The kindest thing that can be said about the Final Fantasy MMO is that it has a good intro movie. That movie doesn't take ten minutes to load, it maintains a constant framerate and you don't have to traverse a labyrinth of menu screens to play it. In short, it's everything the game isn't.
The game itself is an online RPG in which you pick from a variety of elfin races, choose a class (warrior, mage or crafter), and head out into the world of Eorzea to make your fortune. In other words: beat up the local wildlife or craft goods. As you level up and travel from place to place, you slowly unravel the story.
Yet not even an interesting XP system and the few rare cutscene-driven story missions can redeem this, buried as they are behind one of the most heinous interfaces ever devised, and strangled by lag issues, framerate dips and a nightmarish control scheme that goes out of its way to make even basic actions like checking your inventory a long and irritating exercise in menu-faffing. PvP, keyboard shortcuts, an auction house, a sensible group chat system, a fast travel system that doesn't break your bank, a map that actually shows you where things are... all these are missing presumed forgotten. Take the hardest quest in the game as an example. It's called: 'buying a sword'.
The useless world map fails to show anything other than a vague sketch of the local geography. No indication of quest givers, traders or markets so I'm forced to wander aimlessly around the large, seemingly barren town. But it isn't barren. If I stand still for a minute NPCs lag into existence around me. If I wait another minute player characters start appearing as well. I eventually find the bazaar, a place where players can sell their crafted wares through NPC employees. There is no way of telling who is selling what. The only solution is to speak to every single one of them until I get lucky. Two hours after starting my mission, I still don't have a sword. I give up and buy some leggings instead.
Taking quests is similarly laborious. Hard-to-find quest-givers dish out clusters of boring rat hunts activated at giant crystals in the field. Once I've completed my small allotment I inexplicably have to wait 36 hours until I'm allowed more. The only option is to grind the local wildlife and join hourly Behests: small group monster hunts (the closest thing to a dungeon). Or I could get crafting, itself a lengthy series of protracted minigames with a frustratingly high failure rate.
That interesting XP system? Buried somewhere under the rubble there's a dual experience setup that lets you level up separately on different weapons, and then mix and match unlocked skills to create a truly unique character. But the grind of levelling, and an interface that demands 12 clicks to change your weapon, robs this of any potential.
FFXIV demands incredible patience for almost no reward. Even players loyal enough to endure its many flaws may find themselves punished by the experience-limiting system. After eight hours levelling on a weapon, the amount of experience you can earn from quests and kills decreases. As more time passes, eventually you can't progress at all. Final Fantasy XIV is so deeply flawed that I can't even see how future updates could redeem it.
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