Second Wind: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, part two

Second Wind Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, part two

Welcome back to Second Wind, one and all. You may remember that a couple of weeks back, I published part one of my impressions on the recently released Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. If you didn't read it, either because you didn't care (but for some reason care about part two) or because it was too long (sorry), you missed out on most of my feelings about Disciple of War and Magic progression in FFXIV, but not quite all of them.

So here in part two, I'll be summarizing my seemingly endless thoughts on that subject as well as my thoughts on gathering and crafting, which should wind all this up and let me stop analyzing the game and start playing it. Maybe. At any rate, if you'd care to know more about high-level adventuring progression (which I've found to be markedly different from the low- and mid-levels) or the time-honored crafts of the Disciples of the Land and Hand, click past the cut and I'll do my best to satisfy your wonder.

In part one, I mentioned that I felt like the advancement path set out for Disciples of War and Magic (consisting of storyline quests augmented by sidequests and the occasional FATE, dungeon, and guildhest) worked fairly well up until about level 40. The reason for this is pretty simple: One of the essential parts of that equation -- namely sidequests -- practically disappears from the game at that point. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm currently level 47. I've been level 47 for a while now, in fact, because I can't seem to bring myself to get over this hump.

Screenshot -- Final Fantasy XIV

Around level 44 I noticed a pretty large influx of sidequests, which was more than welcome considering that up until that point it had been pretty much nothing but FATE grinding and the occasional dungeon run. Though dungeons are, in my opinion, considerably more enjoyable than FATEs, they're also considerably more time-consuming, therefore making them much less efficient. "Well obviously," I'm sure many of you are saying, rolling your eyes with exasperation, "you should just do dungeons since they're more fun. Who cares about efficiency?" And you'd be right if it weren't for the fact that, even compared to the mindless grind of FATE farming, doing the same dungeon or two over and over again quickly loses its appeal.

And then, as if to taunt me further, at level 47 the story quest also abandoned me, leaving me to my own devices until I'm able to pick up the next part at level 49. So there my poor Miqo'te sits in Mor Dhona, praying for FATEs and wishing that guildleves weren't a complete waste of time and allowances. In my opinion, Square Enix desperately needs to make some adjustments to the rate of experience gain -- or at least the venues through which to progress -- at the higher levels. Whether that means buffing dungeon and guildleve XP or nerfing FATE XP (but still, seriously, buff leve XP), I don't know, but something needs to be done because the trudge through these last few levels has put a serious damper on my previous enthusiasm for the game.

So that finally concludes my thoughts on the path of the Disciples of War and Magic, or most of them at any rate, so let's move on to another subject entirely: the Disciples of the Hand and Land. Let's begin with the fastidious manufacturers of Eorzea, the Disciples of the Hand.

Crafting has always been one of the more unique elements in Final Fantasy XIV, even back in 1.0. Rather than gathering mats, clicking a button, and getting up to make a sandwich while your character rubs his hands together and magically produces a finished product, FFXIV's crafting system requires a much greater degree of player input. That remains true in A Realm Reborn, which uses a crafting system remarkably similar to that of 1.0 but with some notable changes.

Screenshot -- Final Fantasy XIV

In 1.0, crafting abilities operated as random procs, with each one becoming randomly available for use only once during a given synthesis attempt, which meant that crafting was more or less a big game of chance. That's no longer the case in A Realm Reborn. During each synthesis attempt in ARR, players begin with a full pool of crafting points (the exact size of the CP pool being determined by crafter level and gear attributes) which are used to execute the many useful skills crafters will unlock throughout the course of the game. Each item, while being crafted, has three attributes on which players must focus: durability, progress, and quality.

Durability is the attribute which determines how many "rounds" of abilities a player can use before the item breaks and the synthesis fails, with each action taken reducing durability by 10. For instance, if an item's starting durability is 40, players will be able to use four actions before durability reaches zero (unless, of course, one of those actions restores durability, but you get the idea). The progress bar is exactly what it sounds like. In order to successfully craft an item, players must raise the item's progress to 100% before they run out of durability. And finally, there's the quality bar. A number of crafting abilities will raise an item's quality, which in turn raises the chance that the completed product will be a high-quality item, which means better stats (and more XP for the successful synthesis).

So essentially, crafting boils down to figuring out the best possible combination of available abilities that can be used with the durability and CP available, and frankly, I love it. It's a lot of trial and error, sure, and the RNG can still screw you over from time to time, but it's not nearly as luck-based as the system's previous incarnation. And personally, I've found little in the game as satisfying as finally puzzling out the perfect ability rotation for crafting a given item. Of course, if you're a high-level crafter and you just need to pound out a large amount of lower-level items, you can use the game's quick synthesis feature, which sacrifices crafting XP (50% of it, to be exact) for the sake of expedience and the convenience of not having to manually craft the 50 bolts of cloth you need.

Honestly, I've found crafting to be one of the most solidly designed activities in the game. It requires some critical thinking, some rudimentary math skills (or in my case, a calculator), and a lot of experimentation, but the payoff (and accompanying sense of accomplishment) is great. But it's worth noting that right now, my highest level crafting class is somewhere in the upper 20s, so there may be glaring flaws later on down the line (of which I'm sure you lovely readers will inform me in the comments), but so far I'm really enjoying the twist that FFXIV puts on a commonly dull and tedious activity.

Screenshot -- Final Fantasy XIV

Players from 1.0 might remember that gathering resources back in the day used to entail playing a sort of mini-game. Well, no longer. Gathering has been greatly simplified, and to be honest, this kind of disappointed me. I'm not going to go so far as to say that the gathering mechanics in 1.0 were good, but they were certainly interesting and I was hoping that the devs would bring the mini-games back in a more refined form. Alas. Still, FFXIV does things differently enough from most games that even routine gathering feels like a refreshing change.

It works like this: First, you have to find a node that contains the resource you want to harvest. Thankfully, your handy dandy gathering log tells you, roughly, where each resource harvestable at your current level is located. After a node has been found, you interact with it and a little menu pops up displaying all of the resources that can be gathered from that node and the odds of successfully harvesting each one. You can then use any of the gathering abilities that you've unlocked at that point, which can increase your chances of success, make you more likely to harvest high-quality resources, or impart a number of other useful effects.

Then, essentially, you just harvest whatever material(s) you're

Screenshot -- Final Fantasy XIV

after until the node is depleted. Occasionally, a node will have a special effect attached to it that can be activated if your stats meet a certain requirement. For instance, some might give you an extra harvesting chance if your perception is high enough, or some might grant you an increase to your success rate. It's an interesting system, overall, but the fact of the matter is that it's basically a gambling minigame. The various gathering abilities throw an interesting wildcard into the mix, allowing you to harvest items that you would otherwise be unable to, but I wish the gathering system had been designed a bit more like the crafting one was.

I really enjoy the way that crafting forces you to evaluate your options and find the best possible combination of abilities that can be used with the available crafting points, which -- as mentioned -- makes it feel very satisfying when you find that perfect rotation that maximizes quality without wasting precious CP. But unlike crafting points, which regenerate between each item crafted, gathering points do not regenerate between each node, but instead replenish themselves very slowly over time, meaning either you have to be very sparing in your ability use or simply blow all your abilities straightaway and again each time you have the GP to do so. Whichever way you do it, once you run out of GP and are waiting for it to regenerate, harvesting is simply a game of hoping the RNG comes out in your favor.

That about sums up my thoughts on the crafting and gathering parts of the game, but I'm nowhere near level 50 with a Disciple of the Hand or Land, so you may want to take them with a grain of salt. So what's the takeaway from all of this? As far as I'm concerned, it's this: Final Fantasy XIV has come a long, long way since its... let's say "humble" beginnings back in 1.0, but it's still not quite where it needs to be. There are a number of adjustments that could (and in my opinion should) be made in a variety of different areas, but somehow, they don't entirely rob the game of its appeal.

Sure, it's an imperfect game, but its imperfections largely come from the fact that it tries to do things differently and, occasionally, falls short. But for every time that it falls flat, there are many instances where it knocks things right out of the park. If you're willing to put up with some of those imperfections (maybe even a lot of imperfections) which will hopefully end up fixed sooner rather than later, you'll discover an enchanting game that, despite some derivative features, feels like something novel and exciting. For that reason alone I'll remain an inhabitant of Eorzea for at least a while longer.

MMOs are constantly changing, and our opinions can change with them. That's why we're here to give some beloved (or not) games a second (or third) look. Has that game that was a wreck at launch finally pulled itself together? How do the hits of yesteryear hold up today? That's what we're here to find out as Massively gets its Second Wind!