If you liked absolutely nothing else about the launch of Final Fantasy XIV, you have to admit that the development team really went the distance to try and make crafting relevant and unique. Even though a lot of games add some depth to crafting beyond waiting for a bar to fill, most of those games make the actual craft process start and stop with a click. Not so in the advanced and in-depth synthesis that the game has always sported, from the needlessly ornate original version to the more streamlined system the game now features.
A claim that Final Fantasy XIV’s crafting is one of its biggest draws is just a statement of fact. But the crafting system isn’t flawless, and since we know it’s due for more revision with version 2.0, now’s a fine time to look at what about it is so spectacular and what could use some serious revisions, especially after I’ve spent most of my time in-game over the past week hammering, burning, and grinding may way to the higher levels of a craft.
Involved synthesis? That’s good!
Crafting something does involve raising a bar from nothing to full, but there’s so much to it than that. Trying to craft a high-quality item is an ornate dance of carefully raising progress, boosting quality, trying to make precise movements without ruining your materials. Standard synthesis of more challenging recipes is a dance as well as you try to gently hone your skills to the point of competence. Every movement has a lasting impact on the finished product, and if you fail at getting a high-quality item, you feel as if it’s due to your actions, not random game fiat.
The net result is that there’s a real sense of personal agency in crafting that you don’t usually get. Crafting something isn’t an assembly line procedure but a careful process.
Doing it again? That’s bad.
Of course, sometimes you’re putting together something that you just want in abundance, and then the slow process gets really irritating. There’s a reason that mass-produced goods have gone over to a more efficient process over the years, and that’s because hand-crafting every biscuit results in a lot of time spent making a pretty basic food staple.
The game’s solution is Hasty Hand, which you get at level 15 in every craft and lets you speed through to success instantly. Unfortunately, it also drives your experience rewards into the toilet. That’s kind of detrimental to actually leveling as a crafter, meaning that Hasty Hand is reserved for making backwards ingredients that you no longer get much experience for in the first place.
There’s also the fact that the simple process of selecting your ingredients and preparing to synth again is a slow procedure. A few recipes do have a normal version and a “bulk” version, but they invariably give the same amount of experience, which is not helpful for leveling, again. You know, the time period when you will probably be chain-producing things in the first place…
Interconnected crafts? That’s good!
I spent most of last week putting together new desks for Ms. Lady and myself. Our joke was that if building them was anything like crafting in Final Fantasy XIV, I’d have sat down with the kits and then wound up an hour later smelting metal next to a pile of raw meat in order to craft some obscure components to glue the whole thing together. That sounds really dumb until the first night that your progress as a Leatherworker turns into a journey through the joys of leveling Blacksmithing. The crafts all play into one another.
This is actually a really cool aspect of the game because it means that even without the additional abilities, leveling one craft makes other crafts more useful. Alchemy is occasionally useful only for producing components so that other crafts can build more interesting stuff, and that gives you more incentive to keep crafting once you start. And since you probably have a huge pile of ingredients for every craft, you might as well use them all, right?
Stymied progress? That’s bad.
Of course, this comes with the caveat that it’s not fun when no one is selling Steel Gizmos and you need a Steel Gizmo for your current Goldsmithing grinding. That requires leveling Blacksmith, which requires leveling Armorsmith, which requires so forth and so on.
To be fair, I should note that the leves for crafting do alleviate this to a point, but it’s still not fun to find yourself leveling through all of the items you’ve picked up and realize that you can’t use X without learning how to craft Y. It’s sort of a double-edged sword that can sometimes make the crafting a very interesting scavenger hunt and sometimes makes it an infuriatingly bothersome piece of work.
Useful abilities? That’s good!
The fact that you have a specific set of crafting abilities is just plain awesome. Tactical use of the abilities is the trick of the crafting game — carefully using Tender Touch and Make the Most so that difficult synths reach completion or using Preserve to help build quality… you get the idea. Adding all of these abilities to the start of your crafting procedure ensures that you have to make tactical use of your skills, gauging your likelihood of success based on the current state of your craft.
No regulation? That’s bad.
Once you start getting the higher abilities or the more potent combinations, you basically stop caring about anything other than tossing the best of the best on your bar. This is not entirely the fault of the developers, but the lack of any resources involve in crafting means that you are always aiming for the most powerful ability in your arsenal.
Fortunately, this is already confirmed to be changing via the addition of CP. I’d like to see what can be balanced when you have what amounts to a crafting nuke.