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This is the real deal. I played one hour of beta. I read the forums. I knew what I was getting into. I bought the CE(and they somehow only charged me $50), and yes, I will continue playing.
The Square apologists will no doubt try to repeat excuses and rationalizations, but I will tell you the real deal. Why? Because unlike most people, I do not tie my favorite things into my own self worth. I am the first to criticize the things I like. See, I like it, so therefore, I should know it well enough, that if it steps astray, I am the first to catch it. I am therefore, also logical and rational to deal with. I do not take offense and immediately act in defense. If the argument(criticism) is justified, so be it.
I currently have 2 character. 1 started in Uldah, and is level 10 pug, 10 marauder, 4 gladiator, and 4 shield. The other is in Gridania and is 10 tham and about 12 conjurer. I plan to play both characters. I work at home, so I have plenty of time to kill.
Is the game great? Let's see.
Graphics: They are decent, not amazing. The cutscenes are all exquisite. The in game graphics are decent, however, they are not optimized as well. I also dock points because most of the graphics are unable to be interacted with. This is arguably not graphic related, but I consider it so. Due to lack of jumping, swimming, or any real interaction with the environment besides for killing and selecting characters, the environment and graphics feel a bit sterile.
Sound: The music starts off decently, but gets repetitive real quick. The sound effects are fine, however the dink noise that is made when using a spell gets annoying.
UI: Yes, this is a doozy.
-I play with the mouse and keyboard.
-Interface lag is still tremendous. This ranges from 2-5 seconds when pulling up your inventory, attributes, and gear, to each menu choice at a vendor or going through anything requiring dialogue.acceptance of choices. Combat interface lag is also often present, and can on occasion severely screw with your timing. Even bringing up the map could take a second or 2. It all feels sluggish.
-Using the mouse/keyboard for combat and moving around is mostly fine. A few annoyances are: Pressing auto run does not start you off running. You must first run and then hit the button. When autorunning, your mouse look/turn becomes less responsive and only allows you to turn much slower than normal.
-Keyboard reconfiguring is extremely suboptimal. You cannot simply clear a few commands and then reassign them. You have to juggle around other command keys until it frees up the keys you want to use. Almost like a slider puzzle for those familiar with puzzles. Why do I HAVE to assign every command to a key? Some of the commands I just do not care about, such as walk/run toggle.
-The minimap is not able to be zoomed in or out.
-You never get an indication when your leves have reset. You must run/teleport to town to check. I am too lazy to spend 10 minutes to run back to town and I see no reason to waste anima. Perhaps I have missed something though and this is indicated somewhere.
-My biggest problem: Why can I NOT drag and drop abilities!? This is 2010 right? Why make me fight the system? I have to wait a good 2-5 seconds after clearing a space on my bar, then reassign it. If i want to move an ability to sl;ot 5 from 4, I have to first unequip one, then reequip. This is such a simple fix that it is unbelievable that the game was launched like this. Unacceptable.
-Chat: If I have a complex sentence, it is likely to get cut off. I don't want to hear excuses about the Japanese not needing the characters. The game was released worldwide. Unacceptable.
-Chat: I cannot reassign the enter key so I could use it to start chat. Annoying.
-Chat: I have to go into chat and then control-r to reply? Even then it is unreliable. Give us a /r for the love of all that is holy.
-Chat: If you customize the General chat bar, and then click on the battle bar to keep as your current main bar and then click anywhere on the screen, you are put back into your general tab. Unbelievably sloppy and makes multiple tabs impossible for key/mouse players.
-Chat: No help channel, no area channel, tons of general spam since chat defaults to showing everything including other people levelling. Expect to hear absolute silence unless you are in a linkshell. Expect to miss many messages because of the constant spam. As I said, I tried to create the general tab into a talk only tab and use battle otherwise, but the interface just keeps going back to general.
Gameplay: The quests are mostly for money it seems(battle ones) and vice versa for crafting. That is fine. The idea behind the guardian favor is cute too. However, the 1 and 10 level quests involve killing 6-9 creatures. It is over WAY too fast.
-I honestly don't mind waiting 36 hours for reset.
-That being said, why, at level 10+, do I need to be restricted to only 3 quests from the 10 camp? Yes, I could run around the world, but that is a bit much. Make a 8 leve restriction? Then give me the full 8 quests for my level!
-Guardian favor is mostly wasted since you only kill 6-9 enemies.
Combat: It is fine. Nothing new or innovative imo. Same combat bar we have all seen before. Would love something semi unique like Asheron's Call tried to do.
World: Some of the world is open, some is in small corridors. I am neutral about this. I like the idea of teleporting. I hate the small level interaction available. I cannot even click on the crystals or doors. I have to click some ridiculous icon on my screen to interact. No swimming, jumping, etc is a bit lame. How nice would it be to be able to actually push around furniture/items in the game. We are well over 10 years into mmos now.
World 2: It seems like many areas are placeholders. Try the little bazaar outpost north of Drybone in Uldah. NPCs that say a sentence and nothing bazaarlike anywhere. A bit sterile.
Crafting. I have not crafted yet. Will get to that this week. I obviously cannot comment on it too thoroughly. I do not know if everyone will eventually need to craft. I hear the physical xp is good. I hear you need pretty much all the crafts to make anything.
Markets: Slow loading multi zones with stands with no description and the ridiculous 2-5 second lag each time you look at anything. Prepare to spend hours. No search, no way to easily evaluate prices, demand, etc. Sloppy.
Items: I have not hit 15+, but I do dread upgrading equipment. I have not decided whether to do the work required for crafting(which will need every single craft) and I do not know if my linkshell will have dedicated crafters. The npcs should have equipment available. Don't make it as good as crafting as you want, but give newbies and people who play at off hours SOMETHING to use. Make it 2/3 as good as crafting, make it more brittle(more repairing), whatever.
Story: I have only completed the level 1 story chains in both towns. As I said, the graphics are amazing. The stories themselves a bit vague. They don't really explain much of what is going on. They generally just assume too much. Still well done regardless. I like that the first story quests are also easy.
Manual/tutorials. The manual is barebones and asks you to go online. This is just sloppy. The combat tutorial in the opening sequences are pathetic. No direction after the sequences end. I figured it out. I asked questions online. I asked linkshell members a ton of questions. Some people claim to like this, but it is unecessary and will turn a lot of people off. I don't care if you've rationalized it out so that you are elite or some nonsense, or that it weeds people out. I have never heard of such poppycock in my life. There is nothing complex or elite creating about withholding vital information from an audience or by making them scour the internet.
-Grind/levelling: The idea of using skills to get class xp is cute, but I am not convinced it is fair for healers vs melee. I like the idea of combining classes, but most of the worthwhile skills to combine are in the first 10 levels. If you really want to get multiple classes up, be prepared to have to do low level mobs over and over again, getting increasingly less physical xp as a reward.
-Grind is huge here. As stated, guardian favor only helps for 6-9 mobs at first.
-Quests are ridiculously simple thus far. Level 1: Kill 4-6 guys. Level 10: Kill 5, one runs off, run after, kill 2 thatspawn with it.
-Shield requires you to sit there blocking and taking damage until the game decides to give you experience. There seems to be no way to see how much more xp you need to get to the next shield level.
-Healing gives spotty xp at best.
To me, the game has better story sequences than other games, but otherwise it has all been done before. Smaller world, little interaction, hotbar based restrictive combat, very on the rails feeling, very sterile.
I will play because, as I said, I work at home and I want something new to keep occupied. Fans here seem to think that the game is different from Wow... It really isn't . Withholding info from the audience, making the market difficult on players, giving poor way to communicate, unable to drag and drop abilities... this does not make a game hardcore. It just makes it poorly done and sloppy. You are seeing wow here, with more grind and less quest based levelling. Same thing.
Whether the game improves will remain to be seen. It has some potential. I like it enough, despite its flaws, to keep playing.
I still year for a game like Asheron's call, with a MASSIVE world, with tons of nooks and crannies to explore and make your own discoveries. Non hotbar based combat. The ability to run faster and faster, jump higher and higher, get free content patches every month, changes the weather, enemies, story, dungeons, etc. More skill based pvp than any other mmo I have seen(outside of FPS based ones). A levelling system where you assign xp on the go, as you wish... You really felt your character was in the waves, or in the sand, etc. In current games you feel like your character is places in the world and you are just gliding on the surface.
There will be rationalizations and excuses. Repeating something silly and having others echo, does not make the idea less foolish.
This is the real deal.