The more I play it, the more I’m reminded of Final Fantasy XI Online. The similarities are pretty obvious:
3 Starting Zones – You can walk between two of them but need a ferry to reach the third
Airships – Unlock at level 20 as part of your main quest line (Campaign)
Your Avatars – They’re the same, they just changed the names from Mithra, Galka, Hume, Tarutaru and Elvaan to something else
Linkshells – In a revolutionary new twist, Linkshells are now called Linkshells. But like most things they’ve been improved: they’re not an item anymore; you can join 8 at once; in the Beta they’re free to create; and so on.
So on the one hand, if you’re sick to death of Final Fantasy XI you might get sick to death of seeing the same old same old in Final Fantasy XIV, however, perhaps they’re going to be recurring themes in future online iterations of the franchise, so maybe I’m griping at something that is really just fan service. There’s a lot of fan service in Final Fantasy XIV and if you’re a franchise fan you’ll be delighted, probably, to hear that Final Fantasy XIV also includes a Materia system.
It’s tricky and convoluted like most systems Square Enix likes to put into the online franchise, but it’s there. It requires a lot of crafting and gathering, but it’s there. It works differently to the Materia system in Final Fantasy VII, but it’s there. I guess if they’d just called it Gem Slotting I wouldn’t be so excited about it, but they called it Materia, so it’s there. I think that’s how fan service works, at least it works for me because I’m incredibly excited about it.
I remember meeting Cid for the first time in Final Fantasy XI and being excited about that too. I mean, it’s Cid, the guy’s a hero. I could read ahead a little and find out if Cid appears in Final Fantasy XIV too but I don’t want to spoil things for myself, so I’ll press through as far as I can in the beta and see if I can find him. And if I don’t find him I’ll keep my hopes up and try to find him in the full version. Yup, I’m committed now.
The main reason for being committed, fan service treats aside, is that I’ve been doing a lot of Gathering. There are three gathering classes – Botanist, Miner, Fisherman – all three of these feed materials into Final Fantasy XIV’s excellent crafting system in which you can partake in a further 7 different classes of crafter. No limits here, you can take all of them on as far as I can tell, with no silly restrictions like we had back in FFXI. Most importantly of all, I find Gathering to be a lot of fun. Your gathering class has a variety of skills to find gathering nodes, be it trees or rocks or outcrops or, I’m guessing, fishing nodes, and even more skills to both help you extract the maximum from a node as well as see your chances of obtaining HQ items, both of which are affected by your Gathering and Perception stats. Easy on the surface, a deep system of intricate and complex calculations just lurking below, just the way I like my systems in RPGs.
And I love it. I can see myself spending £8.99 a month just to whack rocks with a sledgehammer (I have my own Bronze sledgehammer at present, haven’t looked into crafting a better one yet, but it’s going on my ‘to do’ list), and I can whack rocks forever until my inventory is full and then I have to figure out what to do with them next. I find that almost as pleasurable as working out optimal skill rotations for combat, which is even more complicated.
I still have a few gripes, like not all cutscenes are voice acted, but then I could equally say that I was excited and delighted to discover some cut scenes that were. I guess how you look at it depends a lot on whether you’re a glass half full or glass half empty kind of person. I’m a fan of all things Final Fantasy so my glass is half full on most things relating to it.
Anyway, onwards, the Beta ends on March 3rd and won’t let us back in again until 4th April, that’s a whole month to read up on all the things I should have been doing and kicking myself for not doing things better.