Welcome to the mind of an imaginative and hot-headed gamer.

Final Decision XIV

This past weekend, I managed to spend some time with Square-Enix’s reworked MMORPG (for the uninitiated, that stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, which is an online game with thousands of players inhabiting a single world and interacting with each other in real-time), Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Now, keep in mind that my MMO experience is limited to my time with DC Universe Online on the PS3, which I played a little bit of when it became a free-to-play title before uninstalling it due to waning interest and Trophies not being properly implemented, so I don’t have a lot of experience to go on as far as comparing FFXIV, as it will henceforth be referred to, to other titles in the genre. However, FFXIV has always piqued my interest simply because I’ve always loved the franchise and I’ve been interested in how it would function as an MMO. I know Final Fantasy XI has been around for years on the Xbox 360, but since I prefer to play on my PS3 due to not requiring annual fees to play online, I simply waited for FFXIV to finally launch on the PS3.

My experience began as a typical one for MMOs: a series of installs and patches. It’s the norm for the genre, so to pass the time, I popped in some Dragon’s Crown on my Vita until the beta finished patching. I was then thrust into a beautifully-animated opening movie, filled with the rich detail and animation we’ve come to expect from Square-Enix over the years.

Next up was character creation. As usual, Square made a great attempt to explain the lore and history behind this title, just like the rest of the franchise. FFXIV takes place in the land of Eorzea, where an attack from a giant dragon (the legendary Bahamut, for those who are veterans of the franchise and know who he is) has laid waste to the land. Five years later, people are still adjusting and picking up the pieces after the tragedy. You are a new inhabitant of Eorzea; an adventurer, if you will. This is where you get to create your hero.

For me, I made a male Miqo’te (think of a human with cat ears, a more flattened nose, and a tail) with a job class of Lancer, also known as a Dragoon. I picked the Miqo’te because of how his tail sort of reminded me of Zidane from Final Fantasy IX, and I picked the Lancer because the job features high offensive capabilities and also sports some really sweet armor. Lancers wield a large spear/javelin and are capable of launching themselves high into the air in order to strike from above.

Once I finished with my character, my first problem began. I had to select my “world”, or server, in other words. This would be the permanent home of my adventurer. However, every time I selected a North American or European server, it would say the world was full. I didn’t want to jump into a Japanese server simply because my connection would be terrible, but there I was, selecting different servers from my territory and still getting the same message. I finally managed to get one to work, or so I thought. Instead, I had a wheel spinning in the corner of the screen for about 20-25 minutes. I finally decided enough was enough and I restarted the game. Luckily, my character’s appearance was saved, so I only had to select his background info and job again, which took almost no time at all. After that, the first server I selected somehow worked. I was queued into the Adamantoise server. Finally, my journey was set to begin.

It does irk me a bit how irritating it was just to get onto a server, but a couple things need to be taken into account here before jumping to the “This game’s broken!” conclusion. First of all, it was a beta. The purpose of betas are to test out the servers as well as garner feedback from players about any issues they’re having so that they can be addressed. Things like this are bound to happen. The other thing is that, apparently, a lot of people jumped into this beta, so much so that they had to locked character creation on every western server and open three new ones to accommodate everyone, and on top of that, the entire game was hit with a critical error on Monday morning, which caused all western servers to be taken offline for a period of time for maintenance. I don’t think Square anticipated this many people, but they should take this as a good sign. A high amount of interest could mean more sales in the future, but it’s sad that some people will simply avoid it after such an event without realizing that it’s only a beta.

Anyways, I began my adventure wandering around Gridania, the first town I came upon in my adventure. It’s essentially where I stayed the entire beta. I did some story missions, a slew of side quests, which basically comprised of hunting certain monsters, doing menial tasks like cleaning and delivering items and messages to other people, and I did some battling, of course. The battle system seems pretty typical for MMOs, with queued attacks and hotkeyed skills, although standard attacks can be set to automatic. I did find that using normal attacks is pretty much useless considering you have so many points to use skills. I would just spam skills to kill enemies more quickly.

My favorite part of wandering outside of town is that random events, called FATEs, will pop up in your vicinity. These tasks deal with defeating a hoarde of enemies or one giant enemy within a short amount of time. One in particular spawned a large imp, where I and about two dozen players surrounded it and starting obliterating it. It was this moment where I felt a large smile stretch across my face. Banding together with a bunch of people for an epic battle was simply an awesome experience and really showed me the magic of MMOs. It also didn’t hurt that I received a top-ranking metal and reward for my contributions.

This is where I stand right now. Did I enjoy my time with Final Fantasy XIV? Absolutely. Once I started taking requests from NPCs and hacked away at boatloads of monsters, the experience really grew on me, and if the title has a lot of content, I could see it being worth the $12.99 per month to play it. The issues I have, though, are what makes me hesitant. Beyond the server selection issues, I had problems connecting to a world I already inhabited. The game would tell me it was full and then fail to queue me so that I could wait for someone to log out. Restarting the game fixed the issue, but it was a minor annoyance. I also need to find friends to play with, as the game can be a lonely experience when adventuring by myself. Lastly, there’s the possibility of launch issues, which are bound to happen. This was only a beta, but once money enters the equation, server issues and shutdowns start to become more aggravating. It makes me ponder whether I should wait a couple of weeks for any issues to iron themselves oit.

If I were to pre-order now, I can get early access and Amazon will give me a $10 credit for a future purchase on their site, which definitely sweetens the pot. What if I run into issues, though? What if I don’t play it enough? Are there going to be any friends to play with? These are all things I’m going to need to take into consideration before I take the plunge. For now, I’m leaning towards going for it. I enjoyed my brief time in Eorzea, and I’m itching to jump back in.

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