With Wednesday night’s maintenance and Thursday morning’s hotfix it appears that Square Enix has set themselves up to rid us of our server woes permanently. It is nice to just log into the game and not have to worry about whether or not you are going to get to play. Digital sales are still on suspension (until next week) and it is hard to get a retail copy of the game at the moment but for those people that already own the game you should see that you can create a character on just about any server you choose (minus a handful of EU servers that are still closed at the time I write this).
Last week a few of the readers asked that I go a little more in depth on the why I like certain aspects of the game and why not others. Always one to try and oblige the audience I hope this is what you are looking for. This week I want to tackle two topics; party size, and the armory.
The armory system ties hand in hand with the class and job system in A Realm Reborn. In any MMO inventory management can become a burden especially for a class that can fill multiple roles. Now imagine the frustration for players trying to carry around gear sets for their disciple of land, disciple of hand, disciple of magic, and disciple of war gear and then toss in a set for fishing to boot. All told that can turn into a mountain of gear that very few people, if anyone, could realistically manage. That is where the armory system comes in.
This system has two parts. The armory chest and the gear set list. Both of these can be can seen in the picture above. The armory chest can hold up to 25 items for 12 different gear slots. That’s 25 main hand items. Main hand items are what control your class. You could have one main hand for each of the disciple of magic and disciple of war classes and still have room for a fishing pole and a few gathering and crafting professions. Also weapons that are two handed weapons which also control your class are stored in the main hand tab. The armory chest also holds 25 helmets, 25 chest pieces, 25 sets of gloves, 25 belts, 25 legs, 25 feet, 25 off hands, shields and secondary crafting and gathering items, 25 necklaces, 25 bracers, 25 rings, 25 earrings, and you can carry all of your job crystals in a 13th tab. Excluding the job crystal tab the armory chest holds 150 items for your character.
While the armory chest provides players a way to store large amounts of gear without keeping it in their main inventory the gear set list provides the player with a convenient way to establish sets of gear. Once a player equips a set of gear that they want to keep for their current job or class they can click the circular arrows on the gear list and the current equipment set will be saved. In the picture above I have a paladin set, a conjurer set, and a seasonal gear set (that is not appropriate to show off on a family website such as this). The player can then give these sets custom names if they so desire. In addition you can drag the icon next to the set’s name to the hotbar and swap between sets of gear by pressing the hotkey you assigned for that gear sets. You can also keybind these sets and hide the hotkeys so you do not have the icons taking up real estate in your user interface.
This armory system is fantastic because it provides players a convenient and effective way to manage their gear without having to travel back and forth between a bank and their objectives. People can change their gear and class on the fly to harvest a node, fish from a river bank, join in a FATE and provide some dps or toss a few heals, and then queue for a duty finder as a tank and never move more than 10 alms in game. If Square Enix had not added in a system like this I can guarantee fewer people would learn multiple classes and the game overall would be less fun.
The next topic I want to tackle on this week’s Review in Progress is party size. Another thing that Square Enix really nailed (there are a lot of those, actually) with FFXIV is forcing players to play together. As you progress through the story-line you will have to take on certain challenges, such as dungeons and primal battles, with a group. Most of these in the early game will require you to have a light party, or a group of 4 players. Towards the end some of the missions will require you to have a full party, a group of 8 players. There is also endgame raids planned that will be designed for 24 players. While the story in ARR is worthy of being a numerical Final Fantasy in every way which are single player games, besides XI, this game is a MMO and people should have to play together at least some of the time.
I do think Square Enix made a mistake by choosing to have party sizes based on four. I believe at a minimum it should have been five. This is not an arbitrary number I decided on either. The reason behind this choice is the sheer number of players that choose to play as damage dealers as opposed to playing as a tank or as a healer. This is always the case in MMOs. It is not a problem unique to Final Fantasy. Every MMO out there that has grouping based on the trinity has tanks and healers at a premium and Square Enix should have known this. When you create a party system based off of four players you force the player base to align to a population of 25% tanks, 25% healers, and 50% damage dealers or you end up with damage dealers waiting in long queues. If you have parties with five players you reduce the number on tanks and healers to 20% and allow up to 60% of the player base to play damage dealers or support classes. If parties were based on six players, like they were in FF XI, you bring that number down even further to 16.7% for tanks and healers and allow even more players to participate as damage dealers or support classes. While this could be more difficult for the developer to tune encounters towards it would allow more players to participate in the content as a class that they want to play as.
I do not believe Square Enix will be changing the number of members that are in a party any time soon, so for now this is something players are just going to have to deal with. The problem is also compounded because there are really only two jobs that can tank. Hopefully Square Enix will introduce more jobs that can tank in a future expansion but for now we have to make due with Paladins and Warriors. It is also very difficult to encourage people to tank if they do not enjoy it. Some other games have offered bonus items but I believe this is a poor long term strategy. Paying people off to tank cannot be the best solution. Though as a player that always plays a tank I will take the free money.
Next week I will be covering crafting and leves and anything else that tickles my fancy before we tackle the final review in two weeks and get rid of that nasty 5.1 score that FFXIV 1.0 earned. But until then what about you dear reader? Do you like the current party size? Are you a damage dealer left out in the cold or are you a tank that is getting duty finder queues in under 10 seconds (if that long)? Do you like the armory system? Let me know in the comments below.
Robert Lashley / Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com and RTSGuru.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can find him spending his free time in Eorzea pretending he is a Paladin in the Midgardsorm realm or you can chase him down on twitter @Grakulen