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The Mog Log: The negativity song

As you read this, I am in New York at the New York Comic Con, where I am very angry. It's not because I dislike the city or because I'm going to be spending all day running around trying to put together interviews and information, although those are both true statements. It's because all of this means I'm going to have to skip out on an entire day of Final Fantasy XIV. This should give you some idea of how much I like this game -- that I'm more annoyed about not playing it than about spending fifteen hours working.

But this is not to say that all is well and good within the land of Eorzea. Things are pretty darn good, yeah, but to the surprise of absolutely no one there are some things I really don't like about Final Fantasy XIV. They aren't game-breaking, and some would argue that they're not even really drawbacks, but if I had to pick a list of what to dislike about the game? Here's the list. (And while I'm still not pleased with the column, I'd like to look back on this particular installment and note that I freaking called it. Except for the communication -- the development team has stepped up on that count.)
1. The market wards do not work.

Each one of these columns is over a thousand words, and I swear I could spend at least two full columns complaining about the market wards. Whatever doubt Square-Enix benefited from when the system was announced is now gone, as the system lacks even the basic functionality of allowing you to search for what you need and want. In every single way the auction house from Final Fantasy XI was a better system, and instead of building upon or supplementing that the market wards have replaced it with a broken box.

"Just because I don't have a better idea doesn't make this any less broken."

Yes, the increased organization will help. No, it's not enough. There are so many things that need to be changed about the wards to make them work that by the time you're done, you might as well be using the auction house again anyway. The only reason I'm not spending this whole column ranting about this incredibly bad idea is... well, I kind of am, and there are other factors that make the wards such an unmitigated disaster.

2. Crafting is too interlaced.

This would be one of those factors.

I assembled my harpoon just the other night (as of this writing), and I'm proud to say that I did it... but it was way more difficult than it needed to be. In order to assemble the whole thing, I had to be a carpenter -- but getting the materials required alchemy, carpentry, goldsmithing, and a dose of blacksmithing. And while there's something to be said for weapon-crafting's becoming an exciting event, it was really nerve-wracking to have that much effort come down to such a near thing as crafting.

If we had an auction house, acquiring items that you can't personally make would be less of an issue. If crafting weren't so interwoven, then the lack of an auction house would be less of an issue. The combination of the two makes accomplishing simple goals a real chore, up to and including sticking a sharp bit of bone to the end of a pointy stick. (Although I, at least, did get some amusement out of roleplaying my character's increasing frustration at doing precisely that. But that's another story.)

3. Silly, stupid oversights.

When I walk up to the aetheryte to start a levequest, I can't just hit a button or use a slash command, I have to open my menu first. To sit, I use /sit, but to stand I have to use /sit again because the game doesn't recognize /stand. When I change from lancer to thaumaturge, my bars leave my weaponskills equipped and then borks my macro because I have way more stuff on my lancer bar due to its being higher level.

It's nothing that breaks the game -- seriously, the whole aetheryte thing takes two keystrokes instead of one, no big deal. But it could be done in one keystroke, and the fact that I don't even have a toggle I could use is a bit annoying. This is also the stuff that has to be on the absolute bottom of the list to fix -- quality of life issues are, I freely admit, far lower priority than other updates. It's still annoying.

4. Difficulty is not so hard to handle.

My lancer is right in the level band where I find myself repeating "Foresting Emerald Moss" pretty much every time I wind up in Gridania. This was, for a long time, a leve that I hated and could expect to die on more than once. (It was mostly my own fault for trying to do it at a rank that was stated by the game to be too low, but I was obstinate.) After I leveled, got my new harpoon, and acquired a better set of skills, the enemy groups began to con orange to me, and I can handle them without too much fuss. The Galagos occasionally get in a good chain of dropkicks that knock my HP down, but Cure and Second Wind more than make up the difference.

So why did I nearly get murdered by a pair of bee swarms that conned green? Why do some leves feature me fighting enemies that I rip through like paper at the same level band? Why is the difference between one-star difficulty and two-star difficulty nearly impossible to notice, except that the latter gets me a bit more gil at the end?

I understand that difficulty can vary a lot in a game in which anyone has access to any ability, and I can't begrudge the designers for finding this a little hard to balance just right. But the difficulty swings so much that I've killed red-con targets in two hits. We need some better algorithims for determining exactly what level of power your character has actually achieved instead of just looking at class rank.

5. Basic equipment is too hard to get.


OK, I get that the design team really wanted the game to focus on crafted items. I feel that urge very well. But why does that justify gladiators, conjurers, and thaumaturges all running around without a shield until they can find one at an affordable price? (Or craft one themselves; see earlier complaints.) Why does every shop sell starter equipment that might be affectionately called the Weathered Pile of Dog Leavings, but even a small upgrade requires one to enter the market wards?

Remember, kids, while we're on the subject, that the market wards don't work.

Trying to get even a minimal upgrade can feel like pulling teeth, and while the game doesn't absolutely require you to steadily upgrade your equipment, that means that the upgrades that do exist become all the more vital. I'm not sure what can be done here that doesn't involve either improving the market wards or simplifying the crafting system, but still. Just because I don't have a better idea doesn't make this any less broken.

Am I still going to play? Oh heck yes. I haven't had this much fun with a game in a very long time, and I think there are buckets of things about the game that are absolutely brilliant. But these problems are there, and I'd be lying if I said they didn't bother me.

That's our rant for this week, so be sure to come back next week when I return to form talking about how much I like the game. (I am a tedious bastard.) Until then, feel free to mail me at eliot@massively.com or leave a comment in the eponymous field below to let me know what you think, what gripes you have, or why my gripes don't bother you. Or tell me yet again that I must be getting paid off by Square-Enix. That one never gets old.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.

This article was originally published on Massively.