Itís been over five years since I reviewed the first Final Fantasy MMO, back then I was very impressed. Since then times have changed a lot and there have been countless new additions to the MMO market that have really raised the bar. I hadnít followed FFXIV through development so I didnít know what to expect, when the review copy landed in my hands I quickly got it installed and then set up my account. Thatís where the problems began.
Square Enix have certainly gone for a different subscription model. Rather than playing a flat fee for your subscription you pay a certain amount for your monthly subscription and then an extra amount per character on the server. This can be paid through a regular subscription or through ĎCrystaí, which is Square Enix currency (basically purchased in a similar fashion to Xbox points). My initial difficulties were that even though I had activated my 30 days game time, I needed to pay for a character slot, the two options were either Clickandbuy or through Crysta. My Crysta balance was zero and if I registered through Clickandbuy I would have to set up an account and do security checks which would take several days to come through. I didnít fancy signing up for a new online payment method and so I tried to find out if there were any other subscription options. Unfortunately the only help document I could find lacked any kind of detail or sense (this is a theme I will revisit later in the review). Eventually I went through to the end of the checkout process with absolutely no Crysta in my account and no active subscription through Clickandbuy and at the very last moment I was informed I would get a 100% discount for the first month. Had they informed me of this at the start I would have saved myself a frustrating hour.For reference I played FFXIV on a relatively new machine; AMD Athlon II X4 640, Sapphire 1Gb 5850, 4Gb corsair DDR3 memory, running Windows 7.
One thing I feel I should comment about early are the games graphics, simply put the game is absolutely gorgeous and is head and shoulders above all other MMOs on the market. With the games settings towards the maximum my frame rates did drop significantly in towns which was slightly disappointing considering the spec of the machine I was using but is forgivable considering itís a new release and could still be improved with future patches. One area of games I tend to ignore is how they sound. With FFXIV it is impossible to ignore, the initial, near hypnotic, theme immediately dragged me in and during my first cut scene I was immediately absorbed and really wanted to get into the game.
My first hour with FFXIV was generally good, I certainly liked the look of the game and tried to adjust to the control system and the games overall structure. I was initially confused and due to time constraints decided to revisit the game the following day, at this point I felt the game had lots of potential and could be quite enjoyable. During my second attempt with the game my confusion remained. I am a fairly well experienced gamer, especially in the MMO field and as such I normally dread the first few hours of a game where I feel my hand is being held a little too tightly and I am doing quests that are designed for those who are new to the genre, but I understand the necessity of this design. Well FFXIV go in completely the opposite direction and provide virtually no assistance at all. So far most of my time with the game has been spent trying to work out what to do or how to do things. It actually feels like the developers donít want you to play the game. This hurdle is set particularly high. To exacerbate the lack of any meaningful documentation or tutorial is the dreaded alt+tab shutdown. If you try to use alt and tab to switch to another window the FFXIV will shutdown. In a lot of games this might not matter, but in a game where you are having to search the internet for a clue on what to do this gets very frustrating very quickly. To prevent this from happening there are various fixes and downloads from third party sources, or you can play the game in windowed mode, which for me is not ideal as I hate playing in windowed mode. To progress effectively in the game I have been using my smart phone for web access rather than having to relog after each alt+tab.