Combat for Final Fantasy XIV is a sometimes awkward affair with targeting being a difficult thing to perform. Sure you can use your mouse to specifically click on an enemy, but for someone who plays with a keyboard, a shortcut macro would be the most helpful thing in this situation. Instead you're forced to tab through targets often taking a good deal of damage in the process, and this flaw becomes really apparent when doing the combat jobs, where enemies are spawned, sure you can denote them by the fact that they have a little help icon next to their name, but there are many times where multiple people will be doing the same job as you, spawning multiple mobs, and you can waste time trying to attack enemies that aren't meant for you.
Macros are still possible in Final Fantasy XIV but for the most part they are used for switching jobs and skills on the fly. Having a number of jobs will cause you to fill up your macro list to quickly link your equipment and abilities together. Once in combat you have a list of commands assigned from 1-0 with the ability to hold control to go up and down more lists. It keeps screen clutter down, but can be costly when time is of the essence. These abilities will drain from a stamina bar that will slowly refill over time in a system that is similar to combat in Final Fantasy XIII. For the most part this system works, but as I said before, I found myself missing an incredibly frustrating number of times. Common RPGs don't dare to have you miss early on in the game, and I consider the first twenty levels to be early in the game. I figured upgrading my weapons would improve my odds, and sure enough, they didn't.
The combat UI is serviceable while the main UI is an absolute chore to slog through. I don't understand why it takes seconds between when I select an item in my inventory and when the information is actually displayed. This makes buying and selling items an absolutely dreadful experience, and is only compounded by and completely broken economy system. For a game that is so huge on player interaction it does an awful job on interacting with people. For example, there is no auction house system, instead there are wards, where players can set up an NPC to sell their goods. This is fine, except if you're a buyer, you're searching through literally hundreds of NPCs. And to do that for each NPC you must select them, then bring up the main menu, select that NPC's browse command, then about five seconds later their list of items comes up. I don't ever go there any more except to drop off items to my NPC retainer, which is no easier to deal with. Transactions with this NPC are incredibly slow and only makes this game feel slower.
This is also present in the crafting system, where the start up to making an item can take almost 30 seconds. Crafting as a whole is a somewhat frustrating experience which will more often than not result in failure and a loss of materials. Basically you are choosing the type of synthesis used to make an item, and if the item's durability hits zero in the process of the synthesis then the item is not made. There are patterns to how you can make items, but those patterns appear to change with the cycles of the month. Another needlessly difficult aspect of the crafting system is putting items out of your reach unless you take on multiple jobs. In order for me to make a specific piece of armor I would need to also take up leatherworking, carpentry, and goldsmithing. This is just if I want to be a cloth-craft type class. Sure I can go and buy the materials I need in the market wards, but that usually doesn't yield the results I am hoping for, and I can't go out and farm materials that I need because some drops come from enemies who are out of my league. I can party up in a pinch, but overall for a game that encourages you to be self sufficient, it expects you to be proficient in every possible aspect of the game. I get that Square Enix wants this to be a time sink, but I'd rather at least feel like I am making progress than just fail over and over again. And this really gets me, there is no central location to look up the recipes for crafting that you have earned through jobs, instead you are expected to use the Final Fantasy website, which is all well and good, unless you play the game in full screen, you can't alt+tab out of the game otherwise the game simply shuts down.
The social side of Final Fantasy XIV also feels like it was cobbled together rather haphazardly, you've still got the linkshell system, but have made adding people to a friends list a much more ridiculous affair than it needs to be. I have to be within a proximity of a friend to be able to add them to my list? Why? Updates in the future will address this, but it really should not have been like this in the first place. Especially when it can be so difficult to find people since only so many characters can be drawn in your vicinity at any given time. I've been right next to party members but I could not see them, instead the game opted to draw a character much further away from me.
After a month on the market, it's tough to say positive things about Final Fantasy XIV. Instead I am left simply asking, 'Why?" Why are such simple things in a state of disarray? Why were functional aspects of Final Fantasy XI removed or altered to a broken state? There are a ton of user experience issues that have not been addressed but look to be dealt with in future updates. It's hard to see these fixes bringing back those already disenchanted by the game, especially when there is seriously no reason why this game should be so difficult for the user to play. You don't have easy access to crafting recipes, combat is a pain in the ass and has a good number of bugs, it's incredibly difficult to play this game solo despite the game pushing you toward doing that. I was really excited when I saw those videos from E3 in 2009 that showed off what looked to be an epic adventure. Instead I'm left with an epic let down. At this point I'm not sure if I am going to renew my subscription, and Square Enix has already offered an extra 30 days for the trial. We may revisit this review further down the line to see if Square Enix makes it feel like I didn't pay eighty dollars for a limited edition beta test.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I can't believe Square Enix released this game in such a state. In their rush to beat WoW: Cataclysm they have alienated new users, and worse still, alienated their own fanbase who deserve much better than this.
Page 2 of 2