Final Fantasy XIV Online


By: Alan Bell    On: PC
Published: Tuesday 9 Nov 2010 7:00 PM
 
 
 
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Games don't get to a fourteenth iteration in the series, with an additional bevy of side games, without shipping units. In Final Fantasy's case, the number of units shipped is massive - around 100 million at last count. In the 23 years since the first one, the series has formed a massive fanbase and created a brand that's worth billions of dollars.

Which only adds to the confusion that is caused by playing Final Fantasy XIV. With that much money, that many fans and that much expectation, how can it be that the game is...well, this bad?

It turns out, you see, that the fourteenth game in the main series and second Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game to bear the brand is, quite possibly, the worst MMO ever released. That it's also the worst Final Fantasy game is in no doubt whatsoever and, at any point in the future, should anyone feel the need to discuss the most disappointing or otherwise worst gaming experiences ever, this game will at least be mentioned.

Let's start at the beginning.

When you first get the game, you are required to sign up for an account - this is standard fare for MMOs and is becoming increasingly common for any kind of online game, massively multiplayer or otherwise. No big deal, right? Wrong. The registration process for FFXIV is unbelievably convoluted, directing you to various sites and forms through which you must provide credit card details and select from confusingly named options or wait for various stages of the process to be completed without your input. During this process you'll learn that, should you want to have more than one character, FFXIV will cost you up to $63 dollars PER MONTH to play. That nets you just ten characters maximum - the minimum ($24) gets you just one.

Once you get in to the game, you're treated to a lovely intro movie - enjoy it because everything goes downhill fast from here. One of the first things you'll notice is that the game is not full-screen. After spending a few minutes trying to find graphics options, you'll figure out that you have to exit the game to change the options via the (completely separate) settings & options program - which defaults to Japanese. Change it to English and you can finally set your options - just be careful because some of them don't work, resulting in graphics options that don't display everything in the game.

Once you finally get it working at the resolution you'd like (be careful - the game crashes if you select full screen and then tab out to check your email or tweet about how bad it is), you set about creating your characters. The characters you can choose between look good in their default configuration, which is great because you can change very little about their appearance. They're vastly different in silhouette and and "attitude", as well as being very true to Final Fantasy. Nice. That's literally the last good part of the game so if you don't want to hear anything else bad about the title, now's the time to close this review and check out some of the other awesome content on NZGamer.com.

Still here? Let's get into it, then.

At the start of the game, you're tasked with... figuring out what on earth you're tasked with. Once you figure that out, you need to figure out how on earth to accomplish it - FFXIV includes next to no assistance or guidance in telling you what your quest is or how on earth you go about achieving it. Once you fumble your way through to the fact that you need to repeatedly click on the prone bodies in the clearing, things get underway - ultimately introducing you to your first phase of combat.

In FFXIV, your character can be in one of two modes - one of which is combat, the other of which is deep embarrassment at being in such an awful game (I'm paraphrasing). You need to switch between them in order to engage in combat with an enemy - why on earth this is considered a good idea is something which is never made clear. Believe it or not, this is the least awkward part of the user interface, which is arguably the worst interface ever devised - even worse than regular Final Fantasy games, which tend to peak at "sub-optimal".

Combat itself is pretty standard fare - select an enemy and use one of the actions you have docked in your action bar at the bottom of the screen. You can also select when to attack, opting to choose between speed and effectiveness - a cool twist in theory but it's hard to tell how much impact selecting between the two actually has.

Once you've completed the basic introduction quest chain, during which you'll discover that NPCs lack any kind of indication as to their function and that tracking what you're supposed to do in a quest is painfully difficult / relies on random luck at figuring it out, you're introduced to the random quest system. Many locations on the map (just wait when you load the map - icons take ages to load in, every time) have little quest crystal things that issue out daily "kill a bunch of rats" type quests for you to complete. Accepting one of these takes about a dozen clicks and, should the game server crash out or your client disconnect (something that happens frequently), you fail it and can never reattempt it. Spectacularly cool feature, that.

The quests have next to no information about where you're supposed to find whatever rat-variant this particular one asks of you but the mini-map will give you some clues. Just don't ever look at the quest map as ten or so clicks into the interface, it's completely different to the main game map.

Speaking of the game map, it's practically unnavigable - you can't see how each of the sides of the map connects to the next one which you can't scroll to (you have to select it from a list). It's hard to imagine in a world that has Google Maps, World of Warcraft or even beta testers that this is the map system they thought was the one for them. It's almost better to a) remember where you've been and b) randomly attempt to find your way to new places than to actually use the game's mapping system.

Throughout the experience, much of which will no doubt be viewed through tears and heard over the sound of your own gnashing teeth, you're constantly greeted with lengthy loading screens, black screens and flashes of partially rendered game world or other, low-polish examples of presentation. In fact, the entire game lacks polish in every respect - it's as if the designers decided that referring to other games and building on them would be a weakness and that reinventing everything, without any feedback on the usability or fun of the features in question, was the way to go.

Another mind-boggling feature inclusion is the limitation in the number of quests you can complete each day. No doubt a method to prevent people spending too long playing the game, what it ultimately means is that you spend most of your time grinding on mobs (killing things over and over for experience) once you've exhausted your quest count. This feature seems similar to making cigarettes out of asbestos; you'll still use them, you'll just be crying and dying inside while you do.

Everything about the game is sloooow; moving, menus, interactions, spawning of NPCs, the map - you name it, it's slow. Even the icons on the map take an age to appear and they don't cache so you have to go through this cludgy experience every time you load it! The game's so slow, in fact, that you'll be idling in an area waiting for NPCs to spawn for minutes at a time before they appear - combine that with the fact that you frequently don't know where you're supposed to go and you can imagine how often you're standing around in the wrong place waiting for teleporting NPCs that won't ever turn up.

We were unable to ascertain what caused the lag (graphics settings have no bearing on it) so we can only assume that a combination of the game's net code and our geographical distance from the game servers (we don't know where they are but they're not in NZ) contribute to the issue. The test machine has a dedicated 15Mbps internet pipe so it's hard to imagine that it's anything to do with our connection.

Disconnections are frequent and, for whatever reason, the game likes to give you a lot of technical detail on just why you've been kicked out. Messages like "Server error 43330445" appear, bewildering the player without giving any actual information that may be of use (like, "Unable to contact server, please try again later" or similar). The launcher and patcher is like that too, presented via some cumbersome Internet Explorer-like window, it tells you lots of stuff like "peers" and "connections" (with associated numbers) but at no point does it tell you the size of the patch - the only piece of information which is actually of any real interest.

Visually it seems to be nice, with lush character graphics and some genuinely imaginative creatures, all of which fit nicely within the Final Fantasy art style. The game's lag issues, however, truncate the animation and make everything jerk around unnaturally, spoiling most of the effect. You also have extremely limited options when creating characters, resulting in a bunch of cookie-cutter humans running around.

The sound is decent, with voices (occasional; not all dialogue is voiced) and great music that again fits very well within the Final Fantasy canon. The loops for city music, etc, are short however so it won't be long before you're reaching for the option to turn it off. Sound effects are crisp and ethereal, with an excellent implementation of surround sound, should you be lucky enough to have a setup to take advantage of it.

In a universe where World of Warcraft is six years old and numerous other MMOs have been released to varying levels of success and acclaim, it's hard to understand why Final Fantasy XIV exists in this form. It is woefully inferior in every important way to almost every MMO ever released - let alone recently. Instead of taking what other games (even Final Fantasy XI) have done and improving on or learning from them, it seems to discard every advance ever made in the field and reset the experience back to when it was only the hardest of the hardcore that participated.

That, I suggest, is a losing proposition - time marches on and those hardcore have gotten used to the brave new world where gamers are treated with respect, love and attention. They simply will not accept this failed attempt at a new experience and will not stay long (should they be foolish enough to turn up in the first place); it's hard to imagine even major changes to the system that may eventually come in patches making enough of a difference to make this game worthwhile.

A truly awful experience and one that should be avoided at all costs. STAY AWAY!


The Score

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
"Utter rubbish"
4.0
Awful
Rating: PG   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 3+ Hours

 

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Comments (16)

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ChatterboxZombie
On Tuesday 9 Nov 2010 7:52 PM Posted by ChatterboxZombie NZGamer.com VIP
Good thing its for PC.
Luckily coz everyone here is a console gamer, they don't give a sh*t

if it WAS on console however, they'd prolly be very mad for having a post criticizing something mainstream. Because console gamers hate controversy. and love mountain dew
 
 
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KatalystaKaos
On Tuesday 9 Nov 2010 8:41 PM Posted by KatalystaKaos NZGamer.com VIP
Hey Alan has this improved since the 2.5 it was given the other day ? Or was that gonna be to controversial?

Betting this gets canned and never makes it onto PS3.

NZGamer.com Note: We have an automated process that publishes our reviews daily. We also have a process where anything that is rated very high or extremely low (above 9.5 or below 3) goes through a system where we take an in depth look to make sure it is rated accordingly when compared with all our other reviews. This review was automatically published before going through that system. This was an administrative mistake. Apologies!
 
 
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Veen130
On Tuesday 9 Nov 2010 9:08 PM Posted by Veen130
A final fantasy game got a bad review? Wow, never thought id see that.
 
 
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Srassy
On Tuesday 9 Nov 2010 9:21 PM Posted by Srassy NZGamer.com VIP
Wow! You really ripped into it. It's hard to imagine that it can be that amazingly bad.

Cheers for sitting through that for us. :)
 
 
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Takuyafire
On Tuesday 9 Nov 2010 11:12 PM Posted by Takuyafire NZGamer.com VIP
I recall reading an article recently that summed this situation up well. Basically FFXIII sucked and FFXIV was rubbish...they have alienated both their console and PC fans very quickly.

The article I read was to do with the differences in JRPG vs WRPG...Both are obviously different but attempting to "bridge" that gap causes massive rifts.

Those of use that enjoy JRPG's enjoy them because they are Japanese-styled, its something different. The same could be said of those that like WRPG's....but never should anyone attempt to bridge them as the worst will come out of both and it will overpower the good parts easily.
 
 
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grieving
On Tuesday 9 Nov 2010 11:52 PM Posted by grieving NZGamer.com VIP
9 November 2010, 11:12 PM Reply to Takuyafire
I recall reading an article recently that summed this situation up well. Basically FFXIII sucked and FFXIV was rubbish...they have alienated both their console and PC fans very quickly.

The article I read was to do with the differences in JRPG vs WRPG...Both are obviously different but attempting to "bridge" that gap causes massive rifts.

Those of use that enjoy JRPG's enjoy them because they are Japanese-styled, its something different. The same could be said of those that like WRPG's....but never should anyone attempt to bridge them as the worst will come out of both and it will overpower the good parts easily.
Keyword "reading". FF13 was a masterpiece.
 
 
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Donutta
On Tuesday 9 Nov 2010 11:56 PM Posted by Donutta NZGamer.com VIP
I played it during the open beta and it was obvious that it wasn't finished and ready to launch.

My missus liked it though. Said she enjoyed it more than WoW. We're waiting for the PS3 version to see if the many, many, many issues are fixed by then.
 
 
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rebolta
On Wednesday 10 Nov 2010 9:09 AM Posted by rebolta
Loving the subtlety in this review.
 
 
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leopardsqueezy
On Wednesday 10 Nov 2010 10:39 AM Posted by leopardsqueezy
I used to play jrpgs, but then I grew up.
 
 
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This comment has been down-voted by the community.  
SpawnSeekSlay
On Wednesday 10 Nov 2010 11:40 AM Posted by SpawnSeekSlay NZGamer.com VIP
Had a gut feeling this would be rubbish. I dont think it will make it to PS3, not until they clean the PC version up.. alot
 
 
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QuickSilver
On Thursday 11 Nov 2010 3:26 PM Posted by QuickSilver
Brilliant review :D Had me smiling a few times!
 
 
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KatalystaKaos
On Thursday 11 Nov 2010 3:52 PM Posted by KatalystaKaos NZGamer.com VIP
9 November 2010, 11:52 PM Reply to grieving
Keyword "reading". FF13 was a masterpiece.
Yes FF XIII was excellent, I enjoyed it from beginning to end, perhaps not as much as other some other FF instalments, but still in the top 3 RPG's on PS3 with Demons Souls & Valkyria Chronicles.
 
 
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JoolaPrime
On Friday 12 Nov 2010 3:06 PM Posted by JoolaPrime
9 November 2010, 11:56 PM Reply to Donutta
I played it during the open beta and it was obvious that it wasn't finished and ready to launch.

My missus liked it though. Said she enjoyed it more than WoW. We're waiting for the PS3 version to see if the many, many, many issues are fixed by then.
You might be interested in reading this:

http://lodestone.finalfantasyxiv.com/pl/topics/detail?id=9a18c549d68b08a4e6f2d162f5bd4263ed466626

its the planned updates between now and the end of the year and plans up until March next year.
 
 
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Ruptunex
On Friday 12 Nov 2010 3:33 PM Posted by Ruptunex NZGamer.com VIP
I can believe this review because you did give credit to the music. Nobuo Uematsu never fails to impress and its good to see his return did not disappoint
 
 
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JMavz
On Sunday 14 Nov 2010 11:34 AM Posted by JMavz
I am shocked that FF14 is this poor. Very shocked.
 
 
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pureflame
On Sunday 14 Nov 2010 1:44 PM Posted by pureflame
Even reading the review and comments, I still wanna play it!! does that make me obsessed?
 
 
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