactly that, although most of that demographic are older, less vocal, and more patient with new and challenging mechanics. I have yet to finish the patch myself, but I look forward to a different experience. The cookie-cutter MMO has become unbelievably bland, and I commend SE for at least trying to do something about it.

JiminNH

On October 1, 2010 at 11:26 am

Quote from a friend. Controls are a pain, instructions suck, and so far the intro tutorial is pretty much non-existent, but it looks pretty.

That pretty much sums it up. The first patch took hours to download, apparently, from a source at Square-Enix, because the servers are in Japan and there are known connectivity issues.

I have played MMO’s for years, but never has one frustrated and annoyed me as much as this one. I have tried everything to try to get my money back, but Square-Enix says if you used the code you own the game.

I found this game to fail on so many levels. Character movement, instructions, tutorial, help, basic game control, ie how you use inventory etc.

On a related topic:
Why is it legal for a software companies to tell you you can not return software after you have tried to play it. The only industries that get away with this type of strong are mentality is the entertainment industry. Something to think about.

Luther

On October 4, 2010 at 7:00 pm

The game is even more fun then I was expecting, the controls are the exact same as ffxi, probably cause its more designed for a controller, the game plays fantastic with a controller altho i did play xi with a keybored for over 2 years.

Not enough story in the game or quests, Levequests are boring but iv only done them solo.

Eagerly waiting for more content.

Rumor is Auction house is coming soon.

Luminol

On October 5, 2010 at 7:47 pm

55….??? you are too generous

vx

On October 10, 2010 at 2:18 pm

55/100? wow too much this is max 40/100 i would given it around 30 actually the game is an epic fail..GIVE ME BACK MY MONEY

Centers

On June 18, 2011 at 4:56 am

yes the new version is very good. but the past ffxi the best according to me

stonedpimp

On October 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm

dont listen to above poster hes a idiot fanboy this game is as broke as it was the day it released.

this game is ran by retards and need to crash and burn.

like poster above i want a refund.

FFMANIAC

On February 13, 2012 at 11:43 pm

The game is worth playing for those who enjoy long term game play, this game requiring extremely intense patient and (frustration) managing.
Quick comment base on overall experience so far is: If I spent 40 hours playing this game, I already used up 30 hours just to WALKING around to get to the quests’ destination. So, if you are an action type of player and do not like a slow pace of enjoyment, then Final Fantasy XIV is definitely NOT RECOMMENDED for you.
Graphic: indescribable **** (even AION have no match comparing to FFXIV)
Game play: NOT friendly to new players at all **
Combat System: Clumsiness **
Interaction: Very diverse ****
Overall: Again, not for fast pace gamers ***
Above are just my own opinion based on my personal experience after playing FFXIV for a while.