An Eorzean Interlude (part 2)

As a follow-up to my last post, I include here some of the more negative impressions from our recent duo-play return to Final Fantasy 14, if you haven’t already please read the first post for the background to this pair of posts.

I’d say overall my impressions of the game are certainly positive, and we enjoyed the three intensive days of binge-playing the game. However, running so much content in a short time did expose some issues that I’d like to expand on in this post.

Aspects I’d want to improve in FFXIV in 2018:

1. Story quests blocking expansion features

This was one of the reasons why we stopped playing back in 2015. The Main Scenario Quests (MSQ) are so tightly integrated into the game and block access to important gameplay features that, perhaps shouldn’t be so shackled to them. I can understand blocking access to Expansion zones behind story progress, but what about expansion features like jobs? One of the big attractions to buying Heavensward back in 2015, while we were still playing the leveling story to 50, was to be able to unlock Machinist (for me) and Astrologian (for my husband). We were bitterly disappointed when we realised we’d not get access to these till after we finished the 2.1-2.55 patches (~100 quests) – time we could have spent learning the new jobs and practicing their rotations ready for the expansion! It makes even less sense for them to be locked when you consider you need to go back to earlier content once they’re unlocked to level them from 30 (for Heavensward jobs)…

There might be story reasons for locking the classes this way but it was a bitter disappointment to us nonetheless. If we could have immediately unlocked the jobs that would have mitigated the feeling that we’d wasted money buying an expansion we could not get any benefit from for so long. Seriously I do thing Square Enix needs to revisit the  2.1-2.55 content now and drastically reduce all the padding – a WoW example for comparison: could you imagine having to complete 100 quests at level 58/60 in the Blasted Lands before you are allowed to enter the Dark Portal?

2. All the nodding (a k a story pacing)

The extensive use of cut-scenes and dialogue is a plus for the game overall, but some aspects are really overdone. The amount of pregnant pauses with just a character nodding, or characters nodding to one another is laughable. It happens almost every conversation. I’m currently studying Japanese so I can understand the possible cultural differences behind this style, but still if you’re intensively playing through these 100 MSQ quests to try to get to Heavensward it starts to annoy how much time is wasted standing around nodding! Perhaps they cut down on this in the expansions (he asks in hope).

This looks bad! *everyone takes turns nodding*

Basically the story-telling, while rich and rewarding, does have serious pacing issues in my humble opinion.

3. Use the linkshells for quest hand-in!

Eorzea is a magitech setting, magic dominates the world but there are flying warships and giant magical mecha mounts. Characters can talk across vast distances by the ubiquitos linkshell/linkpearl item they wear – you see this a lot in cutscenes: Minfilia or whoever receives a call and touches the jewel by their ear to answer it (think magitech hands-free mobile calls).

Minfilia works a lot via linkshell, why don’t we?

Given this context, why oh why can’t doesn’t the game use remote hand-in for quests, as common in World of Warcraft/SWL/Wildstar and other modern MMO quest systems? The in-game lore is already there to support us simply “phoning in” that we’re done on a quest. It would save at least some of the endless “yoyoing” back and forth between NPCs and quest locations that pads out the 2.1-2.55 content extensively (and somewhat annoyingly).

4. Silent hero syndrome

This last point is an impression that grew on me as we intensively played through so many cutscenes of the MSQ series (again so point 2 above). I found it increasingly annoying that my hero remained almost exclusively silent, beyond the frequent nodding. The lack of agency or choice is jarring. It’s similar in this regard to TSW/SWL of course, although in that game there’s a lore conceit that our characters remain mute. In FFXIV our characters can talk and do talk – although this is never heard, your character just animates talking and gesturing on occasion. But this is just cosmetic. Here I’m complaining at how little choice my character has in how he expresses himself or reacts to the many dramatic and contentious events happening around him.

The dramatic fist-pump totally replaces the need for dialogue choices

It’s a common issue I have with storytelling in MMORPGs having played Star Wars the Old Republic, the only MMO that really gives regular voice and choice to your character. I suppose it’s unfair to compare any other game to that model, but the amount to which my character in FFXIV agrees to the most mundane or bizarre requests – just silently nodding assent – has increasingly grated on me.

So these are my four less positive, slightly tongue-in-cheek impressions from the game. Overall I’ve enjoyed playing it again, although I have so much on my gaming plate at the moment it’s unlikely we’ll be returning anytime soon. If my husband takes a longer break from WoW before the next expansion, however, it would be good to finally finish the 2.1-2.55 content and get into Heavensward.

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