Final Fantasy XIV: Initial impressions

My wife and I recently started playing Final Fantasy XIV, in part because it’s been a long while since we played an MMO together, and also because her chain-playing LoL ranked games isn’t healthy for anyone. Currently we are level 13, and the game overall has been enjoyable.

In terms of graphics the game is pretty fantastic IMO, even better than ESO. FF avoids a lot of the uncanny-valley problems ESO ran into with character models, and in terms of landscape I’d say they are about even. Effects and such seem more impressive or appropriate in FF, and I think it blows ESO out of the water in terms of animations, story presentation, and just the overall impact the graphics have on the enjoyment of the game.

We both play at 1900×1200, and on my current machine (i7 Sandbridge overclocked to 4ghz, ) I can easily run the game fully maxed out at a stable 60fps, while the now 6 year old Alienware runs the game near the default “standard desktop” settings well-enough. The only notable issue is that sometimes, quest NPCs don’t instantly load on the older PC, which is a bit annoying as my wife sometimes has to wait a few seconds for them to appear. After some settings tweaks this happens less often however (maybe once or twice per hour).

Sound isn’t always a huge factor in MMOs, but in FF it most certainly is. From the awesome nostalgia of the classic FF theme used on the home page, to mixing in the battle theme after a fight, FF14 is an MMO that uses its rich and storied IP and puts it to good use, rather than feeling weighed down by it ala ESO.

On the gameplay front so far everything feels solid. It’s most certainly a themepark MMO, but rather than trying to mix in a thousand things to try to be something else, FF14 embraces that model and refines it down to the best parts.

It has a central storyline quest chain, but unlike in say GW2, here you actually are the central hero actually doing stuff, rather than a silent and nameless sidekick. At the same time, it’s presented in better fashion than the “you are a god slayer on day one” that was the ESO main chain. It’s also build into the zones, so you aren’t returning to the ‘main chain’ instanced hole in the ground. It’s a bit early to definitively say if the story and progression fully pay off, but so far it’s interesting and something we look forward to rather than just being in item on a checklist.

Speaking of checklist items, I do like the fact that FF14 doesn’t flood you with 10 quests the moment you step into a quest hub, but rather seems to always have 2-4 quests at a time, with more opening up as you finish the first batch, often with logical references or reasons as to why someone now wants you to do something. It might seem like a small thing, but IMO it really does help you focus on each item rather than just looking on the map and seeing where the concentration of ‘stuff to do’ is highest. To me this is a perfect example of refining the themepark model to make it better. Sure ultimately most of these quests are pretty standard “kill 5 of this”, “collect 3 of that”, “go talk to that guy” tasks, but how they are presented and their pacing goes a long away.

This ‘less is more’ design also extends to items. Rather than being flooded with random junk or ‘white’ items, so far it seems like questing is the main source of upgrades (haven’t gotten into crafting), and they are paced well. The game auto-loots mobs for you, but since most times you just get a bit of money, you aren’t really focused on killing something for what it drops, but rather because it’s a quest objective. I very much appreciate not having to play the “dump 90% of your inventory at a vendor” game after every questing session. The lack of gear flooding also means it’s easier to focus on questing and actually playing rather than on constantly fiddling to gain +1 to whatever stat.

Finally but perhaps most importantly, I’m really enjoying the combat. This is again another example of refining themepark combat rather than trying to do too much. FF14 is pretty standard tab-target combat, but I think it’s slower than games like GW2 or ESO in terms of global cooldowns and how often you mash skills, which IMO is a plus (I can actually watch the animations rather than focusing on a hotbar!). If I want FPS-like combat, I can play Darkfall or, you know, a FPS. I don’t really need or want my MMO with target locking to half-ass ‘action’ combat just to say it has ‘action’ combat. You don’t; you just have more annoying/spammy tab-target combat.

Currently the only stuff we haven’t been thrilled with have been the public quests, called Fates in FF14. So far almost all have been ‘kill a bunch of stuff until the bar fills’, and then they just end. I think what really made WAR’s PQs great is they had stages, and each PQ felt like it escalated during those stages. Stage one was normal mobs, stage two was tougher mobs or larger waves, and stage three you got a boss. That felt like an event; and at the end you left feeling you actually accomplished something. With Fates you just feel like you killed a few mobs for a bit of XP. I think the lack of a more meaningful reward, combined with the lack of a visual leaderboard and ‘end of PQ summery’ screen, also diminish the experience. WAR’s PQs felt like they belonged to the zone they were in, Fates feel like someone put a spawn circle at random spots in the zone and called it a day.

The nice thing about playing the game at a casual pace is that we now just skip over Fates and continue on with the stuff we enjoy, and the game doesn’t punish us for it. If anything, it seems we are a bit ahead of the XP curve just from questing.

Couple of quick questions for FF14 vets:

I think the group size is 4, is that correct? And I’ve heard that if you duo, you can fill the other two spots with combat pets? Details here would be cool. I’m playing a tank and Aria is playing a dps mage, can we get/hire a healer and another dps NPC? So far we haven’t come across any such option.

When does dungeon content start, and how does that work? Group finder?

I’m pretty sure at end-game you have raiding, but is there anything else? Something that would work well for our duo? How is the raiding overall, if we decide to go down that path?

29 Responses to Final Fantasy XIV: Initial impressions

  1. maljjin says:

    I played up until 40ish, before quitting for various reasons, so I can’t comment on the end game. However, I can say some of the mechanics evolve with the levels. Like the Fate events you mentioned, they get a little more complex and some of them (one per zone maybe) gets multiple phases.

    Dungeons have a place in the world, but even going there will queue you in the group finder tool. Quests will lead you to each instance which enables the dungeon in the tool. If I remember correctly the first one is 16ish and there’s a new one available each 3 to 5 levels.

    Groups size is 4, but I haven’t heard of any NPC helpers during my playtime.

    I think you nailed the strengths of the game. Nothing really fancy is standing out, but a lot of cumberstone mechanics were dropped. I would say it also helps that everything seems to have a place in the world. I don’t remember bumping in any npc or place wondering why it’s there for anything but being a quest hub.

  2. Dotcalm says:

    Hi Syn!
    Glad you’re enjoying the game. I personally was hooked by the “one character, all classes” aspect so I can just love my little Lafafel and do whatever I feel like class wise. At the moment my little dude is a 50 warrior and 50 scholar/summoner (the Arcanist class splits into two jobs at 50) so I can tank or heal or dps. I’m not in a static raid group though, so I don’t have any pressure to gear up rapidly or somesuch.

    Answers to your questions:
    1. Group size is 4. Pets are in addition to this size and I don’t believe you can run dungeons with just two people (I haven’t tried though). I don’t know if you can enter a dungeon physically and low level content is scaled so soloing might not be a thing. And I don’t believe that you can fill the party ala SWTOR with NPCs. But I’ve never tried. I mostly run dungeons by doing my daily roulette because the xp bonus is massive.

    2. The main storyline unlocks basically everything, so keeping up on it is a must. At 15 you get access to your airship (which lets you move between capital cities easily) and I believe that around 12-15 is when you unlock Satasha. The first three dungeons are clearly “learning dungeons” in that they are really basic L2P type dungeons and the bosses get slightly more difficult as you progress in them. Once you pass about level 30 (and unlock jobs) the dungeons start to get pretty serious.

    The group finder is called “Duty Finder” (“u” if I’m not mistaken). You can either que for a random dungeon or for specific ones as needed. The first random you do gives you a bonus xp boost of about 1/3-1/2 of a level (and it scales) so it’s pretty amazing for alt classes and leveling. There’s also a bonus for being an “adventurer in need” which is generally gil/xp. Tank ques are usually instant and healer ques are close. Dungeons are scaled, so you won’t have access to all your abilities if you’re level 50 in a level 15 dungeon.

    3. End-game Activities
    Raiding:
    There are a ton of different types/raid instances. You can que for most of them at this point and some of them are really cool/fun. The main “raid” is called Coil of Bahamut and it’s a series of small raids (1-3 bosses per “turn”) which is on Turn 9 at the moment.

    Dungeons:
    There are about three levels of level 50 dungeons. The intro ones are pretty easy at this point, so they introduced hard versions and now extreme versions. I was put off by this except that they actually represent “new stories”. For instance there’s a level 28 dungeon “Haukke Manor” which you get sent back to at level 50 because it’s evolved (and I assume it evolves again for the extreme version).

    Hunts:
    Basically massive groups running around butchering named mobs. It’s not my thing, but people seem to like it. There are “elite marks” which are raid bosses and normal marks which I suspect you could duo nicely for kicks.

    Housing:
    FFXIV has full housing. It’s not my bag so I haven’t done it. Generally speaking it’s super-expensive such that they added guild housing where you can buy a personal room in the guild house as an option for those of us without millions of Gil.

    Leveling:
    There are 8 (soon to be 9 classes) with 50 levels for each. This is my chosen end game at the moment. I’ve been playing casually for almost a year (dipping my toes in raiding when I feel like it).

    Crafting:
    There’s also lilke 8 crafting/gathering classes to level. I haven’t done any but I know people who only really do that.

    PvP:
    I haven’t done any pvp yet, but people seem to like it. PvP comes in two flavours. Arenas (Wolf something) which you can que for or go as a group and the new “warfronts” or whatever they’re called which are decently big battles.

    Other Stuff:
    I’ve found references to “sightseeing logs” where you explore for achievements and titles. And there’s fashion stuff people do putting together cool looking outfits.

    Also apparently we can now breed our Chocobos or something. I don’t even know but I”m excited about it!

    I’m sure there’s stuff I missed.

    4,. How is the raiding?
    I’ve barely dipped my toe in the raiding but it looks like this:
    Easy stuff:
    24 person raids are by que and are pretty easy. It’s actually more like 3×8 since you are broken into 8 person groups, but it’s there.
    8 person raids:
    Range from easy to extremely hard. One of my favorite things is that the ultrahard setting just gives a title, so it is purely a prestige item.

    Oh, and it’s all really pretty. I like to run Leviathan Hard (a one off fight against a water primal) mostly because you’re fighting on a rocking ocean blasted with spray and I just find it really fun. I’m not in a progression guild though.

    My impressions may be biased by the fact that I’ve had literally one group that I didn’t like in the last year. The game rewards the group for having new people in it, as well as for good behaviour and I love that about it.

    I’ve got a list of tips for you too, but I think I’ll put that in a second comment to keep the length down some. :-)

  3. Wopz says:

    Glad to see you try FFXIV. As you mention, it is a theme park that gets most things right, sub based means very good support and lots of content every 3-4 months.

    As someone that enjoyed playing UO and has gone through many MMORPGs (sandbox and themeparks). I find FFXIV enjoyable because it does not try to be something it is not. It does it job well, it keeps getting content and support. I personally love the art and music.

    It also allows for a non intensive playstyle. You can cap most gear “tokens” by playing normally (at 50 you have “roulettes” that provide bonus money and tokens) or by doing PVP. With the challenge log (unlock it quickly in Limsa Lominsa tavern) you get more money and experience for doing normal things.

    One more thing that I like is having all classes in one character.

    You will also be able to marry your wife ingame as well in the near future :P

    Q: I think the group size is 4, is that correct?

    Dungeon until 50 are for 4 people (tank, healer, dps, dps). All dungeons/trials/raids are done through Duty Finder, you can queue with your wife. Dungeons start at level 15 and are a great way of leveling and getting nice looking gear.

    You will be forced to do some dungeons as part of the storyline, I find them quite enjoyable to be honest.

    And I’ve heard that if you duo, you can fill the other two spots with combat pets?

    You can fill the spots with your Chocobo Companion (when you unlock it) for world content (questing, fates, etc.). Unfortunately you cannot yet queue for dungeons with them out (neither to use them in the dungeon nor to fill the spots while you wait for Duty Finder to fill the spots with players.

    Details here would be cool. I’m playing a tank and Aria is playing a
    dps mage, can we get/hire a healer and another dps NPC?

    No, there are no NPC companions/henchmen.

    Q: When does dungeon content start, and how does that work? Group finder?

    At level 15 and then every two levels more or less:

    Sastasha Seagrot (level 15 – 18)
    Tam-Tara Deepcroft (Level 16 – 19)
    Copperbell Mines (Level 17 – 20)
    Halatali (Level 20 – 23)
    Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak (Level 24 – 27)
    Haukke Manor (Level 28 – 31)
    Brayflox’s Longstop (Level 32 – 34)
    The Sunken Temple of Qarn (Level 35 – 37)
    Cutter’s Cry (Level 38 – 40)
    The Stone Vigil (Level 41 – 43)
    Dzemael Darkhold (Level 44 – 46)
    The Aurum Vale (Level 47 – 49)

    Then many others at level 50. You will need to use the Duty Finder to access them, queue with your wife and then it autofills the other spots, with a tank it should be quick.

    I recommend doing them all at least once. Nice lore if you pay attention, nice bosses in most of them.

    Q: I’m pretty sure at end-game you have raiding, but is there anything else?

    End-game can be divided in different tiers:

    PVE

    Raids for 24 players (easy, mainly bosses, nice gear, nice mechanics, nice lore)

    Labyrinth of the Ancients (Level 50) (iLvl 55)
    Syrcus Tower (Level 50) (iLvl 70)

    Raids for 8 players (hard, mainly bosses, nice gear, nice mechanics, nice lore)

    The Binding Coil of Bahamut (Level 50) (iLvl 70)
    The Second Coil of Bahamut (Level 50)
    The Second Coil of Bahamut (Savage) (Level 50)

    Endgame dungeons for 4 players (rather easy, traditional dungeons, some nicer than others, all worth doing at least once)

    The Wanderer’s Palace (Level 50)
    Amdapor Keep (Level 50)
    Copperbell Mines (Hard) (Level 50) (iLvl 48)
    Haukke Manor (Hard) (Level 50) (iLvl 48)
    Pharos Sirius (Level 50) (iLvl 48)
    Halatali (Hard) (Level 50) (iLvl 55)
    Brayflox’s Longstop (Hard) (Level 50) (iLvl 55)
    The Lost City of Amdapor (Level 50) (iLvl 55)
    Tam-Tara Deepcroft (Hard) (Level 50) (iLvl 70)
    Stone Vigil (Hard) (Level 50) (iLvl 70)
    Hullbreaker Isle (Level 50) (iLvl 70)

    Trials

    Here you battle a Primal (there are several and more keep getting added to the game). They come in different difficulties and are mostly about mechanics. Knowing the fight and executing your task well. Very enjoyable but can be frustrating.

    Non-dungeons

    Hunts, treasure maps, housing, etc. Most of these things will not need your full attention.

    PVP

    Wolf´s Den – arena style (4v4), mostly empty, not very succesful
    Frontlines – battleground style (24v24v24), very active, quite enjoyable

    Q: Something that would work well for our duo?

    As you see most PVE things require at least 4 people. You can queue together and fill the spots.

    As a duo you can do treasure maps (you will need a gathering class at 50 to get them) which can be profitable and even is lackluster can be nice.

    Q: How is the raiding overall, if we decide to go down that path?

    The 24 man raids are casual, enjoyable and no stress.

    The 8 man raids for lack of a better word are were most of the “hardcore” players compete for world firsts (not really a thing in FF14 but you get the idea). They increase gradually in difficulty and with big patches they add more layers. The previous layers get easier through buffs upon death to allow casual players to experience them and the new “wings” get harder and harder. Now they are republishing old wings at harder difficulty (a bit like Diablo or Heroic mode).

    Trials are lots of fun, require little time (most fights are less than 30 min if executed well) and have a steep learning curve. You will be able to do them through Duty Finder for normal or hard modes. You will need static or Party Finder (basically a server only party) to do the Extreme modes.

    Ask away if you have any questions!

    • SynCaine says:

      Also great info, thank you. Get the feeling that FF14 has a very solid community overall.

      I think we experienced the duty finder already, just didn’t know it. Only did the intro to it, where you fight two groups and then a boss+adds. Very short, but the queue was almost instant and the XP was crazy.

      I kinda want to stay away from a lot of the non-quest activities for now because we are enjoying that, and don’t want to outlevel it. Sounds like we will have some good options once we level cap at least one class though, which is very cool.

      • Rohan says:

        Those are “guildhests”. They’re short scenarios for 4-man groups. In many ways, they try to teach you how to play in groups.

        The actual dungeons come later and are longer.

      • Wopz says:

        As Rohan mentioned, those are Guildhests, designed to be short and provide guidance on how to play as a group. There are two every five levels. Some are pretty fun. There is a daily Guildhest experience bonus.

        Just for your information, these are the things that will grant you experience while leveling:

        1) Mainstory quests. You need to do them, they unlock key content (airship, dungeons, etc.). You will level your first class mostly through these quests and related content (dungeons, subquests).

        2) Dungeons. See post before. Some are required as part of the Mainstory. You will get bonus exp the first time you do each one and each time you do them with someone that is new to the dungeon.

        3) Guildhests. You will need to unlock them in quests hubs. Two every five levels. Bonus experience first time you do them.

        4) Levequests. These work as repeatable quests which can be done at some quest hubs (you can accumulate 99). There are two types, Regional Levequests (combat, crafting and gathering related) which can be unlocked and give items, experience and money. Grand Company Levequests are related to your Grand Company (GC) which is an NPC guild and provide GC seals to get gear, items, etc. You will discover this as part of the mainstory.

        5) Trials. Not really a way to level but you will encounter them.

        6) Challenge log. It provides additional experience and money for completing X things during a week. It resets on Tuesdays at around 5pm UK time. It needs to be unlocked through a subquest.

        7) Quests. These you know. Normal quests providing experience, items and money. You can only do them once.

        8) Fates. A bit boring. Some have chains which are nice. Good experience and GC seals. In some cases, minions as reward.

        9) Class quests. Every 5 levels. Provide abilities, background lore, items.

        10) Hunting Log. A log obtained after your first level 5 class quest requiring you to kill a certain number of particular types of monsters. Completing an entry grants bonus experience points.

        You can also activate (through the menu) a set of “Recommendations” which will pop a window with suggested activities appropriate for your level.

        I would suggest using a mix of everything in order to level but always staying on top of your Mainstory quests. You will level quickly with it and it is fun.

        Enjoy!

        • SynCaine says:

          I think this is our current plan, let me know if it sounds reasonable:

          Level our current (first) class doing all quests that we come across as we do the main storyline, just to play through things and not miss story/quest content.

          For second+ classes, minimize the core questing down to the must-do quests (class and such), and instead focus on whatever activities we end up finding to fit out style (queue’ng up for dungeons, guildheists, levequests, maybe fates if we start enjoying them more).

          On the side, I plan to level up some crafting+gathering classes because I enjoy that. My wife doesn’t. Her not doing those won’t really put me ahead for our main classes however, right/

        • Rohan says:

          Quests are a one-time thing. If you complete a quest on class A, that quest will not be available when you do class B. Essentially, levelling combat classes after the first is a combination of hunting logs, FATES, and dungeons.

          Each class has a separate XP pool. Levelling a different class (crafting/gathering or combat) has no effect on your original class.

        • Wopz says:

          As Rohan mentioned, quests are not repeatable except for levequests. Dungeon and Guildhest bonus are class specific though. Also, when you reach 50 with one class, you get a +50% experience bonus during combat.

          Make sure to always eat food (cheapest works) to get the +3% experience bonus and log off in sanctuaries to get additional experience.

          Your plan makes perfect sense :)

          For future reference, some webs that are very useful:

          http://www.reddit.com/r/ffxiv/

          http://xivdb.com/ (everything you might need)
          http://ffxivclock.com/#/ (useful for endgame gathering)
          http://craftingasaservice.com/ (very good for crafting and gathering)
          http://www.xiv-minions.com/ (in case you enjoy collecting minions)

          Not sure where this reply will appear!

        • John says:

          Guildhest are only give good xp when you do it for first time…so if you do it on first class, does not worth doing again… maybe once a day with the new “roulette” system but have not played lately and don’t know if this changed…

        • Wopz says:

          John, the Guildhest bonus is now class specific so they are worth doing on all classes. The Guildhest roulette bonus is also great specially coupled with the Challenge Log for doing them. Lots of free experience for little effort! :)

        • Dotcalm says:

          I had no idea the Challenge Log existed! I’ll be setting that up when I get home!

          And yeah, guildhest and other activities now give a “first time as class X” bonus as well.

        • John says:

          Ah thanks :) thats a very good change. It seems many things changed for good! Maybe I need to resub again to check all the nice things added/changed.

      • MaximGtB says:

        Something I didn’t see mentioned in the comments: At level 30 of any combat class you can (and should) unlock a “job”, which is a specialization for your class. It gives you some extra skills and allows you to equip job-specific equipment, at the cost of some cross-class skill slots and variety. Every class has a single job, except Arcanist, which has two (one dps and one healer).

        To unlock them, you need to have a specific class at level 15 and your main class at 30, complete your main class quest chain (it ends at level 30), and then start the job quest chain. Since you play a tank, you will need either Conjurer (if you are a Gladiator) or Gladiator (if you are a Marauder). Your wife will need Archer if she is a Thaumaturge, or Thaumaturge if she is an Arcanist and wants to keep being dps.

        Also, if you play Marauder, consider leveling Gladiator up to 22 to pick up the cross-class skill Provoke (FFXIV’s version of Taunt). If you are Gladiator, though, you don’t need anything from Marauder.

        Also, I can confirm that there is no way to enter a dungeon without using the Duty Finder, and thus you are forced to go with a full party.

  4. John says:

    I ve played 3 months 8+ hours a day. I have all gathering and craft classes level 50 with best gear and also Paladin/Monk to 50 plus all other classes around 30 (all on same character).

    The dungeons are awesome and very classic. Tank need to work to build aggro and all others needs to watch out their aggro. The mechanics are awesome. But with my guild we stuck at Titan hard mode for weeks (we had 2-3 people wipe us every single time) and then half of us quit.

    I know I could search for another guild, e.t.c. but I really liked that guild and wasn’t in mood to continue when half of our guild quit… Find a good guild and you will like the endgame.

  5. Jenks says:

    I think if we could get real numbers out of Zenimax, you would lose this bet :D

    http://syncaine.com/2014/04/03/soe-all-of-the-great-mmos-are-f2p-like/#comment-204401

    You can absolutely spec your Chocobos as healers. They won’t become battle ready until you complete a quest at lvl 30. Dot is right about *pets* not taking up group spots, but chocobos DO take up group spots. They are full party members, unlike a summoner pet. You can’t use them in dungeons, though.
    Here’s a look at the interface for leveling them up and their skill trees:

    http://igoumedia.com/finalfantasy14/chocobo-companion-page/

    (When I played leveling them was an EXTREME grind. I hope they have fixed that by now)

    The fates get better. Much better. There are some very epic fates in Coerthas, one is like 4 or 5 parts long and ends with a huge boss battle. They readjusted xp since I played, but back then fates were THE way to get xp, so I’ve done my share.

    Everything else I think Dot’s got you covered :)

    I had a lot of fun with FFXIV, I had a great group going through the game and we progressed through Coil at a good pace (the endgame raid at the time) and got to the last section (at the time, t5) and there was just too much disparity in group skill and dedication. Some of our members just didn’t want to put in the time to learn it so we sort of stagnated and quit. I would love to go back eventually, maybe after an expansion. Of all the WoW clone theme parks, it’s by far my favorite.

    My char, because why not-

    http://na.finalfantasyxiv.com/lodestone/character/4765087/

  6. morganic88 says:

    I absolutely loved FFXIV when I played it for the first 4-5 months. The boss fights were actually challenging and required coordination to complete. I still love the idea that you could level all classes on a single toon and wish that more games would add it.

    Eventually I quit due to fact that Crystal Tower had just come out and as a raiding group we were working through Turn 5 of Coil so it was going to be months before any new top end raiding content would be out.

    Had Crystal tower been there on release and then coil was added, I would probably still be playing. But our guild was just frustrated that the first raid post-launch was actually easier than what we working through.

  7. zaphod6502 says:

    I’ve only played the game to level 20 and it is a well executed and well designed MMO. Sadly for me though it ranks as one of the most boring MMO’s I have ever played hence I consigned it to the trashcan.

  8. Jonneh says:

    I’ve got 2 maxed out classes (conjuror and arcanist) and all the other classes at various levels. I really loved the game and only stopped because my friends all completely out geared me so I always felt a bit of a leper tagging along.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about hitting all the quest content as when you level an alt you only get a handful of new quests (basically just the class quests every 5 levels). However, don’t be worried about jumping into the duty finder as I never got a single bad group while playing, the community was really good.

  9. MaximGtB says:

    No mention of server or character name?

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