The Final Fantasy series has always delivered the definitive single-player JRPG experience combining spectacular graphics with Square’s unique brand of hyperbolic storytelling. While Square Enix has attempted to take the series massively multiplayer with Final Fantasy XI it was never more than a niche hit for the hardcore Final Fantasy fans.
The breathtaking city of Limsa Lominsa
Square Enix has decided to have another try at the MMORPG genre with Final Fantasy XIV and they’re putting in all the pomp and grandeur that you would expect from the biggest RPG franchise on the planet. In order to give fans of the franchise a real treat Square Enix has created a whole new continent for the game called Eorzea.
Final Fantasy XIV follows the traditions of the series by offering some of the best visuals ever seen in an MMO. Eorzea is vast land and Square Enix has realised it in breathtaking high-definition with an impressive level of detail. The beta is set in the island region of La Nosca. The starting area on this region is the coastal city of Limsa Lominsa. It is a port city and a hub of commerce as well as a home for many of the pirates that prey on the coast of Eorzea. The city is a group of spires that rise out of the sea connected by walkways and wharfs.
In order to explore the land in first you have to create a character and there is a decent range of races to choose from, five in all and each of them with a choice of two sub-races giving MMO players the kind of options that they have come accustomed to. There is a broad colour palette available as well as a decent selection of hairstyles and facial features. It’s not nearly as flexible as the tools available in APB but it does allow players to create a character that is all their own.
The first place where Final Fantasy XIV attempts to set itself apart from the MMO pack is in changing the standard class structure. The Armoury structure allows players to specialise their skills much more deeply than has been possible in MMO games so far. Players can start the game choosing to be a disciple of a specific skill set and the choice extends beyond then usual choice of warrior, mage or rogue. The disciplines available are the Disciples of War with five different types of warrior, Disciples of Magic with choice between being a mage or a thaumaturge, Disciples of the Land with the choice of being a miner, a botanist or a fisherman or the Disciples of the Hand which offers no less than eight different skilled vocations. Players can play in the game with main disciplines as varied as pugilist hand-to-hand fighter or a culinarian – Final Fantasy XIV’s equivalent of a chef.
You can still get out there and slay some fragons, of course
Quests are suitably varied with each discipline having a their own set of guilds for the various vocations available to players. These all offer players places to practice their trade as well as offering provisions for other players needing food, weapons, armour or tools. This system is very detailed and offers a real variety of different roles that can be played. It also allows Final Fantasy XIV the opportunity to develop one of the most detailed and intricate virtual economies outside of EVE Online.
The beta code plays a bit rougher than would be expected but the game is shaping up very well. We chose to play as a Duskwight Elezen Marauder (that’s a dark elf pirate in normal language) and it does offer an interesting chance to play something a little different. Combat plays out very similarly to the combat in Final Fantasy XII with extra options for players to set up their own macros. The default controls on the PC are mouse and keyboard although there is option to use a joypad with the game allowing you to choose your own control scheme from scratch rather than relying on preset schemes that may not quite fit your style of play.
Exploring Eorzea will be painfully simple with all settlements in the game featuring an aetheryte crystal that acts as a teleport beacon. Once you’ve visited a camp, settlement or city and touched the aetheryte crystal for that location you will then be able to teleport there. The aetheryte is also instrumental in carrying out guild quests. To initiate a quest you must collect one from a guild and then travel to the location given in the quest notes. Once there you touch the aetheryte and select the option to initiate the quest. You get the option to select what difficulty level you want for the quest with options that allow for all different party sizes. You then have a given time limit in which to fulfil the quest goals. On completion you have the option to teleport back to the local aetheryte crystal or carry on wandering.
Final Fantasy XIV has the potential to offer MMO fans a deeply involving and awesomely sumptuous experience and once the glitches have been ironed out in the beta phase the game should be a very impressive prospect for those who have a PC powerful enough to run it. Even PS3 gamers should be excited at the chance to get what will be the deepest console MMORPG ever created.
Time for a pint
The PC version of Final Fantasy XIV is set to be released on September the 30th with the PS3 version due out in March 2011. The monthly subscriptions will start at £8.99 on the PC and the PS3 pricing will be announced at a later date.
Most Anticipated Feature – The Disciples “class” system has the potential to offer players a chance to experience fantasy role-playing beyond the traditional sword and sorcery questing experience. Fancy a life as a simple fisherman then FFXIV might just be the game for you provided you have a high spec PC.