I was very pleased on Friday morning to receive an email stating that I had been accepted into Phase 3 of the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn MMORPG beta. After putting in my code and downloading the client, I started it up for the first time and was greeted with a beautiful cutscene explaining the origins of the world of Hydaelyn, but mainly focusing on the land of Eorzea.
Yes, that’s right. Hydaelyn and Eorzea.
Is it just me, or is Square Enix getting kind of obnoxious with all these fantastically complex names? That’s not where it ends, either. Essentially the beginning class ‘black mage’ is now “thaumaturge”, monk or fighter is “pugilist” … and don’t get me started on Final Fantasy XIII’s Fal’cie and L’cie! Maybe I’m just simple, but in my opinion, jamming vowels into a word do not make it fantasy. It makes anyone reading or saying the name stumble, which causes them to pause to correct themselves, which takes them briefly out of the magic circle you’ve made up for them!
But again, I really am just nitpicking here.
The story goes that Eorzea has been a pretty awesome place, each with its own period of peace and wonderful gods were known as The Twelve, but one day this not-so-cool Garlean Empire started attacking. This caused the kingdoms/city-states/whatever of Eorzea to unite against this threat and then there was war.
But during this war, someone (probably the Empire) broke open the moon — sorry, the second moon — and out popped a very cranky Bahamut. He started wrecking everything pretty fierce, but then some mysterious group now known as the Heroes Of Light appeared and…did something. But now Bahamut’s inside the moon again, so it’s all good.
Everyone who witnessed it just kind of blacked out and doesn’t remember anything but their silhouettes, but when they woke up, everything was pretty OK. You start the game ten years later, when all sorts of adventurers are being recruited for various reasons and tasks, and oh, that Empire might strike again. Maybe. Not like that’s a plot point or anything.
Oh, and the beastmen are out there organizing and worshipping other primal deities like Bahamut, too. So you’ve gotta watch out for those things.
After watching that opening scene, which is told in a much more fantastic and professional and epic way mind you, you can create your character. As someone who played the original Final Fantasy XIV’s beta, I can say happily that Square Enix has done a lot better this time around.
What’s more, they’ve changed their policy on two races: Mi’quote and Roegadyn, which were originally female-only and male-only respectively, now allow players to play as the opposing genders. They have also created female counterparts for the Hyur (Human) Highlander race, which was originally limited to very muscly men. In essence: now you can play as bulky women and cat men! Woohoo!
The variety in customization has also changed a great deal, and for the better — more facial types, more hairstyles, more voice choices, and even some other super detailed changes like eye shape, nose, chin, etc. which I personally thought were going a bit overboard. But hey! Too much customization is better than not enough, I think.
I personally adore my little Mi’quote lady the most — she really looks more like me than any other custom character I’ve created before, down to the round face shape and little irises. You can even choose the height and (for the ladies) bust size, and they’ve even kept the “maximum” slider choice for the latter comfortable and realistic. I really love it.
When it comes to the classes, the way they explain it is…well, you have to go on the website for them to give you an overview.
Basically, you choose from one of what will eventually be eight classes: five “disciples of war” and three “disciples of magic”. You can also become “disciples of the land” and “disciples of the hand” when you want to start crafting, but I’ll hold off on that for now since I’m not a big crafting kinda player.
Your class choices are:
Gladiator, Pugilist, Marauder, Lancer, Archer, Conjurer, Thaumaturge, and Arcanist.
Once you hit level 15, you can switch between these classes whenever you want simply by changing your weapon. Tired of being a gladiator? Swap your sword and shield for a polearm and bam, instant lancer!
Gladiators – Sword & Shield
Pugilist – Hand 2 Hand
Marauder – Great Axe
Lancer – Polearm
Archer – Bow & Arrows
Conjurer – Staff – Healing & Elemental Magic
Thaumaturge – Scepter/Staff – Enfeebling & Elemental Magic
Arcanist – Book – Summons Carbuncle, general magic
As of the beta right now, the class you choose at the beginning of the game determines which of the three city-states your character starts in.
On top of all that, you can unlock special Jobs at later levels by leveling up a combination of the above classes. For example, a Paladin is unlocked by leveling Gladiator to 30 and Conjurer to 15. The following is a list of the described Jobs and what you need to accomplish them:
Paladin – Gladiator 30+ and Conjurer 15+
Monk – Pugilist 30+ and Lancer 15+
Warrior – Marauder 30+ and Gladiator 15+
Dragoon – Lancer 30+ and Pugilist 15+
Bard – Archer 30+ and Conjurer 15+
White Mage – Conjurer 30+ and Gladiator 15+
Black Mage – Thaumaturge 30+ and Pugilist 15+
There are supposed to be more classes, but no requirements or specifics have been posted yet. Summoner is one of them, I believe, and I’m really hoping to see Thief show up somewhere.
Anyway, my thoughts on the classes? Not sure yet. Part of me feels leveling up a black mage-esque job (Thaumaturge) for the sole purpose to UNLOCK the actual “Black Mage” class is…strange. What will the differences be? Also Black Mage, White Mage, Monk, Warrior — these are the basic classes of any Final Fantasy. At least the names are. Even going from Lancer to Dragoon — what’s the big difference? Do we get a baby wyvern like we did in Final Fantasy XI? If so, cool, but I really don’t understand the appeal…yet. I’m not sure what exactly would encourage me to go through the trouble of getting an advanced class right now. But that’s just me, and opinions are definitely subject to change the more I learn!
The actual gameplay is really fun and streamlined to follow the typical pattern of modern MMORPGs. You’ve got your hotbar, your emotes, a customizable HUD, the return of linkshells from FFXI (the FFXIV equivalent of guilds), a simple and easy-to-understand quest system, fast travel system, world events (called FATEs), and a bunch of familiar chunks of Final Fantasy games that you love, like Moogles!
Improvements from the original FFXIV definitely include the ease of quests and better explanation of “guildleves”, which are basically…special quests, really. You’ll get them from a specific NPC who will offer you a list of tasks that you’ll have a certain amount of time to complete, as well as a specific location that you need to go to in order to start the said task. These can be battle guildleves, field guildeves, and trade guildeves. You even get the chance to adjust the level of difficulty of the quest, which I thought was amazing. You spawn your own enemies, so no one can steal them from you, either. There are group-specific guildleves, too!
Another improvement is all the visual cues and general aids that help you learn the game. For example, when you’re in a party, there’s a set of bars by the left side of your name that slowly fill up over the course of the battle — bars that show your enmity! An empty bar means the monster(s) in question aren’t paying attention to you, which is what you want to see for mages, and a full bar means you’re their prime target — which is exactly what the tank wants. A quick glance at the corner of the screen can easily tell you who’s going to be in trouble very soon, which is a godsend in the hardcore dungeons that pit you against countless enemies.
For those who played FFXI, the term “skill chains” brings about memories of various weapon skills that players would combine to create extra damage-dealing to enemies. Unfortunately, you had to rely on each other to cue what weapon skill they decided to use, and there was no set list in-game that explained the combinations. In FFXIV, icons in your hotkey bar will flash to encourage you to use certain ones in succession for skill chains. They also included XP chains, which give you a bonus to XP if you kill many enemies (of moderate to hard difficulty) within a certain amount of time, which is also displayed on the screen.
I recently had the pleasure of delving into three story missions that required you to enter dungeons with four-person parties AND fight the Primal god, Ifrit. These were not easy by any means, but the challenge was a welcome one — and it even employed a certain amount of strategy!
In the Copperbell Mines dungeon, my party reached a door that we could not pass without killing a pair of slime monsters. But the slime monsters would take on a form that was invulnerable to everything — you’d have to spawn and pull a set of bomb monsters close to the slimes to damage them enough to get them out of that form, but at the same time there were a set of spriggan monsters that were trying to kill the bombs and make them go off prematurely. In the battle with the primal god Ifrit, the monster would spam area of effect attacks for a point and then drop a staff-esque item in the middle of the ring, which the party would have to destroy in time lest he uses an instant-death-to-everyone move. It was unbelievably stressful, but also very exciting!
Now I could go on and on about the game, but I think I’ll stop here for now. I’ll take screenshots next weekend when I play the beta to show off more of my character, the graphics, and how the gameplay works. Maybe I’ll even put up a few clips!