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Climbing a New Kind of Ladder (or Was That Old?)

My MMO time of late has been spent doing what I enjoy most: leveling. Maybe that’s why I’ve been having so much fun in FFXIV, there’s always something to do. When I came in, I knew about the open class system, but I didn’t anticipate branching out into the different professions so much; usually I’m not much of a crafter and that’s a big part of the game. But, it’s been refreshing to slow down and really focus on the journey.

The mystery of it all is still really compelling but there’s a touch of hesitancy there, too. Even though database sites are starting to pop up, there’s still a lot we don’t understand. Take crafting for example. I’m an armorer/blacksmith (the pair is pretty much mandatory) and each one has you choosing when to strike the red hot metal.

Creation has several variables. Each step has a countdown timer of about 20 seconds, during which you must choose standard, rapid, or bold synthesis, or to wait a full step before striking again. Each has a different chance to succeed or fail, with bold and rapid holding each end of the spectrum. Every strike increases the quality of the end product, decreases the durability of the raw materials, and brings you closer to completion – more or less depending on if you succeed or fail in the step. It’s important to watch the material you’re working with because it will change colors and the color determines which type of synthesis is most likely to result in a “succeed attempt.” Failing dramatically drops the durability. If it hits zero, even as you hit 100% completion, you lose the materials and have to start over.

The thing is, at this point we can only really guess about what to do when. We know that metal glowing solid white is most likely to succeed, especially if you do the standard route. Glowing red might be best to use rapid synthesis on. Alternating colors probably just to wait. Those are guidelines, but who’s to say that applies to other crafts? You really have to rely on other players or just fudge your way through and learn on your own.

Then there are classes. In FFXI, most players say that you have to have a properly leveled sub-job to be any good for parties. Here, very few people have gotten far enough to actually see most skills for themselves, so we have to go to outside skill lists and research to decide. Or, you know, we could play what feels fun – but who wants to be gimped when they could just take the best path now? The min/maxing mindset is definitely taking shape. Thankfully, I’ve been having a great time switching between pugilist (r.4) and gladiator (r.7) which are said to support each other well.

The world is pretty much self-gating, like other games. Here, though, you find what’s level appropriate by how tough the mobs are rather than where quests tell you to go. It definitely has that old-school feeling where exploration is important. With no one holding your hand, you’re left to discover things on your own. I like that.

So far, the going has been fun. I’m level 11, now, and it’s pretty much from a couple days of guild leves… about half of which were battlecraft-type. I’ve gotten a lot of XP just from mining and toying around with armorsmithing. The game isn’t always clear, so I’ve died a few times trying to find story NPCs. Hint: when they “mark your map” they don’t mean your normal ‘M’ map. They mean that second one you keep hidden for emergencies or something. You know, the one you can only access by physically clicking the map button at the bottom of your quest log. The exploring was fun, though, and I found my first dungeon in the process. Hint #2: “Iron” Clobber-things are tougher than “Copper” Clobber-things. Lesson learned.

I’m actually looking forward to playing with the new standard edition folks. I know a lot of players are a little skiddish by the fallout we all expect but I’m not. In-game, you’d never know people were unhappy. Part of that, I’m sure, is that a lot of people just aren’t talking – the only general channel is /shout. The major feeling I walk away with, though, is that the people in-game are having fun. They’re not the ones running amuck on the internet shouting about how broken or boring the game is. In-game, life is pretty good, honestly, and that’s a nice vibe to get.

Tonight, I think I’ll stay up a little late and finish out the new story missions I opened at level 10. I was a little underwhelmed to begin but things get a lot more interesting quick. There’s a conspiracy afoot in Ul’dah and I want to know what happens!

I have a question for you all, though: does anyone know how to tell if you’re getting hit with the fatigue system? Myself and several guildies have noticed getting less XP if we grind on the same mobs for too long, but then it picks back up again if we switch (namely, marmots give less than clobber-things after a while). There’s not the biggest variety of mobs early on, so we’re all kind of hoping it was a fluke. Grinding is satisfying in its own kind of way.

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