This week we got back to leveling our characters in Final Fantasy 14, dinging 50 and cracking on with the main storyline that was stuck behind a level 50 barrier.
A chunk of FATEs later and we were level 50 heroes ready to challenge the might of the Garlean Empire. This was a pretty exciting moment as the main storyline had built up to this moment over quite a long time.
Without delving into spoilers (not that there are many players who wouldn’t know them by now) what followed were two “full party” raids (8 player). The experience highlights a number of issues with Final Fantasy 14, although such issues might also apply to any MMORPG that attempts to tell story through large group content.
The actual dungeon experience was interesting from the perspectives of mechanics and dungeon designs. However it was the usual super-efficient sprint from boss fight to boss fight avoiding as much ‘trash’ as possible. In both groups our two characters were the only ones not level-sync’ed down to 50. This made the fights very easy compared to how they probably were meant to be. I suspect in some boss fights the groups were able to ignore certain mechanics or tactics but then this was our first time so it’s hard to be sure.
Unlike in the leveling dungeons there were scant explanations of anything by group members. We had to remind the tanks/defacto leaders that we didn’t know the fights or the shortcuts. It wasn’t exactly an unpleasant experience but it certainly wasn’t as welcoming as the earlier dungeons.
The biggest downside of the session was the terrible design of the two raids from a story-telling perspective. You’re in a group with seven (well six in my case) random players and both instances feature extensive and lengthy cut-scenes – even in-between major fights! So the efficiency-oriented vets have started the next fight before you can even click to skip the next animation. Watching videos after the fact in my inn room isn’t exactly how I like to fill in all the details of a story after I’ve seen the ending. With hindsight I’d possibly have preferred to watch the complete playthrough video on Youtube before doing the run as that would have filled in the story so I could understand what I was playing through as I played it.
FFXIV isn’t the only game to mix story with group content badly of course, but given the huge volume of cut-scene based storytelling in the game I do wish they’d thought this through a lot better. It really spoiled my experience of what, before the recent launch of Heavensward, was the culmination of the game’s leveling story line.