Combat and Questing in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Another weekend beta for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has come and gone. I managed to find some time this past weekend to sit down and run around as my legacy character whom I’ve been testing on and figured it might be a good idea to write about some of my continued thoughts as the game progresses through its beta phase. Do keep in mind that my experiences are of a (rather polished!) beta of this game; therefore, my opinion may potentially change when the game reaches its retail release at the end of August.

Although the original release of the game was chock-full of problems, one of the biggest failings, in my opinion, was its combat system. It wasn’t that it was a bad system in and of itself; rather, the system was just way too sluggish for my tastes. Part of the sluggishness was due to the game’s poorly-coded engine and graphics system as well as some server-side lag, but even without all of that, it would have seemed very slow-paced and uninspiring. This is especially true once you play a game like Guild Wars 2 and get used to a combat system that requires you to be on the move constantly while dodging enemy attacks. None of that was necessary, at least in what I experienced, in the original game.

While running around and attacking random baddies outside of Gridania, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the battle system had been revamped. For starters, the battles seem a bit faster paced and do require you to move around some, especially since certain attacks have ranges. For example, a character fighting up-close with an axe or sword may be more prone to taking damage, whereas a lancer with a polearm may be safer if they stay at the maximum range for their weapon. Of course, like any good battle system, this is balanced by the fact that the more tank-like builds use heavy armor while those who fight at a range or are more mobile tend to use medium or lighter wear. Your skills also seem to have a greater impact on the outcome of the battles in this game. For enemies who hit hard every turn, using a spell or attack that gives the effect of Slow on an enemy could mean the difference between life and death. So far, I haven’t seen if the game includes the ability to dodge attacks like you can in GW2 or other action-oriented games, but it’s possible that if it is there, I simply haven’t used it yet.

A friend of mine told me a few days ago that he wasn’t a big fan of the class system employed by the original game (and this version as well). Namely, he thought that the idea of being able to swap classes at will and master anything in the game on one character took away some of the fun of party-based games. Indeed, it is true that in A Realm Reborn you will have the ability to master every profession, if that is your desire. Unlike most MMORPGs (The Secret World being a notable exception), classes in A Realm Reborn can be swapped whenever the player desires simply by equipping a new primary weapon. So, if you are a Marauder (axe-wielder) who wants to fight with a spear, all you have to do is equip a basic polearm weapon, and you’ll be ready to go. Tired of the spear and want to learn some magic?  Equip a staff, scepter, wand, or cane and become a Thaumaturge or Conjurer! Of course, further specialization to become a Black Mage, Dragoon, and much more is possible.

Anyway, I think my friend’s point is somewhat valid. He didn’t like that each player wasn’t bringing anything in particular to the table in a situation where all members of the party have mastered all the major professions. Many players have their experiences rooted in games and systems that have the typical White Mage, Black Mage, Warrior, and Thief/Monk (damage-dealer) party format, where each player has a defined role and abilities they bring to the table. A lot of people like the middle ground that ArenaNet took with GW2, where each class had many different ways they could be played, and the game didn’t really feature the typical party structure at all. So, perhaps for some people this greater flexibility that is present in ARR will be a turn-off, but for others, it will allow them to see many different aspects of the game without getting “alt-itis” and needing to make many different characters. Also, when you consider the time and money that will need to be invested to get every possible class up to level 50, this is likely to not be an issue most of the time. Chances are, people will have at least one or two professions that they gravitate towards more than the others that they have mastered.

One thing that I definitely like about this game is the inclusion of an armory chest. Because carrying around weapons and armor that are suitable only for certain classes can quickly fill up your inventory, the game has a specialized inventory that serves to hold everything in an easy-to-navigate style. When the chest is opened, you can look through all of your loot, broken down into categories/types, and quickly store or select the items you wish.

So far, I really like the quest system in the game. Instead of relying on any kind of Guild level system for quests, NPCs all over the land will have quests that you can do. Naturally, these quests start out rather small and localized in scale, but completing them can lead to bigger and better things. What I really like is that the game also features a dynamic quest system called FATE (Fully Active Time Event), and though many people have claimed that Square was ripping off ArenaNet with the GW2 dynamic system, a very rudimentary form of this existed in the September 2010 launch version. Regardless, dynamic quest systems have been around for nearly a decade in various games, and dynamic content (such as the GM’s direct interaction with players for a special weekend event or the like) have been around since the dawn of MMOs. So, GW2 certainly has perfected the dynamic quest system in many ways, but it isn’t a totally new concept.

But, does the FATE system add anything new to the mix, or is it just another take on dynamic content?

To answer that, I’ll have to experiment with some FATE content next time I beta test the game, but I am certainly curious to find out! =^.^=

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