I don't want to battle giant dragons or animated skeletons in the upcoming Final Fantasy MMO. I don't want to slash throats. I don't want to cast spells. All I want is to find a quiet corner of the countryside to relax and pass my days in Hydaelyn catching fish.
Fishing in video games has always enraptured me. I spent countless hours on the dock in Stormwind's moat watching waves of players blur by on their way to trainers or vendors, before sprinting back out to chase down adventure while I watched a little cork bob up and down in the water. I watched my sim's family fall apart and the bill collectors bang down the door while I fished in the park's pond for weeks on end in Sims 3. And that's why I'm so excited about FFXIV's flexible class design--the design that let me choose "fisherman" as my starting class when I recently got a chance to play it at a demo.
The class system will be very familiar to anyone who played Final Fantasy XI, and very alarming to anyone who's used to a rigid sytem like WoW's. In FFXIV, "class" is a bit of a misnomer, a better descriptor might be role. Your can change your role simply by swapping your weapon out of combat. This will change the abilities on your bar and what actions you're allowed to perform. Equip a hammer, you're a blacksmith; equip a sword and shield, you're a gladiator; equip a staff you're a conjurer. Each role levels up separately, so you'll have to put in a lot of time if you want to be good at all of them.
Not me. I'm going to pick up that fishing rod and it's going to stay there until it's pried from my cold dead hands. Which, if the beta is any indication, will actually be quite often. The only two abilities on my bar while I had the fishing rod equipped were Throw Rocks and Find Fish. As a fisherman, my cat lady was as adept at fighting as a grade school wimp--I could only throw a rock every 5 or so seconds, and they each did one damage. Against enemies with hit points in the hundreds, aggroing an enemy was the equivalent of dying to it.
From bush to bush I crept around the landscape spamming my Find Fish ability, which would report how many schools of fish there were in the vicinity. I had the unfortunate luck of choosing the desert starting area (players can choose from 3 starting zones, regardless of race, role, etc.) so I was seeing a lot of negatives on my fish finder. In my search for the lone oasis in the desert around me, I bumped into more than my fair share of vicious enemies. Thankfully, I was able to outrun or recruit help from wandering mages and warriors to protect me from most of them.
When I finally found a deep pool of water, I was relieved. One of the warriors stayed nearby and fought off any coyotes that wandered too close while I cast my line into the pool to catch the fish we both needed for a quest. I had assumed that a fisherman's life would be one of solitude--and to some degree it is--but I was pleasantly surprised at how the game managed to make me feel special despite having absolutely zero combat skills. I recieved a fishing quest because I was a fisherman, and was able to share that quest with a fighter to convince him to protect me while I collected enough fish for both of us to complete it. A happy, win-win situation that naturally forms the relationships that will endure throughout the game for dedicated craftsmen and gatherers like my lovely cat lady fisherwoman here.
Well, it almost worked. It ends up that the fishing minigame is really, really hard. So I spent half an hour fishing without catching a single thing before the quest timer ran out and my warrior pal abandoned me. The PR guys even called the testing lead to make sure that we were doing the minigame right, and we were--it's just that difficult/random.
If this had happened to me in any other game, I would've been upset. I would've felt like I wasted my time and I probably would've quit and never looked back. But the odd thing about Final Fantasy XIV is that I can't wait to get back in there and fish some more. I think about it at least once a week. I don't really know why I don't mind fishing for half an hour and not catching a single thing. I just know that I had a really enjoyable, relaxing time just sitting around, watching the world go by (it's a gorgeous world by the way--FFXIV's graphics are fantastic) as I played a little minigame of lures and jerks. The feeling may not last forever once I get in the live game when it launches next month, but if you happen to stumble across a lone fisherman while you're out and about questing, do me a favor and kill a few mobs nearby to help keep them safe. The peaceful denizens of FFXIV will appreciate it.