I know a lot of people who have lots of nice things to say about Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Lots of people. It’s almost certainly the MMO that gets the most positive buzz from people I know, with WoW coming in second (and Wildstar third, largely because Rhiss loves it to death and I like a lot about it too). That kind of feedback was pushing against the forces keeping me from playing it, including time, Rhiss’ willingness to try it out, my money already being in another MMO… and my previous experience with Final Fantasy XIV.
Yes, I played the first version, in that farce of an open beta they had where they were actively not inviting feedback (so not really a beta at all). That game had without doubt the worst UI of any MMO I’d played, and was full of mistakes that were either amateur hour level, or showed a total disregard for anything the industry had done since WoW came into existence. It was also crash prone, the patcher didn’t work properly, performance sucked, etc, etc…
Nevertheless, eventually the positive feedback on the new release won out, and since I’m not in Wildstar right now, I figured I’d try the free trial. This blog post is on that.
The Return – Shades Of The Original
I didn’t start off impressed.
First of all, I couldn’t get the free trial on my real email address because I had played that open beta for the previous release, back in 2010. I mean, seriously? Alright, I’ll use another email on a fake account. Installation went fine. First launch, I changed data centers to the one Rhiss had also created an experimental character on, and the game crashed.
Second time worked. So I started making a character. I got stuff like this:
If it’s telling me the starting attributes for my race selection, I assume they matter in some way. Unfortunately, the game isn’t telling me what those things are. I can decipher four of them easily because they’re fairly standard ones that any tabletop RPG player would know (not that it’s good UX design to assume that knowledge), but what in the world are MND and PIE? One of those is food.
They could have just spelled these things out, and it would have been clearer, but alright. It’s a trial character, these things probably don’t matter a lot.
Then I got to pick a deity. Neat! That came with this:
Did they not learn anything from the UI problems last time around? What in the world are symbols, and what do those numbers do? I have absolutely no idea, to the point that I’m not sure why they are even showing them to me. Is this something for experienced players creating a second character? There’s nothing available on screen to tell me what I’m looking at. Sigh. Oh well, again, it probably doesn’t matter on a trial character.
Final step is picking a world. Rhiss made a test one on Diabolis yesterday, so I tried to do that, and this happened:
I can’t make one on that server because it’s not allowed right now. It was allowed yesterday. So we already can’t play together and we’re just starting. This is really not the start I had in mind. Oh well, I’ll sort that out tomorrow, so I go in…
Damn, This Is Gorgeous!
When I get in, there’s an intro sequence. It’s longer than I’d like before I can do anything, but the dialog and interactions are doing a good job of making me feel like a person in the world and not the chosen one, so I approve. I do a couple of initial tutorial quests, then other people appear, and I see this:
Wow. Even on my three year old computer, this game is awesome looking. Performance is really good for me. It somehow both has much higher detail than Wildstar AND better framerates. The town looks great, the people looks great, the world looks great… Running around town trying to find things was a joy because everything is so easy on the eyes. That’ll probably fade in time, but wow.
I ran around doing some town fetch quests, then got sent outside to do some stuff. Most of the in game UI annoyances from the original release are gone, and I’m having a relatively painless time figuring out how to do things. Out for some early combat I noticed that the pacing feels slow and deliberate, especially compared to the chaotic frenzy that Wildstar can turn into. I didn’t mind it, because it feels kind of like WoW and I enjoyed that for years. Plus I’m playing a Conjuror, so I can run around healing other people in the area for fun. One of them was fighting two things at once and I think I helped them out, they threw me a bow afterwards. It’s the little things.
The sound was also pretty good, with little touches like when combat kicked off and such. I ran into a FATE and that played like a rift from Rift. Cool, I liked that system a lot.
It’s Early, So We’ll See
These are pretty early impressions, considering I’m level four and haven’t really done anything. Overall I enjoyed it more than Rhiss did, especially when I was enjoying the world and not dealing with wonky stuff like the character creation issues. It sucks that we can’t group right now, and that it’d take a while to fix that once we find a server we can both get on because of how long the intro area is, but still.
I hope to be able to put more time into it and see how some other things work before the trial runs out. Given that I want to play again, so far the trial did it’s job of selling the game. What a vast improvement from the first time.