I regret to say that I did not quite succeed in my goal of reaching level 15 because in the name of all that is sweet and holy I could not grind out another levequest without shoving the nearest pointy object into my eyes. However, I did make it to about level 10, so nine levels and a billion levequests later, I think I have a pretty good impression of combat. So follow on past the cut and join me as I share it with you, would you kindly?
Combat in Final Fantasy XIV is, more or less, what you'd expect from MMO combat. You target an enemy, you press your hotkeys, and you continue ad nauseam until one party is alive and the other is a twitching pulp on the ground. That being said, there are a few quirks and nuances that separate it from the masses, for better or for worse. For starters, there's the fact that you don't just simply jump into combat. Pressing 'F' draws your weapon, which is required before initiating combat. While your weapon is drawn, your movement speed is reduced considerably, which I guess is neat and all from a flavor standpoint, but mechanically it's largely just obnoxious. You can't really do much of anything besides fight while your weapon is drawn, so in order to change the abilities on your hotbar, change gear, sit down to rest, or what-have-you, you have to sheathe your weapon first, regardless of whether you're actively in combat or not. Frankly, it just strikes me as entirely unnecessary and tedious. Why make drawing/sheathing your weapon a manual process? Why doesn't my character just draw her weapon when she's in combat and then sheathe it when she's not?
But really, tedium seems to be the name of the game with most of Final Fantasy XIV's mechanics and UI features. For instance, in order to use a potion, I can't just bind my potion to a hotkey like in, you know, every other game ever. Oh, no. I have to hit the 'U' button to open my usable items window (it took me a bit to figure out that particular window even existed, and prior to that I was trying to use potions from my inventory, which required even more menu-navigating tedium), scroll down, select the potion, select the target (which, bizarrely, defaults to the enemy while you're in combat), and then hit enter to use the item. I'm sorry, but why? Generally potions are something of an "ohsh*t I'm dying" item that you want used immediately. For inexperienced players, trying to navigate the menus to use the potion can be the difference between life and death, and it's -- quite honestly -- just inane.
Also somewhat obnoxious is the execution of skills themselves. Combat doesn't feel terribly responsive. There's a brief but noticeable delay between pressing a hotkey and the execution of the ability itself. In many cases this isn't a huge deal, but when I was just starting out, it drove me wild. You see, my main ability at lower levels was an attack that dealt damage to my primary target and any enemies between me and said target. So I'd wait patiently, lining up a shot in order to hit as many enemies as possible, and finally they're all in a line, so I press my hotkey. And I wait. The enemies move. The ability finally goes off, and it misses my secondary targets. I eventually got the hang of it thanks to a useful diagram (pictured below because it's awesome) from our resident FFXIV pro, Eliot Lefebvre, but boy-howdy was it frustrating at the beginning.
Even for all of my frustration, however, I can't say that I found combat itself to be entirely unenjoyable. Is it grindy? Oh, oh yes. But the animations and sound effects that accompany your special attacks are awesome, and using your abilities really feels like a treat (which can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it). The TP system, while not my favorite, does add a layer of strategy to the whole ordeal. Since you can't fire off your abilities left and right, you have to put a bit of thought into which TP-consuming ability will most benefit your current situation. Truthfully, the majority of my issues are with the game's UI. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The UI is archaic. It was clearly designed with console gamers in mind, and very little optimization was made for PC players. People tell me "play with a gamepad, it'll be better!" but I don't want to play with a gamepad. I'm primarily a PC gamer for a reason, and that's because I prefer a mouse and keyboard.
So that's it for this week, folks. Vote for next week's activities and goals below, and I'll see you again next week.
Matt Daniel is in a bit of a slump. You see, he's between MMOs, and he needs your help in deciding what to play next. Stop by every Wednesday for Choose My Adventure and tell him what to play, how to play it, and what color underwear to wear. No guarantees on that last one, though.