|System: PC, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Square Enix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 30, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: MMO||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The quest system is innovative as well, but we have some gripes with the way Square Enix implemented it. Basically, there are different forms of levequests. The main story quests are the most substantive, but also the rarest, because when you finish one, you typically have to level up quite a bit before you unlock another. There are also regional and local levequests, which are meant to fill the time between the story quests with killing and crafting.
The basic system works well enough. For regional quests, which tend to focus on killing, you stop by the NPC who dispenses them, pick one up, head to the start point, and activate it. You then have a limited time, usually thirty minutes, to carry out your mission. Also, the developers had the great idea of letting you set a difficulty level that corresponds to the size of your team before each quest, so you always face a reasonable challenge, whether you fight alone or in a huge, linkshell-organized army.
For local quests, which tend to focus on crafting, you pick one up, and then simply switch to the relevant class (say, carpenter for woodworking missions), obtain the materials, and start hammering away. The quests increase with difficulty as you go along, and they provide a great way to explore the game, trade with other players, and basically just enjoy yourself.
Whats irritating is that the game limits you to eight local and eight regional quests every thirty-six hours. Considering that some of the quests can be completed in as little as five minutes, this puts a serious limit on how much time you can spend making progress in the game. Once your quests run out, theres not much to do except make random items and kill random beasts -- actions that build your level, but feel completely aimless. Its as if Square Enix were spreading out its content to cover more time, for the purpose of forcing people to more months worth of service before reaching endgame.
Another artificial cap the developers placed on character growth is a weekly limit on the EXP you can gain. Once youve played in a given class for eight hours, you gradually start earning less EXP, and when you hit fifteen hours, the game stops awarding EXP entirely. You can get around the cutoff by switching classes; each class has a separate fifteen-hour limit, and while youre playing in a new class, your old classs ability to earn EXP regenerates. Nonetheless, its frustrating that you cant invest as much time as you want in whatever class you want, and earn full EXP while doing so. The developers say theyre just trying to give casual players a chance to compete by holding obsessive players back, but thats really no excuse for a game company to kneecap its biggest fans.
The crafting system is new to the world of MMOs, too. Its essentially a minigame. Your character hunches over a bench, and an orb on the bench glows in constantly changing colors. You choose from a menu of crafting styles (one crafts quickly, another carefully, and the third a balance of the two), and depending on what color the orb is when you click your selection, the process will have a higher or lower chance of failing. You have to repeat this until a progress meter fills. This is another aspect of the game that will send you scrambling around the online Final Fantasy forums trying to make heads or tails of it (no one in the game tells you which color youre aiming for, and even the forums contradict each other), but its a way to make digital crafting interesting.
FFXIV certainly has its share of flaws, and as with any MMO, the investment it requires (both money and time) is significant. But there's a lot to love about what Square Enix has presented here, and the company has always shown a willingness to stand behind its products. With some tweaks to ease new players into the process and a great plot, this could one day be the best MMO the world has ever seen.
CCC Freelance Writer