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Final Fantasy XIV - What can one expect from this Square-Enix's next-gen MMO?

In this blog I talk about SE's new upcoming MMO 'Final Fantasy XIV (Online)'.

Author: Hyanmen


Now that the release of the game is getting closer and closer and we actually have received enough official information to know what this game is all about, I think now would be a good time to analyze how this title will stand out from the rest of the bunch (if at all). There have been quite some misconceptions about some things on the different forums and news sites, so I think it would be good to clear some things up. So, let's get to it:
The first thing people may have noticed when looking at the game is the fact that the races are quite identical to the ones from it's predecessor, FFXI. 
And aside from few subtle differences, this is the case. Roegadyn have lost their tails, Miqo'te have become more human-like and Lalafell have grown up a bit. 
Aside from that, the character customization has been upped by a notch. Each race has two clans, with their own skin colors, among other features.
The biggest difference being with Hyur Highlanders, which are a new addition to the variety of races to choose from.
'Sup, Drizzt?
The art style also resembles FFXI more than just a bit. You can see that the art director has changed, but he has only added his own flavor to the already established realistic, yet cartoonish style,. 
The area design is simplistic, and does not present the viewer with too many mindblowing visuals to look at like cities in the sky or other extreme fantasy elements.
The monster design keeps the quality of FFXI and even takes it to the next level. It's nothing really different art-style wise, and there are quite a few monsters identical to their FFXI counterparts. 
While the visuals have remained pretty similar to FFXI, the musical score is another case entirely. 
The soundtrack has changed considerably from the predecessor and is very unique to the MMORPG's in general. 
So much even that one may start to wonder if these kind of tracks really fit an MMO at all. 
There is an 80's feeling to the music and it is very nostalgic in many ways. It resembles the earlier works of Nobuo Uematsu a lot. 
I wish I could give you all an example but at this time I can not do that because of the NDA policy in place.
When it comes to UI, several significant changes have been made. There are less menus and you can access several features directly from your screen, like combat abilities. The UI resembles WoW a lot with the hotbar around. You can move the different features around on the screen, and make them larger or smaller depending on your preferences.  
One large difference to other MMO's is that you have to choose two names for your character. 
Audiovisuals in general are quite different from World of Warcraft or even other Asian games, but not that different (music aside) from FFXI.
Character Progression System:
The character progression in this game happens in two ways: by leveling up your Physical Level and Weapon Rank. 
Compared to WoW the system has few major differences: There is no such thing as talent tree or anything of the sort. 
All the skills and spells are gained automatically as you level your Weapon rank. 
Leveling your stats and acquiring skills have also been separated, and not linked. 
You can also choose where to put your stat points as your Physical level goes up, and they're not predetermined. 
This means that you can put points on Intelligence even while being a Gladiator, or not focusing on a stat that does nothing for your class.
The biggest difference is that you can change your class on the fly, and you're not stuck to the class you started the game with. 
There are also no class/race limitations.
Compared to FFXI, the biggest change is that your Physical Level does not change even when you switch classes. 
While FFXI also had combat skills along with normal levels, combat skills (weapon ranks) have been given much more emphasis in this game than the predecessor. 
While in FFXI you learned abilities, spells and stats by leveling up your main job and weapon skills by leveling your combat skill, in FFXIV abilities, spells and weapon skills are all learned through skilling up your weapon rank.
Changing classes has also been made easier, and you no longer have to visit your Mog House to switch. 
Some of your abilities also get stronger as you level up. Just like in FFXI There was Cure I, Cure II, Cure III and so on, in FFXIV some abilities level up
like this as well.
When it comes to subclasses, XIV takes this feature even further than in XI (and to completely new heights when compared to WoW). Almost every skill and spell
can be equipped by most of the classes (excluding the crafting and gathering ones), while retaining most of their strength. While in XI you could only 
use skills from one subclass at time, in XIV you can mix and match abilities and spells from all the classes available as you wish. 
There is also a limitation present, however. Like with XI's Blue Mage, classes in XIV can only equip certain amount of skills and spells at time. Each skill
has it's own cost and the better the skill is, the more it action points it costs. Thus you have to decide whether to use most of the skills of your main class
or to take some skills from other classes to make you more versatile. 
The skills are also different in nature from the ones used in XI. There's a lot more additional effects, situationality, shorter cooldowns and they're more complicated than XI's "Berserk: +25% attack, -25% defense" style more straightforward abilities. In this respect the skills are more like the ones found in WoW.
The class names have changed and are now much more neutral, which is because of the system explained above. Because no class only has a "strict role" to them,
it would be wrong to call them by names that would pretty much define the classes, like "Paladin" = Tank, "White Mage" = Healer. In this aspect FFXIV steps
away from FFXI considerably.
Some classes have been fused together to allow for more customization within the class itself. Pugilist shares abilities of Monk and Thief classes, and Conjurer has Black and White magic spells available to it.
Pugilist, a combination of "Thief" and "Monk" classes from Final Fantasy XI.
Crafting and Gathering are now real classes instead of being inferior to combat classes like in XI or WoW. You can "finish" the game by only using these classes if you wish.
During the character creation, you can also choose a Guardian Deity and your birth date which gives you different bonuses depending on what you choose.
That's all for today, since I have to break the comparison down to different sections to not make it too long. The verdict so far:
-Visuals resemble FFXI, but not other MMO's.
-The music is unlike anything we've heard before in an MMO.
-The UI resembles WoW, and is a lot more flexible than in XI.
-You have to choose two names for your character.
-Character progression system is different from WoW:
   -Stat points allocation.
   -No talent trees.
   -Skills acquired separately from stats.
   -Ability to switch classes on the fly.
   -Ability to use skills from other classes on your main.
-Compared to XI, the progression has new features and reshaped old features:
   -Your physical level does not change when you switch classes
   -Using sub skills is much more flexible this time around.
   -You can only equip set amount of spells and skills at time.
   -The classes have less defined roles, the names have changed to more neutral
   -Many classes now have multiple functions instead of only focusing on one single       aspect of gameplay
   -Changing classes has been made much faster and easier.
   -You can choose your own Guardian Deity.   
   -Crafting and Gathering classes matter much more this time around, and you can
     "finish" the game with them.
   -Skills resemble that of WoW, but are quite different from XI. The way some skills
     work is different from WoW as well (more of that explained in later posts).
So, so far there have been some significant changes. Next time I'll talk about the combat and grouping mechanics. See you then!
(If you want to criticize, have something to add, want to know more about some feature and so on, feel free to comment!)