Final Fantasy XIV vs Vindictus
Square Enix’s latest MMO, Final Fantasy XIV, has fared miserably with critics, and for good reasons. Glitches, cumbersome menus, and broken gameplay plagued the game in the beta, and unfortunately remained in the game upon release. Vindictus, which is Nexon’s latest free-to-play MMO, is still in beta, but dare I say it’s better, yes, much better, than Final Fantasy XIV.
In the beginning... There are numerous issues plaguing Final Fantasy XIV, so let’s start off with user accessibility. From the moment you step foot into the world (if not before), you are given no direction, no purpose, and not so much as a hint as to what to do next. The 'tutorials', which typically appear long after you've had to figure things out for yourself, seem present only to raise further questions that will go unanswered. In stark contrast, Vindictus starts you off in a town with all of the major landmarks clearly indicated, and a clear line of quests to get you moving through the storyline.
So many menus!! To equip something in FFXIV, you must bring up the main menu and select the gear option to reveal another menu showing what you have equipped. Within that menu are a multitude of windows for different types of equipment and items. If that isn't confusing enough, few items are given any indication as to what they do or even what body parts they are attached to. You should already know these things anyway, shouldn't you? Vindictus uses a nifty thing called a “Keyboard Shortcut” which lets you bring up the equipment menu with a simple press of the B (for bag) key. What a revolutionary idea, twenty years ago.
What’s with the delay?! Every action in FFXIV has a slight delay; the movement of your character, entering and exiting shop menus, and, most aggravating, sheathing and unsheathing your weapon. This isn't a matter of lag either. We have tested FFXIV on four PCs across four unique connections, revealing that five-second delays are an inherent part of the game. This is especially enjoyable when browsing through the wares of each individual player in the marketplace. After all, who needs auction houses? In Vindictus… okay, you're probably catching on to how this works by now.
Final Fantasy XIV, and yep, this picture about sums up the excitement, which by the way, is an official image used by Square Enix to promote the game.
Help me, please... anybody? Not sure what to do, where to find more quests, how to obtain the correct items to craft that wooden sword? Tough luck, because FFXIV doesn't believe in coddling you with things like giant yellow question marks, crafting guides, or waypoints. It kicks you in the ass and says, “Good luck!” Heck, even characters' attributes are a mystery. Have you checked the official website? You know, the one filled with 'screenshots' from the opening cinematic and not a single guide or forum. World of Warcraft's system of putting conspicuous punctuation marks over the heads of helpful NPCs has been copied repeatedly, because it works. As players, we want to quest, not speak to fifty NPCs in hopes that one of them will have some work to offer.
What do I do with this sword again? FFXIV allows players to swap classes by equipping new weapons. It's a unique and welcome approach, but fails to make the click-and-wait combat any more exciting. Targeting is hampered by an ill-functioning auto-target (necessary if playing with a controller), and monsters will often be flagged as “unable to be targeted,” even though they’ve been eating away at your health bar the last 20 seconds. Vindictus kicks the status quo through the door, letting you hack and slash your way through dungeons in glorious real-time action. It even supports gamepads and Xbox 360 controllers, which make the gameplay that much more satisfying.
Oh, but the graphics! FFXIV is gorgeous, provided you have a powerful rig to run it, let alone on high settings. Even so, I have to give it to Vindictus yet again. Using Valve’s Source engine, Vindictus looks absolutely stunning, and you don’t have to spend $500+ on upgrades to play a $50 game. Since the Source engine is so versatile, you can realistically break wooden barricades, chop ropes to lower bridges, and send enemies flying into crates that break down to the smallest splinters. What does FFXIV have for physics? Well... um, some of the characters have fanny packs that wiggle when they walk. That counts, right?
Bottom line Vindictus is fast action-MMO that puts the Source engine to brilliant use and incorporates many of the common features we have come to expect from the genre, such as an auction house. To top it off, Vindictus is free, unlike Final Fantasy XIV; a game that recently extended the trial-period in an effort to retain players while Square Enix rushes to patch the holes. If you're looking for a new MMO to get into, you could drop your cash in the slow and daunting world of Final Fantasy XIV and hope it gets better, or start playing a game that's already rocking it before the official release.