Good morning folks… I find myself still slowly shaking off the effects of taking some Benadryl before going to bed last night. My allergies have been killing me this week and as a result my throat is extremely raw from all the drainage. I feel like we are getting a summers worth of allergens all at once. The normal flow of things has been pretty messed up this year, for example we each night the windows are bombarded by junebugs… this is something that should have occurred around my birthday in mid June. Everything just seems to be happening later than normal.
A Week Later
Thus far I have been pretty harsh in my postings about Final Fantasy XIV Realm Reborn. The problem is… the infrastructure is still grossly inadequate, but the sad part about that is that the actual game itself is really good. When you first see the game it feels as though you are playing a Japanese interpretation of World of Warcraft. However the longer you play the more you realize it is a deeply nuanced game with a lot of really strong points going for it. The game still has very strong WoW elements… but it also is a whole lot Final Fantasy XII with some Rift and GW2 mixed in for good measure.
The key system for me that makes it extremely enjoyable is the job system. I’ve been a fan of this since I first encountered it playing a language hacked SNES rom of Final Fantasy V. What this does in reality is make it so you have no real need for alts. One single character can do literally every class in the game, and you are actually rewarded for doing this. When you switch classes you can take with you certain cross-class abilities. While these are rarely the signature attack of a given class, they do add quite a bit of flavor to your character.
Similarly the crafting system works much the same. You can fall into a black hole of crafting if you allow yourself. One of our guild members is I think trying to level every single craft profession. They are all insidiously tied in a way that makes it extremely beneficial to be able to craft multiple types of things. You will often encounter roadblocks where profession A requires you to have something from profession B and C. The dirty secret is… that many of these items that you need are also available on a few vendors out in the world… so if you know where those are you have no real need to multi-craft.
Currently my character is a 23 Maurader, 16 Gladiator, 15 Jouster and as of last night 6 Thaumaturge. Yes you heard that right… I do in fact have a few levels of Thaumaturge… a finger wiggler. The thing is every single class I have played has been fun. The caster for example has a really cool mechanic that switched back and forth between elemental fire and frost attacks. The fire attack gives you a buff that increases your damage output… but also increases the cost of your spells… whereas frost decreases damage output… but massively increases mana regeneration. So in order to play effectively you have to switch back and forth between the two buffed states, and it gives you the ability to regenerate back your mana… but still be attacking.
Right now I have pretty much focused on playing Marauder and plan on transitioning it to Warrior when I get to 30… as Warrior is a mix of 30 Marauder and 15 Gladiator. Eventually I plan on taking Lancer to 30 as well so I can pick up the Dragoon Job which requires 30 Lancer and 15 Marauder. The thing is the cross class dynamic completely changes the way you think about your character. For example I know at some point soon I am going to have to push Gladiator up to 22, because that will unlock provoke, one of the few snap aggro taunts in the game. As I have been tanking quite a few instances… this will be a key ability for me to have in the long run.
Essentially for tanking early on you have two different flavors to choose from. The Marauder is your big two hander wielding tank that ends up feeling a bit deathknighty… if you forced a DK to rely on nothing but Heart Strike cleaves to hold aggro. The Marauder is extremely nuanced and there are a few buffs you want to juggle, but overall it is a very fluid feeling class. On the other side you have the Gladiator, which is a more traditional sword and board tank. It’s primary means of holding aggro is through flash, a spell that it casts that increases the threat of all targets surrounding it. In order to support this ability the Gladiator is given an attack combo that ends up regenerating their mana in the process allowing them to keep flash up all through the fight.
At this point I have tanked six instances as Marauder, and I really like the feel of it. I am starting to feel as thought I understand the mechanics extremely well. Hopefully as guild members level up I will be able to swap it up and try some instances as Gladiator to get a feel for how I like the differences. So far I naturally lean towards the Marauder since it has a big damned axe… and has a nice AOE cleave attack that is super useful when leveling out in the world. However my suspicion is that later on the Gladiator/Paladin will have much higher overall defense and the ability to soak more damage. Ultimately I plan on grabbing enough levels to pick up Paladin as well as something I can swap to when needed.
The dungeons quite honestly are shockingly good. I expected the standard theme park ride through a dungeon experience… but they are really intricate and nuanced. Essentially so far it seems like there is a golden path that allows you to quickly progress through the dungeon. However in each one I have encountered there are tons of optional things you can do… rooms that have no reason to ever enter other than for the chance as getting a bonus chest of loot. Last night we were in a dungeon and there were pull chains every so often… each had a completely random chance of spawning some event… or in an extremely rare case getting a chest of loot. It took time… and the encounters that were spawned were fairly painful… but we ended up with 3 bonus chests by doing that.
Additionally the boss encounters are messaged extremely well. So far we have done no real research on the dungeons we have encountered, but just by watching the way the mobs behave we have been able to figure out the key mechanic of most fights. That is not to say there have not been the occasional item that completely wipes the group when we didn’t do something… but in those cases it was really painfully obvious what we were supposed to do… we just were not paying attention. The fights have a lot of things going on… are often times frenetic and rely on you to both tank mobs and allow your dps to burn the occasional add down unassisted. Overall it is one of the best dungeon experiences I have had in several years.
This game is extremely good… and I would honestly go so far as to say it is an amazing experience. There is simply so much in the game that you do not see at face value. So many deep systems supporting your gameplay experience that it takes awhile to get into. The tragedy of all of this is… that even as good as the game is… it is still supported by a grossly inadequate infrastructure. Yesterday Reinhart posted a translation of a letter on the Japanese forums that explains the problems. Essentially they were not expecting the game to be the success it is… currently they have capacity for 218,000 players to be logged in at the same time. From what I have heard they were initially only expecting to have 100,000 concurrent users.
Right now they have way more than this trying to play the game, and as a result we end up with all the technical problems we are dealing with. I honestly believe they are trying their best to deal with the issues… but I also believe that more than likely Squaresoft did not have the faith in this game than the really should have. The first release was a complete disaster, and I feel as though they threw some money at it in hopes of turning into a modest profit generator… but instead it has been way more popular than they ever could have imagined. While I am happy they are exceeding their expectations… it makes for an extremely frustrating experience.
I have had a Microsoft Sidewinder 4X keyboard for some time, and one of the nifty features it has is a bank of hardware macro keys. Until the release of this game I had never actually configured them to do anything. Now I have a key that presses the 0 button every 1.5 seconds… this is essentially what I am reduced to if I ever hope to log into the game. For those who do not know this… hitting 0 on the numpad is basically the equivalent of hidding X on a joystick… it is the continue to the next step key. As a result you can log into the client by spamming 0… and with the constant world is full errors this is essentially how we get it… hit the hardware macro and fiddling around on phones or tablets until it lets us in.
Wait to Purchase
My hope is that in the coming weeks they will resolve these issues and it will be smooth sailing ahead. The problem is… the damage may have already been done. In the United States we are going into the Labor Day weekend… and if the game is not fully playable over that break… then it will cause a ton of negative vibes among the US populace. This game is extremely worth the purchase, and as much as I dislike saying this… is fully worth the monthly subscription fee. However right now my advice to friends is to wait before purchasing it. Sure you can probably go form store to store to find a copy of the game… but you are ultimately just setting yourself up for frustration.
The gameplay experience is extremely good, which makes the inability to actually get into the game and play it all the more frustrating. This combination of amazing game and total lack of infrastructure is what made me such a ball of directionless fury early in the week. As a result if I can save anyone that frustration I would. I feel like eventually things will settle down… be it a week from now or a month from now. The game will still be an amazing experience at that point… so I highly suggest you just sit on your money and play something else in the meantime. I promise the collective community with sound an “All Clear” sign when the game is ready for primetime.
Well I need to wrap this up and get on the road. I have a project charter to knock out today, and I am trying to figure exactly where I will hide out while writing it. The problem is that I get so many random questions throughout the day that it throws off my train of thought. I am thinking about grabbing the small conference room on the floor we go to for laptop lunches. I can hang out in there and compose freely without interruptions. I hope you all have a great day and that it is the beginning of an amazing labor day weekend. I will be involved in a big NDA protected event, so not sure how much gaming news I will have to report this weekend.