Saturday, January 30, 2016

I Want to Like FF14, But...

I want to like FF14, but it has all sorts of little annoyances common to most JRPG/FF games. Multiple confirmation windows. Multiple loading screens between areas. But, the last quest chain is probably the worst example.

My character is clearly an idiot. We forget to tell someone what kind of crystal we want, so we scour the country collecting multiple crystals, always forgetting to tell the expert what kind of crystal we need. This, I think, is meant to introduce us to NPCs who are supposed to be important, but ultimately, just frustrated me. My character is a moron, and not in a funny way. The fate of the world hangs on us finding a crystal that will let us slip through a gale storm and fight Garuda, and I can't bother to say, "Hey, we're looking for a crystal that will let us slip through a gale storm and fight Garuda." Instead I just say, "Uh... I want a corrupted crystal. To do a thing. Anything, I guess."

Once we beat Garuda, we decide to go rescue our friends. This involves us running back and forth between multiple NPCs to do multiple prep quests, which involves running back and forth between the quest hub and the quest zone at least four times, including two separate trips to other capitol cities to get crafting done. The worst part? One of the quests asks us to go spy on a conversation to make sure our friends are captured somewhere: Even though we KNOW they're there. That's why we came here. Second, we're told we need to get uniforms in good condition to not give ourselves away. Then we go kill people for their uniforms and get them repaired, and I assume, re-tailored since we got them off humans and need them to fit Biggs and Wedge who are... not humans. Then, we finally -- after what took me about 2-3 hours of running back and forth "questing" get to do the rescue mission. I like that FF14 is trying to tell a story, but the "story" would not have been hurt by having Cid, Biggs+Wedge, the merchant-turned adventurer and the adventurer with a score to settle with the Empire to all give me the prep quests at once so I only needed to make one trip out, then a second trip out to get the part we needed for the magitech armor, followed by the magitech dry run. Also: The stupid "learn to Imperial salute" quest, like all of FF14's stupid emote quests, was just frustrating. Almost as frustrating as the Leves where you constantly have to beckon people to follow you. Either or, after all of this, we're finally ready to break into an imperial base!

This should be awesome! But, it fails at that. It fails so bad at that.

The rescue+escape near the end of the first expansion should have been a cool set piece, but it isn't. We start by having to salute a bunch of people -- which means either knowing the command or going through menus and dragging the Imperial Salute button to your hot bar. All three of the people give us the same information, then somehow, we ask the Centurion for the key, and he just gives it to us.

Finally, you go inside in your disguise and get to fight some imperial soldiers. However, I hope you realized that you no longer actually have to wear your disguise before you interact with the door, otherwise you'll be missing stats from two items and be pretty much destroyed.

Once you figure out that you can re-equip +stat gear instead of your disguise, you then will do what the game tells you to do: Try and untie your friends. And promptly be interrupted constantly and unable to do so. It turns out, the ACTUAL goal of the fight is "Defeat all Enemies."

The next fight requires my tank to... avoid tanking the giant robots beating on my friends and to instead run around looking for force field generators while my squishy wizard NPC friends tank the giant magitech robots.

The game *wants* to be exciting, but the glacial pace of the solo scenarios, combined with the fact you never really play your role in them, you're always in a DPS race, really hurts the experience. It reminds me of the proving grounds for tanks in WoW. Sure, it says you're goal is to survive as a tank, but the actual goal is to survive while dealing enough DPS so that the thing dies fast. It was the same way during the tanking challenge for the legendary cape, where I swapped out tank rings/trinkets for DPS ones to be able to succeed. In FF14, Shield Oath is pretty useless while soloing, and you need to win the DPS race before the enemy kills your NPC friends who won't step out of AoE.

MMOs keep *trying* to be cinematic/RPG-like, and very few of them actually manage to tell interesting stories. Secret World did OK, but in that, it is less story than a good atmosphere, and in GW1 and GW2 the story is very basic. SW:ToR probably comes the closest, but that also essentially turns the MMO into a solo experience. I'm not sure *how* to get a real RPG experience out of an MMO, but I like that designers are trying.

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