Things Exploded In My Face (And How I Conquered Other FFXIV Tribulations)

My little lala'fell, shortly after making him. Quite the pre-order hat, eh?

After thinking on it, reflecting on the comments and words of encouragement I’ve received, I’ve decided that the best option in discussing the highs and lows of FFXIV is to simply share my own experiences and write about it without trying to convince anyone either way. Early on, I think I did a decent job of describing both sides of the story, so I’ll let that stand on its own. I’ve come to the conclusion that the game is simply too different from what most people expect and MMORPG to be really convince anyone without having them try it themselves. I’m alright with that, though, because I’m much rather keep things in the conversational.

So, to keep on that vein I thought it would be a good time to discuss some of the hardships I’ve had getting used into the game and how I’ve overcome them.

Let’s get this out of the way first: this game desperately needs a tutorial. It is far too complex to not give new players some kind of introduction to the many unique systems and mechanics. It’s not incorrect to say that the game throws you into the deep end and says “swim.” The only introduction you get is a brief example of combat and a mission line telling you to visit some trainer NPCs. I’ve always firmly believed that a game should never expect you to go to a third party website to play effectively. FFXIV fails that test unless you have some generous and patient friends who happened to start before you.

That being said, it is not impossible to learn. When I first started, I didn’t have a linkshell (guild) and only knew the most basic parts of the game, namely that equipping different weapons changed your class. Thankfully, two things clued me in to how the game should be played: the console-esque user interface and the franchise’s history. With a UI that seemed to be a direct iteration on the series’ many console offerings, I decided to talk to NPCs. In doing so, I discovered that many not only offered lore but some good direction on what to do and explore. Between that and the initial story missions pointing you toward the key hubs (class guilds, leve givers, and the first aetheryte camp) and a little exploration, it wasn’t hard to discover what direction the game was pointing me in. It also wasn’t hard to see that it wasn’t going to go out of its way to help me get there.


You have to be patient and ready to figure things out on your own– which isn’t as bad as it sounds. Combat is pretty straight forward and the first mission set explains well enough how to get and complete leves. From there, a little basic exploration of the menu system takes you to a screen to equip your skills. The game doesn’t explain any of this but it’s not too hard to understand. You have a screen with your available action bars. To the right is a list of skills categorized by the weapon/class type. Some cost action points, of which you gain more of as you level. While it may be a little confusing at first, the system messages in your chat log tell you when you try to do something you can’t and why.

Combat itself is also very straight forward. It’s slower and almost feels turn based… but not quite. You have HP, Mana, and build up points to execute other skills. At first I wondered how I was supposed to loot but then I noticed messages in my chat log saying that drops were being added to my “loot list.” Auto-loot by default. Over the next few levels, just as my own action bar got more complex, so did the mob behaviors. After a while, they’d run off and find help leaving you to fight three mobs instead of one. This is when I discovered just how strategic the slower pace of combat allows things to be. By all rights, I should have died far more often than I have. Having that extra bit of reaction time has been a great help and I feel more involved and less “auto-attacky” because of it. This is all stuff that should feel right at home to any MMO player once they’re used to the interface – which takes some getting used to. My advice is to drop the mouse all together. You can do everything with the keyboard and you’ll feel much more at ease once you do.

Crafting is another story. You pick up gathering and crafting quests at the same NPCs as the combat ones. The difference is, there’s a lot more complexity here. Nevermind the actual crafting process, though it’s a complete mystery for newbies as well. My first question was “how the heck do I even start?” I found the option after a friendly stranger told me to check my menu after I put on the right tool. Sure enough, the first option is “synthesize.” Clicking it brough up the crafting pane with options for “requested materials,” blank spots to drop items for a recipe, and the option to my main hand or secondary tool.

Dancing girls! Well. One dancing girl. For a little bit. I love how when you lock on, your head follows her as she dances.

Okay, but now what? I had picked up the quests but I didn’t know how to make what they requested. There’s no recipe section of the menu. And which tool was I supposed to use? What difference did that even make? Again, I had to explore. By clicking on “requested materials” it brought up my quest panel filled with all of the crafting leves I’d chosen. Okay, good. I chose my quest and the recipe box automatically filled in with a bunch of materials the NPC had given to me when I’d first accepted the job (inaccessible in your inventory, mats are expensive!). Taking a guess that to build fulfill a quest called “Momodi’s Study Suits” I’d have to use a hammer, I selected my mainhand weapon.

Things got even trickier. All the sudden, I’m sitting at an anvil with a timer counting down, a glowing white ball in the middle of it, and a three options I had no idea what they meant. Standard, Rapid, Bold? Quality, Durability, Completion Percent? Easy enough to understand, I suppose, but there was never anything to tell me which did what. On top of that, the darn ball kept changing colors. Nearly every single attempt I tried (it takes five or six choices to complete one order) exploded in my face. By the end I felt like the single worst armorer in the world.

As it turns out, there’s a method to it all but I had to find that out from other players and a developer interview a week later (to address the same frustration I had). Basically, a white orb is pure and likely to succeed. Anything with colors represents impurities in the metal and is less likely. They also respond better to rapid or bold synthesis. A lot of this is still left to be discovered. As you can see, it was all just a big recipe to leave players feeling defeated.

Ending with something pretty...

Something funny happened over the next couple days, however. I started to get better at recognizing what I should do and when. The durability and quality were variables that even helped make it a bit suspenseful. I have 40% left to complete, a 26 quality level and a 60% durability. If I do rapid, it might fail but if it doesn’t I can get a big completion spike and be able to pump up the quality at the end. It became a process of actual creation instead of the “click to create” scheme most other games offer.

In short, the problem with crafting system is the problem permeating almost every other part of the game: they’re just not explained well enough. I’ve found a lot to be great fun, involving, and, just like Pete at Dragonchaser’s recently wrote, I’m more gripped here than I’ve been in other games this year. There is simply no excuse for the mystery square has seen fit to embed in every aspect of the game, however. I’d go so far as to say that if they’d simply explained everything a bit better, they wouldn’t have gotten nearly so much bad press. But that’s just my opinion.

Hopefully this post sheds a little light into why I feel all the negativity surround the game is a bit misplaced. Where some people might simply defend it because of its Final Fantasy heritage, I think more players don’t defend it in such detail as the detractors attack simply because many of the issues fade away once you’re past the initial learning curve.

Make no mistake, the game has lots of room for improvement. The market wards are absolutely atrocious – and even still I’d recommend making a tutorial before revising them. There’s a lot to love here and it challenges what we recognize a modern MMO to be. The lack of explanation of those very challenges is probably the single biggest thing keeping people from getting to the top of that curve and finding what it is we’re seeing that they’re not.

For now, I’m happy having another game to throw some of my free time at. If you can get past the initial hump, FFXIV makes for a great MMO without the distinct combat emphasis of other MMOs. Virtually every part about it tells you to slow down and play for the moment; be free in what you want to do, when you want to do it. It’s a refreshing change from the end-game rush other games emphasize.

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