FFXIV: Pantsless — and clueless — in Eorzea

ff1Don’t laugh (too hard), but I had a dream that told me to play Final Fantasy XIV.

Oh, it was probably my subconscious working out what I’d been pondering lately, but I did actually wake up the other morning fresh from a dream in which I dipped into FFXIV to hang out with some online friends. Maybe it’s part of this summer wanderlust that I’m experiencing with trying a smattering of other MMOs, and most definitely it’s part of the current hype (and blog posts) that everyone’s doing about this game and its expansion, but I found myself shrugging, reinstalling, and squirming through a rather atrocious account interface to sub up for a month.

Two years ago, I played A Realm Reborn for about an hour before pushing myself away from the desk and declaring that I was done. Earlier this year I pronounced my interest in the Final Fantasy franchise RIP, part of this ongoing love/hate thing I’ve had for it. And even last week when I was thinking about trying it again, I acknowledged that it was my disillusionment with FF tropes and style that worked hard against a possible Syp incursion.

But to paraphrase Doc Brown, sometimes you say, what the heck and do it anyway.

So why? Why was I staring at a way-too-long intro cutscene and contemplating sharing screen time with moogles and chocobos and Limsa Lominsa other words that belong in a Dr. Suess book? Other than how dreams and whims can work on a person, I logged in because I really did want to hang out with the Cactuar blogging crew (including Belghast, Grace, and Syl), and partially because I’ve been missing dungeon runs and healing as of late. Some MMOs are better for this than others, and WildStar’s instance setup isn’t for me, nor is The Secret World. Kind of miss the old RIFT/WoW runs, to be honest, and everyone seems to go on and on about FFXIV’s dungeons.

ff2Oh! So I think I figured out an answer to my own question from last week (or at least part of the answer) about why it’s sometimes hard digging into a new game and figuring it all out. With FFXIV, I had an entire morning to play last Saturday with little else to do, so my first session was something like three or four straight hours. And let me tell you, having a sizable play session as your first into a game seems to make a world of difference in really getting to know it. Maybe part of my problem with other titles was trying to get to know them initially with only small bite-sized sessions.

I rolled up an Arcanist and entered into the game, feeling a little bit of deja vu from my 2013 trial. At least Square-Enix gives you a small discount on a monthly sub if you’re only playing a single character per server, which was certainly nice. Two game subs now plus podcast hosting and other monthly bills, it all adds up. FFXIV is really going to have to work hard to woo me in past a month, but I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt until the 30 days is up.

There’s no doubt that FFXIV is a pretty, screenshot-addicting bit of eye candy. Music is beautiful too, although it loops the same tracks too much for the amount of time that I’ve spent in these intro zones for my taste.

What’s interesting (both good and bad) is how the game starts you out after the cutscene. I think it was an hour-and-a-half, if not two hours, into the game before I even got into my first fight with a mob. I can’t remember the last time a game waited that long for a fight (maybe TSW, and even that had a bit of a weapon tutorial). Instead of instantly sending me off to fight 10 rats, the game forced me to get to know the starting city and FFXIV’s quirky systems one chunk at a time.

ff3While occasionally frustrating to slow down and take all of that in, the end result was impressive: I knew this city inside-out after a while, had my game and map bearings, and felt a little more immersed in things. Of course, I was doing all of this immersion without proper pants, because why give you the security of a pair of trousers when the game can just throw you into a shirt, panties, and thigh-high boots so that you feel threatened by drafts?

The guild was very welcoming and instructive, especially for folks who are already at level 60 and deep into the new expansion. One thing that was conveyed to me repeatedly is that FFXIV does things a little differently than the norm — not always, but often — and that you kind of had to roll with it. So for every one thing I enjoyed, there was another that annoyed or at least befuddled me.

Good? Charmingly detailed mobs, including mouse-sheep and these giant toothy rock-guys. Bad? No cosmetic system (glamours) until you’re level 50. Good? A handy teleport system to zip across zones. Bad? A map that was often hard to read and not always clear where quests were in relation to you. Good? Some genuinely funny bits of quest dialogue. Bad? Lalafells. Those little guys and gals creep me out (sorry Bel!). Good? Breathtaking sunsets and starry skies. Bad? Very slow combat that’s taking some getting used to.

ff5From what I’m told and what I read in some beginner guide research, this game is a little more on rails than usual, which is a mixed blessing. At least I don’t feel totally lost; just follow the breadcrumbs and watch the game slowly open up. I’m so hideously behind the expansion crowd that I feel no pressure to rush, but instead probably my greatest enjoyment is soaking up the environmental details and dredging up good Final Fantasy associations (and ignoring the weird New Agey crystal fixation that the series has).

If I stick around, my plan is to gradually develop a Scholar and try my hand at healing in groups. To the game’s credit, there does seem to be a very robust set of grouping features, including incentives to include newbies on runs and try out random dungeons together. But that seems like it’s a ways off for this level 12. Right now, I’ll run around in my ridiculously puffy shirt, beating up sheep, and trying to figure out what’s hooked this game for so many — and whether that’s for me.

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17 thoughts on “FFXIV: Pantsless — and clueless — in Eorzea

  1. Rowan July 6, 2015 / 9:30 am

    Am I a complete cad for being disappointed that there is no photographic evidence of this “shirt, panties, and thigh-high boots” outfit?

  2. Syp July 6, 2015 / 9:35 am

    I tried to be tactful. Until I found out that the home button gives first-person view, most of my screenshots angled up to look at buildings also looked very perverted. Unintentionally.

  3. C. T. Murphy July 6, 2015 / 9:38 am

    Final Fantasy XIV is a populist MMO in the best sense. It rewards people for playing how they want, but still makes harder areas mostly accessible without making them especially easy. I think it is everything World of Warcraft wished it could be, but can’t because its most vocal players would be up in arms about many of the changes that would need to be made.

  4. Rowan July 6, 2015 / 9:38 am

    Oh I didn’t need perverted angles, lol. I’m sure it’s not any worse than, say, Tera, or some TSW outfits.

  5. bhagpuss July 6, 2015 / 9:43 am

    It’s hard to predict whether FFXIV is going to hook you or not. I felt, like you, that for every Good there was a Bad and in the end there were more Bads on my tally than Goods so I quit.

    If you’re going in specifically because you want to do dungeons then you will at least escape the Biggest Bad, the one that more than anything led to my not carrying on past the free month, namely Forced Grouping. I personally found the dungeons horrible. Dull, tense, boring and stressful all at the same time. Making them literally unavoidable for anyone who wants to follow the main story or even just progress their character was unacceptable to me.

    Compare that with TSW, where dungeon play is entirely optional and it looks archaic. It’s typical of the whole structure of FFXIV though, or at least as far as I saw it. If I had to use one word to describe the ethos there it would be Prescriptive. At every stage you are told what to do and how to do it and if you don’t like that you might as well not bother.

    It’s by far the most paternalistic MMORPG I have ever played. Nothing I can think of begins to run it close. On the plus side it’s lovely to look at at and the writing is pretty good. Plus I like Lalafels.

  6. Aywren July 6, 2015 / 9:44 am

    Looking forward to seeing your adventures in Eorzea! I need to hop on my very-behind-the-curve Cactuar character again sometime, too, and maybe I’ll finally get to say hello to you in a game. 🙂

    My best advice on this game is just stick with it. It won’t be rushed and really needs time and patience in the beginning. But once the awesome starts story-wise, it keeps rolling. I really enjoyed the story in ARR (though sometimes you have to turn your head and let the silly JRPG vibes go), and Heavensward has not disappointed when it comes to story, either.

    As a person who usually skips/dislikes dungeons and instances, FFXIV manages to make them bearable for someone like me (and that’s a huge compliment). Having FC folks join in makes it all the better, too!

  7. Rowan July 6, 2015 / 9:51 am

    @bhagpuss While I completely agree with your view on forced grouping, especially locking story points away behind raids, I would say TSW (which I love) swings almost completely in the other direction with forced soloing for certain portions of the story. This can be extremely frustrating for some gamers used to pairing or grouping up with complementary play styles.

  8. David Bass (@doctordake) July 6, 2015 / 10:32 am

    I think my favorite memory of FFXIV is how the original version made me cry during the tutorial. No, like, actually. The original game was so frustrating and confusing that I was literally in the first minutes of the game and could not figure out how to complete the tutorial instance you were thrown into. I spent maybe 15 minutes trying to figure out how to attack and then started yelling at my computer.

    Then 2.0 came out and I was so happy that this was “just” a normal MMO that I haven’t stopped playing since. I still get annoyed by the 2.5s GCD, because it does make everything feel slow, but I decided to play a Pugilist/Monk (which eventually gets the ability to reduce the GCD significantly) to counter that.

    You can tell the game is extremely well designed and thought through, even when some of those decisions are frustrating or feel dumb, you still can see that someone thought about it and intentionally made it that way. I also don’t know that I’ve ever seen as polished a game as FFXIV. I’ve never seen a single bug in my year playing it.

  9. Dan July 6, 2015 / 11:14 am

    Here’s a neat bit that I haven’t seen a blogger bring up since it was brought in the game:
    If you right click a quest reward before choosing the optional reward or accepting the reward, you can try on the new gear to decide if you want it.

    And, believe it or not, at level 12 you only need three more levels and you are ready for your first dungeon (should you do the main story quest to it).

  10. Tyler F.M. Edwards July 6, 2015 / 11:35 am

    FFXIV has what is probably the worst new player experience of any MMO I’ve played. As you point out, it’s hours of largely dull cutscenes and fetch quests before you get to any actual gameplay, and even then, you start out on the kill ten rats quests of all kill ten rats quests. In my case I was murdering squirrels and ladybugs. I’ve never felt less heroic.

    When I reviewed it on my blog, I believe I said something about it seeming like “an elaborate, Joaquin Phoenix-esque parody of MMO tropes.”

    But that said, if you can wade through that opening, it does turn into one of the most polished and well-executed traditional themeparks on the market. It’s overflowing with content, and all of that content (in my experience) is at least decent, if not always thrilling.

    But it is very much a traditional themepark, and the lack of any unique hook made me lose interest pretty quickly.

  11. ironweakness July 6, 2015 / 12:03 pm

    In my experience any declaration I make in my blog will be contradicted. If I map out my writing plans? I will probably never write on those topics. Swear off a game? It’s my main title the next week. It’s to the point that I am hesitant to state some things because I don’t want to jinx it. I’m not a superstitious person but blogging is turning me into one.

    As far as FFXIV goes, I enjoyed it enough to make it to 50 on one class but not enough to finish the main storyline and all the patches. I finished a couple months before Heavensward and figured I would wait. I was hoping the expansion would be the great equalizer and I would have a 50 ready to go and then I found out I was going to have to finish everything up to 3.0 and so I retired the game and don’t think I will return.

    Crap, now I’m going to be playing FFXIV next week, arent I?

  12. Rohan July 6, 2015 / 12:43 pm

    You should have rolled a melee class if you wanted to be pantless. Then you would know the glory of the subligar (at around level 12).

  13. Targeter (@ItsatrapLOL) July 6, 2015 / 1:13 pm

    I’m recently new to FFXIV as well and could not be enjoying myself more. It may be a little structured and themepark, but it’s the exact game I was lookin’ for at this moment. It’s different enough from WoW/SWTOR to engage me, but familiar enough not to (totally) lose me. Although there are times where I’m like, “Huh?” Googling “FFXIV+” and whatever I need help on has become one of my new past-times.

  14. pkudude99 July 6, 2015 / 7:13 pm

    Welcome to the darkside!

  15. pkudude99 July 6, 2015 / 7:22 pm

    Weird, I hit enter to got to next line and it posted…. sorry for the double post then but…

    FWIW, the game didn’t really hook me at 1st either and I let the sub lapse after the free 30 days. I actually only re-subbed becuz I wanted my mount and then I was gonna let the game go again and well….. I have a level 60 black mage, level 51 summoner, 50 scholar, 50 white mage, 50 paladin, 50 warrior, 50 bard, 50 dragoon, 34 astrologian, 32 dark knight, 30 machinist, 22 pugilist, and 20 rogue. And I could so very easily get lost in crafting were I so inclined…. That’s actually why I quit in the beginning though — I got so sucked into the crafting black hole before getting hooked on the game that I got bored with the crafting. Such is life, no?

    https://nomadicgamer.wordpress.com/category/final-fantasy-xiv/ if you care for a bit of excessive reading material and gushing about the game 😉 I’m Gotter Dammerung in the Greysky Armada if you care to shoot me a friend invite too. I’m always down to do dungeons, even over and over to farm gear for you or whatever.

    FYI – as Scholar you will need to get Conjurer to 15 to be able to even unlock the Scholar job, and eventually will want to get to level 34 to unlock the Stoneskin skill. You will also eventually want Thaumaturge to 26 for the Swiftcast skill becuz the 8-second cast time for Resurrection is a bit onerous without it. Typically you won’t need Swiftcast until level 50 dungeons, and Stoneskin is really just a nice-to-have, not a must-have, so you really only need to worry about CNJ to 15 in the beginning.

  16. tsuhelm July 7, 2015 / 8:24 am

    US pantless is not quite the same as UK pantless… but was surprised to find my attention was grabbed anyway! I promise one day to explore FFXIV (need a new computer first!) but not for the pantlessness!

  17. Vagrant Zero July 7, 2015 / 4:03 pm

    Damn your new character could be my character’s sister. Enjoy FF14 Syp!

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