Final Fantasy review

ffxiv moglog 1358381620 Final Fantasy nostalgia

There’s nothing quite like Final Fantasy XI. Nor is there anything quite like Final Fantasy XIV. The two are similar enough that you can use one as a substitute for the other in a pinch, but both possess a certain feel that just isn’t found in any other game. That’s neither good nor bad; it just is.

Watching the trailer for Seekers of Adoulin gave me a powerful blast of Final Fantasy XI nostalgia, and while I could wax poetic about how the game I remember isn’t the game that exists any longer, that’s not really the point. The point is that for all the frustrations of the games, there’s a lot of joy in both. So today I just plucked my top five memories from both FFXI and Final Fantasy XIV to share with you, since I bet that some of you have the same sort of glowing nostalgia. Even if you don’t want the good old days to come back (I sure don’t), you can still remember them with a smile.

ffxi moglog nostalgia 1 epl 116 Final Fantasy nostalgiaGetting a subjob (FFXI)

Subjobs are a core feature of FFXI, but you can’t pick them up until level 18, and even then it’s a pretty involved process to grab one, necessitating some difficult kills that you can’t solo at that level. It was even harder to take care of a subjob if you were trying to do the quest close to launch, with no one yet entirely clear on how the game’s many systems worked or exactly what was expected in parties. You know, like I was doing.

I can vividly remember the first time I made the trek to Selbina, dodging Goblins and wondering how in the world anyone knew where to run safely. I remember darting in and out of the gate to skirt the undead and beastmen, pulling crabs and flies in the hopes that they would drop those needed items, then hauling over to Gusgen for more reliable chances at a Magicked Skull. I can’t imagine sitting through that sort of irritation ever again, and by the time it was done, I was more than a little annoyed, but I had a sense of real power for the first time in the game.

Clearing Toto-Rak (FFXIV)

Part of my fond memories of clearing the Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak for the first time come from the roleplaying going on at the time, which wound up having a long-term impact on my character. But a lot of those memories just come from how neat the dungeon was, how it was the first thing in FFXIV that was very distinct from its predecessor while still being really neat.

Dying to insect swarms sucked, but when you understood how the counterattacks came from weapon skills, it became acceptable. Creeping through, carefully powering on gates, making our way to the central chamber… it was almost an afterthought that I didn’t get anything useful from the dungeon on that run, nor on several subsequent runs. I just loved the look and the flavor of the region, and I walked away always happy to take another trip.

Reaching Whitegate (FFXI)

There was an electricity in the air on the night that Treasures of Aht Urhgan launched, and I don’t think it’s any surprise that part of why it’s my favorite expansion is the sheer sense of community on that first evening. Actually arriving in the new city was almost dizzying; there was so much to see and do right from the start, so many places that struck me instantly as beautiful and mesmerizing. I was in love from the moment the ship docked after its 20-minute journey.

The funny thing is that I don’t remember actually doing much during my first trip. I bound there for transport purposes and checked out the area, but I didn’t actually do the various advanced job quests until the next night. (Corsair still stands out in my memory as having been pointlessly annoying to unlock.) I may not have even stepped out of the city limits! But I still remember the trip there and stepping onto the docks with astonishing clarity. Life is funny like that.

ffxiv moglog nostalgia 2 epl 116 Final Fantasy nostalgiaCrafting a harpoon (FFXIV)

For those of you who didn’t play the game or just don’t remember, I’ll point out that back in the day, the harpoon was a lower-tier spear that was not particularly impressive or desirable. It was the sort of weapon you use briefly and then discard. But for me, it was a weapon that took quite a bit of work to get because I had most of the necessary crafts and I was determined to make one for myself instead of asking for help. That meant a whole lot of other work just to get the ingredients and try — at first unsuccessfully — to make some of the ornate supporting parts like clips.

Was it needlessly complicated? Yes. There’s no good reason any crafting system should require so much rigamarole for a low-level item. But it also got me firmly invested in the game. When I finally grabbed that simple little poking stick, I couldn’t have been happier because it was all mine. I still have it tucked away in my inventory, just for nostalgia and long-standing affection. You might never be worth equipping again, but you’re still my first spear.

Unlocking Dragoon (FFXI)

I don’t know if I’d say that Dragoon is the most annoying advanced job to release; hunting weather for Summoner is pretty obnoxious. So was dealing with stupid leeches for Ninja. And let’s not forget what I just said about Corsair. But Dragoon was a rough one, and I remember unlocking it vividly because I was in a race against time. I was about to go on winter break from college, and at the time, I had people lined up to help me, but I didn’t have an internet connection at home.

Yes, this was 2003.

So I had to race to get everything ready, struggle to level up in time, and then get everything scheduled so that I could get my wyvern before I was out of time. I remember having been annoyed by the idea of having a wyvern before I saw him, but when I sat down and saw him curl up next to me, I fell for the little guy. It felt like a major accomplishment. In hindsight, it wasn’t. The fight is pretty easy when you pass a certain level, and it’s not like Dragoon is some godlike class… but I still look back on that and smile.

Final Fantasy XIV: Crafting and Gathering second

With all of the systems getting rebuilt in A Realm Reborn, what do crafters and gatherers have to look forward to?

Craftsmanship, Control, and CP – Why Should Other Classes Get All the Stat Fun?

Before I get into what makes the current crafting system great, let’s take another look back at the dark days of v1.0. If you wanted to craft back then, you were in for a long, very unexplained process of trial and error. Once you opened up your crafting window, you’d be greeted with a box for materials; there were no saved recipes unless you’d successfully made something before.

Assuming you’re like most MMO players, you would take the easy route and pull up a list of recipes in a browser tab and get to work. Once you fought through the old interface to get all of your materials in the box and told it to craft, that’s when things got even more complicated. The game would present you with a rapidly depleting timer bar and a list of options with no explanations. Clicking one option would make your Progress and Quality bars move up and the Durability go down. Another would give more Quality, but less Progress. The third would be more Progress, but almost no Quality and a huge chunk out of Durability. The fourth would be a small amount of Progress and Quality, but with almost no Durability loss.

There were elements to a good crafting system here, but between the UI issues in v1.0 and the almost nonexistent explanations of why you wanted Quality or how you avoided losing Durability and running out of time, it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Luckily for me though, when they took everything back to the drawing board for v2.0, crafting got some major improvements.

238706 Final Fantasy XIV: Crafting and Gathering second

The first major change with ARR’s crafting comes when you open the window; like combat classes with their Hunting Log and the Disciples of the Land’s Gathering Log, crafters have a Crafting Log to let them keep track of items they’ve made, recipes available to them, what materials each takes, how many you have, and even how many of those are high quality. While the other logs are primarily for reference (or a list of free XP in the case of the HL), the Crafting Log is how you’ll actually choose your recipes, assign your normal and high quality materials, etc. before you actually begin crafting.

Once you’ve selected your recipe, it’s time to start crafting. To begin with, the game actually tells you what those Durability/Progress/Quality bars are for, which was a marked improvement over v1.0. There’s no timer now, so you can take as much time as you want – the only thing between you and crafted glory is the Durability gauge. This gauge is a set value for each recipe, so no more using HQ materials to bump that up.

When you start out crafting, you’ll just have the one move that will give you some amount of Progress for ten Durability. If you manage to fill the Progress bar by the time the Durability hits zero, you get your item and some crafting XP. If not, you might lose a material or two and go back to the Crafting Log to try again.

Early on, the system’s fairly simple and even with the 80% or so success rate on your first Progress move, you should have plenty of Durability to make all of the low-level items you want. It’s once you start unlocking more abilities and recipes that things get more interesting.

238705 Final Fantasy XIV: Crafting and Gathering second

The next move you unlock as a crafter is something that adds to your Quality meter for ten Durability. It doesn’t help your Progress, you still have to use that first move to fill the bar and complete the item, so you might wonder why you have this button.

You’ll notice an HQ percentage on the crafting window along with all of those other bars, similar to the HQ percentages you’d see on the gathering windows. The same principle applies here, but it’s even more important with crafted items. High quality items give bonus crafting XP and high quality crafted gear has better stats than normal pieces. Since we all love bonus experience and higher stats on our gear, the question is how do I get these high quality pieces? Sure there’s the base 1% chance, but the real trick is using your good materials and your crafter abilities. The higher you can get your Quality bar, the greater the chance of seeing an HQ result. Using HQ materials will boost your base Quality and give you a head start, but if you really want to boost your odds, you’ll need to boost Quality through your abilities. Of course you have only so much Durability to go around and you still need to fill that Progress bar to actually succeed, so that’s where things get more complicated.

Abilities you pick up later help you out somewhat, like a power that restores three hits worth of Durability, another that increases your base success rate with each Progress/Durability move for five moves, one that gives you a scaling success boost based on your Quality, etc. Of course to use any of these abilities requires Crafting Points, so that makes matters more difficult.

Every move besides your first Progress ability requires some amount of CP to use. Depending on the item you’re making, you might be able to splurge on Quality moves and try for an HQ result or you might need all of the Durability refills and success boosts you can get if you’re trying to get a higher level item. Eventually you will reach a point though where you just don’t have enough to make an item; there’re only so many CP to go around and your Progress move only does so much. That means it’s time for some new gear.

Just like gatherers get their own special gear to boost their gather and HQ rates, crafters have equipment with stats just for them. You’ve got Craftsmanship which boosts how much you get out of a successful Progress/Quality hit, Control which should increase your chance to actually hit with those moves, and +CP to give you more points to work with for your abilities. As a gatherer I don’t have much need for multiple gear sets: pretty much slap on the best stuff and get to work. For crafting though, I can definitely see reasons for having at least jewelry to swap between. Maybe have some Craftsmanship/Control pieces for when I’m trying to push for recipes that should be beyond my reach, with some CP pieces to swap in when I’m trying to crank out HQ items and need as many hits as I can get.

238702 Final Fantasy XIV: Crafting and Gathering second


238699 Final Fantasy XIV: Crafting and Gathering second

I’ve seen some games attempt the more in-depth crafting system. Vanguard made crafting a mini-game with random events crafters have to react to. Firefall and Star Wars Galaxies let you pick different materials for recipes to change the stats of the finished product. In each of those cases, however, they really have only a piece of the puzzle for making crafters feel like they’re a full-fledged job and progression path. Gatherers had it even worse, since other than Firefall’s Thumper events or WildStar’s random events, gathering has been regulated to just right-clicking a vein/plant/etc. until depleted and moving on. From what I’ve played of FFXIV:ARR so far, it feels like they’ve actually made these two activities not only full-fledged paths of progression, but given them the ability and gear progression they’ve needed for players to be able to choose a crafting or a gathering class and not feel like they’re only playing half of a game.

After a weekend jumping between Miner, Goldsmith and some dabbling in Alchemist, I’m looking forward to seeing what else FFXIV:ARR has to offer me as a crafter and gatherer. Now they just need to let me back in so I can see what recipes are on that next page.

“Final Fantasy is Dead”: That’s Quite an Ignorant Statement to Make

“Final Fantasy is Dead”: That’s Quite an Ignorant Statement to Make

On July 27th I reported, not without a fair bit of levity (not everyone in video game journalism feels the need to take himself ultra-seriously all the time), on a Q&A session held in Tokyo where Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Director Motomu Toriyama and Character Modeling Designer Nobuhiro Goto shared some details about the fact that Lightning had her breasts slightly padded and topped with breast jiggle physics.

The day after, Wired’s Chris Kohler tweeted my article on a trip of holy rage about the alleged defiling of Final Fantasy. As soon as it happened I knew I could expect some kind of hyperbolic headline some time soon. The only point in doubt was just how hyperbolic and out of touch with reality it was going to be.

Unfortunately, the result managed to overtake even my most pessimistic prediction and we were all treated with the following gem: “Final Fantasy Isn’t Dying. It’s Already Dead”

That’s quite the interesting statement, and also a dreadfully ignorant one to make. Let’s go ahead and dismantle the whole thing.

Things start badly already with the featured picture, showing off Lightning’s Final Fantasy XIV crossover costume in a typical Miqo’te /pose emote from the upcoming MMORPG, but of course someone that didn’t do his homework wouldn’t know that there’s a very precise reason behind that pose. And yeah, Mr Kohler didn’t bother to do his homework.

FinalFantasyXIVLightningCrossover (2)

Homework aside, the caption is the real problem: “The new face of Final Fantasy. Uh, you are looking at her face, right?”

And there’s where you notice from the very outset of the article that the writer has every intention to be disingenuous. Now one crossover costume, from one game of fourteen numbered titles (almost fifteen), plus I lost count how many sequels and spin-offs has become “The new face of Final Fantasy?”

It’s pretty much like saying that a a single hostess working in an obscure hostess club in Kabukicho is “The new face of Tokyo.” I guess someone that has only experienced Tokyo via the Yakuza games could get near to think something like that, so maybe our valiant writer experienced Final Fantasy only through pin-up pictures?

Yakuza5The new face of Tokyo. Uh, you are looking at her face, right?

From there on, things went downhill, no doubt about that. Kohler proceeds to argue that it’s fine for Leisure Suit Larry to be “95 percent jokes about and/or pictures of breasts” (and it isn’t even near to 95%, but he seems to be very fond of using hyperbole to bolster his points), but  ”if in 2013 this is what a Q&A session about Final Fantasy has become, then any claim that the series once had something approaching mainstream respectability done gone and caught the train out of town.”

Putting the horrifying and out of place comparison aside (and I love Leisure Suit Larry as well, but the comparison simply doesn’t fit), that’s not what the Q&A session has become, as the Q&A session was a very extensive romp through a large amount of topics, of which the part about breasts was just a small excerpt. Maybe our resident pundit only bothered to read my light-hearted report about boobs — I guess that’s all he’s interested in — and didn’t check out the rest, which is telling, considering that I went as far as linking it for his convenience.

He also seems not to have a very clear idea on how a Q&A session works: someone asks the questions, and a developer responds, meaning that yeah, someone might easily ask a question about the character’s chest, and there’s nothing strange for a developer to answer said question, even more so considering that it was a very informal Q&A question with fans, and not a formal sit down with the Wall Street Journal.

Ultimately, though, whatever you may think of Toriyama-san and Goto-san otaku-ish outing, they’re just two developers between several tens (or more) on one game that is part of a massive franchise. Saying that the franchise is “dead” (or even dying) because of the words of two people responding to a direct question in a gathering full of other otakus and because of a small change in the chest of one character is as ridiculous, hyperbolic and ignorant as it could be, and it can only be identified as a cheap attention grab.

lightningreturnsoptionsLookie there…options! The series must be dead. Options are obviously bad…

Defining “dead” a franchise that easily sells multiple millions with every main chapter and that has an enormous number of fans around the world is silly at best, disingenuous at worst. Let’s not even mention the fact that basing the judgement of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII on a marginal element like breast jiggle (like it was the first game to introduce it) and a slightly larger chest is unworthy of the position of a game journalist.

Almost every preview of the game is positive, including the recent slew that came from Japan out of the event where the whole hoopla happened. Chances are that the game is actually going to be good, but Kohler prefers to call it “dead”, because of Lightning’s breasts. Of course the actual gameplay, the story, the writing and everything else don’t matter, right? All that matters to our angry pundit are Lightning’s mammaries.

It reminds me of a few misguided reviews of Dragon’s Crown I’ve seen around the web a few days ago, where the writers knocked multiple points off the score because they didn’t agree with the showcase of breasts that was incidentally part of the art style, basically translating as “The game plays great. It’s a lot of fun, but I’m gonna tell you that it’s bad, because boobs.” That’s honestly pathetic.

Kohler goes on to complain that once upon a time Final Fantasy was all serious business (with some “moments of levity”) with epic stories and “strong, relatable characters”  and could “attempt to tackle subtle, complex themes on platforms that were largely dominated by paper-thin plots and cartoon characters.”

LightningStrongShe seems pretty strong to me…

Maybe he should realize that the story and dialogue of the game aren’t written by Toriyama-san or Goto-san. There’s absolutely no reason to believe (and no hint of it in the demos that have been shown so far) that Lightning has somehow become some kind of lascivious sex doll, and from the dialogue we’ve seen she’s as badass as ever and even more mature than before. Let’s not even mention the fact that the Lightning Saga has tackled plenty “subtle, complex themes”, but most possibly Kohler isn’t in the position to know.

It seems that he believes that having average-sized breasts (a Japanese D cup is not in any way a pair of giant, dangling globes, as it pretty much translates to a North American C) that actually aren’t made of hardwood somehow conflicts with being a “strong, relatable character”. Of course that’s not the case. Being strong or relatable is not in any way proportional (or inversely so) to the size of a woman’s boobies.

The misguided article continues by mentioning that once upon a time “the ideas of orchestras playing the games’ amazing musical scores or of art galleries displaying the design work of Yoshitaka Amano were not out of the question.” Either Kohler’s idea of the past tense is as elastic as time in Final Fantasy XIII-2, or maybe he just didn’t do his homework (yes, it seems to be a recurring theme in his article). I can only advise for him to go check the very much present schedule of the Distant Worlds concerts and educate himself.

Amano_codI find quite funny that Kohler and others notice the existence of a degree of titillation in Final Fantasy titles just now. Maybe they didn’t get the memo about Tifa’s very sizable chest, and her breast-pushing victory pose from Final Fantasy VII, enhanced as recent as 2011 with plenty jiggle physics in Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy​. Shall we talk about Final Fantasy III‘s Cloud of Darkness that prances around almost completely naked in Yoshitaka Amano’s own artwork (and Kohler seems to think very highly and with a degree of nostalgia of Amano-sensei’s artwork)

KainRosaCecil_AmanoMaybe some forget that the strong and lovely Celes from Final Fantasy VI worn just a form fitting leotard, while Final Fantasy IV‘s Rosa sported a very similar outfit in the game and skimped down to a bikini in Amano’s character artwork.

So when Amano-sensei drew his heroines and villains in alluring and sexy attire, not to mention quite sensual poses, it was perfectly OK, but now that the designers of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII do the same (giving the player plenty options to cover Lightning up to their leisure, mind you) it’s not OK anymore. That sounds like a double standard, or maybe simply ignorant, due to memories clouded by nostalgia and lack of attention to detail.

Of course, those are just a few examples of blatant showcases of sensuality on Final Fantasy games of old, and there are plenty more, all it takes to remember them is clearing one’s mind from nostalgia and bias, but that seems an ability that many of today’s video game journalists have to leave out of their resumes.

Of course, the Final Fantasy franchise isn’t the only one that pushes the sexy button here and there. I wonder where Kohler and his fellow pundits were, for instance, when CD Projekt turned seducing women into a nude collectible card game with The Witcher. I’m quite glad that most of the pundits ignored it, as The Witcher is one of the best RPG series out there, and I wouldn’t wish for any developer to have to face this kind of harassment.

Mind you, The Witcher’s Geralt has been redesigned twice in the series. His whole facial structure has been completely reworked between the first two games, but that kind of radical change seems to be perfectly OK, while a slight change to Lightning’s breast size and a few completely optional costumes seem to trigger journalists into irrational rage fits.

GeraltDon’t worry Geralt, you’re clear. They din’t notice you…

But let’s cut down the chase and get right down to business, shall we? The Final Fantasy series is far from dead. As a matter of fact you could say that it has never been more alive, with three mainline titles currently in development (Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and Final Fantasy XV).

Kohler clumsily tries to minimize the importance of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn by comparing it to the flop of its predecessor, and by writing “and once the new version comes out, even if it’s good, it’s still going to be an MMO with a monthly fee in an era dominated by the free-to-play model”.

So now doing something differently from the masses has become automatically bad? Kohler forgets that there are a lot of dedicated MMORPG players that actually enjoy just being able to insert their credit cart number into their account and then just play their favorite game without worrying about being nickel and dimed at every corner, or having to buy boosters and similar stuff from the local e-supermarket all the time in order to stay competitive and have fun.

FFXIV_ARR_Intro_LimsaLominsa (99)FFXIV has some rather skimpy outfits, and a breast slider; and they jiggle. Is it “dead” too? 

Exactly because there aren’t many pay to play MMORPGs around, Square Enix is offering a quite rare commodity, and if anything that increases its chances of success. That’s especially true considering the fact that the franchise has a very dedicated fanbase since…you know…the series is far from dead.

Again, doing one’s homework more diligently before writing would help a lot here: Final Fantasy XI is pay to play, still has a large playerbase after eleven years and is the most profitable title of the franchise. Quite obviously many Final Fantasy fans don’t mind paying a monthly fee to play a quality MMORPG.

Speaking about quality, the game has been showing quality in spades during the beta (voiding the misguided comparison with the original Final Fantasy XIV, that was a completely different game). Most previews are enthusiastic (including mine, and even MMORPG newbies like Allisa had a lot of fun) and even just following the game’s hashtags on twitter shows how fans are on hot coals to get to play the game. Not too bad for a MMORPG belonging to a dead franchise, isn’t it? Of course, I don’t expect Kohler to know anything about it.

What about Final Fantasy XV? We didn’t see much yet about the game, but what we saw was downright spectacular. It also dropped many jaws at E3, proving one of the high points of the Sony conference.

That seems quite enthusiastic for a franchise that’s allegedly “dead”, isn’t it? Of course that’s because it’s not dead at all. Not even close.

Of course, there’s also the remake of Final Fantasy X and X-2 incoming, and I’m quite sure that many are eager to replay those classics with updated graphics, but I think we have plenty evidence of the series’ vitality just by considering the new games and without having to resort to remakes.

Final Fantasy has millions of fans all over the world. Denying it is completely disingenuous and blind to reality. Dead series aren’t nearly as popular and don’t have three different new games in development, two of which near to their release.

FFXV_StellaYou better make sure you’re dressed properly missy. Or else…

Going as far as telling that a whole franchise is dead because of a slight increase of a character’s bra size and the fact that her breasts won’t be made of solid steel anymore, not to mention a few completely optional costumes is utterly ridiculous, but of course making completely ludicrous statements is a pretty effective way to get people to click on that headline. Some don’t seem to care if those statements are also dreadfully ignorant and fly straight in the face of any idea of journalistic integrity.

I remember reading “Final Fantasy is Dead!” tens of times through my “career” as a gamer and then as a writer. The first time was with V, I believe, and then with every single chapter of the series, including the widely adored VII, that managed to offend quite a few because of the radical departure from the fantasy themes. Guess what? Final Fantasy is still there despite its haters.

People are free to judge the attitude of two developers the way they want, but it’s doubtless that Final Fantasy‘s “vitality” doesn’t even get near to be compromised by something as small. The series is alive and well, in spite of those that would wish it dead or that believe it dead simply because it doesn’t pander to their very personal taste or agenda.

Final Fantasy is far from dead. What actually died is the ability of some to look at it objectively.

Final Fantasy impressions the closed beta left on me

Final Fantasy XIV was a disaster. I never played the original version, but from what I hear it was pretty bland and uninspired in all areas. It takes some serious gall, as well as business sense, to straight up cancel an MMO and rework it from the ground up. Square Enix has done just that with the second Final Fantasy MMO, now adding the title A Realm Reborn.

An apt name, it seems, as playing through the various closed beta sessions over the past months has been quite a delight. Playing MMOs can be quite exciting when they’re executed well. That being said, I definitely have some reservations about FFXIV: ARR; not everything was peaches and rainbows.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC [previewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4)
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release: August 27, 2013 (PC, PlayStation 3) / 2014 (PlayStation 4)

The Good 🙂

The FATE system

FATEs aren’t a new concept when it comes to MMORPGs, but they are a great way to spice up an otherwise straightforward experience. FATEs are giant event quests that anyone nearby can partake in. They pop up randomly around the map and it is up to the individual player as to whether they’d like to participate.

FATEs fall into three categories as far as I can tell: giant monster, town defense, and kill a bunch of stuff. The giant monsters are the most enjoyable, since seeing dozens of other players wail on some huge plant monster will never fail to bring a big smile to my face.

FATEs are always a nice change of pace when going from one quest to another. Seeing a giant monster out in the open and joining the fracas in order to take it down nails the feeling of an MMO for me. Plus, as long as you contribute enough damage, there’s some quest-level experience to be gained from them!

It truly feels like a Final Fantasy game

Perhaps the biggest thing separating FFXIV: A Realm Reborn from other MMOs (except FFXI) is that Final Fantasy “feel.” The sounds, the look, and even the story all just feel right for another Final Fantasy installment. Leveling up becomes desirable not just because it shows tangible progress through the game, but because you get to hear the fanfare. Oh my, do I love that fanfare! It always just makes me grin.

It’s hard to nail down why it feels so right, exactly. It’s probably the giant crystal shards, flashy particle effects, summons, familiar character classes, and beautiful music. Hm, so maybe it’s not so hard to nail down. FFXIV: ARR hits all the right notes that Final Fantasy fans will want to see in a numbered title, even if it’s all wrapped in an MMO context.


Holy crap does this game look good. I can say without hesitation that this is the best looking MMO I’ve ever played, and one of the best looking games I’ve ever played. It not only has the technical prowess to stand out, but the new-age Final Fantasy aesthetic looks as great as ever. I would seriously just stop sometimes and watch day turn into night, hoping no monster tried to attack me so I could take a cool screenshot.

The town of Limsa Lominsa deserves a special shoutout, not just because its name is so great to say (“It’s not Limsa LominSAA”), but because it looks absolutely stunning. All of the architecture is very white and most of the town is outdoors, allowing the brilliant sun to light the surfaces during the day, while the stars illuminate them at night. It is truly a beautiful sight to behold, and it really makes me want to choose a class that begins their adventure in that town just to be in it from the start.

The story is actually interesting and grabs your attention

I didn’t think I’d be mentioning this in an MMO article, but the cutscenes and general plot of FFXIV: ARR are quite engaging. The cutscenes are, naturally, very well-done, considering it’s the work of Square Enix. As a direct benefit, these well-done cutscenes actually got me to pay attention to the big plot points in the game’s story, something that most MMOs don’t even try to do.

Sure, the plot doesn’t seem like it will blow anyone away, but it’s an easy-to-follow and genuinely interesting story that most players will actually pay attention to thanks to the engaging cutscenes. Best of all, it stars your character! I always love seeing the dude I created inside of the game’s cutscenes; it helps them to be more personal.

The community

The playerbase in FFXI was pretty great, and it seems as if many of those types of players have made the transition to FFXIV: ARR as well. People are just…nice. I’ve received many Cures when it looked like I wasn’t going to make it, even when flying solo.

This is epitomized quite well in the FATEs scattered around the map, as no level-appropriate FATE can be taken on solo. Many times I’ve started fighting a big monster by my lonesome with the hope that other players will join in, and I have never been disappointed. People seem to actually enjoy helping others in any way possible. Plus, there isn’t millions of item-trading spam in the town chats, which is a huge relief after coming from Neverwinter.

I don’t want to say the community is as strong and loving as City of Heroes, but it’s pretty darn close!

The Bad 🙁

The early game isn’t exactly riveting

Like many MMOs, the early game can drag on a bit. It’s not until around level 15, when Dungeons open up, that the game starts to hit its stride.  Playing as an Archer, almost every encounter went the same. Use the arrow that raises my chance to score a critical strike, and then use my basic powerful attack to bring it down. Newer skills like Bind and Poison arrows were nice, but were rarely needed during low-level combat.

Positioning starts to matter for some of the advanced classes, but being an Archer just meant a lot of kiting for bigger enemies and back-pedaling for the smaller ones. If it weren’t for the pretty visuals and sounds, I’m not sure I’d enjoy the combat even a little bit early on. (Then again, I may have just chosen an incompatible class for my preferences, but my hands were a bit tied; see below.)

Advanced classes seem oh so far away

If you told me that in order to be a Black Mage, one of the most iconic classes of Final Fantasy, I would have to get one class to level 30 and another to 15, and then complete a quest on top of that, I’d say you were a goofy goober. Yet, here we are. It’s a strange decision, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad one.

Anyway, these advanced classes take quite a while to get to. They all require one specific class to be level 30, and another specific class to be 15. So, in order to be a Bard, one of my favorite classes ever, I need to have my character be a level 30 Archer and a level 15 Conjurer. The problem is, I don’t want to be an Archer, ever. I just really want to be a Bard.

As a bit of a tangent, I really don’t like that the Bard is just an Archer that sings, but whatever. I’ve chosen not to pursue the Bard class in open beta/release.

This, combined with the fact that the early game is a bit slow, might turn some people away. If they just want to be a Black Mage, for example, it will take some time, not all of which is super great. There is a Thaumaturge class that is pretty much the Black Mage of the early game, but hey, people are stubborn and will stick to what they know and love.

The FATE system

I know I previously said that FATEs were amazing and I loved them, and I still do! But as previously mentioned, one of the types of FATEs you’ll encounter just isn’t at all entertaining. Killing a lot of a specific type of enemy that you see spawn in front of you is pretty dull. On top of that, you will start to see the same FATEs appear in the same locations over and over again. It got to the point where I would see a FATE on the map and know what monster would be there because that monster was always there.

“Levequests” are the absolute worst

As you level up, eventually you’ll get the oh so lucky privilege of taking on what the game calls “Levequests” and what I like to call “oh please god no more quests.” It’s basically a system that allows players to take on a whole lot of uninspired and boring quests whenever they want. The majority of these Levequests are the classic “kill X of Y” quests that MMOs love so very, very much.

The game itself has enough of these quests to border on annoying, so why would I want to talk to a separate person in order to take on more of them? Maybe they get better as the game progresses, but 90% of the Levequests I saw made me cringe just thinking about them. Occasionally there is one quest that’s not half bad, but it’s a diamond in the rough at that point.

The map could be more precise

The map in FFXIV: ARR could use some serious work. It functions well enough as an actual map, but it is absolutely terrible at directing the player where to go for quests. If the quest objective is in the area you are currently in, then it’s wonderful. Otherwise, it’s a bit obtuse when trying to figure out where to go.

When an objective is in another area of the world, clicking on the Map button is supposed to show you where to go in which section of the world. Instead, it shows an overworld map and just kind of plunks down the objective marker somewhere in the general area of where you should be. It’s unclear as to which section the objective is actually in.


I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this “Reborn” version of FFXIV. I can’t really believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually looking forward to paying for an MMO again. We’re in the midst of a free-to-play revolution, and it’s almost refreshing to know I won’t be treated as a second-class citizen because I’m not shelling out the big bucks.

If I wasn’t such a big Final Fantasy fan in general, I’m not sure that the game would do it for me, but all of the bells and whistles that come with the territory have almost made it feel like home.

Final Fantasy XIV Producer Responds to Criticism on Lag and Area Attacks in the Beta

Final Fantasy XIV Producer Responds to Criticism on Lag and Area Attacks in the Beta

One of the aspects of the latest beta of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn that many criticized was the presence of a degree of lag that caused a mismatch between the graphical representation of some monsters’ area attacks and actual damage applied to players. Basically players that thought they were safe outside of the area of effect were still hit, often with lethal results.

The game’s Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida wrote an interesting post on the game’s closed beta forums addressing the issue and promising that things are going to get better.

Producer and director Yoshi-P here.
Thank you for all of your feedback on latency issues and the evasion of enemy attacks. As we continue working to address these issues in time for phase 4 and release, I’d like to inform you all of the current situation.

This post will focus on area attacks that are difficult to evade, or still connect even if you appear to have avoided it.

Damage taken when Ifrit uses Eruption.

When Ifrit used eruption in phase 3, the animation had a momentary build-up before the explosion. Because of this momentary buildup, there was a slight delay between the server’s check and the explosion. This has already been corrected for phase 4 and release.

Damage taken for what looked like a near miss.

1. Registering Player Damage

In phase 3, when judging whether a character was standing in an attack’s area of impact, your position was checked using a circle around your character to represent the space your character stands in. 

Furthermore, to keep the different races balanced, the radius of this circle was the same for all characters. Because of this, even if you appeared to have barely escaped the area of effect, a portion of the circle was still within range. This created the illusion that you barely evaded attack, with varying results depending on your race.
For phase 4 and release, this circle has been reduced to a single point at the center of where your character is standing to more accurately determine your position.

2. Enemy Progress Bars and Area of Impact

Being an online game, there will always be a minimal delay when input is received from the player and sent back after being processed by the server.
In FFXIV: ARR, your position is checked by the server once every 0.3 seconds. This timing is synced and processed according to the servers to prevent lag between your input and what you see. 

During phase 3, however, this syncing did not take place due to stringent server checks that took place, causing lag between what you saw on the enemy progress bar and your character’s positioning. As a result, even if you appeared to be outside the area of impact when the progress bar was filled, damage was still taken.

Adjustments are being made to reduce lag as much as possible, and syncing should improve the timing between enemy cast bars, area of effect markers, and the actual attacks.

Rest assured that we’re doing what we can to make sure players can safely evade attacks by watching enemy cast bars and markers for area attacks.

Players overseas were also affected by having to access the Japan data center in Version 1.0, as this further delayed the relay of data from the server. With the establishment of a regional data center and the above measures being taken to improve syncing with the servers, we will continue working to ensure an enjoyable gaming experience for all of our players.
(Even with a great connection, I think there’s still maybe a 0.1 second margin of error with the cast bar, so make sure to get out of the way when playing with your party. )

That’s a beta for you. Personally I wasn’t heavily affected by the issue. When I see that kind of graphical representation the “don’t stand in the bad!” trigger years of MMORPGs engraved in my brain simply makes me run as far as possible from the danger zone instead of just standing at the edge, but I can see how it could be a problem for many.

Luckily, it’s getting addressed as much as technically possible. Hopefully we’ll soon be able to see how effective the implementation will be with the start of the open beta.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Won’t Have a Character Creation Benchmark for PS3

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Won’t Have a Character Creation Benchmark for PS3

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn players are eagerly awaiting for the release of the new benchmark that is scheduled to happen on August the 1st, especially because it’ll include a character creation utility that will allow new players to actually create and customize their characters and save their appearance, in order to load and use it when the game will go in open beta and then hit the shelves.

This is reserved for those that will play on PC, as the benchmark is PC only (your PS3 obviously doesn’t need to be benchmarked), causing many future PS3 players to ask for a character creation demo dedicated to their platform.

Unfortunately this isn’t going to happen, as explained by Community Manager Devin Casadey on the closed beta forums:

The character creation aspect of the second benchmark is something that only accompanies the benchmark and we have no plans to release a PS3 character creation demo.
PS3 users will be able to create characters when when Beta phase 4 begins and we appreciate your patience until then.

Luckily the open beta is probably quite close (word on the street says the August the 8th or the 9th due to the date of the upcoming Letter from the Producer Live, but don’t take it as gold), so PS3 players won’t have to wait too long in order to create their Eorzean alter-egos.

Casadey also specified that the benchmark will allow only to create e a character’s appearance, saving it locally, but it won’t actually create the character on the servers, so it won’t allow players to reserve their names.

Also as a side note, you will only be able to create your character’s appearance with the new benchmark and things like setting and reserving names won’t be possible, so please don’t be worried about others taking your name ahead of time.

There you have it, straight from the lion’s mouth. We’ll keep you updated as soon as the benchmark hits. Unfortunately we’ll have no news about that for PS3 players, but the wait shouldn’t be too long.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Column: Moving Forward and Looking Back

I feel that I have more reason to take umbrage with Final Fantasy XIV than most, as I have discussed. This was an MMORPG that I decreed as so desirable that I would purchase a new PC, opted for the more expensive, special edition, and settle in for extended revelry on my 20th birthday.

Now without sounding like a petulant child, the fact that I was indeed celebrating the date of my second decade of life was important to me. I had found that preceding birthdays were mostly met with relentless optimism and joy – and this all changed as I struck the fateful “2” and “0”.

Because, for all of my new PC gadgetry, Raptor mouse capabilities, and Razer keyboard tomfoolery, none of the collective shiny objects could make Square Enix’s MMO sequel any good. It was almost as if the developers had shipped only a graphical concept by mistake, leaving a piece of software bereft of entertainment as a result.

Eventually I would write a small impression piece about the game, to which on that special, special day, I received a personal message “Complaining about grinding makes me think your some WoW (redacted) who wants his max level handed to him on a (redacted) silver platter. If your such a pansy (redacted) lazy (redacted) -tard then go back to playing WoW or whatever (redacted) kiddy games you’re used to. Next time you write a (redacted) article you better be a bit more objective you stupid (redacted).”

Imagine if you will, a demented clown smashing up your birthday cake whilst trying desperately to tongue kiss your mother as a blimp slowly floats by bearing the moniker “welcome to maturity”. This was how I felt on my very special day.

So it was with a certain amount of trepidation and caution that I have approached Final Fantasy XIV in the ensuing years. It wasn’t just how bad the MMO was, but the unrelenting attitude of a certain amount of players. The type of people with such unyielding enthusiasm and loyalty that you would imagine  they spent their offline hours exploring wardrobes convinced that the portal to Narnia was “just in the next one”.

The sheer bloody-mindedness of fans continued and to some extent has damaged Final Fantasy XIV’s reputation. Periodically I would return to the game to test new patches and updates, praying for an iota of worthwhile gameplay, but would always come up short. Writing duties would be met, and always, always comments would await me like a punch in the gut: how dare I call the obviously rubbish game, that the developers themselves have declared as rubbish, rubbish?

So with Realm Reborn in the pipeline and off in the distant future, I felt a certain degree of fatigue with the fourteenth instalment of the game. Beaten down by expectation and the fact that I had the dubious pleasure of pointing out exactly how things were going for the MMO patch by patch. When the beta invite came I was almost ready to throw down my gunblade and retire to Midgar but I decided to fight one last battle.

And I’m so glad that I did. While Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn isn’t perfect, Square Enix have managed to take the bare ingredients of the initial game, and reform them into something pleasant, enjoyable, and dare I say exciting.

While my experiences of Final Fantasy XI are limited, this latest MMO seems to straddle the line between reverence to the source and accessibility. No longer are there mechanics and nuisances somewhere lost in translation, instead Realm Reborn seems plainly obvious whilst managing the same kind of swagger as World of Warcraft.

Which isn’t to say that it copies Blizzard. On the contrary, while many might feel that Square Enix have tried to jam the Final Fantasy peg into the Azeroth mold, I think that the developers have gone deeper, somewhere further back. When I wander through Ul’Dah I invoke EverQuest, Anarchy Online, and Dark Age of Camelot.

If possible, Final Fantasy XIV seems more nostalgic and not your average cut-and-paste clone in that it, seemingly, gives players the element of choice. Multiple classes, multiple races, multiple starting cities, multiple zone exits and entrances, and so on. Each environment seems to be fuelled with a level of nostalgia and built with a sense of “this is here, because it just is”. Square Enix have managed to instil a sense of texture into their MMO which is rarer and rarer – buildings, scenery, design flourishes are placed there because they further the sense that this is a place: and this place exists.

Of course, as pointed out by our fine writer, Robert Lashley, there are issues alongside the positives, and it doesn’t completely reinvent the wheel, but Final Fantasy XIV does manage to conjure a better sense of occasion and adventure. Over numerous hours I have already poured into the game, I feel like I have progressed, and in ways unlike my fellows players: we don’t have the same quest reward swords, or the same tunics, and while I know these skills, they know others.

I must say that I am impressed with Square and their latest MMO, which is  a confusing feeling to harbour after so many years of disappointment. I find myself itching to play more and more, crying off other commitments to uncover the next vista or simply complete my hunting log.

Whether or not the end game, PvP, or attached baubles are worthwhile seems elementary at this point. I know that I have found something enchanting within the adventure, and my mind hasn’t simply turned to the checklist of activities. I believe in the world, and I am having fun. For however long it lasts, I know that Square Enix have at least salvaged their reputation: even in beta Final Fantasy XIV is truly reborn.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn children statues and floating crystals

Square Enix have sent along a new batch of screenshots of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in preparation for the next round of closed beta testing next month. The images show off some of the sights of Eorzea.

Particular highlights are the large floating crystals which act as teleportation hubs between locations in the game and what looks like large statues of pointing children. Don’t be deceived, those children are actually Lalafells, the dwarven race that populates Final Fantasy XIV.


I’ve trimmed down the following screenshots from the 18 Square Enix sent over to us because, frankly, who wants to see images like this?

Here are the good’uns:

Final Fantasy HD release coming to PC

Square Enix announced yesterday that they’re working on an HD release of Final Fantasy 8 for the PC. While a release date and the addition of any fancy extras have yet to be announced, the HD spruce up is itself enough of a tempter to have me picking up a copy.


The Final Fantasy series has long been firmly in the domain of console-dom, only playable on the PC through ROMs and emulators (an arcane art itself), or sub-par ports. Yet in the past year Square Enix have shown a much friendlier turn towards the PC. First they announced that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn would be a cross-platform release on the Playstation and PC, then they went and released Final Fantasy VII on our fair machine – adding fancy extras like Steam achievements and cloud saves.

An HD release of Final Fantasy VIII marks a much more determined effort for porting the Final Fantasy back catalogue. This isn’t a simple port but a team going back and reworking all of the original art in the game, bringing the power of the modern computer to bear on its aged engine. It would make sense, too, that Square Enix would add achievements and cloud saves during the process.

When we learn about the game’s release date we’ll let you know.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII poster blows whistle on PC release

Final Fantasy series lineage can be a complicated business, so pay attention: Lighting Returns isn’t a remake of Final Fantasy XIII, as its title might mislead you into concluding; nor is it even a direct sequel to that game. It’s actually the sequel to Final Fantasy XIII-2, and sees the end of the Fabula Nova Crystallis story arc first begun in FFXIII. This strikes me as precisely the sort of confusion destined for a series that began with a proclamation of finality.

Anyway. It’s due out on Xbox 360 and PS3 later this year, as well as – remarkably enough – the PC.

UPDATE: Square Enix senior PR manager David Yang told DualShockers: “Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII will be available for the PS3 and Xbox 360 platforms only. The poster ad in question erroneously indicated PC as a platform.”

Booo. Original story follows.


That latter point has been revealed exclusively to ambulators on the streets of LA, where a poster is currently advertising the game ahead of what must surely be a planned E3 appearance.

Squint hard enough and you can make out the thoroughly unsexy PC logo that tends to sit alongside its Xbox and PS3 equivalents in multiplatform game adverts.

Square Enix are hosting a press conference tomorrow, Tuesday June 11, where they’re promising to show the “future of Final Fantasy”. Highly irregular though it may be, it seems that future might make room for our fair platform.

We have reborn MMO Final Fantasy XIV, of course, but the series proper has almost always steered away from the PC. How would you feel about a change to all that?