Final Fantasy XIV Starts off a Bit Weak - Closed Beta Week 1
Last weekend, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn launched into Phase 3 of its closed beta, which finally brought to life the PS3 version of the game. Now, during E3, I got to hop into a group and attempt to bring down raid boss Ifrit on the PS3, but the closed beta is my first chance to actually explore the game world in the console version of the game.
As it stands, the game's opening hour needs a lot of work still. It throws line after line after line of text at players who haven't quite gotten the feel of this fantasy world yet. And that's a bad thing. When stepping into a fantasy world, players need to feel like they're immersed in the environment before they're willing to read through walls of text. A good opening should make players feel like they can't wait to begin their adventure; here, players can't wait to do anything, as long as it's not reading more text. And yes, that "anything" includes not playing Final Fantasy XIV.
Now, the draw of Final Fantasy XIV is that it should allow you to build this massive adventure for yourself inside the incredible Final Fantasy universe, and the beginning of the game doesn't do a very good job of putting you into that mindset.
The early quests are your standard tedious affairs, like making deliveries for people and killing X amount of Y monster. It's exactly what I'd expect from a Korean free-to-play MMO, but this is Final Fantasy, a series that Square Enix is willing to spend unfathomable amounts of resources on. Additionally, Final Fantasy XIV initially launched back in 2010. The developers have had almost three years to fine-tune this and come up with creative ideas to engage players. There's really no excuse for this sort of early-game tedium.
Then again, I'm willing to forgive a rough start in a game like this if the game gets better as it goes. When a typical MMO is an experience that lasts for hundreds upon hundreds of hours, the first few hours are a pretty tiny piece of the pie.
And, as I explained in my E3 impressions, the combat in this game feels great. Your attack and spell hotkeys are mapped to your L2 and R2 + face buttons, so combat feels very active. While kill quests are a huge MMO cliche at this point, they come as welcome diversions in FF14 because of how great it feels to actually engage in battle. I haven't gotten to experience any dungeon content yet (minus the aforementioned Ifrit fight at E3), but I have a feeling that this is where the game will excel. I certainly hope so, at least.
Especially since most of the actual quests I've undertaken thus far have just felt lackluster. Each has a bit of story you can read before embarking on your adventure, but they all seem dull and inconsequential, and it won't be long before you find yourself skipping over the text far more often than actually trying to read it.
Another thing that should be noted is that the menu system can get a bit clunky on the PS3. It's not incredibly user-friendly, and it's bogged down by the fact that you're using a controller instead of a keyboard and mouse. Then again, I'm told you can actually plug in a USB keyboard and mouse and play Final Fantasy XIV that way if you prefer. I didn't try this myself, but I definitely plan on doing that the next time I play.
Now, this game is still in beta, and I only got to play around with it for a single weekend so far. I haven't given up on it quite yet, and I can't wait until the second Phase 3 play session so I can do a bit more exploring. My hopes are still quite high for this title. I just hope it can live up to all of its ambitions when it launches in August.