Friday, October 1, 2010
Are we Being Caught in a Bad Romance?
I was fortunate to be able to squeeze in some evening hours this week to really give FFXIV a chance to prove itself to me during the pre-order grace period. However, I feel let down and I am beginning to wonder if my own rose colored glasses are coming off regarding this game. Are we indeed being courted in a Bad Romance with FFXIV?
Most of my experience is with the crafting system so far, and repeating guildleves this week with some independent grinding squeezed in on the side. At first, crafting was interesting, a fun game that held my attention and concentration as I strive to succeed in my endeavors, much like the courtship period in a new relationship. However, as the week wore on and I was taking 8 guildleves at a time to complete, I started to notice the tedious process of equipping the correct gear and going through 8 windows of confirmations was starting to wear on me, and that was before the crafting even starts! As a FFXI player I can put up with the lack of recipes available in game and no tutorials, but the UI and game response timing is just clunky at best. I found myself starting to get very sleepy when it came to my 4th or 5th crafting leve, sort of like a date that won't stop talking about themselves....
Other game mechanics this week started to grab my attention as well....and not in a good way. The issue of repairs came up this week after I was greeted with a yellow gear icon on my screen informing me of my damaged gear. I felt positive at first, given that this would allow me to possibly gain some crafting skillups while diligently immersing myself in my own character play. However, the petals were off the rose so to speak when I made my list of necessary repair materials and faced the daunting task of switching crafting jobs for all my gear while meticulously going through each piece. I finally gave in to the repair NPC after figuring it would take my whole evening of gameplay just to repair my gear. I felt this was a viable option at the time given my limited play, however I was dismayed to find my gear damaged again the next night.
Finally, I gave combat a good try this week and attempted to leve-link, which is basically joining up with a group of adventurers to share guildleves (or mooch off theirs). After abandoning the party search grouping window for its ultimate frustrating functioning, I was finally able to fumble through getting a party invite. Since Conjurer seemed like the best grouping class and I was eager to walk down memory lane with some healer abilities I pre-set my skills for buffs and heals. I was surprised to find that the UI had no scroll through ability with the controller to pre-select targets to heal, so I ended up spamming Cure (aoe) the whole fight and got almost no experience (probably thanks to the recent hotfix). Much like the awkward date you can't get out of, combat in FFXIV feels like waiting in a queue for something great to happen...and it never does. Spamming your buttons doesn't work and the server side lag is so bad you might see yourself casting that cure spell a good 15 seconds later (provided you are still alive). Melee classes seem to have it slightly easier with a more intuitive response time, but ranged classes and caster classes are left out of the action to watch and wait.
As I ex-FFXI player I felt I understood Square Enix and would learn to adapt to its style of finding your own way in the game. However, after I weeks worth of actual play I am wondering if the beautiful graphics and mesmerizing musical score are only their to serve as a a distraction for the many flaws they have let slip through their hands. Are we blinded by our loyalty to Square Enix and caught up in a bad romance of putting up with sub-par game performance in hopes of "change" in the future? Of course, its only been a couple weeks, and a few patches are already slated for the future to improve some much needed organization for their retainer system. However, the UI and combat system itself is the major flaw in this game. The reaction time to perform any action is slow and the numerous windows to perform any action feel like a time-sink in themselves.
The laundry list of basic functions to smooth out the game is long, and numerous communities have threads on players begging SE to improve their dream game. However, the reviews are starting to look grim and even a few weeks worth of patches will not be enough to quell the frustration of many. I myself am fighting to keep my rose-colored glasses on regarding this games potential, but I am starting to wonder whether this relationship with SE is starting to appear unhealthy....For right now FFXIV is like the hot boyfriend who on the outside looks really good and has us excited, but may end up abusing our feelings and leaving us disappointed.