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I've been playing FFXIV for a while now and with the upcoming release of the xpac, Heavensward, I thought now would be a good time to collect my thoughts on it for anyone interested in playing it.
Jobs (The Final Fantasy equivalent to Classes):
FFXIV has a pretty standard build in terms of its class structure, you have the typical holy trinity setup, but unlike other games you can be any and every class, all you need to do is change your weapon and you can go from tanking to spanking in a second. Also, unlike other games, you wont find all the necessary abilities for your class in that Job alone, instead, you'll need to level multiple Jobs in order to make one viable. For instance: Jobs like Summoner and Black Mage lack offensive cool downs so if you wanted to receive a buff to your damage you would have to also level the Archer class in order to receive the cross class ability. Truthfully, I dont really see the point in this. In my opinion, upon reaching max level in any game, with any class, your character should be assumed to be a "master" in their craft, I dont see how it benefits a mage to learn to shoot an arrow. But, overall, I think each Job is unique and offers a satisfying experience to anyone that plays.
Unlike other games that have a 1 second global cooldown, FFXIV has a 2.5 GCD. To players like me (people that have played any MMORPG, ever) this is a nightmare. Combat drags at a snails pace and is generally underwhelming. By the time I start casting I'm already spamming my next 4 spells. This is especially annoying for me since I play SMN and it interferes with my DoT rotation. I have to remember to start casting DoTs a lot sooner before they wear off instead of spamming my filler. Since I main a Warlock in WoW, I figured SMN would be a good fit. I was wrong. Compared to the fluidity of an Affliction Warlock, Summoner feels slow and clunky.
Another big element to combat is telegraphs. When an enemy is about to release a big attack a bright red telegraph will display on the ground to warn you. If you've grown accustomed to paying attention to cast bars, telegraphs are bit underwhelming, but not bad at all. The only downside to them is that if you are experiencing high latency, even if you move out of the telegraph, you will still be hit. Which in certain situations can be disastrous, but has less to do with you, but FFXIVs internal clock.
Once you reach max level the speed does pick up a bit, but for someone like me, its still too slow. However, there are classes like the Pugilist, that specializes in hand to hand combat, that I have simply fallen in love with. Overall the combat is hit or miss. Some people will like it, and others will dislike it.
I should go on record and say I HATE PvE. For the life of me I could never understand why anyone would subject themselves to such mind-numbing repetitive b.s. in any game. In previous games I would literally fall asleep during raids and other PvE content. It just couldnt hold my interest, it offered no challenge. "Here, memorize this strat and spam this rotation to win." That basically sums up PvE in any MMORPG I've played.
Why am I saying all this though...? I love PvE in this game!
Admit it, whenever you play a game you go from quest hub to quest hub and never read the quest content. It's okay, I do the same thing. However, all of that changed when I played this game. For the first time in my life I genuinely enjoyed PvE content, but it had less to do with the actual combat and more to do with story and other neat little elements.
In FFXIV, your "newb island" treatment last until level 15 and during this time you will have to complete various story and class quest before you can proceed onward. Let me just say I love everything about these quest. The characters are a bit 2-Dimensional and the accents can be cringe-worthy but I like it, I really really like it. Its well-written and superbly done. One of the coolest things to me was certain quest required the use of emotes, and while this may seem like a small thing, having to walk to the end of a cliff with twilight baring down on you and /peering across the expanse is magical. It really allows you to slow down and soak in the lore, the moment, and the world. It feels real. Its an emotion/experience I've only ever come across in one game, my first MMORPG, WoW, but not nearly on this scale.
Once you reach endgame, well, even before then, the PvE content offers a very difficult challenge. Things like World of Darkness will have you on the edge of your seat and interested with unique mechanics. Unlike, WoW or most MMORPGs you have to know what you are doing, not just the tank and healer, everyone. Its completely possible for one person to wipe an entire raid if they dont grasp the mechanics 100%. This increases the challenge and intensity 100 fold for me. Once you outgear something however, its thoughtless faceroll content.
My only problem with PvE is, there is very little content in this game if you dont like story quest and are done with fate leveling. If you're a hardcore raider (which I'm not) you're gonna hit a brick wall and not have much to do. It's easy to buy gear and begin challenging endgame content whenever you want. Upon making it to 50 and getting ilvl 90 gear from my guild I was ready to do just about everything. This was within a day of making it to max level by the way. Secondly, assuming you cant afford gear or have a nice guild like myself, prepare to cry because the grind in this game is PUNISHING. My firm belief is because there is so little content the creators made the grind extremely exhausting. For instance: in raids like World of Darkness you may only acquire one piece of gear per week. So basically, you have very few options for PvE and you're locked behind a barrier for content. This is infuriating because I'm paying and being barred from continuing. You will most likely have to buy more game time to continue to gear your character.
Also, if you've played other FF games you will notice things like ripped models and while the typical person wont notice this, it was a bit off-putting to me. Add to this the monotonous grind and it can get pretty bad. There is so little content that you will have to farm the same battles multiple times in varying modes. Its annoying. I already defeated the primals and now I have to defeat them several more times? No. Outside of this there are things like the hunting log that allow you to kill legendary mobs for rewards.
I am a diehard PvPer. I take my PvP very seriously in whatever I play. With that being said, if you find yourself with a similar mindset, this isnt the game for you. The PvP in this game is atrocious. It takes HOURS for a que to pop, the gear grind is punishing and pointless, and a good majority of the community dislikes PvP so you may be alone in your love for this.
PvP is an unbalanced broken mess and its not rewarding at all. Casters are so powerful that in order to counter their insane burst the system allows for any attack to interrupt their cast. The PvP abilities are useless and have huge cool downs. Limit Breaks can one-shot you. Half the PvP content is inaccessible because of a broken que system.
I am not inclined to go into detail about this, I encourage anyone whose curious to do their own research about this particular subject because as I said PvP in its entirety is bad, there's nothing else I can say. The devs refuse to address the community about it and have said so themselves it isnt a high priority, this is NOT the game for anyone that is a fan of PvP.
Everyone in this game is really nice and supportive, even to a complete noob who doesnt know the mechanics of a fight. Its a very calm, refreshing, and enjoyable atmosphere. I've met people who have gone completely out of their way to help me, gear me, and provide me with supplies at no cost whatsoever but a smile. I love these people. My only gripe is the rampant fanboyism that runs through this group. If you say anything less than remarkable about this game or anything FF-related they will behead you.
The music is epic. Hands down the best you will find in any MMORPG on the market. I remember hearing about how some of the sound designers would take prolonged treks through the mountains to capture the sound of birds and other wildlife for the game and it really shows. I seriously doubt you will ever find music this beautiful. My favorite is the Gridania night theme, it sounds like ... home. The epic violin solo in World of Darkness gets honorable mention.
The graphics are amazing, a feast for the eyes. The spell effects are a bit garish in large doses but its one of the prettiest games I've played. Excellent animations, environments, and gear. The character creation is meager so it doesnt offer a lot of customization however.
If you dont like PvE or PvP much there are still some things to do. This game has one of the largest RP communities I seen and they have all sorts of events for prizes and such. Besides that, the Golden Saucer was recently introduced with Chocobo racing and Triple Triad. You can also buy a house and decorate it quite extensively, and each server has its housing prices adjusted for that economy, its a nice touch by the devs and show that they are paying attention to some things at least. And the coolest thing? Player marriage. And if you're a fan of it, same sex marriage.
I love the crafting in this game. By far the best in any game I've played. But remember my comment about being a master? Well the same thing applies here. If you want to craft you better be prepared to level every craft. Otherwise you wont be able to make the best/4 star stuff. For me, this is a complete deal breaker, as much as I love weaving and botany I refuse to level other crafts that I am not interested in. But if this isnt a problem for you, crafting in itself is a very intricate and interesting experience.
Ultimately, I guess you want to know if the game if worth the sub price? Yes and No. For some, yes. For others, no. Final Fantasy does a lot of things good, but does just as many bad. If you like what you've heard I'd say start right now, you wont regret it. However, if you're a bit hesitant I'd say wait until the xpac is released and there is more content/fixes. This is by no means a bad game, it just has a few bad elements. The biggest thing however is this, unlike other games on the market FFXIV has something they dont: potential. In its current state the is pretty flawed and its understandable if you dont like it. However, if the devs steer the game in the right direction (which is questionable at this point) and put out quality content, this game could be one of the last Subscription games on the market and have a long lifespan.
Final Score: 3/5