Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Last week apparently saw the launch of the new iteration of Final Fantasy XIV. FFXIV first came out almost 3 years ago, and it was a complete disaster. It had all kinds of server issues, and client issues. And it wasn't fun. To be blunt, it wasn't a finished product, and not in the way that Diablo III wasn't a finished product. Even worse than that. It was supposed to be a game with a monthly subscription fee and they ended up waiving the fee for a year and a half while they slowly worked on making a reasonable game. And despite my love for all things Final Fantasy and the fact it was free for that year and a half I only played maybe a couple of hours when it first came out and never looked back.

Square Enix ended up reshuffling the entire development team, saw the original guy in charge 'resign', and set to work making a better game. Eventually they decided the ideal thing to do was to scrap the current game entirely and rebuild from scratch with most of the same world and mechanics but with a proper backend. I've heard this before (how many versions has Magic Online gone through?) and was skeptical here, but the reviews I've seen had been pretty favourable...

And then I got emailed an article about the new launch, and how it was a disaster, and I'm not surprised at all. Well, I am a little surprised... It sounded like the problems were all related to unexpected usage and not to launching early with massive bugs. It would seem they underestimated how many people were actually interested in playing the new FFXIV. I was lined up at the door when the first came out begging them to take my money and hadn't even heard of the launch date this time, and I can't imagine I was alone in this, so I guess I probably would have underestimated demand too. But it sounds like they implemented reasonable measures to throttle log-ins and character creations and the game was at least playable for those who got in. Which is better than just having everyone crash constantly.

I clicked around from the article and found a link showing that they're giving the new game away for free to anyone who bought the first version, as well they should. They're also letting everyone with an old account log in and play for free until the 9th. So now I was torn... I don't want to play a game at launch, but free is also a good price. This free has a limited time offer, though... I figured that since it sounds like the issues were user density related, and that since I'm sleeping during the day right now, that I could chance it. Playing in the early, early morning rates to have fewer server density issues, I would think. Right?

I downloaded the game this morning and gave it a spin. The intro movie talked a bit about how Bahamut came and did terrible things to the world. It's nice that they have a reasonable story as to why the old FFXIV is gone and there's a new very similar one in its place. The old one let you start as a crafting class but this one forced me into combat right away. I chose the summoner class, which it turns out started in the same city my original character started in so it was vaguely familiar. The quests to start off were different though, and everything was much smoother. I did some combat, and while it is definitely pretty standard MMO combat it worked a lot better than the old one did. At the very least, everything worked and it was fun!

I've heard the crafting minigames were made a lot better in this version, but I haven't reached the point where I can switch to a crafting job. Which is fine, since I'm enjoying doing the combat quests. They've added a lot of convenience stuff to the game, like the now standard 15 minute heartstone. They also added teleport crystals around town so you can jump around quickly without running around or taking a speeder. (I hated that in SW:ToR!) They've also added in public events where some crazy thing will go on in the world and everyone in the area can come kill monsters to help out. I think this was taken from Rifts or Guild Wars but I haven't played either game. It gave something else to do with other people though, which I guess is a good thing.

They put in an interesting way to encourage people to help each other. The person who engages a monster gets full experience when it dies regardless of who actually killed it. People who help out get a share as well based on how much they helped. They've also added the chaining xp bonuses from FFXI, so helping a bunch of people burn down monsters was giving a good amount of chain bonus.

There's also a 'kill all the things' minigame where you have a monster log and need to kill 3 of everything in the list. It reminds me a little of FFX and running around catching one of everything for the arena. I like little things like that, where I get encouraged to wander around and kill random things for extra experience and to make a number get bigger.

I haven't played all that much, but I think I've played as much as I did of the original. And I liked what I saw thus far, so I will be going back to play some more in the morning. It didn't feel like a newly launched game, possibly because it has been a live game for almost 3 years. It did launch on a subscription plan system, despite Tobold's assertion that the business model is completely dead. Will I want to keep playing enough to pay up come the 9th? That remains to be seen. But for now I'm going to keep playing my little catwoman Polemical Ziggyny on the Faerie server.

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