Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn [Download]

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn [Download]




=== Revised for 2.1 patch ===

Updated to 5/5 stars from 4/5 after 2.1 patch on December 17th. Original review mostly in place, slightly revised with additional notes at bottom:

FFXIV:ARR is certainly a ton better than the original FFXIV 1.0. The game itself is fun, and added a lot of elements that make it enjoyable. For example, using the dungeon finder to continue on in the game's storyline. If only FFXI had that during the CoP days... It basically will find you a Tank, Healer, and 2 DPS automatically so that you can progress in the story.

One thing I would like to make mention that is really impressive is how they do the classes. You can level all of the jobs on a single character, and change them just by changing weapons, but the interesting spin on it is that your main job doesn't get some abilities until you've leveled the other classes. (You only get a few 'additional traits' at first, and it increases every 5 levels.)

For example, if you level a guardian, you'll only get a handful of abilities specifically for guardian. Change your weapon and level Conjurer to level 2 and your Guardian will now be able to "equip" the Cure spell (if you want.) Level it to level 8 and you can "equip" the Protect spell. You can mix and match any number of classes "additional abilities" so long as Guardian main can use it. So I could mix 2 Conjurer spells, a Marauder spell, and a spell from Archer if I wanted.

Once you get to level 30, you can even further specialize into advanced jobs such as Paladin (30 Glad/15 Conjurer) to enable a different set of abilities. By specializing into a job, you get less "additional abilities" slots, however, you gain job specific abilities to make up for it. Jobs are limited to cross-classing with specific classes. For example, Paladin only has access to Marauder and Conjurer spells, whereas Gladiator can equip from all classes. Also for this example, Paladin will gain useful abilities (such as auto attack damage up, or a "reduce damage taken" ability) that Gladiator can't use. (Nov 30th update: This actually isn't nearly as impressive as I originally thought, as once you reach level 30, you'll almost always be stuck on your advanced jobs as the stat bonuses outweigh the additional cross class abilities even while solo. One example is that WAR does more damage than MRD because of access to more base stats + Relic weapon / AF2 stats. So basically you'll have access to two different jobs of cross class abilities, and they may or may not be useful abilities. Definitely not as customizable as I originally thought and leans more toward cookie-cutter builds.)

The battle components to the game are indeed a bit slow at first. However, it does pick up a bit when you do your first dungeon w/ a group. I will also say that the 3 second global cool down seems a bit excessive initially, but as you get more abilities to juggle, the overall battle sequences grow on you and are quite enjoyable.

Quests are plentiful for your first class, and you can squeeze out a little bit of quests for your 2nd, but soon you will run into a quest bottle neck, in that you'll have to resort to doing the levequests, FATEs, and guildleves / dungeon finder to level up. The quests are not very in-depth, and a lot of them are: Start quest, pick this up, deliver this, etc. It is a lot of running around but it's not bad, as there are multiple ways to get around. All characters have the ability to Teleport (for a gil cost) to areas in which you have touched the main Aethernet points. There are no flying mounts in the game, for those that are wondering, and all of the mounts travel at the same speed. They did add some Daily Quests as of 2.1, but they do not resolve the quest bottle neck that you'll run into for a 2nd job.

One thing that will be pleasing people who have came from FFXI is that the game doesn't really focus around gil (except for crafting and buying food) which is pretty common for modern MMOs. Another nice thing is that so far I haven't seen any "grinding" of mobs while doing the quests looking for a specific drop. If it says to go farm four bat wings from bats, it only takes 4 bats to get all the drops. Also, there is some threshold that people can assist even if they are not in your party (in addition you can help others and get credit.) There is a threshold though, as you can't just barely tag a monster and get XP or a drop, but you have to do a pretty decent amount of activity to a mob.

The FATE system is similar to the world events from Rift. They usually involve a group of monsters being killed, escorting an NPC, or killing a single boss or Notorious Monster. The FATE system is rewarding, giving a very good amount of EXP, and a potential way to level up is through a "FATE party." These are parties in which people will contribute to the FATE's success as a group as opposed to solo. However, after the 2.1 update, dungeons are now an alternative way to level up experience wise including daily one-time bonuses from the daily duty roulette feature. The hunting log is also very rewarding, giving you EXP for killing certain types of monsters (not many, usually 2-4). There is also different "tiers" of the hunting log that you unlock by doing the previous log. It's a fun addition, and it is probably the quickest way to level from 1-15 until you unlock dungeons for 2nd classes/jobs.

The environment in the game is appealing and pleasing to the eye, as it was in 1.0. The difference is now the game play has actually caught up to the aesthetics. I believe the producers said that the challenges are supposed to be geared towards end game, and that leveling up was designed to be relatively easy as you're expected to level multiple classes. You don't really have to worry about aggro from monsters, as all classes have a "sprint" ability, and monsters lose interest very quickly. Monsters losing interest and returning to their starting position is actually a nuisance for kiting jobs, (Archer, Conj, etc) as if you step too far away from it, it'll just go back to where you pulled it.

Playing with a group is also fun here. As you get more abilities you have to strategically choose which ability to use as they are all affected by the 3 second cool down. There is a built in threat/hate meter to let you (as a tank or a melee) see if you're about to lose or pull aggro on a specific monster (it shows your hate on all monsters that you have some amount of enmity on).

I was definitely worried about the game being difficult to differentiate between skilled players and unskilled players, but the higher I go, the less I worry about that. Overall, the game is very polished and pretty addicting. I would definitely recommend it for the price.

=== Update 9/4 ===

As of November, I have not had any log in issues for several months. Occasionally a small queue when logging in, but it's always less than a minute to get back on the server. A non-issue for me nowadays.

===Update 12/17===

Couple of things to add now that a few months have passed:

Originally, I had a problem in that using the Duty Finder forces you to always have two tanks, two healers, and four DPS for the 8-man dungeons and you are unable to change classes once you are in the Duty. This presented a problem for party optimization, for example in Titan hard mode having two tanks is detrimental (as opposed to just not being optimized) and parties would be better suited with an extra healer or DPS. The game advertises flexibility by "just changing your weapon to switch jobs" but in reality, this does not happen 'when you need it.' You also cannot queue as multiple jobs. This is actually something that World of Warcraft has done well, in that you can change specs and still be in the same "role." Not the case with FFXIV. However, after the 2.1 update in December, they introduced an alternative way to build parties outside of the duty finder that can be accessed from any part of the world. Update: The Party Finder feature does in fact solve a lot of issues with regarding party make up for specific fights. It is a highly used function that is used to recruit members based on similar goals. No shouting for a group is required, just look at recruiting parties, or start your own and wait for members to join. Really a fantastic feature.

A lot of the battles that you have to do end game are not in the Duty Finder at all (eg: Hydra, Chimera, Bahamut's Coil); however, you used to have to shout for groups or rely on your Free Company, but the Party Finder has mostly addressed this issue. Would still be nice to see them join the Duty Finder system however. (Update 2/21/14: They have added Hydra, and Chimera to the duty finder, with intent on adding Bahamut's Coil 1-5 as well in a future update.)

Previously, I had a problem with the 300/week tombstone system and the multiple job system, however, since the 2.1 patch, it has been raised to 450/week, in addition to adding more ways to gear out alternate jobs. So it will still take a while to min/max a character, as it should, but ultimately they have added a bridge between initial end game, and final best in slot gear. Since the 2.1 patch, I can say that end game is turning out to be very satisfying.

One problem that remains, is that you can only complete coil turns once per week before getting locked out of the dungeon which prevents you from helping others out. Once a week is fine, but if I am free to do the dungeon on Monday with a pick up group, I should not be excluded from helping my Free Company out who often goes at a random time through the week (in which I may or may not be able to attend.) In addition, if my Free Company does turns 1-3 that I was unable to attend, but I was able to help out for turns 4 and 5, I am not able to go back and complete (and get potential loot) for the first turns. This creates an environment that can cause tension amongst Free Company members and penalizes "subbing" someone in a turn. In addition, if I want to attempt turn 4 without my Free Company with a pick up group because a lot of the times people aren't available through the week, then (if successful), should my free company want to attempt it in the week (as in enough people are available) then I won't be able to help them. They were able to introduce a "lot once per week" loot system in the Crystal Tower (2.1 update), in which you can run the dungeon as much as you want and still help others. Perhaps this is for the better with the introduction of a bridge between initial end game gear and final end game gear to keep people playing for longer and keep final end game loot more rare for those that put in the effort.

===Quality of life adjustments in 2.1 that resolved previous complaints===

Introduction of Party finder for content outside of Duty Finder.

Bridge between mid-game and end game equipment and content for gearing alternate jobs.

Fate Grinding as main method of leveling up is no longer the case with dungeon experience points being buffed. It is now simply an alternative way.

Introduction of Duty Roulette, which allows for shorter queue times as you can queue for multiple dungeons and get a significant daily bonuses (4 categories to complete), in addition to adding additional ways to obtain Tombstones for end game equipment.

Adjustment of mythology tombstones from 300->450 effectively lowers gearing out a job from 5.5 months to 3.5 months using tombstones only (very important considering the multiple class system.) In addition to the alternate (slightly lower level gear) makes getting an "effective" job up to speed much faster.

Additional Duties makes finding things to do less of an issue including Extreme versions of Primals fights, and the first 24 man dungeon.

PvP has been added, and it is okay. It is only a single instance of one small area for now, but being in it's infancy it is already running into the problem of characters being geared in PvP gear vs those freshly starting out. The overall mechanics are okay, and it's fun, but it's largely simplistic.

Final Notes:

Due to a lot of my previous complaints being resolved, I am now raising my rating from a previous 4 star review to a 5 star review. This is a solid revamp and now truly worthy of a Final Fantasy name brand.