Category Archives: FFXIV
Back in July I talked about how Final Fantasy XIV was going F2Pish. The official date had come and gone since then, and I promptly forgot about the entire thing. Then I recently got an email from Square Enix:
Oh, a whole four days of playing free. This sort of shit seems pretty quaint in 2020. “But wait a minute,” I thought. “Can’t I play for free up to level 60 and into the second expansion for as long as I want?”
Indeed, the bottom of the ad:
So, I have full access to the Heavensward expansion “as an owner of A Realm Reborn.” But only if I pay for a subscription. Alternatively, I could create a new account and have that same access indefinitely for free. Hmm.
It’s not quite the same thing, of course. The free trial has a bunch of limitations that come with the gold-spam prevention territory: no /Yell, no Tells, can’t invite people to a party, can’t access the AH, etc. There is also a 300k gil-cap, which is hard to determine whether it would be stifling or not without having played the game since 2017.
But what does not make any sense whatsoever is why previously-subscribed members cannot take advantage of the expanded free trial with their lapsed accounts. I have to imagine that players who log back in after several years would be more likely to stick around and be tempted to re-subscribe if they could use their existing characters. Square cannot be worried about bots or spam, as lapsed players have already paid money. And even if these old accounts were hacked or whatever, just ban them like you would any other account.
In any case, I was looking at starting a new FF14 account via Steam just for ease of use. Unfortunately, the store page for FF14 only included a paid version that “comes with a month subscription.” So, it’s not a free trial at all for people conned into trying the game via Steam. Unless the Download Demo button actually does it?
I would typically perform some additional investigative journalism, but I was already downloading the Free Trial via the “normal” route and got lazy.
We’ll have to see how things shake out. I am recently back from a two-week staycation that was supposed to be filled with gaming, but instead was filled with flooring. As in, ripping up carpet and putting down LVP. I was hoping that between Fallout 76 and Genshin Impact (perhaps a future post) I would be able to resist the siren call of a new WoW expansion. FFXIV would be some extra insurance.
Then again, sometimes substitutes just make you want the original that much more.
Even after repeated attempts, FF14 has never managed to hook me. Part of the reason is because I am mostly done with the MMO genre in general. Another part is that FF14 is front-loaded with dozens and dozens of hours of irredeemably bad, garbage questing. The bar is pretty low for MMO questing, sure, but when everyone pontificates on how FF14 has the greatest story of all time, the “*only after 60+ hours of terribleness” asterisk is usually missing.
Nevertheless, I had heard of plans that the devs were going to overhaul the vanilla experience to make it less of a slog. Eyebrow raised, I made a mental note and went on with my life.
Well, the time is nigh.
Patch 5.3 is slated for August 11th and it includes:
- Main Scenario Questline Update: A Realm Reborn – The A Realm Reborn main scenario questline will be reworked to give new players a more streamlined experience as they progress through the story leading to Heavensward. Additionally, players will be able to use flying mounts to take to the skies in A Realm Reborn areas upon completion of The Ultimate Weapon quest.
- Expanded Free Trial – The free trial will now allow players to enjoy unlimited playtime up through level 60 and will also include access to Heavensward content, an additional playable race (Au Ra), and an additional three playable jobs (Dark Knight, Astrologian, and Machinist).
It is difficult to get precise information regarding how “streamlined” is streamlined. I have heard estimates ranging from 13%-30% of the quests have been removed, and other non-removed quests have gotten trimmed back in terms of required items. If after all this I’m still asked to run a dungeon to collect cheese for my own banquet, then I’m going to expect some dev seppuku in the future.
One of the bigger surprises though, was the second bullet point. Square Enix is expanding the Free Trial from level 35 to level 60, and including all content of the main game and the first expansion, including the new race and classes introduced. And keep in mind this trial is not time-based. For all intents and purposes, this makes the front half of the game F2P.
As it happens though, this will only be for “new” players. If your account has ever paid money to Square Enix, you are ineligible for any such trials. Which means if I come back to FF14, I will have to abandon the characters I already leveled. From *checks calendar* 2017. Which… okay, whatever. Hopefully the skids are greased enough that I can pass through the utter tripe of the starting experience and get to the supposed good stuff and see for myself if FF14 is the second coming.
My guess is No, but I have been wrong before.
I gave FF14 six months. But I just can’t take it anymore.
Obviously I did not play it as my primary game, else I would not have ended at level 42. That had less to do with my motivation and more to do with the fact that it simply isn’t fun. There is zero satisfying about FF14’s combat – none of the attacks have any weight, and it’s all just flashing lights and high-pitched screeches. I might have been able to get over that, if questing had any meaning. But it doesn’t. Maybe WoW has “corrupted” me into believing one should be able to traverse a narrative without mandatory grinding breaks, but that’s what on offer here.
The final straw was more recent. The day before, I was once again stuck a third of the way into level 41 and the Main Story Request required level 42 to continue. I joined a group of three friends and we ran a dungeon and guildhest in order to get enough XP to get over the hump. The next day, I played through 3-4 MSQs and once again got stuck halfway to the required level 43. So, I queued up in the LFG equivalent and started playing around on my phone.
Then, 23 minutes later, the queue popped. It was a one-boss, no-trash encounter. No loot, shit XP. Fantastic. I queued again, and 17 minutes got into a more traditional dungeon. Except by the time I got to the end of it, I still had not leveled up. I was halfway to 43 with full rested XP at the start, and still needed 25% of a bar to go.
People complain about questing in WoW where you out-level the quests in a zone before reaching the end, but the alternative is apparently completing a zone and then farming public quests/dungeons for days. No thank you.
There is always a chance that I come back a year or whatever down the road. Perhaps after Square Enix fixes their dumbass game design. But for now, I am done. Yearly attempt over.
Implausibly, I continue to pay for a FFXIV subscription.
In the last week or so, I have made some progress both in the story and in the Job system, hitting level 35. It is slow going though, as I do not consider the game anywhere near the top of my evening entertainment preferences. I will typically play for about an hour or two, run into so kind of roadblock, and then log off and play something else.
The roadblocks are generally the pointlessly forced dungeons – I seriously had to run a dungeon because the Main Story Quest called for cheese, literal cheese – but I am also running into level breakpoints too. My understanding was that XP was sped up so that the sidequests were no longer necessary to complete. That seemed to be true under level 30, but since then, I have consistently been between 50%-60% of a full level behind.
So, yeah, do those sidequests.
Story-wise, I have certainly hit that stage at which the plot supposedly picks up. And it certainly has, comparatively. I do find that the greater focus on Empire soldiers is more able to keep my attention. Traditional fantasy is not especially interesting to me, except when it tends towards more grimdark themes or “realism.” Fantasy + Magi-Tek shenanigans though, have been interesting to me since I first booted up FF6 in my SNES.
Gameplay-wise, not much has changed. My Archer is now a Bard, and that means… more damage cooldowns. I do actually enjoy having group buffs, as it reminds me of the old WoW paladin days. Beyond that, combat is formulaic, boring, and completed in a daze-like trance 100% of the time. It’s still worlds better than my experience as Monk, but I think most of that is because melee in FFXIV feels terrible. And that is probably mostly to do with the high-pitched squeals and screen-flashes that constitute FFXIV attacks. Nothing feels particularly weighty or anchored to the world.
While the sale has since closed, Amazon and a few other places had the Stormblood expansion on sale for $25. I was tempted to purchase it for all of two seconds. The very real problem is that I am ages away from even getting to the end of the ARR storyline, let alone getting to the required Heavensward stuff (which is thankfully included in Stormblood). There is no guarantee that I make it to level 50 at my current pace, so it seems a bit silly to be buying expansions. At the same time, not buying the expansion sort of depresses my desire to hit the end of the road, as that would mean either taking a break until the next sale or giving up.
Oh, well. I shall continue as time and interest permits.
Against all odds, I remain playing FF14. Some days. For about an hour or two at a time.
Had I stuck with the Pugilist, I would have unsubscribed a month ago. Instead, I decided to try out the Archer and… I’m actually having fun. Usually. The mobility of instant-casts makes up for a lot of what I can only describe as the “jankiness” of FF14’s combat system. No attacks seem to have any weight to them – they are all high-pitched squeals and brightly flashing lights.
There is also an extremely noticeable delay in state-based attacks. For example, the Archer has a Kill Shot/Execute ability that’s off the global cooldown which triggers at 20% HP. Which is fine… except that it always lights up almost a full second after the target is below 20%. Combined with the default 2.5 second GCD, and enemy attack animations not being synced with their damage, the game feels like you’re playing with 250ms lag all the time.
I continue to slog through things though, because everyone talks about the fantastic story.
Know what I did on Monday? I /danced with some Sylphs to earn their trust. Then did some fetch quests for said Sylphs. Then helped out a bar owner, which involved talking to half a dozen people around the world to find out where a particular NPC went so I could return an earring. Then I helped the NPC make some liquor as a gift. Then went on a side quest to catch a traitor in the woods, ostensibly as something to do to pass the time. Finally, I found the the missing Sylph elder hiding (spoilers!) in another mandatory dungeon.
Best. Writing. Ever.
It really isn’t. I’m too committed to seeing this experiment to its conclusion, to see for myself if there is any redeeming value in playing FF14 for its story, to quit now. But I really, really want to. I have to imagine that SWTOR would be a better use of my time at this point.
Still, I shall overcome. With active, conscious effort.
This past week I ended up running the dreaded early dungeon gauntlet in FF14 again – you know, the three early dungeon Square Enix requires everyone to do in order to move the Main Story Quest forward. Things more or less went as well as last time.
The first dungeon run went comically bad. As soon as we zoned in, the healer just ran through half the dungeon and aggroed all of the mobs. This, of course, resulted in a wipe. The healer never rezzed themselves though, which is pretty indicative that his/her behavior was intentional trolling. Unfortunately, you cannot Vote Kick someone within X minutes of zoning into the dungeon, so we all had to wait.
Then it turned out that the healer and the other DPS voted to kick the tank, which happened to be frequent In An Age commenter, MaximGtB (who offered to help me through these early dungeons). It took me a while to figure out what even happened though, because FF14 does not allow you to Whisper or receive a Whisper while in a dungeon. And I did not know if there was an easy way to teleport out of a dungeon you were in.
So, yeah, comically bad.
After that, MaximGtB shepherded me through the three dungeons without major incident. In two of the dungeons, we had a Thaumaturge or Black Mage or whatever that insisted on using a knockback in their spell rotation, much to my Pugilist’s (and the tank’s) annoyance. It was also kind of annoying fighting 3-4 mobs at a time with zero AoE abilities. I suppose that might be a feature rather than a bug at this stage, as it would be easy for new players to spam that sort of thing and get aggro.
My overall impression about FF14’s dungeons have not really changed. There is zero reason for these early dungeons to be mandatory and/or exist. They are apropo of nothing. I don’t remember if Wailing Caverns had any lead-in, but other early WoW dungeons like Deadmines were the culmination of zone-wide storylines. That the devs required these three irrelevant dungeons for the MSQ simply boggles my mind. Mandatory is one thing, zero story is another.
In any event, further progress on my character will have to wait, as Square Enix is “moving data centers” and that apparently requires two full days of downtime. Which is almost enough time to be tempted to pop another WoW Token.
…think I’ll start Mass Effect: Andromeda instead.
My early-level experience in FF14 has not been as painful as it felt previously. There are all manner of reasons why this might be the case – psychological, emotional, a more fun class, etc – but I suspect that a large part of it has to do with the increase in Main Story Quest (MSQ) XP. Which is weird, because I’m pretty sure that was already active the first time I played.
The difference is that I’m actually taking advantage of it.
I’m sure this will change down the road, but essentially I am skipping everything but the MSQ quests and still hitting the necessary milestones to continue adventuring. It feels a bit off to stroll into a new town filled with exclamation marks and roll out with just one quest on the log, but it also feels… liberating? “Oh, you want me to kill 6 whatevers on the ass end of the Earth? No thanks.” At my level (which has jumped up to 15 now), those sidequests reward around 1100 XP whereas the MSQ will dump 6500 XP on your head for walking 10 feet and talking with another NPC. Plus, the story feels a lot more coherent without all the narrative breaks.
The downside is… well, not experiencing any sidequests. Which I am both happy and sad about.
Sidequests are an interesting game design mechanic. Pretty much every RPG has them, and they are almost entirely used as pacing. Filler, in other words. Of course, if you actually find the combat/exploration/etc in the RPG engaging, then sidequests are actual, legit content. Plus, if the designers go the extra mile, sidequests might become more interesting than the actual storyline. A good example of that would be the Mass Effect or Witcher series, wherein the supporting characters and their interaction with the main character is most of the appeal.
In MMOs, sidequests are almost always chores to be completed. “Kill 10 whatevers.” “Talk to these NPCs.” “Go here and click on the shiny thing.” Some are more memorable than others, some engage in world-building, others sew the seeds of interaction with new story characters. But the vast majority are pointless busywork. And that’s the rub, right? Skipping the busywork means skipping the few gems out there.
Of the FF14 sidequests I did before focusing exclusively on the MSQ, 99% of them were filler. At the same time, I would have been sad to miss the ole “cold as a dead whore’s crotch” exchange:
The above is why I typically complete all the sidequests in MMOs: for those brief slices of amusement, in the middle of so much bland white bread.
Alas, I no longer have eight hours of uninterrupted gaming time a day, so decisions have to be made. And that decision is to largely skip sidequests. I have long heard that SW:TOR has made a similar move regarding deprecating sidequests to streamline their “fourth pillar,” and I wonder if there has been a similar loss in incidental storytelling. It is not even as though they can keep the “good ones,” because sometimes it’s the weird throwaway sidequests that end up being the best.
I’m not sure there is a real solution here. I suppose FF14 deserves some credit for at least having the possibility of people clearing these sidequests later, via leveling up other classes (which changes your level back to 1). Although with all the XP bonuses and such you get now, I’m not sure if that’s enough.
I have resubbed to FF14.
It took a curiously long amount of time to figure out where to download the launcher for the game. In fact, had it not been the fact that I was socially committed to trying the game again, I might have just stopped right there. I understand that things might be confusing if random people were presented with a 25GB download link right off the Square Enix page and then prevented from opening it because they didn’t technically buy the game.
But seriously? I shouldn’t have to Google how to download your MMO.
Once I downloaded the launcher, reinstalled, and resubbed, I logged into my original character from a year ago just to test the waters again. And boy ole boy, do I get what the Blizzard devs have talked about before vis-a-vis not wanting to confuse returning players. Coming back to WoW is an intimately familiar experience. Granted, it is probably moreso because I had been playing that for almost a decade now.
Coming back to FF14 after having played for a month a year ago is a whole other story. Can I teleport around town at will, or do I need to need to be near one of the Aethershards? Where the hell are the mailboxes? What was I doing again? Why can’t I see the armor I have in stock?
When I left off, my character was a level 25 Arcanist/level 13 Thaumaturge on Hyperion. Meanwhile, my friend is on Cactuar. Do I pay the transfer fee? It seems to be a bit silly given the low levels, but it is difficult to tell the value of “skipping” as much of the painfully boring FF14 early game as possible. On the other hand, I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground either, so maybe another go-around in the level 1-40 tutorial was in order.
This time around, I learned my lesson and rolled a melee character (Pugilist). Thus far… things are okay. Level 1: Press 1. Level 2: Press 1, then 2. Level 6, Press 1, then 2, then 3. I am eagerly awaiting level 10 when I actually get a reactionary button (triggers after I dodge), and then level 15 when I get a melee DoT to weave in. It may sound boring – and it absolutely is – but it is worlds better than casting Ruin a million times.
I am not 100% convinced I’ll settle on the Pugilist/Monk path. I managed to find a guide or two regarding endgame rotations, and the Monk seemed to be heading in the Feral druid direction of All the Things. Ninja just sound bizarre. The Dragoon looks fine, as does the Bard to an extent. Considering my newly rolled toon is just level 8, I have quite a ways to go.
Overall, things are fine for now. I am not buying Heavensward, as A) I doubt that I make it to the vanilla endgame before the end of this month, and B) it is included for free in the Stormblood expansion. I do not anticipate playing FF14 for even as long as I played Guild Wars 2, but I do plan on completing the main story quest and seeing what all the plot fuss is about. Assuming there is any.
My 30 days have expired.
The highest my character reached was 25 Arcanist/13 Thaumaturge, with a smattering of other classes inbetween. I did have a few open days in which I could have pushed to unlock my first Job (Summoner at 30/15), but when you know you are not resubscribing to an MMO, you tend to lose (even more) interest in final pushes. Here is a random smattering of my wrap-up thoughts.
Invisible walls e’erywhere
I was genuinely surprised by the frequency and sheer brazenness of the invisible walls in FFXIV, especially coming from the (amazing, apparently) openness of GW2. While the minimap will generally indicate which areas are off-limits, sometimes it makes no rational sense. No swimming in your game? Fine, I can understand having oceans and lakes (invisibly) roped off. But sometimes you can wade into ankle-deep streams and sometimes you can’t. For example:
There is falling damage in the game – and flying eventually – so it is not as though every cliff-face is restricted. But some are. It’s generally one of those things I am hesitant to test lest I fall to my death, but when you actually bump off such a wall, I get an irrational urge to try finding the seams.
I suppose it didn’t bother me in FFX, so it shouldn’t bother me now… but it does.
They are damn good.
And I’m not even talking about just the culturally different tastes in women’s fantasy attire, I mean all the other incredibly intricate things FFXIV characters can do. The emote system is extremely thorough, to the point you can pantomime practically any conversation. The entire system is one of those “minor” things that you get used to after a while and later feel is lacking from every other game you play.
Speaking of cultural differences, I don’t even know what’s going on with quest text half the time. Are the writers trying to be funny? Edgy? Are there localization shenanigans afoot?
Maybe the game is simply a lot darker story-wise than its otherwise cheery facade would indicate, I dunno. Most of the early quests have you doing generic level 1 fantasy things like picking up apples or whatever. Then you get that, provided you accidentally stop spam-clicking your left mouse button near the quest givers.
I also enjoy the meta humor a bit…
…but not so much when it only underlines the awful gameplay the class in question provides, e.g. Arcanist. “Sure, let me use Aetherflow and Energy Drain efficaciously… there we go. Now just got to wait 60 seconds for another go-around.” The Thaumaturge proves that the designers are not completely incompetent; if Aetherflow had a lower cooldown or having it up gave your DoTs a chance to proc a free Energy Drain or something, the class might actually have some redeeming feature.
Waiting for things still sucks
This is not nearly anything as bad as what WoW got up to towards the end of my dungeon running career. Then again, I wasn’t actually forced to do any dungeons to continue the story up to the level cap either. But nevermind, I already griped about that.
I have been pretty harsh on FFXIV thus far, but I do recognize that it largely follows the same MMORPG mold in which all the goodies are back-loaded into the endgame. Part of the point of my criticism though is that that sort of thing doesn’t work for me anymore. If you are in a period of your life where you can muscle through 30+ hours of unfun gameplay to “reach the good bits,” well… cherish it. There is nothing systemic about MMO design that forces a designer to build their games this way. If WoW came out now, I’d have the same criticism.
All that said, the original FFXIV plan was to play with a friend and check out the sights together. That plan got delayed by a necessary PC upgrade on his part, so when and if that happens, it’s entirely possible I will give FFXIV another month to turn things around. We’ll see then if my perception of the game changes, especially as a melee character.
During the discussion about FFXIV’s mandatory dungeons, MaximGtB said the following:
[…] Besides, having these dungeons are in no way a road block, at least when looking at it from an MMORPG point of view. If you can’t spend a few hours to clear a dungeon, maybe failing a few times before you finally succeed, then the game is not for you. What are you going to do at 60, then? Log in, do one or two levequests, then log out?
What I mean to say is that spending massive amounts of time, trying stuff for hours on end until you succeed, and/or suffering pants-on-head morons ruining your game are the bread and butter of the game. If you can’t stand it at level 15, you won’t stand it at the endgame either.
Here is my “much too big for a third-tier nested comment” response:
The mandatory dungeon aspect is problematic for several reasons. The first of which is economic: all that telling a player “this game is not for you” accomplishes is losing out on at least another month’s subscription (assuming they bought blind in the first place). Even if the game is not for you, what sense does it make to force the issue right away?
Second, sometimes what a game is changes for people. Maybe that player solos their way to endgame and leaves at that point anyway. Or maybe they intended to solo, but encountered a stranger that befriended them, and sucked them into the vortex of social gaming for 6+ years. Which is precisely what happened to me in WoW. Had I not been primed already though, I would have quit FFXIV at the “spend 20 minutes waiting for a boring dungeon with total noobs” wall. WoW opted for the carrot, not the stick, and thus captures both types of players while converting a special few.
And, bizarrely, FFXIV already has the carrot in terms of first-time completion bonus.
The third reason is because the vast majority of FFXIV (and most MMO) content is solo. Long-term players run the same dungeons for months grinding 0.2% upgrades, yes, but how much solo scripted encounters, quests, writing, world exploring, etc, is there on the way to level cap? All of that is content the solo player could be enjoying, if not for patronizing “ice-breaking” of these designers.
Fourth, it was just damn inconvenient at the time. The day before I actually cleared the dungeons, I wanted to log on and accomplish things, but I was also expecting an important phone call. When I logged on, I realized that I couldn’t really do anything. Grind FATES and get even further ahead of the leveling curve? Re-run the starting areas a half dozen more times leveling up alternate classes? I wanted to progress things, but couldn’t. So I logged out and played actual games that actually let me play them.
Finally, these mandatory dungeons were boring as hell. What kind of first-impression were they going for? They have to be easy for new players, but that’s no excuse for them to have close to zero backstory for a Main Story Quest. Back-loading all the good bits these days is just dumb. Most MMOs are guilty of this for some reason, but most MMOs came out before we as gamers knew any better (or got to experience the higher bar).
Clearly though, FFXIV is successful enough in spite of the way dungeons are handled. I feel like it would likely be more successful had they taken a different approach, but good luck to them.