When I first saw this game the first thing that struck my mind was “Holy crap in a pita! This is shiny as Hell!” It was like walking into JJ Abrams’ lens flare archive.
Then I actually got a chance to play it. Oh boy.
In case you haven’t read some of my previous articles, I’m a simple guy. I like things simple and with substance. I’m also a former WoW player, currently working my way through TERA and Borderlands 2, so needless to say I have a few standards I’m used to. I’m also a big fan of Fallout 3 and New Vegas, although could never really get into Skyrim and honestly I’m still trying to figure out why. So strap yourselves in, cause it’s going to be a bumpy ass ride.
Let’s start with the “First Impression,” basically how the game introduces you into the universe. Long story short, stuff was great, then some jerkwad decided to gather some other jerkwads to try to destroy the world, people went to war to save it, yada yada yada. It’s some 20 years in the future, history is about to repeat itself. Concerning the “Big Bad” of this game, it’s just a faction of people associated with the jerkwad faction from the past. The intro cutscene is really nicely made but I honestly felt bored watching it because te entire time I kept asking myself “Who’s that? What are those and why can’t I skip this?” Trust me when I tell you this, it’s the beginning of a ton of these.
Speaking of graphics, they really like to give your eyes diabetes with all the sugary shininess of the visuals. The clouds move, the grass sways when you’re in combat, little things like that are en mass throughout this entire game…if you have it enabled of course. Like most games like this, you’ve got to have a pretty damn good gaming PC to both A) Run it and B) Run it well. Sad to say I had to tone things down a bit just to get it to stop skipping, but didn’t miss out on a lot of the good stuff.
The character creation is pretty intuitive, giving you lots of options for creating a character that fits “you”. Especially with the hair and eye colors, allowing almost damn near every color in the spectrum. It also lets you choose which moon you were born under and which deity you worship for some reason. It’s Final Fantasy just roll with it. When it comes to which class you want it kind of has variety and then it doesn’t. You have the option of being able to switch classes/roles at any time without the need for creating alternate characters, unfortunately whichever class you start with, you’re stuck in a set city which consists of a few generic places like ForestBurg and Desert Town (I honestly could not remember the city names for the life of me). You also can choose between 4 different races, Humans, Generic Elves, Cat People, Midget Gopher Elves and Badass Behemoths (Again, couldn’t remember the names). Considering this is Final Fantasy though, you’re going to see a lot A LOT of female Cat People.
Once you actually start playing though, you’re going to notice a few things, and this is where the game, at least for me, fell flat on its face. I started out as a Pugilist (which I refer to as “Puggy”), so obviously I was looking forward to punching something in the face.
First you got your tutorial missions to get you familiarized with everything which is fine, but you have to go through a mass amount of fetch and go-fer quests before you actually get to fight something, not to mention an ungodly amount of text bubbles to sift through. I understand wanting to immerse someone into a world through narrative, but there’s a limit to a person’s patience. There is also literally a quest where you go into a bar and take drink orders. I think that says enough about that. It wouldn’t have been so bad if not only were those types cut in half but also if the map wasn’t clunky as hell. And here’s where we start with the comparisons. You open up a map in WoW or Borderlands, you see the area nice and clean, easily visible, with markers in place so you know where to go. Here however, well, just look:
I spent a good 10-20 minutes trying to figure out just where the hell everything is. I understand the concept of making a city huge but there’s a point where you gotta put practicality in the mix. There’s also one really and I mean really devastatingly annoying thing about navigating through these cities: Loading Screens. Now here’s something I don’t get, the only time I ever saw a loading screen in WoW was when you traveled either into a dungeon or into a different CONTINENT! Yet here, you can’t travel into another quarter part of the city without having to sit through a 10-30 second black screen with text saying what part of the city it is. And believe me it really extends the time you spend doing these fetch and gopher quests and I literally timed one of them. From start to finish of a quest where you have to go from one end of a quarter part of a city down to the central of it, put up 3 posters on 3 separate walls (there’s also a cast time for each poster for some reason), go back and turn it in took 9 minutes and 12 seconds.
But I pressed on in hopes of getting an ACTUAL combat mission in hopes that at least the fighting system would be interesting.
It uses the same “tap, watch, tap” system that’s been used in damn near I don’t know how many MMOs before it. Don’t get me wrong there are a few differences, like some monsters you have to watch their “tells” so you can counter properly, but that’s few and far between, not to mention with this style of combat, it’s more of an annoyance than it is fun. Honestly for all the buildup i had seen I expected something like TERA, where it’s live combat, being able to dodge an attack by moving out of the way rather than every attack the enemy makes being a homing missile. Again, maybe it’s just me, but this is the kind of thing I’ve seen a ton of times before and I’m not a big fan of it, especially with a class like Puggy, where in hand to hand combat, being able to dodge and weave is key to winning a fight, not just waiting for your moves to cool down.
However, one of the few differences is the addition of the “Limit Break”, which if you’re with a group in a dungeon or FATE (I’ll get to that in a minute), you’ll see 2 yellow/gold bars at the top. When they fill up, any person in your party (and I think you’ve already guessed what my problem is with this) can activate their Limit Break, which is a super flashy and stylish super move to either help your party or just rip the monster you’re fighting a new butthole. Granted it’s a nice little novelty, but why is it limited to just one person? Why not every person in the party? You have any idea how many people would rage quit because one guy accidentally/purposely used the limit break when someone else was going to? And the FATE battles, which is an acronym for something I can’t remember, are basically “worldwide” battles that randomly spawn in the server, that allow people to just basically gang up on 1 or several powerful monsters for epic loot. It’s nice but it can kind of get annoying when you’re in an area just fighting a random creature when the message “Your level is too low for this FATE battle, your contribution blah blah blah” pops up randomly.
The sound quality in this game is hit and miss. The music is what you’ve come to expect from Square Enix, big and grandiose in scale and well done. The voice acting and sound effects on the other hand, though not low quality, is grating. Like the quest complete sound that plays. Every. Single. Time. And it’s not like a chime or a bell or something, it’s this 5-second fanfare that’s nice to hear the first couple times but then just makes you wish you could turn it off. Sadly, it’s tied to the sound effects part, not the music, so even if you wanted to turn it off and still hear everything else, you can’t.
Considering that it’s a “Phase 3″ beta, meaning it’s almost ready to head out the door, it may be too late to change anything, but there’s one damning factor that I just cannot/will not (pick one) overlook: They’ve decided to implement a subscription model. WHY!? Of all the outdated and forced things you could do to people, why in the hell would you have people pay a monthly fee to play this? There’s a reason why a lot of MMOs like The Old Republic and TERA went with the free-to-play model: People don’t want to pay to play on top of the $30-80 (depending on which version you get) already chucked in to buying the damn thing.
All in all, here’s my “tl:dr” (too long, didn’t read for those of you unfamiliar with the term):
Don’t. Just. Don’t.
Unless they decide to drop the subscription model or the price of the game, I can’t in good conscience encourage anyone to pre-order and buy this game when it comes out, save for die hard Final Fantasy fans. If you’re looking for a decent fantasy RPG, go for Ragnarok 2 or TERA, which are both free, or WoW. Hell WoW now comes with a free “demo” client that allows you to level up a character to level 20! Guild Wars 2 works too if you’re up for a gamble.
Bottom line is don’t judge a book by its cover. In this case it was a very shiny looking cover, blinding me to the trap waiting within.