The realm of Eorzea is a vast land comprising Aldernard and its outlying islands, and it is a land divided, with wars waged in the names of the gods and goddesses. Although an uneasy peace now holds most of the land, the pantheon of the Twelve is worshipped devoutly by most and memories are long. Three strong cities have risen; the thalassocracy of Limsa Lominsa, a marine city-state made up of tiny islands connected by sturdy bridges, the forest nation of Gridania with its dense woodlands and labyrinthine waterways, and the bustling commercial sultanate of Ul’dah with its towering fortifications. You, young adventurer, what will you do? Which city will you call home? Will you explore in peace or will you wage war in the name of your god?
Just what is Final Fantasy anyway? And why XIV when the last MMO was XI? Well, for the uninitiated, Final Fantasy is a huge Fantasy / Sci-fi game franchise (and later, movie and merchandise) that was started in 1987. Each new installment is numbered and set in a different world from the previous, yet features some identical elements that define the game. These include plot themes, character names and iconic creatures like the Moogles (magical small, plump, flying teddy-bear like creatures with a single antenna), Chocobos (large flightless birds used as mounts) and the Catgirl player avatar (no males, it is a female humanoid with a snub nose, cat ears and tail).
“What would a Final Fantasy game be without Chocobos?” laughed Sage Sundi, Global Online Producer at Square Enix when asked about differences and similarities between FFXI and FFXIV.
Other signature elements include the elaborate interactive cut scenes for major quest lines that feature your character and group members, and the music which re-uses theme elements. Most Final Fantasy fans would probably recognize the Chocobo theme.
A new Final Fantasy installment would mean then, new setting, new cast of characters and an upgraded combat system. So here we have Final Fantasy XIV. Set in Eorzea whereas FFXI was in Vana’diel.
Races, Classes & the Armory system
Races and religion in Final Fantasy XIV as far as I can tell at this early juncture, are flavors and classes are well… classes determine your starting outfit. This is because the weapon or equipment you are holding in your hand actually determines the class you are right at that moment. Think of it as leveling weapon skills or going down different skill trees. Fishing Pole? You are a fisher. Staff? You are a conjurer. Two-handed axe, you are a marauder. Pick-axe? Miner. What this means is that you can create a pugilist that has a low-level magic spell to use for pulling and a heal spell as well, and bakes pies while in town. Learning these different skills however, is a balancing act as you have action points according to your skill rank and a limited number of abilities that you can use at any one time. There are also character stats and points you can allocate to them as you increase in level.
Final Fantasy splits their classes into four general areas. Disciples of War, of Magic, of the Land and of the Hand. Each Discipline then splits down further. Disciples of War include the archer, lancer, pugilist, gladiator and marauder. Disciples of Magic are your conjurers and thaumaturge. Disciples of the Land are your harvesting classes; the botanist, miner and fisher. Disciples of the Hand are your craftsmen; armorer, blacksmith, goldsmith, carpenter, leatherworker, culinarian, alchemist and weaver. Yes, take note you players of craftsmen out there. The harvesters and the craftsmen are viable classes and have definite career progression paths if that’s all you want to do. This is by design as crafting and player economy are extremely important game play aspects to Final Fantasy XIV.
Combat, Harvesting and Crafting
These actions are not that complicated, but yes, there is a bit of a learning curve, starting with trying to figure out how to draw your weapon. In order to initiate an action, players first have to move from the passive to an active state. Why not just remain in an active state? Because you regain stats faster when you are outside of combat or action. There isn’t any auto-attack or auto anything. Every action has to be fired off. A botanist has to aim where he’s going to chop that sapling too!
FFXIV’s “con” system is slightly different than what you might be used to. They range from Blue (Easy Pickings), Green, Yellow, Orange to Red (What would you like your tombstone to say?) and you have to pay attention to several stat bars. Health, mana, stamina and TP (Tactical Points). Stamina is a gauge that shows the cool-down time between actions and if you have different equipment in each hand, you will get two stamina bars. TP is built up during combat and some abilities or skills require TP rather than MP. Then there are combat regimens – basically group skill chains and combos that not only deal greater damage, they can debuff your enemies as well as buff yourself.
There are three different kinds of quests in Final Fantasy XIV. There are local quests which in the early stage of the game, gets you familiar with your chosen city, and in local quests, I include guild quests. Story quests advance the main storyline but Guildleves or levequests will be what players will be doing most of. The Guildleve system is the best way to gain XP in the game. A token is given to you at the Adventurer’s Guild that gives you leave to complete the mission in whatever method necessary. Once activated, you have a certain amount of time to complete it. They can be adjusted for difficulty in that they can be done solo or in a group. When you complete one and go back for another, you are asked if you want to trade a completed one in. Do so. You’ll get more XP for the new one.
Some quests are instanced, and some quests take place in the open world, but a nice feature is that the quest monster or harvesting node spawns only for you. Other players will not be able to see that specific spawn.
Traveling around Eorzea is done between Aetheryte crystals. You first have to run to these bind sites and attune yourself to them, then they will be added to a list of destinations. Aetheryte crystals are also where you respawn when you die (don’t worry, you will) and where Guildleves are activated.
Old School Game Play
The biggest difference between Final Fantasy and other MMOs is that all players share the same servers. Be they playing on the PS3 or PC, in Europe or in the US. For FFXIV, they also have controller support for the PC. Players can use any PS3 type controller instead of the keyboard and mouse without having to making any changes to key-maps. The other major difference is that Final Fantasy has a much different UI system from other MMOs out there. Yes, WASD still moves the character, but if you think hitting the space bar will make your character jump or “I” will access the inventory, think again. It’s not just the key-mapping either. FFXI used to have a menu-system to access actions and combat skills. FFXIV’s system is much friendlier and the combat or action bar that pops up looks just like the skill bar of say WoW except smaller, but first you have to go from a passive state to an active state.
There aren’t any newbie tutorials with voice-over, mouse-over hot-tips or tool-tips galore either. In fact, for all that it looks graphically, FFXIV feels old school (think EverQuest) in trying to figure out how the game works! Not all guilds and trainers are found in each City, and tutorials can actually be found with key NPCs when you talk to them. You just have to follow the script and not run around trying to be smart.
Final Fantasy XIV was made for Final Fantasy fans and although the UI is friendlier, if you’ve never played any of the Final Fantasy games, expect to feel like a noob and expect to read a lot of fansites looking for guides. Start with the player site: http://lodestone.finalfantasyxiv.com For players that love the cutscenes, you’ll just have to create a character in every city. I’ll also leave you with one tip before you start. And by the way, that little circular icon on the bottom right of your screen. The leftmost one. The one that has a sword on it? It puts you in an active state for combat, harvesting or crafting.
System Reqs & Cost
Operating System: Windows XP SP3 & Higher CPU: dual core, 2.0 GHz Memory: Win XP - 1.5GB / Vista or 8 – 2.0GB Graphics: DirectX 9.0c, NVidia GeForce 9600 w 512MB / ATI Radeon HD 2900 w 512MB Box: $49.99 or $74.99 for collector’s edition – first 30 days subscription free Subscription: $12.99 per month for a single character, $3.00 per additional character