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Choose My Adventure: A fond farewell


Well, ladies and gents, the time has come for the final edition of my run with Final Fantasy XIV on Choose My Adventure. After many travails, I was still unable to hunt down a leveling party, so I'm afraid that is one thing I'm not going to be able to provide my views on during this feature. It's been a good run with good ol' FFXIV, though, and I enjoyed the bite-size samples of each feature I inspected (well, mostly anyway).

So after the cut, I'm just gonna recount my general impressions of the game, something of a tl;dr for the ADD folks in the audience. I do want to preface this with a disclaimer, however: This is by no means a comprehensive or complete review. This is my take on the game after playing it casually (about three to five hours per week) for the duration of this CMA. There are many features in Final Fantasy XIV that I didn't get to explore, such as the later levels of crafting, the later levels of combat (which apparently introduce some keen new features such as Battle Regimens), and so forth. That being said, follow on past the cut for my final opinion of my time in FFXIV.

Let's start with the obvious: Is it any different than it was at launch? Well, yes, but generally in minor ways that were difficult for me to pinpoint. I can certainly say that I found the game's general new-player friendliness to have been much better, but I can't rightly determine whether that's because I had played the game previously or what. The game's UI is still a mess for players using a mouse and a keyboard. However, after the urging of many players -- and in the interests of science -- I did play my final days with a gamepad, and it really is much better for navigating menus, targeting, and general play. However, it's a pain in the derriere having to switch between controller and keyboard in order to communicate. Pick your poison, I suppose.

One of the features I both loved and despised during my time in Eorzea is the levequest system. Levequests are both a blessing and a curse to Final Fantasy XIV. While they provide quick, easy adventures for players who are limited on playtime, they get incredibly stale after a while. During my time playing, I did something to the tune of five or six rounds of four or five leves each. However, they tended to be the same four or five leves each time, occasionally with one switched out for something different. They're a good time-killer when you don't have a lot of time on your hands, but they become tedious quickly, and they're certainly not a terribly efficient manner of leveling. I suspect that if you want to level quickly, you're better off finding a party and grinding monsters for hours on end. For all the pre-launch talk of lessening the grind found in Final Fantasy XI, it's still there in spades.

Ul'Dah from afar
Combat itself I found to be rather entertaining but also frustrating at times. The graphics and animations during combat are very well done, and special abilities carry a force with them that makes you feel like a complete badass. That being said, I wasn't completely a fan of the game's TP system, which requires you to build TP via autoattack until you've gained enough to launch an ability. It put me in a very passive sort of role, and I found myself wishing the devs had taken a Champions-esque route and divided abilities into TP-builders and TP-consumers, thereby keeping the TP system in place while allowing players to take a more active role in combat. There is also a short -- but noticeable -- delay between the pressing of a hotkey and the execution of the corresponding ability. It's not game-breaking, but it certainly takes some getting used to, especially when lining up multi-target attacks.

Crafting, on the other hand, I found to be an absolute joy. Words cannot express how sick and tired I am of the genre-standard "gather materials, press craft button" style of tradeskills. Final Fantasy XIV smartly does away with that in favor of a much more active crafting system. Gathering materials requires participation in a small minigame that keeps crafters engaged, while the actual synthesis process introduces a quality-vs.-durability mechanic that adds an element of strategy to the ordeal. As I understand it, higher-level crafting also adds more options into the mix, which I can imagine add an entirely new layer of complexity to the crafting game.

Levequest complete!
Perhaps Final Fantasy XIV's best quality, however, is its story. It's no secret that the Final Fantasy franchise has thrived on story-based gameplay for years now. Without stories involving memorable characters such as Squall, Cloud, Sephiroth and the gang, the Final Fantasy series wouldn't be the powerhouse it is today. That tradition is continued in Final Fantasy XIV, which drops each new player into the middle of her own story. I did briefly bemoan the fact that I feel the "chosen-one" nature of the story somewhat betrays the social side of the game, but overall I found myself quite invested in the story and my character's role in it. Voice acting would be a welcome addition to the game's many (beautifully done) cutscenes, but given the polarizing nature of voiceovers, I can understand their omission.

Overall, I found my time with Final Fantasy XIV to be quite enjoyable, and I will be remaining subbed to the game for the forseeable future. I want to see all of what the amazingly crafted world of Eorzea has to offer. That's not to say the game was without its flaws, however. There are some questionable design decisions in the way of the UI and combat, but if you can get past the game's quirks, you'll find that the rabbit hole runs deep.

Next week, the magnificent Mr. Jeremy Stratton takes up the Choose My Adventure mantle, so I'd like to thank you for joining me on this little journey. Oh, and try not to give Jeremy too hard of a time. Until next time, folks.

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.

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