Now I want to talk about the interface/controls, combat, and pacing of FFXIV.Â It’s going to be a little long-winded, but I think it’s interesting.Â Before I begin I want to remind you guys that this is my attempt at playing FFXIV after my brother asked me to try it and play with him.Â I really enjoy playing games with Graev and find that my enjoyment is quadrupled when I do.Â My initial thoughts on FFXIV were very negative, but they were justified.Â This time around I am purposely looking for the good and being extremely even handed, given the added benefit of Graev being my mentor in-game.Â Â I will state now that I’m having fun.
This is a slower game for sure.Â It’s much closer to EverQuest’s original pacing than I think most people even realize.Â You absolutely do not log in with intentions to get a lot done.Â It’s not at all like WoW where you’ll say “I think I’ll quest in this zone, run 6 dungeons, PvP some, and craft”.
I’m taking it slow, granted, but if I took it any faster I would feel burned out fast.Â FFXIV does not cater to those with low attention spans.Â Yesterday I logged in two separate times for a couple hours each.Â When I logged in the first time, Graev and I ran for an hour to another city.Â That’s all we did.Â We explored.Â When I logged in the second time I decided to try crafting, spent an hour figuring out how, then made a few things for a quest.Â Logged out after realizing I had spent two hours doing that, yet I was extremely focused and lost track of time.
While I was crafting, Graev went off and explored his way to another city.Â Realizing the other city was on an island, he expected to find some portal or a quicker means of getting there.Â Instead, he found a boat that sailed up to the harbor and took him on a 15 minute EQ’esque trip.Â Â Just another example of how you’re expected to slow down by spending time traveling on a boat.
It’s easily a game where you can log in and spend your whole play session in the city, yet not realize you just did.Â There’s a lot more to the game and things are slowed way down and drawn out much more.Â It’s also a lot more open ended.Â There is very little explanation given and you’re not told what to do by anyone after finishing your “welcome to the city” quest.Â It’s the same pseudo-sandbox feel of EverQuest where you do your own thing.Â This is where most people begin having a problem because the game is really not user friendly at this point.Â Many will ask what they’re supposed to do next and think the game is absolutely boring.
If I were playing alone, I would be bored.Â Thankfully I have Graev who is making this a really fun experience for me.Â He was there to show me what to do next — Graev is an expert at this type of game.Â He just ‘gets it’ better than most people and has helped me to wiggle my way through the parts that will probably snag most and definitely snagged me when I first tried playing the game.
You don’t press “C” to open your character sheet or “B” to open your inventory.Â Instead, you press the menu button, find the section called “attributes and gear” (or something like that), and your character sheet opens.Â Not too bad, right?Â Let’s add more to it.
To equip a piece of gear you click the gear slot -> a new window opens -> find the gear and click on it -> a new window opens -> equip.Â Then mash the escape key to get back to the main menu.
It’s clearly designed like the standard Final Fantasy titles which are all designed for consoles.Â Does that make it unworkable?Â No.Â You get used to it like you do any other interface.
Is the interface laggy? Yes and No.Â It’s based upon your system performance.Â When I turned down shadows to “standard” and AA to 2x, my menus became instant, aside from server lag.Â The hardware mouse is much, much better and the controls are more fluid and less sluggish than when I played in beta.Â However, it’s still the uncomfortable and wonky console style.
It doesn’t help that combat is somewhat aligned with the poor interface and controls, but it’s much better than I remember from FFXI when it first came out. It’s not menu or turn based.Â I’m a spell caster, so I will give you my perspective on how a normal fight goes.
I unsheathe my weapon which puts me in combat state (takes 2 seconds).Â I click on the monster I want to attack and my skill bar comes up with the spells I have pre-loaded.Â I choose the spell (by clicking or pressing the # hotkey) and then I click with my mouse on the enemy again to confirm casting the spell.Â This is where combat is slowed down for me.Â There are a couple of extra steps and it almost feels turn based because you’re taking longer between actions, but let me assure you that if you it’s in real time.Â If anyone can give me advice on how to streamline my casting I would appreciate it.
Since I’m specializing on being a healer, I’ve run into a problem figuring out how to target my group members.Â I have list of group members but I can not click on their names to target them.Â I have to either tab target through them or actually pick them out and click on them.Â Is there any better way to do it?
Is combat fun?
It’s simple MMO combat.Â I find a squirrel-like monster and I nuke it dead like any other game.Â Do I find WoW combat fun? Honestly, nothing in particular about the act of killing monsters in WoW is fun but I enjoy reasons surrounding the act of killing such as the reward for doing so.Â It’s the same in FFXIV since killing mobs gives me crystals and loot to use for crafting.Â I also get two kinds of exp (which I’ll talk about in my next entry) which is fulfilling.Â Real group combat will be the test, and I’ll let you know how I like that when I get there.
To sum things up:
Pacing: Slow, open ended, and like EverQuest where you log in and do what you want pretty much from the start.Â It’s up to you to tell yourself what to do and not the game.Â You are responsible for your fun.Â Not quite sandbox, but what I call “Pseudo-Sandbox”
Interface: Lots of menus and windows needed to find or do anything and it’s really confusing at times, but functional with more being presented information-wise than many mmorpg’s.Â If your menus lag, turn down your graphics settings.Â It would benefit greatly from being streamlined.
Controls: Console/Final Fantasy oriented.Â Overly complex at times.Â Occasionally sluggish — perhaps server latency to blame.
Combat: Not so much an issue with speed as it is about extra steps and barriers created by the interface (for a caster).Â Verdict is still out on whether or not it progresses into anything more or remains simplistic.
Coming up: What the questing and leveling experience is like and my thoughts on the class system.