The first 10

After a long week of overtime at the job and my final undergraduate college class, i finally had an opportunity to do some vegging out.  After awakening this morning and brewing that all-important pot of coffee, i logged into FFXIV: A Realm Reborn and watched my character Wolkstreit Gold similarly arise from his bed at The Roost, Gridania’s finest inn.  i am a little concerned about the excessively long load times between zones in this game, so i’ll have to do some fiddling with my settings and maybe that will help.  My computer isn’t even close to top-of-the-line or geared very much for gaming, so it may just be something i have to live with, but i haven’t noticed any other performance issues such as lag or the like.

When i initially played the other day, i hadn’t really accomplished much beyond creating a character i feel confident in taking for the long haul and doing a few random quests to learn the controls.  Today i took my time more thoughtfully with a mind towards observing what this game has to offer, and so far i really like what i’m seeing.

Since i was on the cusp of reaching level 10 in the first and only job for Wolkstreit, and the storyline wouldn’t pick up again until that point, it was only natural to stroll around the lush forest city that ostensibly serves as his home, as it does for all lancers, archers and conjurers upon first entering Eorzea.  After all, Mother Miounne did advise me to make good with the locals if i wanted to become a successful adventurer.  Although i did read a tip recently that it’s a good idea to save all the fetch/deliver quests for later when you start leveling additional jobs, since i’m by no means a hardcore gamer i figured it might be a while before i get to that point.  Therefore i went ahead and hit up each of the icons on the map that showed someone offering work, and had quite a pleasant time doing so.

Carline Canopy
Nestled cozily within the inn known as The Roost lies the relaxing Carline Canopy, a haven for those seeking a respite from travel’s travails or questing’s quandaries. The Canopy’s famous stained windows dapple the wooden floors with beams of yellow, green, and red, that slowly shift as the sun and moons cross the sky. This kaleidoscope of light combines with the constant solemn murmur of the grand water wheel without to create an atmosphere both soothing and sublime.

One nice thing i noticed as i moved around the city and spoke with various NPCs was the vibrancy.  First of all, it certainly has that “Final Fantasy” feel to it, with things like chocobos, emphasis on crystals, and in general just the look of things that imparts the cohesiveness or the FF series.  i’ve always enjoyed how, despite the disparate nature of each installments’ story and setting, there are common elements that lend a familiarity.  Those embellishments really help give the game an immersive quality that makes it fun to explore and learn about the history of the game world.

Likewise, the random town quests i found to be well-crafted.  Naturally, there are many of the “bring me X items” or “deliver Y to this person” sort of quests, but in FFXIV they feel more like an opportunity to enrich the game and your character’s place in it.  There’s also a sort of metagame taking place as well, where the quest pertains not only to the game but also to the player of the game.  For example, there’s a Roegadyn (one of the races of FFXIV) sitting in the Carline Canopy – basically the tavern of the town – who asks you to deliver an airship ticket to a friend.  Completing the task is essentially a tutorial on the game’s chat feature, which walks you through the various chat channels as well as introducing the built-in auto-translate feature.  As the NPC explains, there are numerous cultures represented in Eorzea, and not all of them speak the same language.  This is useful knowledge to the player, who may find themselves in a group with other players who don’t speak their own language.  Case in point, a RL friend of mine just the other day told me about an experience playing FFXI where a Japanese player helped him accomplish some goals for several hours, something i too experienced during my time playing that game years ago.  i anticipate that same situation will occur at some point in this game as well, and it’s wise to include this sort of tutorial quest so that you know how to use the very useful auto-translate feature.

FFXIV races
The races of FFXIV

There was a moment this morning when it crossed my mind that FFXIV has a fairly slow pace in comparison to other MMOs i’ve played.  But i quickly followed up that thought with the realization it isn’t nearly as snail-paced as FFXI.  Additionally, there are simply so many aspects to explore in A Realm Reborn that if the pacing with much faster, you’d probably miss out on a lot.  This game feels like it was built for the long game, meant to be enjoyed over time, which is wonderful for me.  Like i mentioned, i’m not a hardcore gamer so it’s appealing that i can log in for little snippets here and there and always have something to do that doesn’t necessarily involve a lengthy quest or raid.  A while back, i read a DDO forum post where someone said they “only got to play for 30 hours last weekend” and i recall thinking “only 30 hours?”  It really hit me at that moment how crazy people can get with these MMOs.

One of those little things to do that i noticed today are the Hunting Logs.  This feature keeps a tally of all the various monster types you’ve fought, and gives rewards for reaching certain benchmarks.  It a fun little feature that gives you another something to work on between quests.  There’s also a Crafting Log, which i’m looking forward to utilizing once i start delving into the crafting system.  Like FFXI the crafting is elegantly simple, requiring only the requisite materials to be combined in the interface to produce pretty much any item in the game.  The crafting log, like the hunting log, tracks your progress in each of the various disciplines and also gives you the recipe for each item – something lacking in other MMOs craft systems.  The fact that each crafting discipline is its own class – complete with levels and abilities gained along the way – is something i find really fascinating.  Right now, i’ve got my sights set on the botanist job, but i’m going to stay as a lancer for while and get a better feel for the game before i start branching out.

Speaking of branching out into other jobs, one of the facets that i unlocked today was Gear Sets.  Now this is really cool.  You can customize your own array of loadouts so that you can change all your gear with the click of a button.  i imagine this is extremely useful for several reasons, not the least of which is changing jobs.  No more searching for the right equipment every time, your optimized gear is ready to go at a moment’s notice.  It would also be useful for having specialized stuff available, like if you find yourself in an icy environment with corresponding enemies, you could have a gear set of fire-themed equipment set-up for just such an occasion.

Foulques – a possible nemesis?

All of the games jobs – both battle and craft related, have their own in-game guilds that offer merchants, training and quests specific to their professions.  In Gridania, where Wolkstreit spends his time, there are guild halls for lancers, archers and conjurers as i mentioned above.  As you can guess, i’ve been spending my time at the Lancer’s Guild, and i like how the quests are framed in a manner that teaches you as a player the strengths of your job in the same way the character learns them.  So far, i’ve noticed that the lancer seems to be a melee fighter who relies on debuffs to get the job done.  While pursuing the quest line given out by the guildmaster, a couple of cutscenes have revealed what i hope is an ongoing antagonist named Foulques.  He has appeared twice now, his philosophy very different from the one being taught at the guild.

Making your job such an integral part of the play experience is really probably my favorite part of the experience so far.  In a lot of MMOs, your class/job is just a collection of abilities that define your character’s limits.  One of the exceptions is SWTOR, which still has a superior storyline from every other game i’ve played, with your class being the primary motivator for the entire game. The story in that game is truly spectacular, made all the better by top-notch voice acting.  Gotta hand it to Bioware – they put out some awesome stuff like my absolute favorite game of all time, the Mass Effect trilogy.

But i digress.  In FFXIV, you job really seems to matter.  It feels like a real job that gives your character a place in the world and makes you feel like you’re a part of something.  Another something that you can become a part of are Free Companies (FFXIV’s equivalent of player guilds).  Normally in MMOs you’ll occasionally get blind invites to such things, which always irritates me.  If you’re going to start a guild, at least take some pride in it and don’t just throw out invites to any old person.  Usually, your actions in-game result in some sort of progression points for your guild so i get that these people just want to grow, but at least have the courtesy of sending a /tell…which is exactly what i received today from Moogle Mob.  Since i am a sucker for those furry final fantasy creatures and because the invite came through a personal request, i decided to join.  So far, the members have been quite friendly and helpful, and the group has a private mansion instance to themselves, too.  While checking it out, i came across the game’s player market system and for a reasonable amount of gil (game currency) i now have gear that is about 10x better than the junk i’d been sporting.  And thank goodness for that – the reddish tunic and pointy boots i’d been wearing got the job done but the look was just ugh.  Now, i’ve got myself some respectable looking chain mail, a new spear and a cool-looking eyepatch.  As for that last piece, i’m still on the fence about it though because i really dig the way Wolkstreit’s golden eyes contrast with his dark blue skin.

Now, back to the questing!  My walkabout through Gridania brought me all over town, and in each little neighborhood there’s what’s called an aetheryte shard you can interact with.  By doing so, you’re able to use them to teleport to any of the other shards you’re attuned yourself too.  So there was another benefit to getting to know the city layout – ease of travel.  On top of that i was pleasantly surprised to find a hidden benefit to making sure you attune yourself to all the shards: when i hit up the last one, a pop-up message told me i’d unlocked some special teleport locations that would take me to the various gates leading out of the city.  There was also a small amount of XP earned for finding them all, which turned out to be just enough to take me to level 10!

Back at the Canopy, Mother Miounne would now talk to me again, setting me on the path to an outpost in the wilderness for further adventuring.  Also, the kiosk near her was opened up for what are called “levequests.”  As the vendor there explained, these are a sort of hub for all the random NPC quests in a given area.  This includes job quests (both battle and craft) so you can easily browse whatever is available. Coincidentally, both the levequest kiosk and Miounne directed me to the same location, and both suggested i rent a chocobo to get there.  Chocobo’s that early in the game?  i’d been planning to log out once i hit 10, but i had to stick around a little longer and investigate this new option.  As it turns out, the chocobo rental system is a lot like the planetside taxi service in SWTOR.  You choose your destination, and find your character atop a mount that takes you where you want to go.  i imagine at some point you can get your own chocobo mount too, but in the meantime this rental service is great for quick travel.  As an added bonus, you can dismount the thing at any point along the way, so if you see something you want to check out which traveling past it in the wilderness, you can hop off and investigate (although the chocobo will continue on without you).

And that’s it for this installment of my FFXIV adventures.  So far, i’m discovering a new facet to this game about every 15 minutes of play time, and i’m sure this will taper off at some point but i’ve got a feeling not for a while yet.  In fact, i’m digging this game so much already that i’m going to wrap things up here and go log in for a bit.  Time to see if my spiffy new gear can handle the outpost zone’s enemies…i’ll keep you posted!

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