Holy crap. Look at that sweet screenshot. It's a veritable action movie!
There. That's your article. Now, if you could excuse me, I'm going to go explore Eorzea some more.
Oh. You're still here. Damn. I was hoping you'd all be distracted by the pretty. I'm guessing you've all figured out that I've been getting some time in on the Final Fantasy XIV beta, and I've been enjoying myself so far. While I understand that many people have plenty of dislike for the title (and some of that dislike is well-deserved, I do admit), I have to say that something about this game has gripped me in the right way.
While I can't claim a huge amount of time with the title just yet, I do want to devote some time to picking out the good and bad areas of my visit in Eorzea so far. So join me this week as we discuss the ups and downs of Final Fantasy XIV's eclectic design, as well as the starting portions of Gridania and Limisa Lomisa.
When they said "detailed graphics," they weren't kidding
First things are first -- the graphics. While the client seems to absolutely hate even the highest of high-end computers, you can't dismiss the graphics. They are excellently rendered, well-detailed, and absolutely gorgeous. Square-Enix made sure that Final Fantasy XI's tradition carried on, and carry on it did. The game's environments feel full and lush, down to the smallest details like flagons on tables, planters of flowers hanging from ceilings, or the stitching on some random NPC's shirt.
I should note that not even my powerhouse computer can run the game on full graphics, or else it will lag. (My computer being an Intel Quad-Core i7, overclocked to 3.4 ghz, equipped with 6 gigs of RAM and twin GTX 260s.) I agree with those who have said that there is no reason the client should perform like that on a computer like this, but I cannot look past how much detail the game offers.
Holy crap music!
That's second thing I have to bring up: the game's music. Square-Enix brought Nobuo Uematsu back to do the game's score, and Uematsu knocked it out of the park. The game's theme song alone, "Answers," can evoke both sad tears and resolute strength, and the designers make use of the latter emotion right in the beginning of the game during the "introductory tutorial" areas. In the Limisa Lomisa starting area, your character watches with wide eyes as a sea serpent jumps over your ship accompanied by the haunting "Walk free, walk free" lines of "Answers."
I, personally, felt both this odd sense of joy and disbelief, while at the same time feeling an echo of darkness and loneliness, during this scene. Very few games can evoke emotion from me, especially during their opening phases when I'm still trying to wrap my head around what's going on.
If you haven't heard the song yet, or haven't seen the trailer that they built to accompany it, you should. It's literally beautiful. In fact, let me embed that trailer right now, so you have absolutely no reason to avoid it.
Quests are deep, and Guildleves are what you'd expect from normal MMO quests
One of the ways FFXIV will confuse most of the newcomers to the series is the game's distinction between Guildleves and quests. Quests are long, complicated, and story-filled affairs that send your character along the game's main plotlines while Guildleves are the bite-sized gameplay chunks that you expect from MMO quests. In short, Quests = Final Fantasy while Guildleves = World of Warcraft. It's the best of both worlds.
I do have to be critical of Guildleves in one regard though -- they're boring. While they offer some great rewards and try to give you a bit of story as to why you're going out and killing X of Y monster type, you're still killing X of Y monster type. It's as repetitive as you think it is.