Is Final Fantasy XIV Really That Bad?
Neil Kewn (Murxidon) – OnRPG Journalist
Following its release last September, Square Enix’s latest entry into the famed Final Fantasy series was met with a decidedly negative response. Now in its fourteenth iteration, a game with Final Fantasy sprawled across the cover is usually indicative of a genre-defining role-playing experience. The series is home to titles that many consider to be the greatest of all time, but recently the response to Square Enix’s flagship role-playing game hasn’t been what the series has come to expect. The long-awaited Final Fantasy XIII was criticized for being too linear and boring, and the announcement of a second MMORPG bearing the twenty year old credentials didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Rightly so, many would assume after looking at early reviews, but is Final Fantasy XIV really that bad?
If first impressions are anything to go by, then yes – Final Fantasy XIV really is that poor. Everything in this game is a struggle. Its registration process is so convoluted that players deserve an extra month of game time just for getting online. You have to look deeper to find any redeeming factor in this game, and unfortunately for Square Enix, it’s going to take a lot more than the removal of subscription fees and the promise of change to keep players interested.
One thing is clear. FFXIV is not finished, not by a long shot. There are fundamental features omitted that even the most casual MMO player would overlook in other titles. There is no mail system, no dungeons and no raids. The grouping system is practically useless and mounts don’t feature – not even Chocobos. For some reason Final Fantasy XIV was rushed to release, and the damning response from both critics and players could forever prevent the game from growing. It’s a shame, as FFXIV is filled with great and interesting ideas that for one reason or another didn’t work out.
The game takes place in Eorzea. A large, beautiful world filled with rolling fields and jaw-dropping vistas. The graphical prowess of Final Fantasy XIV is staggering, easily making the game a likely contender for a Best Looking MMO award at some video games ceremony. It is a truly gorgeous title – but saved only for those with the best systems. If your system isn’t fairly recent then expect to crank down the settings a fair bit. Optimization is one of the many things omitted from FFXIV. The game looks dire on any settings lower than high, and even systems that meet the recommended system requirements will not be immune to the sluggish performance and random frame rate drops that littered the game’s relatively short beta.
Unlike most other MMOs, you aren’t restricted to any specific role or class in Eorzea. Your class is determined by whatever you hold in your main hand. Fancy becoming a Carpenter? Pick up a saw. Want to fight as a Marauder? Equip an axe. There are eighteen classes available and all can be interchanged on the fly. Whilst each individual class has its own level, players also have a Physical Level used to represent overall progress. It’s an intriguing concept that should work better than it actually does. The system is plagued with balancing issues and the game ultimately fails to provide enough actual content for each individual skill.
Final Fantasy is famous for having great storytelling and XIV attempts to push players through its own narrative. Unfortunately it is so disengaged from the rest of the game that it’s almost impossible to care. Silent cutscenes read like a novel, and the odd story quest every few levels isn’t a suitable reward for the hours of grind required to reach it. Levequests make up a large portion of the game – and like so many other features, it is a novel idea hampered by poor execution.
Guildleves are quests and tasks that players can undertake at their leisure. Available from vendors at each of the major cities, levequests offer experience and rewards and can be completed solo or as part of a group. Each task points to a certain area or camp on the map, and players must travel to said location and activate their quest using the Aetheryte crystal positioned there. Quests range from simple kill and collect missions, to crafting assignments and gathering duties. No matter what the difficulty level chosen, levequests aren’t particularly challenging or indeed interesting and their implementation lacks reasoning. Why couldn’t they have had NPCs hand out quests, instead of forcing players to travel back to cities to collect their next quest card?
Whilst teleporting is available it is only to places where you have previously visited. Actually getting around Eorzea is a slow and painful process. The world may be awe-inspiring to gaze at, but the vast lands are disappointingly barren. Invisible walls block your path at every turn, and both jumping and swimming have been omitted. The interface itself is functional, nowhere near as bad as some make out, but it’s still a chore to do the most trivial of things. Its responsiveness may have improved since launch but there is still much room for improvement.
Crafting requires player participation to be done effectively. Instead of harvesting the world and all its fruits with one click, minigames are used to add depth and an increased element of chance to material gathering and forging. There are many crafting roles available, from gathering herbs and chopping trees to smelting ore and weaving cloth. The manufacturing process employs a system where players must decide how they want to craft an item, at the expense of durability or quality, making for a particularly rewarding (or punishing) diversion from questing.
Square Enix didn’t want to put another cookie cutter MMO out there. Their intentions are clear, even commendable, but the end product falls flat in almost every area. Instead of a game with a unique, diverse levelling system and deep crafting mechanics, Final Fantasy XIV is an unbalanced, unfinished and unentertaining MMORPG that lacks flow. The game is littered with interesting and novel ideas, but their execution is half hearted at best. Changes have been promised, but it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work to make XIV a title worthy of bearing the Final Fantasy name.
Beautiful, sprawling world is awe-inspiring
Interesting crafting system
Novel approach to levelling
Travelling is a drag
Interface is slow and cumbersome
Very little actual content