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I've only reached 16 on my highest class so far, so this review is just about the new player experience. My first MMO was DAOC, and I've played a few other MMO's since then. My playstyle is relaxed, maybe 10 hours a week. I like to vary my activities, instead of trying to max out my level in one thing. Focus on:
I started playing in late beta, early access, and now in regular time. When FF14 released, I created a new character, a THM. I decided early on not to just collect and do all the quests, so at first just did the main quest. A few side quests, and some farming, along with some Fates, and he was level 10.
Then I decided to run to the other city to change to a CNJ. The world is fairly small, and being an ex-Ryzom player, I had no trouble at all just running from Ul'dah to Grid. So then level'd the CNJ to 16, and decided he would be my main class. I really like the multi-classing aspect of FF14. I also picked up most of the crafting and gathering classes.
Summary -- 8.0
Based on my criterion, FF14 rates high. It is going to take me quite a while to max out several classes, along with several more gathering/crafting classes. The world is a bit small, but is full of interesting things to do, and although exploration is limited, there is some. I like the combat, and the story/quests are keeping me interested.
Virtual World/Alive World -- 8.0
I enjoy being in the FF14 world. The graphics are nice, and the world seems alive. Trees wave in the wind, water looks good, birds are twittering. But you never see the birds. There are no seasonal changes (that I've seen). And the world is a bit constricting; there are invisible walls everywhere, and lots of tunnels and mountain-induced paths, restricting free movement. Nevertheless, it is nice to be there, so I give it a high rating.
There are lots of different things to do: gather resources, pursue a quest task, participate in a Fate, farm the local mobs. The FF14 world gives me just enough to feel like I'm in a open world.
Combat -- 8.0
I actually enjoy this slower-paced combat, instead of the hyped-up twitch combat. The "fire-works" effect is good (fireworks overload the brain with graphic stimulus, and we really like that ). As a lower level player, I know that what is available now is not a really good indicator of the higher levels. I'm giving it a high rating.
City of Heroes had a nice combat trade-off, where you could fire off a 1-sec timer attack, with lower dmg, or a 2.x-timer attack that did more damage. FF14 would benefit from something like this. Although not twitch combat, it would remove the slow feeling that some people get from this combat style.
Story/Quests -- 9.0
The story lines are fun; I find myself wanting to slow down, read the whole thing, and think about it. The text is full of humor, and intrigue, and is obviously written by good writers. I actually can get emotionally interested in the story. The storyline gets a very high rating.
If you just gathered all the quests at each area, and did them all, it would be a boring game. And counter-productive. Save at least half of the quests (not counting main quest line) for another class. That's my advice.
Gathering/Crafting/Mini-Games -- 8.0
None of my gathering or crafting levels are above 8, so this review is preliminary.
It's been fun to go gathering and exploring for new gathering spots. Crafting things is also at least a step above just hitting the "make" button. In DAOC, for example, you just got the ingredients and hit the "make" button, and waited. I'm interested to see how much more complex it gets in FF14. Ryzom crafting is by far the best, and I don't expect this game to get anywhere close to that. Still, it gets a high rating.
Community -- 7.0
So far, the community has been fair. I'm on a NA server, and the gold spammers are a real nuisance; but once you blacklist them, chat is actually pretty good. People seem decent in groups, although there is a bit of heavy-handed treatment of healers (and tanks I've heard). I've turned down several requests to join a guild, or FC, because they didn't send me a tell first. I need to know who I am joining. Community gets a good rating, but not high.
PvP/Raiding -- N/a
Not applicable; I'm not at that level yet. This is just a new player's review.
RIP City of Heroes. One of my favorite MMO's.