Disclaimer: I’m currently writing this while there is still a NDA in place for the Final Fantasy XIV open beta. Yes, it is COMPLETE bollocks that the NDA applies to the open beta and I’m sure there are plenty of players currently in the OB that are violating the TOS. At first I intended to honor the NDA, but I am so incredibly frustrated with XIV that I cannot in good conscience NOT share my experiences.
I’m not sure why, but the inner Final Fantasy geek inside of me still yearned to experience XIV despite all of the maligning I had thrown SquEnix’s way over many of the decisions they were making with XIV. It wouldn’t be very sporting and fair of me to completely write of XIV as an HD remix of XI, so it became apparent that the best way for me to speak from first-hand experience would be just that. Therefore I made the decision that I was going to get into the open beta come hell or high water.
In a lot of ways the postponement of the open beta, even if only by 24 hours, seemed to indicate just how ill-prepared XIV was to go live. I shrugged off the feelings of dread and tried to remain optimistic that surely there would be some redeeming qualities amongst the distasteful reports coming out of closed beta. It was when it came time to apply for an open beta registration key that my spirits were almost destroyed entirely.
SquEnix’s servers buckled under the sheer amount of F5′ng that was congesting their pipes. I wasn’t surprised at all that it happened, but I couldn’t help feel a tinge of despair over the possibility of NOT getting into the open beta. I wanted to experience XIV first hand, but I wasn’t willing to buy the retail box in order to do so. No, I had too many doubts to feel good about handing SquEnix any money for what appeared to be XI with a fresh coat of paint.
Let me tell you just how excruciating it was trying to get a key. When I first saw the SquEnix account management login screen I nearly did a dance in my chair, especially when after submitting my login information I wasn’t immediately met with an error message. No, I wasn’t met a big fat internet-fail and eventually my heart rose when I saw the TOS page come up.
No folks, I was met with a big bowl of internet fail and it didn’t taste good. After wiping the malcontent from my face, I sucked it up and began the whole process over again. And again. And again. I was persistent and kept at it, crossing my fingers every time I wasn’t met with a connection timeout.
In between my attempts to connect, I was somberly keeping an eye on the open beta client download. There were many times where I almost gave up, but even when it seemed like there was no hope, I kept that download going … just in case. Imagine how much I would kick myself if I had stopped downloading the ~5 gigs @ 130kb/s and actually got a key. For 90, NINE TEE, minutes I kept refreshing and/or reloading. No damn it, I wasn’t going to be denied.
Then it happened, a functioning TOS page. PRAISE BE TO YEVON!
I was in, well sorta. I still needed to register the key which took a bit more time because not only was the key registration server congested, but so was the account management server. Even if I had not registered the key that night, I still felt GOOD. I had done it. I was going to get to experience XIV without giving SquEnix a dime … but I still had to get through the download and hope that the mirror site(s) I was getting it from had the legit code.
And … legit it was. /cheer
So after yesterday’s roller-coaster ride of emotional highs and lows, I was relieved that what I had downloaded was functional and after a small patch I was ready to jump in. I was on pins n’ needles when I loaded the launcher and logged into the game server and heard that familiar melodic theme of the crystals.
Oh Square, how could I ever stay mad at you?! Wait a second, I can’t go full screen?! What the … alright, let’s roll with it.
Back before all of the closed beta reports soured my expectations and the benchmark appeared to squash any chance I had at running this game I had aspirations to roll a Galka … er I mean Roegadyn gladiator. I’ve typically favored being a DPS class, but for some reason I felt like being a tank in XIV and damn it, I was going to be a tank. Even better was the sheer fact that I was even at the character creation screen; my computer wasn’t complete fail and was running it … as best as it could.
I didn’t spend too much time in the character selection screen but not for a lack of wanting to get in and get dirty, most of the customization selections were so subtle, that I didn’t get hung up on making my galka perfect … er, well they are galkas! A few small tweaks here n’ there and I was ready to get on with it and dig my teeth into a nice looooonnnnnng black screen as my computer and graphics card struggled to render the in-game cinematic.
Okay, let’s not panic … oh wow … this is chugging and … well, ugly.
While my computer was able to handle the game, it just wasn’t able to do it well. No worries, as long as it controls well. Once I finally had control of my galka, grrr I need to stop that, I was met with feeling completely lost with the controls. Granted I was able to move around, I just wasn’t able to move around with any sense of fluidity thanks to the piss poor mouse/camera support in XIV. No my friends, SquEnix hasn’t given two shits about what has become the defacto control scheme for MMOs in the post-WoW world. No, they wanted to make sure the game played and controlled just like Final Fantasy XI.
Good grief. I used to accept this horrible control scheme for the year I played XI?
These NPCs did absolutely NOTHING to help out.
At that point I knew exactly why the NDA was still in place, the game controls like shit compared to a modern day mmo and would arrive DOA and only sell to the XI die-hards. I had forgotten just how incredibly unintuitive the control scheme from XI was and I’m embarrassed for SquEnix that even Star Trek Online’s ground missions controlled like a dream comparatively. We’re talking about a control scheme that is not setup for mouse control at all and I cannot for the life-of-me think of a good reason why SquEnix hasn’t adopted a WoW’esque control scheme.
And to think that at one point the developers thought XIV could give WoW some competition? Did I mention that you can’t reconfigure the keyboard controls at all? Really? I mean, reeeeeaaaaaaaalllllllly?!?
Anyhoo, I decided to not throw my hands up in frustration and laboriously worked through the game intro with little in-game help. No, I wasn’t going to give up that easily and I’ve used this control scheme seven years before … it’d come back to me, right?
After finally realizing that once you’re deposited into the city you need to talk to NPCs to progress, I finally got to the point where my character, the big green behemoth Nevik James, was in the world and could interact with other players and play for really reals. My biggest point-of-interest at that point was to get outside of the city and check out the combat system … and to go attune myself to an aetheryte crystal in the desert.
I spotted a marmot on the horizon and bee-lined it to get into some action. Okay, how did combat work in XI again? Right, so I targeted the marmot, got within range and began repeatedly hitting 1 to swing my sword. Wait, there’s no auto-attack? Eventually I figured out the nuances of the stamina bar and that the highlighted box at the beginning of the bar was to indicate how much stamina it would take to hit my #1 button.
Really SquEnix? This is more interesting? /facepalm
At some point I leveled up as a gladiator and obtained a new skill, or trait, or something but couldn’t find out what exactly it was and whether or not it was an active ability to save me from the doldrums of repeatedly hitting 1. I also managed to aimlessly stumble into the camp I was supposed to attune myself to a crystal and found the crystal.
Now there was just one problem, how was I supposed to interact with the crystal? It wasn’t treated like an NPC you can highlight and target, so fruitlessly I fumbled around looking for some key that might attune me to the crystal. Eventually I decided to noob-it-up and ask in /say and thankfully I wasn’t met with “OMG f’ng noob …” Well at least open beta is good for not being berated I suppose.
Attuning myself to the crystal completed a quest I had taken from an NPC back in town and I was then given the opportunity to undertake a guildleve, XIVs bare-bones version of your a-typical quest in any mmo. It was your typical go out and kill X of Y quest but I suppose we’ll never completely get away from those …. right? So out I went to go kill three black moles. Exciting, I know.
It didn’t take long to complete, and other than discovering that I had to put away my weapon by pressing F to regenerate health I was thoroughly bored with the whole experience. Oh, there was one little neat thing about the completion of the guildleve, a node will appear that will allow you to teleport back to the crystal you attuned to. So there’s that.
I cannot express succinctly enough just how incredibly disappointed I am with my first experience and impressions of Final Fantasy XIV. It really is XI with a fresh coat of point. SquEnix hasn’t learned a damned thing about what makes an mmo thoroughly engaging and fun to play. They’ve failed on everything from accessibility to innovation. Hell, they’ve even failed to copy WoW’s control scheme to try to pull from that user-base. Final Fantasy XIV is a mess and is going to be a horrible failure … well at least from the impressions I got from the original visions shared by the developers.
But before I completely write-off XIV, I am going to keep playing it in hopes of finding something redeeming about the game. I just hope the NDA is lifted prior to launch so I can share my experiences with everyone before they go out and waste their money on this Final Fantasy XI retread. Oids.