Final Fantasy XIV Travelogue - The Beginning
I have poured my first six hours into Final Fantasy XIV, and while a small voice inside my head urges me forward in hopes of scintillating adventures, the more sane areas of my brain cry out for relief. Regardless of your previous experiences with MMOs, FFXIV represents the antithesis of user-friendliness, almost as if Square Enix wants to keep people out of the game.
The frustration began long before the world of Eorzea came into view. I made my account, installed the game, patched it up, and still had to face what could be the worst set-up process created. I had to quit the game and log back into Square Enix’s labyrinthine members’ section to activate an Option for a character slot, as if having a character is optional for playing the game. For those who don’t know, additional character slots cost $3 USD per month. I logged back into the game, only to log back out again to configure my settings – a feature buried in sub-folders and completely inaccessible from the game.
Did I mention that the instruction manual incorrectly tells you how to do all of that?
Meet Endon Gorr, the one character I'm allowed.
Okay. Everything seemed in order and I was ready to make my adventurer. FFXIV has five races, which we might as well call human, elf, cat-person, giant, and baby-faced dwarf-thing. Each race has two-four variations for male/female and varied attributes. FFXIV uses a very free-form system of classes, and attribute points rewarded for leveling can be dispersed as you please, so arguing about race/class combinations is nearly pointless. Still, some sort of guidance (i.e. any at all) would have been appreciated.
Neither the game nor the manual is of any help in deciphering the function of attributes. Strength and Vitality are fairly obvious, but how do Mind and Intelligence differ, and what the heck is Piety? Even the forums can’t decide on the precise function of each attribute. Further complicating the issue are stats for six elements. It isn’t clear if they are offensive, defensive, or a combination of both. I am told that much of this information is available on the official website… if you read Japanese.
Really? Someone would choose to look like this?
After choosing my character and customizing him with an incredibly underwhelming set of options, it was time to pick a discipline. War, Magic, Land, and Hand are the four disciplines, which are further subdivided into 18 classes, including Archer, Marauder, Conjurer, Blacksmith, Miner, and, wait for it, Culinarian. To be fair, some of the Culinarian’s creations are actually weapons, oddly enough, but this is a path that would usually be considered a side-skill and not a full class. Again, a little information would go a long way.
I finished making my Pugilist (a hand-to-hand combatant) and was unceremoniously dumped in the streets of Ul’dah without a single hint as to what to do, where I was, or tutorials to aid me. Not a single NPC would help me, and walking down the adjacent alley only prompted the message, “You are about to leave the instance,” before teleporting me back to the beginning. It turned out that I had to enter the other alley, further up the road, not that any conversation, map, or quest-log indicated as such.
Just look at all those colors.
This complete lack of guidance turned out to be the normal order of things in FFXIV. One quest directed me to visit a guild office which, after a long search, turned out to be on the second floor. I didn’t even know the city had a second floor, and surely it couldn’t have been difficult for the developers to include such a small bit of information in the quest description.
Even worse was my attempt to activate the next stage of a quest chain. I was ordered to meet an NPC at the gate to the city, but she was nowhere to be found. I waited through a cycle of the in-game day, double-checked back where I met her, and even explored the fields beyond the city. The latter action was the proper one, but only by crossing over a very specific and invisible spot, which I had easily missed by a few steps. I found it by pure dumb luck, but even then, a message told me that there were too many people in my group. But, I wasn’t in a party. I hadn’t even made a friend yet. I had found a glitch.
I knew then, it was going to be a long and painful journey.
[As you might have noticed from screenshots, I am playing in windowed mode. This is because, in fullscreen, alt-tabbing causes the game to crash. Fun stuff.]