This will be the first MMORPG post of Super Adventures in Gaming so some may be wondering how this is going to work, being that MMORPGs are long, drawn out affairs in which it takes a lot longer to do things compared to offline games. The answer to that is, about the same, I'll just be compressing the timeline a bit here so this will seem a lot faster than the game really is.
As a bit of backstory, we're actually playing A Realm Reborn, not the original FFXIV Online released in 2010, which was apparently such a critical flop that Square Enix shut down the servers and redid the game, rereleasing it 3 years later in this newer, improved package. I haven't played the original so I can't compare, but I'd say I'm familiar enough with MMORPG mechanics to give this a fair shake.
Of course you run into the most horrible of MMO roadblocks before getting here: installing the game, and waiting for it to update EVERYTHING, a process I let run overnight as the ETA was in the thousands of minutes at first. Once that was over, I was able to just use the same account I had and proceed.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trRmvbhLUU4). The narrator explains that this world, Hydaelyn, has various cycles in which civilizations rise and blown to hell, and we're coming out of the most recent one, 5 years after everything blew up.
What we actually see in the first half of this video are parts of the end of the original FFXIV: when Square Enix shut down the original game, they capped it off with an awesome FMV in which the good guys and the Empire fight it out until Bahamut comes out and pretty much mega flares the whole planet, blowing everything to hell, which you saw in the shot above this one. In other words, they blew up their previous game and integrated it into part of the lore, using it as the groundwork for this reboot's backstory. I don't know about you, but that's a pretty awesome way to recall a game. As an added bonus, the original FMV plays in the menu if you let it sit idle.
With that, I started.
Anyone who's played Final Fantasy XII or the PSP releases of Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre may be either happy or terrified to know that the same wordy speech present in those games is present in extreme force in this game, as you can see above. This looks to be another journey in discovering words in the English language that I didn't know existed.
Some pirates attack but I don't get to see much of it because we all get rushed down to the hold to cower like a bunch of non-murdering NPCs right when they attack. Disappointingly we don't leave until the pirates bugger off so there was no action to be found.
We have a nice shot of the HUD here which in typical MMORPG fashion is full of stuff and by the standards of any other genre would be too damn busy. Thankfully you can move any element of this around if you wish, which comes with the game's options and don't require any mods. The grids of circular dots on the bottom right of my screen are actually visual diagrams of your inventory and equipment slots, and how full they are. Commands in this game are done via hotbar like other MMOs, which have a key binding but can also be clicked on if needed.
Like other games, this one throws tutorial windows at you any time you engage in some new process so anyone with half a brain could learn how to play the game.
With that, the game tells me I'm done with the tutorials and I can really run around at will now. There are still plenty of quests on my map though, so I'm gonna grab em first.
In doing this I rediscovered a very nice anti-frustration feature: no looting corpses. Items automatically end up in your inventory when someone drops one, so you're not wasting all this time bending over and clicking on things every time you kill something and your wildlife genocide continues uninterrupted.
A LOT OF WALKING LATER.
I decide to do this one solo because I am not afraid of mere sheep, and then proceed to get mobbed and murdered myself. Luckily I was able to run back out to rejoin the event (without getting killed this time) and reap the rewards. Yay!
WAY WAY LATER.
Thus far this is feeling like other MMOs I've played in that you're going from place to place guided by quests. However, the battle system is so streamlined that it all moves pretty fast, and if anything most of my time is taken up by walking rather than fighting.
I guess it should be mentioned here that 'level ??' NPCs are a thing that show up in MMOs. Generally it means 'way damn higher that you'.
SEVERAL LEVELS AND A COUPLE HOURS LATER.
How does the system work? In a nutshell, think of the job system of past FF games such as FF5 or FFT. In this case there's no fancy ceremony for changing jobs, all you do is literally equip the weapon for that class. Really. Well, after you do the introductory quest that admits you into that class's guild, which is easy anyway. I can be any and EVERY class and profession if I wanted to on the same character, though I would have to level them individually. I think of it more like swapping characters without the hassle of actually swapping characters, which is awesome.
A FEW HOURS AND 3000 GIL LATER.
Either way, she does more than enough talking to make up for my mute hero status just as a monster shows up. Seriously, she should instead be referred to as Verbose Conjurer, since she sounds like she's reciting a speech or poem. I was half expecting the monster to just clobber us while I was waiting for her to finish talking. I guess I can't complain too much though, she does have one of those deep sexy British accents.
So what's the overall verdict? I'm still playing the game and still enjoying it, and I'm spending time on it because I'm doing things I'm wanting to do, not because the game is forcing me to jump hoops, so that's always a good thing. During my days of playing World of Warcraft I used to meet a lot of players who didn't care a lick for lore and only cared about loot and what color that loot's name was printed in, and this is probably not the kind of game for those kinds of players. With all of the talkative NPCs, the cutscenes, and the Final Fantasy 12-speak going on, someone who wants to jump right into the action and stay there would probably lose patience with this.
However, even though I'm a carnage-mongering gamer born and raised in the NES age of ridiculous difficulty and nonstop action, I can really appreciate it when a game goes out of its way to beef up its atmosphere and setting, and we have that in droves here. In a sense. the pacing, story, and feel of this game is very similar to FF12, so anyone coming from that would be right at home here. Throw in the anti-frustration measures and the excellent flow and pacing of battle and we have what I feel is a strong MMO here. I'm wanting to go back in there and explore more areas and try other classes and experience more weird uses of English, so that's gotta be good. Sure there aren't as many big flashy things going on and the people talk funny, but the game's got a lot of heart, and plenty to see if you're willing to take it slower and look around.