Beta 3 has begun and we’re a step closer to the relaunch of Final Fantasy XIV. While we had a bit of downtime waiting for Beta 3, we did have some interesting news. First, Yoshi made quite a splash at E3, SE released the new trailer for ARR, and a surprise Scholar Job was announced.
The start of Beta 3 coincides with a partial lift of the NDA. It is now okay to post images and talk about the things we liked and didn’t like about the game. It’s not okay to post video or audio from the game - I suspect this is tied to spoilers as much as it is new stuff coming along. I will endeavor to overload you guys with new imagery in future posts, but in this post I wanted to share (in words) some of the more exciting things happening in Beta 3.
In the Beginning, There Was a Story
Final Fantasy is always about a story and with Beta 3 here, we are starting to see a story come together. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory here and I would ask that commenters in the beta steer clear of story details. At this point, a good chunk of the story can be enjoyed and it’s an interesting one.
Of particular interest, to me, is the way the new team has woven together elements from the original FFXIV launch and the 1.23 version of the game at “an end of an era,” intertwining it with the new A Realm Reborn story. In addition to the threat of the primals, we have also had reveals of the big bad and what appears to be the bigger bad!
Very few companies can put a cutscene together, in game or out of game, to the same quality as Square Enix when they are on their A-game. It looks like FFXIV is aiming high for story and cut-scene work in FFXIV.
But a Game is All About Content
With the opening of this phase of Beta, participants were treated to a return to Limsa Lominsa and Ul’Dah, areas which haven’t been accessible since the end of the era event. As someone who spent a fair bit of time in each of these areas back in 1.0, it was a nostalgic return. Each city resonates its former self, but noticeable differences about. The citizens of each city have been busy while the players were away.
I really enjoyed the unlocking of Guildhest, one of the small group content items which will be included in A Realm Reborn. These are instanced fast-play adventures, designed for less than 30-minutes completion. For an experienced group, these are fast turnarounds, but the initial ones aren’t meant for experienced groups. Rather, the introductory guildhests spend a good bit of time teaching group tactics. Pulling, countering adds, threat management, and dealing with other mid-encounter events were visible in the first four guildhests.
This system reminds me quite a bit of the Guild Raid system added, and then largely ignored, in Everquest 2. Systems which, at least at a lower level, are intended to help players learn the mechanics of MMO group content. If the PS3 and eventual PS4 launches of FFXIV:ARR work out, these might serve as important stepping stones for training a new generation of players. At any rate, more of these, more often would be great to see.
Group oriented players have an abundance of dungeons for game play. There were three different dungeons open for level 15-19 players, one located near each starting city. In addition to Tam Tara Deepcroft, we were offered up Sastasha in Limsa Lominsa and Copperbell Mines in Ul’Dah.
They have also added a level synch feature. Now if you are running around in a lower area and come across a FATE event, you get a chance to automatically de-level and participate in the event. You also level synch on guildhest and other group systems. Much like with similar systems in EQ2 and GW2, this keeps the game world breadth available to you as you level up.
It was really nice getting to return to Eorzea and its always a sad thing when a beta weekend ends. Even so, we’re getting closer to the “soft launch” of Beta 4 and the return of Eorzea Reborn this August. I have been playing a lot of Guild Wars 2 during the intermission and it was especially nice to return to tanking this weekend. I know some people detest role-based combat in MMO’s, but it’s one of the top draws for me.
As someone who likes to tank, the Gladiator really works for me. It’s a classic MMO tanking class and it gets a nice toolkit of tanking tools early on. These are complemented nicely with a few defensive additions from other classes using the armory system. One of my guild mates was running a Thaumatergist and those seem to play nicely. We also had a Pugilist running around, I also leveled one up as a side class a bit. There’s a very interesting combo system shaping up in their combat. Both the Thaumatergist and Pugilist have their own class specific mechanics that extend beyond just pew-pew-pew, but both bring the damage when they do pew-pew.
I think FFXIV:ARR is shaping up nicely. While there is still a lot to see in upcoming betas and we still haven’t seen more than art teases of the end game, it’s clear that Yoshi’s team is really working to put together a competitive top-tier MMO. There are two major obstacles in their path. The first is of their own creation, the legacy of FF14 and FF11. Fourteen, of course, was a train wreck and there’s a lot to overcome there. Eleven was quite a successful MMO and I worry that some fans of that game will enter ARR hoping to find 11 with better graphics and a PC user interface. ARR isn’t going to be a repeat of 11, or even of the 1.0 version of 14, it’s its own title.
The second concern involves billing models. ARR is shaping up to be the “last of the subscription only MMO’s.” Other titles in development appear to be embracing free to play from the ground up and the industry itself is virtually entirely free to play now, except for that other MMO with millions of subscribers (and, of course, FF11 and Eve). Yoshi is committed to releasing a subscription FF14:ARR and I respect the decision, I just wonder if that market segment has come and gone? On the other hand, considering the cash grabs that F2P MMO’s have become, a subscription model might turn out to be cheaper for players in the long run!
What do you think? Did you play in Beta 3 and want to share some experiences (no video or audio links, please)? Are you still waiting to get a crack at A Realm Reborn? Which aspects are most interesting, and which are most controversial for you? Did you check out my Eorzea Reborn piece on solo leveling paths? I’ll just cast myself a barfira and join you in the comments below.
Ryahl / Ryahl is a columnist for MMORPG.Com. He is also the host and primary author for Eorzea Reborn and TSWGuides. He has been playing MMO’s since 1999 and spends most of his MMO time underground in dungeons. You can follow him on Twitter @EorzeaReborn or just argue with him in comments anywhere he posts.
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