I still don’t have a goddamn chocobo.
Part of this is doubtless down to the fact that I’ve had to play several other games to completion, so my Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn time has been limited. Part of it’s also probably down to the servers continually being full or so overloaded that they won’t even appear in the game’s server browser, which has also limited my playtime somewhat. But I want my chocobo.
Last week, I’d spent a few days in the game’s Early Access period and had, I think, just hit around level 16. I’d pretty much finished up in my starting area – the foresty land of Gridania, which sounds more like a gritty fantasy thriller or possibly something from Tron than it does a wooded realm of tree-huggers – and had been sent off to the game’s other two capital cities to go and get stuff signed.
Which really means “go to the other capital cities so that you find out there are quests there, dummy.” So this is what I did. I met with the leaders of the other cities, got stuff signed, chilled out, and carried on with my story quests.
Said story quests were, basically, “go into this dungeon and kill things”, followed by “go into this next dungeon and kill things”, followed by “go into a third dungeon and kill things.” Three tutorial dungeons (for groups of four) in a row.
But I’m hopelessly biased against pick-up groups so, while I waited for my guild/Free Company to get off their arses and help me out, I decided to do three things. First: I’d deal with some outstanding bits and bobs in my Hunting Log.
The Hunting Log is a cool little addition to Final Fantasy XIV which gives you a big list of monsters to track down and kill, as well as their rough locations. Completing an entry in the log nets you a hefty chunk of experience, and completing a full page of the log nets you even more. If you’ve got nothing to do and can’t be arsed questing, you can go hunt down some monsters for free experience!
This has its upsides and downsides. On the one hand it’s sort of nice to be able to actually hunt down monsters rather than look at the minimap for the quest-relevant dots (as, yes, any monsters you have to kill for a quest appear on the minimap). The regions in the game are relatively large, too, so you have to employ some thinking. If you’re after a huge poisonous toad, you’re more likely to find it in a cave by a river than you are in the bit of the forest nearest the road. If you’re after squirrels, on the other hand, the forest might be a pretty good place to start.
On the other hand, this does get annoying for the obvious reason – you can get frustrated and wander around for ages looking for the beasties you’re supposed to be killing. They don’t just turn up in the locations pointed out by the Hunting Log, either; at one point, the monster I was meant to be killing only turned up in very limited numbers in the actual place listed in the Hunting Log. After I gave up and went to do other stuff, I bumped into a huge number of them on a completely different side of the map. Hnng.
Secondly, I decided I’d level up my crafting further. I’d killed enough beasties that I had a huge stock of leather which I could turn into items, so I figured I might as well at least hit level 10.
At this point, crafting is both faster and more enjoyable. I’ve now got a larger load of abilities to use when crafting the items – this one increases the chance of success for the next five actions, while this one gives me a bonus to the success of all subsequent actions every time I improve the quality – and there’s a bit of thought in there. I could increase my chances of success, but that costs the same amount of Crafting Points as two uses of my skill that improves the item’s quality. Ponder, ponder, ponder.
Also, the Leatherworking guildmaster is a massive bitch, which amuses me greatly. Leatherworking comes highly recommended, just for her dialogue.
Getting to a higher level in Leatherworking meant that I unlocked both Quick Synthesis (letting me quickly make anything I’ve made before, albeit with a chance of failure and a very, very low chance of making a higher-quality item) and Tradecraft Leves.
Leves are… sort of like daily quests in other MMOs. You get three “Leve Allowances” every day, and they stack up if you don’t use them. With these, you can do repeatable quests, ranging from combat stuff (kill Y amount of X) to fieldcraft and tradecraft, requiring you to deliver a certain amount of raw materials or crafted goods to people. If you want to do the same Leve five times in a day, there’s nothing stopping you except your Leve Allowance.
Or, to take out the jargon, they’re Final Fantasy XIV‘s repeatable quests – either combat, crafting, or raw materials – which require you to spend magic tickets to accept them, and you get a few magic tickets a day. Still, it’s (again) giving you more opportunities to level stuff up, more rewards, and more stuff to do when you don’t fancy a dungeon or basic quests. It’s also a really good way of levelling up crafting skills.
The third thing I decided to do was level up another class. I’m partial to a bit of healing in MMOs, but the healing slots were, uh, “taken” by other people I knew would be playing the game, so I opted for Archer instead. Since I can take multiple classes, though, and since I can borrow skills from one class and put them into another, I figured I might as well get a few levels in Conjurer and drop a few healing abilities into my Archer build.
Bloody hell, playing as a Conjurer is different to playing as an Archer. For perspective, an Archer can run around while using every single attack at their disposal. A Conjurer… well, a Conjurer stands still for what feels like 15 seconds in order to throw a pebble at whatever huge demonic beast/squirrel is clawing your face off.
Most amusing was when I had to fight an Earth Sprite, which is immune to earth-element attacks. Guess what the Conjurer’s primary damage-dealing spell is for most of the early levels? Oh, sure, there’s also Aero, which does a teeny amount of damage and inflicts a DoT, but… let’s just say it’s a good thing I also had Cure spells. Also: thanks, players who saw me fighting Earth Sprites, stood around watching for 10 seconds, and then walked off. I hate all of you.
On the plus side, this means my Archer now has a weak Cure spell, and I can resurrect any fallen adventurers I come across. Once I level up a little more – which I’m quite enjoying doing, honestly, as it makes a bit of a change from Arching things (that’s what an Archer does, right?) – I might even heal a few dungeons. I mean, I’ve already healed a few of the open-world FATE battles, and it’s sorta nice to feel like you’re making a difference either to FATEs too high-level for you, or FATEs your level, but with too few people around to tackle them without healing.
Speaking of which: eventually, I did make my way into each of the three starting dungeons. And, um… they’re a bit disappointing. I’m mostly certain that’s sort of intentional, though – they’re there to guide you into how dungeons and roles work, rather than to hammer you about the face and neck with tricky fights to learn.
In fact, they’re boring enough that I can hardly even remember them. Let’s see: one was an aquatic cave (brown and grey), one was a crypt (brown and grey), and one was a mine (you can see where I’m going with this). None of them really had interesting encounters, although a few of them had some fairly impressive monsters to battle.
For the most part, you’re traipsing through a largely-linear path, punching/stabbing/blasting/Arching monsters that have far too much health. Every once in awhile you’ll find an optional room, which might have a treasure chest in it that will hand out a few random items to a few random party members. You walk into a boss, beat it up, roll for loot (the need/greed/pass system is pretty much unaltered here) and then carry on. The Copperbell Mines – the third dungeon – tries to break this up a bit by requiring you to find explosives and blow open paths, but that’s really just extra busywork.
As for the bosses, although I’m not going to go into too much detail, most are simple tank-and-spanks. There are a few interesting mechanics with some of the bosses – one spawns creatures and is invincible while they’re alive, another has the party running around closing grates to prevent monsters from appearing, and yet another can either be done through either splitting the party up to deal with masses of adds or just through sheer force of burst damage, but they’re still just not very interesting.
Which is a bit of a shame, being that I loved the more intricate boss fights in World of Warcraft, and The Secret World absolutely shone when it came to creating interesting boss battles in its dungeon. Pretty much every single boss had some trick or quirk that you had to work out, even as early as Polaris, and I still wince at the memory of things like Hell Eternal and The Facility. In Final Fantasy XIV… not so much. I’m informed that the later dungeons are considerably harder, and that these three are basically really annoying mandatory tutorials. I can but hope that’s accurate.
On the plus side: the story appears to be kicking off properly now, and there are still lots and lots of nods to past Final Fantasy lore, which – if nothing else – makes me smile knowingly. I’m largely still enjoying myself; I’m just hoping that the systems I’ve seen are expanded on as I get further in. All indications are that they will.
I guess wild roses take awhile to bloom.