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    Gaming Media: Impressions of Beta 3

    World's Factory
    Spoiler: show
    When Final Fantasy XIV released, it met very underwhelmed audiences. Subscriber base quickly plummeted, and years of development time suddenly seemed like they were going to go waste. Square Enix‘s plan was to talk to the community, find out what the problems were, and fix them in the form of a huge game update.

    Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is that long awaited update, and it brings to the table so very much, it could probably be called a new game entirely.

    After a long wait to download, finally I was able to launch Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and of course, as expected of most RPGs, I was presented with the Character Creation screen. The options here are extensive, everything from iris size, to the length of your tail (if you have one) and size of your breasts (if you have those) is here. I went with my weird cat-woman type of person, naming her Felicia Breens. During character creation, you can select different backdrops and make your character do an odd pose, if you’re so inclined. Straight away the graphics looks quite lovely, although of course it can’t quite match the splendor available on a powerful PC.

    Stepping into the game, I find myself riding the back of a wagon with a merchant. It only takes a minute for some guards to stop the wagon and attempt to arrest my new merchant friend for carrying “illegal herbs”. That’s when I can’t help but notice a slight framerate drop occasionally, but this is a beta, so I’m going to try and put framerate issues and minor bugs to the back of my mind; judgment can be reserved for launch.

    Travelling with my merchant friend Brendt to Ul’dah, I discover that the town is apparently run by Sultana in name, but the Syndicate is actually running things behind the scenes. I don’t know why people would think a raisin holds any power anyway. Typical of playing a JRPG for the first time, the game throws terms and names that a player can barely recollect or pronounce at that point, let alone understand… Nonetheless, I’m intrigued.

    After arriving in Ul’dah, I’m immediately urged into joining the Quicksand guild; they insist I can’t go anywhere until I join. From a distance, the city looked bleak and unattractive, but up close it’s actually quite beautiful. Momodi, the owner of Quicksand tells me that everything in Ul’dah is for sale if you have the gil. I tried, but there was no option to buy the chair Momodi was sitting on. I felt lied to.

    The first hour of the game required grappling with using a console game controller with an MMO’s UI, whilst running about Ul’dah doing random fetch quests. Take this here, deliver this there, go get me some of that… The NPCs in FFXIV unfortunately have similar problems to the NPCs in almost every other MMO. Finally the quests take me back outside the walls of Ul’dah, where plenty of low-level mobs are waiting for me.

    The battle system of a PC MMO has translated surprisingly well onto the console, with battle commands being issued with the face buttons and directional pad. There are different sets of commands that can be changed with R1, each set having all eight face buttons used for two different actions, meaning you have 16 actions available to you at any one time. To anyone new to MMO titles, this may be overwhelming, but it can be organized quickly and easily into a set you use in towns, a set you use in battles, etc.

    When it comes to audio, the game performs as well as any Final Fantasy game. We can find some classic remixes, including everyone’s favorite victory fanfare, and some brand new tunes that make FFXIV’s soundtrack just as good, if not better, than many RPGs. And of course, menu and battle sound effects are all more than acceptable; one area where some may be disappointed is the lack of any voice acting, but to fully voice act an entire MMO is a tall order, so it is understandable.

    Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is clearly a game built first and foremost for PC. Playing with a PS3 controller is difficult, and definitely a learning experience, but having said that, FFXIV is still a fun game, difficult controls or no. Clearly a PC version would be preferable to the PS3 whenever possible, but if you’re a big Final Fantasy fan, or you just really want to try the game and don’t have a compatible PC, then this is definitely the best solution.

    All in all, it was an enjoyable experience. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn doesn’t have any major innovations to bring to the genre, but nonetheless it clearly shows an improvement over the first release, and I believe that fans of the franchise should be rather pleased at the offering.

    Spoiler: show
    Michael A. Cunningham
    I can't say that I've spent much time with version 1.0 of Final Fantasy XIV. I spent hours installing and setting up the game only to log in, create an ugly, generic character, and then experience so much lag that it took minutes to even talk to the first NPC. I then stumbled around a mess of confusing corridors masquerading as a town for a few minutes before heading out to fight some low level enemies. Everything just felt slow (partially because of the PC I was running on), but also because even the smallest task took forever to do because of lag. Areas were a mess, lag was unavoidable, and the general game design was a complete disaster. I completely wrote the game off until Square Enix changed course and brought Yoshi-P (Naoki Yoshida) on board to attempt to fix things. He has succeeded in reviving FFXIV as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and while it might not be the most original MMO offering out there it's still really enjoyable.

    Though Yoshi-P did much work to improve the original version before it went off line, his real baby is A Realm Reborn, the dramatically improved version 2.0 now coming off the third Beta phase. So far, I'm quite pleased with my experience during this latest phase — especially having more classes available. Knowing that all character data will vanish at the end of this phase, I decided to take a broader approach and sample a variety of races and classes.

    Even though any character is able to swap jobs at level ten, but I wanted to get a feel for how each class starts off, so I created a female Hyur Marauder, a male Roegadyn Gladiator, a female Elezen Archer, a male Miqo'te Conjurer, and a female Roegadyn Pugilist. The Gladiator and Marauder both felt fairly similar early on, but I found myself spending the most time with the Marauder, as I want to eventually see my character as a Warrior due to my love of the job from Final Fantasy XI. Playing as an Archer was more enjoyable than I expected, especially picking off enemies from a distance while running, but I didn't stick with it for long. I felt the same way about the Conjurer. It was nice to have ranged attacks, but I like being in the thick of things. I thought the Pugilist might have been another good option for me, however being the armor enthusiast that I am, I decided to go back to Marauder as I liked the look of the character I'd made for it best.

    While some might complain that the game feels too much like World of Warcraft, I found that even though the foundation might stray into that territory, there are key points of A Realm Reborn that make it stand out. The highlights of my experience were a pair of instanced battles, both of which involving me fighting a flood of enemies with only NPCs to assist. In the first one, I had twenty or so giant crabs after me and two NPCs helping. The second involved a Goobbue ambush, and I was assisted by a Miqo'te Conjurer. Both battles were fairly easy, as all I had to do was attack and wait to be healed, but they were great introductions to the system. The latter of the two quests even offered a pinch of the game's story, which was great to see. It actually felt like a single-player Final Fantasy game during this part, just one where you can have others help you out if desired.

    All of my impressions were very early on, but I hope this trend of solo content continues as promised throughout the game for us anti-social gamers who don't always feel like teaming up with others. I was also able to enjoy one of my favorite solo activities: exploring. At this point I was only level seven, so I was very underleveled for most areas. I ventured through an area with level twenty enemies, only being spotted once, but surviving. I finally found myself in a level forty zone with foes that could likely kill me simply by looking at me. I was eventually get killed, but not before I found a new safe zone with an Aetheryte that I could then use to warp back and forth between at any time. Nice.

    While still clearly an MMO, I never had to team up during my play sessions. There were also many times I found myself thinking how much A Realm Reborn felt less like an MMO and more like a stretched version of a standard Final Fantasy game. Much of this likely had to do with how well the PlayStation 3 version of the game controlled. It was a perfect fit for the system, especially the controller support. No telling where things go from here, but from my initial impression I'm ready to dive back onto the Leviathan server for the full version in August.
    Trent Seely
    Final Fantasy XIV, in its initial form, didn't have the best of reputations. In spite of following up one of the most successful Final Fantasy titles to ever be released, I remember a number of RPGamers telling me to, "steer to avoid." The MMO, still fresh out of the womb, had gained a nasty reputation for unintuitive user interface, clunky question, bland environmental design, odd difficulty spikes, nigh impossible navigation, and a plethora of bugs and glitches. Final Fantasy XIV was declared broken by Square Enix themselves, and I refused to play it until a close friend forced my hand in 2012.

    Considering the fact that I didn't have to contend with the mess of the original release, my frame of reference is somewhat lacking, however, I had heard from the people I played with that many of the more dire complaints were cleared up by that point: chocobos could now be found and mounted, questing and navigation were substantially more user-friendly, quests of all shapes and sizes had been added, and all of the more dire bugs had been squashed. I'd argue that graphics were still pretty bland and the UI continued to be predicated on too many sub-menus, but I certainly didn't hate the game as much as I was led to believe I would. In fact, I quite liked Final Fantasy XIV ver. 1.5.9.

    I was excited to get my hands on A Realm Reborn's Beta after reading Naoki Yoshida's many development letters and viewing the Alpha video walkthroughs, mostly because they promised a renewed Eorzea. We were assured a brand new graphics engine, new server allocation, environment redesigns, a completely different interface, easier content mechanics, altered jobs, and more. It all sounded great on paper, but the little Trent in my head was screaming cynical things. Square Enix essentially committed to the creation of a whole new MMO, and I wasn't sure they would be able about to deliver.

    After spending an unreasonable amount of time exploring the new Eorzea, questing in the wilds outside of Gridania, killing creatures big and small, and talking to dozens of NPCs, I can confidently say that I very much like A Realm Reborn. My biggest issue with the game's vanilla release was its lack of soul; at no point did I feel as though Eorzea was alive. Between all of A Realm Reborn's hilarious NPC dialogue, FATE events, quests and guildleves, active players, and lush landscapes, I can't say that problem is really there anymore. The lands may have just survived the calamity, but there is a certain vibrancy to the new world now. The UI, which was another major issue for me, is far less obtrusive and takes a number of visual cues from Final Fantasy XII. It also helps that I don't have to navigate a ton of menus anymore, and that the game plays well with a controller.

    Where I'm still getting used to the landscape, it's hard for me to pass too much judgment on A Realm Reborn. That, however, speaks volumes. In spite of the fact that a number of final release features have yet to be introduced to testers, I'm still doing and seeing new things each time I log in. It's been fun, and I'm looking forward to the game's full relaunch.
    Nathan Schlothan
    While Phase 3 of Final Fantasy XIV Beta was not my first chance to play the game, it was far more substantial than the few hours I was able to play it previously, and my feelings have changed accordingly. Before, I was on the fence about whether it was any good or not, but now I am quite eager to purchase a copy and play when it launches.

    The land of Eorzea is a rich and beautiful setting. Even with the limited number of areas to explore in the Beta, which can be summed up as a forest, a desert, and an island, it contained some incredibly varied and amazing sights to behold. The major characters have great designs and a lot of personality, and I found that the world pulled me in far more than I expected it to. I am particularly fond of how well it balances its own uniqueness with a grand love of the history of the Final Fantasy franchise, with even minor characters making nice little references to older games that can easily be missed.

    The battle system is quite good, and the more I learn about it the more I like it. It isn't too slow and plodding or too fast and twitchy, always giving players something to do but with enough time to think and react to the situations. Between dodging AoE attacks and getting into place for a Heavy Thrust or Bootshine, it puts a lot of emphasis on movement and positioning, which keeps things exciting. The game suffers a bit by following the stereotypical class trinity of Tank, Healer, and Damage Dealer, and it really needs more classes, jobs, equipment, and abilities, but the existing classes are very varied and fun to play.

    Outside of battle, the crafting and gathering mechanics are some of my favorite things about the game. The classes dedicated to these tasks, the Disciples of the Hand and Disciples of the Land, have a wide range of skills and equipment that they need to use to accomplish their tasks. Because of this, making items is a very interactive and complex process, and learning how to make a quality item can be just as demanding as learning how to clear a dungeon. Building up these skills can be a bit repetitive, but the payoff is quite nice.

    As a sidenote, the PlayStation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIV runs rather nicely. It has some clear limitations with both its graphics and user interface, but these are relatively minor problems. The basic gamepad controls are fluid and effective, and I find them to be easier to use and more reliable than mouse and keyboard controls. A USB keyboard is pretty much needed for text-based communication, though. Since I don't really have a PC capable of running modern games, I'm very glad this version works so well.

    I don't know if Final Fantasy XIV has much to offer to people who are already deeply attached to another MMORPG, but it is a solid game on its own merits and a good choice for those looking for a new MMO to play. Only time will tell if it will be able to build up a good community and have enough content to keep its players happy in the long run, but for now, at least, it is quite fun.
    Alex Fuller
    During my time in Phase 3 of the Beta I reached level 20 with my Hyur Archer and spent some time testing out the Lancer class. One of the things I noticed was that undertaking multiple classes with a single character seems to provide good benefits to make it worthwhile, as players can take over skills into their other classes, as well as giving players an opportunity to try out new things without having to go through creating an alt. It also helped that the non-story, low-level quests from other cities are available when long-distance travel is unlocked, so there is a good motivation to explore these and start afresh with a new class at the same time. The Archer class definitely suits my preferred play style, so the main decision now is whether to be a Hyur or Elezen in the full release. Hmmm.

    I also spent a bit of time working on the Leatherworker class, and while it was obviously a bit less exciting than adventuring and exploring the gorgeous world, there were still enough nuances and depth to make it interesting. I should note that I haven't played the original game (thanks to the Benchmark Testing scoring my laptop as "no, just no") so I went into A Realm Reborn completely fresh.

    While the game is certainly solo-friendly for the most part, there were quests that required brief team-ups. Fortunately, the duty finder seems to make this a less daunting process, even if it did require a bit of waiting. Fortunately, the usual ten-minute wait I had playing as an Archer (which appeared to be mostly due to a general lack of healers in the Beta) for the duty finder wasn't all that bad as the game is more than happy to let you go off and do something completely different while waiting, and it does guarantee a balanced party for everyone. The party quests were a lot of fun and generally successful, both in terms of providing enjoyment, challenge, and resulting in successful completions even with strangers. There were a few wipes against Ifrit, though. Admittedly, one of which was my fault because I'd forgotten to set the Limit Break action to a hotbar and the PS3 controls aren't overly conducive to doing such things mid-battle. Oops.

    Outside of tasks like attempting complex UI switches on the fly, the PS3 controls worked very well. Using the hot-bars is intuitive. Those who are playing on PS3 will almost certainly want to attach a USB keyboard in order to chat, but pretty much everything else can be handled acceptably by the controller. It can be possible to get a bit lost initially navigating the UI on the PS3; it does become considerably easier as time goes by.
    Sarah McGarr
    Being able to finally log in and play Final Fantasy XIV again was fantastic, especially being able to easily level solo through questing. My favorite part was being able to have dark purple hair in the new character creation. During my time with the game, I partied with some friends and the party system was very fluid. I love seeing what people are casting right next to the HP bars, a much nicer addition to this game. As a Conjurer, my eyes are always fixed on the HP bars of the party members, so being able to quickly see which spells are being cast and such is a life saver. I enjoyed it greatly, and it reminded me of the times of old playing White Mage in Final Fantasy XI.

    As a long-time FFXI player, I'm pleased a lot of the same keyboard shortcuts from were implemented in FFXIV, especially that the F keys still target party members and mobs. The entire UI is much nicer and more user friendly than ever. I love the beauty of Gridania, and the game runs much better on my computer then Version 1.0. I haven't gotten into crafting yet, because I have never cared for it in any form, but I hear other speak positively about it. The hunting log is nice for those who simply want to go out and kill stuff, and there is a feeling of accomplishing with that. The game has ranks, so at rank one players have a list of mobs to kill. For rank 2 there are harder mobs in other locations and so forth. At level 10 you can switch jobs simply by changing your weapon, but I didn't get to try that out yet. Needless to say, I'm excited to play more.

    Spoiler: show
    Final Fantasy XIV was a disaster. I never played the original version, but from what I hear it was pretty bland and uninspired in all areas. It takes some serious gall, as well as business sense, to straight up cancel an MMO and rework it from the ground up. Square Enix has done just that with the second Final Fantasy MMO, now adding the title A Realm Reborn.

    An apt name, it seems, as playing through the various closed beta sessions over the past months has been quite a delight. Playing MMOs can be quite exciting when they're executed well. That being said, I definitely have some reservations about FFXIV: ARR; not everything was peaches and rainbows.

    The Good

    The FATE system

    FATEs aren't a new concept when it comes to MMORPGs, but they are a great way to spice up an otherwise straightforward experience. FATEs are giant event quests that anyone nearby can partake in. They pop up randomly around the map and it is up to the individual player as to whether they’d like to participate.

    FATEs fall into three categories as far as I can tell: giant monster, town defense, and kill a bunch of stuff. The giant monsters are the most enjoyable, since seeing dozens of other players wail on some huge plant monster will never fail to bring a big smile to my face.

    FATEs are always a nice change of pace when going from one quest to another. Seeing a giant monster out in the open and joining the fracas in order to take it down nails the feeling of an MMO for me. Plus, as long as you contribute enough damage, there's some quest-level experience to be gained from them!

    It truly feels like a Final Fantasy game

    Perhaps the biggest thing separating FFXIV: A Realm Reborn from other MMOs (except FFXI) is that Final Fantasy "feel." The sounds, the look, and even the story all just feel right for another Final Fantasy installment. Leveling up becomes desirable not just because it shows tangible progress through the game, but because you get to hear the fanfare. Oh my, do I love that fanfare! It always just makes me grin.

    It's hard to nail down why it feels so right, exactly. It's probably the giant crystal shards, flashy particle effects, summons, familiar character classes, and beautiful music. Hm, so maybe it's not so hard to nail down. FFXIV: ARR hits all the right notes that Final Fantasy fans will want to see in a numbered title, even if it's all wrapped in an MMO context.

    It is B-E-A-UTIFUL

    Holy crap does this game look good. I can say without hesitation that this is the best looking MMO I've ever played, and one of the best looking games I've ever played. It not only has the technical prowess to stand out, but the new-age Final Fantasy aesthetic looks as great as ever. I would seriously just stop sometimes and watch day turn into night, hoping no monster tried to attack me so I could take a cool screenshot.

    The town of Limsa Lominsa deserves a special shoutout, not just because its name is so great to say ("It's not Limsa LominSAA"), but because it looks absolutely stunning. All of the architecture is very white and most of the town is outdoors, allowing the brilliant sun to light the surfaces during the day, while the stars illuminate them at night. It is truly a beautiful sight to behold, and it really makes me want to choose a class that begins their adventure in that town just to be in it from the start.

    The story is actually interesting and grabs your attention

    I didn't think I'd be mentioning this in an MMO article, but the cutscenes and general plot of FFXIV: ARR are quite engaging. The cutscenes are, naturally, very well-done, considering it’s the work of Square Enix. As a direct benefit, these well-done cutscenes actually got me to pay attention to the big plot points in the game's story, something that most MMOs don't even try to do.

    Sure, the plot doesn't seem like it will blow anyone away, but it's an easy-to-follow and genuinely interesting story that most players will actually pay attention to thanks to the engaging cutscenes. Best of all, it stars your character! I always love seeing the dude I created inside of the game's cutscenes; it helps them to be more personal.

    The community

    The playerbase in FFXI was pretty great, and it seems as if many of those types of players have made the transition to FFXIV: ARR as well. People are just…nice. I've received many Cures when it looked like I wasn't going to make it, even when flying solo.

    This is epitomized quite well in the FATEs scattered around the map, as no level-appropriate FATE can be taken on solo. Many times I've started fighting a big monster by my lonesome with the hope that other players will join in, and I have never been disappointed. People seem to actually enjoy helping others in any way possible. Plus, there isn't millions of item-trading spam in the town chats, which is a huge relief after coming from Neverwinter.

    I don't want to say the community is as strong and loving as City of Heroes, but it's pretty darn close!

    The Bad

    The early game isn't exactly riveting

    Like many MMOs, the early game can drag on a bit. It's not until around level 15, when Dungeons open up, that the game starts to hit its stride. Playing as an Archer, almost every encounter went the same. Use the arrow that raises my chance to score a critical strike, and then use my basic powerful attack to bring it down. Newer skills like Bind and Poison arrows were nice, but were rarely needed during low-level combat.

    Positioning starts to matter for some of the advanced classes, but being an Archer just meant a lot of kiting for bigger enemies and back-pedaling for the smaller ones. If it weren't for the pretty visuals and sounds, I'm not sure I'd enjoy the combat even a little bit early on. (Then again, I may have just chosen an incompatible class for my preferences, but my hands were a bit tied; see below.)

    Advanced classes seem oh so far away

    If you told me that in order to be a Black Mage, one of the most iconic classes of Final Fantasy, I would have to get one class to level 30 and another to 15, and then complete a quest on top of that, I'd say you were a goofy goober. Yet, here we are. It's a strange decision, but I don't think it's necessarily a bad one.

    Anyway, these advanced classes take quite a while to get to. They all require one specific class to be level 30, and another specific class to be 15. So, in order to be a Bard, one of my favorite classes ever, I need to have my character be a level 30 Archer and a level 15 Conjurer. The problem is, I don't want to be an Archer, ever. I just really want to be a Bard.

    As a bit of a tangent, I really don't like that the Bard is just an Archer that sings, but whatever. I've chosen not to pursue the Bard class in open beta/release.

    This, combined with the fact that the early game is a bit slow, might turn some people away. If they just want to be a Black Mage, for example, it will take some time, not all of which is super great. There is a Thaumaturge class that is pretty much the Black Mage of the early game, but hey, people are stubborn and will stick to what they know and love.

    The FATE system

    I know I previously said that FATEs were amazing and I loved them, and I still do! But as previously mentioned, one of the types of FATEs you'll encounter just isn't at all entertaining. Killing a lot of a specific type of enemy that you see spawn in front of you is pretty dull. On top of that, you will start to see the same FATEs appear in the same locations over and over again. It got to the point where I would see a FATE on the map and know what monster would be there because that monster was always there.

    "Levequests" are the absolute worst

    As you level up, eventually you'll get the oh so lucky privilege of taking on what the game calls "Levequests" and what I like to call "oh please god no more quests." It's basically a system that allows players to take on a whole lot of uninspired and boring quests whenever they want. The majority of these Levequests are the classic "kill X of Y" quests that MMOs love so very, very much.

    The game itself has enough of these quests to border on annoying, so why would I want to talk to a separate person in order to take on more of them? Maybe they get better as the game progresses, but 90% of the Levequests I saw made me cringe just thinking about them. Occasionally there is one quest that's not half bad, but it's a diamond in the rough at that point.

    The map could be more precise

    The map in FFXIV: ARR could use some serious work. It functions well enough as an actual map, but it is absolutely terrible at directing the player where to go for quests. If the quest objective is in the area you are currently in, then it's wonderful. Otherwise, it's a bit obtuse when trying to figure out where to go.

    When an objective is in another area of the world, clicking on the Map button is supposed to show you where to go in which section of the world. Instead, it shows an overworld map and just kind of plunks down the objective marker somewhere in the general area of where you should be. It's unclear as to which section the objective is actually in.


    I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this "Reborn" version of FFXIV. I can't really believe I'm saying this, but I'm actually looking forward to paying for an MMO again. We're in the midst of a free-to-play revolution, and it's almost refreshing to know I won't be treated a second-class citizen because I'm not shelling out the big bucks.

    If I wasn't such a big Final Fantasy fan in general, I'm not sure that the game would do it for me, but all of the bells and whistles that come with the territory have almost made it feel like home.

    Entertainment Buddha
    Spoiler: show
    I, much like countless others, watched over Final Fantasy XIV with a careful eye when it was first announced. By all accounts, the release of Final Fantasy XIV, was less than stellar. The MMORPG was panned by critics and users alike and subscribers seemed to dwindle by the day. Square Enix, in the interest of saving face and delivering on the promises of an exceptional Final Fantasy based online experience, closed down the servers and went to work re-tuning the game from the ground up. Their efforts have certainly not been in vain, my time spent playing Final Fantasy XIV: A Real Reborn, has served to sway my stance on the game from one of disdain to that of an optimistic gamer eagerly awaiting the game’s August 27th release.

    Square Enix deserves serious praise for learning from their mistakes in crafting A Realm Reborn. From the moment I first logged in, all the horror stories of the game’s initial launch I had heard were thrown by the wayside. Creating a character was a wonderful, albeit time-consuming process. The level of detail that is found within character creation is definitely something to write home about. While those who lean more towards the impatient side may rush through the lengthy creation process, spending a few extra minutes fine-tuning every little detail of your avatar goes a long way in creating a character that feel exactly like it should – an extension of the player living within the world of Final Fantasy. For as much enjoyment I got out of creating my character, by the time I finished, I was ready to explore the newly reborn realm in all of its shiny splendor.

    Unfortunately for me – and everyone else raring to go, A Realm Reborn‘s first moments post-character creation have players sitting through an unskippable cutscene. This cutscene serves as the player’s first introduction to the game’s expansive world, and while it looks great, I feel as though excluding the option to skip through to the game proper might only frustrate veteran players. Those with a love for lore and a desire to really immerse themselves in the world will appreciate not only this introduction, but also the carefully crafted and implemented nuggets of lore scattered throughout the realm.

    Finding yourself swept up within A Realm Reborn is something that players should expect as soon as they get into the meat of the MMORPG. A Realm Reborn is visually stunning, featuring a fully realized fantasy world that looks both awe-inspiring and completely natural at the same time. Square Enix delivered on creating a game that graphically looks exactly like a Final Fantasy entry should. If I had a nickel for every time I stopped while playing A Realm Reborn to take in the surrounding – sprawling cities, lush forests, and towering mountains – I would surely have enough money to pay for my entire subscription fee.

    Questing in A Realm Reborn takes the elements that have made MMORPGs so popular and melds them with a Final Fantasy twist. Those who have any familiarity with MMO questing will feel right at home, as navigating game locations and quest hubs is easily managed from the game’s outset. Yellow exclamation points are par for the course when it comes to identifying quest givers, all of whom have varied and unique dialogue, which alleviates from the monotony that questing often brings.

    Completing quests, gaining experience and subsequently leveling up carries weight in A Realm Reborn. Gaining levels unlocks new skills for your character, allowing players to tackle harder challenges and even deadlier enemies. Every few levels, players will be able to further specialize their class, which is one of the games most significant features and where the game really shows off its Final Fantasy heritage. Series staples are all present within A Realm Reborn – Paladins, Summoners, Dragoons, Bards and more are all accounted for as playable Jobs that are unlocked from a character’s initial Discipline.

    One of the hallmarks of the A Realm Reborn experience is the Job system and the player’s ability to switch between various Jobs with the drop of a hat. Simply switching your equipped weapon allows your character to change classes fluidly, thanks largely in part to the game’s remarkable gear management system. Bag space is never monopolized by various class-related equipment, as A Realm Reborn features separate equipment based inventories. While this may seem like a little touch, as players progress and have more Jobs to manage, they will undoubtedly be thankful for this feature.

    For all it does right, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is still not perfect. However, many of the problems I had during my time with the game are more than likely attributed to the fact that the game is still in its beta testing stage. Player animations are exceptionally smooth – especially considering the game’s graphical prowess and the large number of players on the screen at once – but enemy monster animated often feel clunky. This is not the end of the world, but being wrapped up in a quest and fighting an enemy with jerky and awkward animations is a disservice to an otherwise stellar experience, as it can take the player right out of the moment.

    Enemy animation issues aside, the other glaring issue I encountered in my time with A Realm Reborn was the somewhat uncomfortable silence that loomed over dialogue with NPC characters. While the writing for most characters was above expectations, seeing the fully animated faces essentially miming words led for more than a couple ‘uncanny valley’ type moments. Surely, this is a kink that will be worked out before the game’s release – having fully voiced NPCs is no small task and their silence now can be contributed to Square Enix working to hammer out the finishing touches on voice work.

    With the exception of a few small gripes, my time with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was a blast. As one of the Final Fantasy faithful since I first started playing video games, seeing A Realm Reborn nearing its completion and working so well has brought more than one smile to my face. MMO fans as well as Final Fantasy enthusiasts will be able to find much, much more to love with this game than they could ever have imagined. Check your bias and fears at the door when considering A Realm Reborn, as it truly is an online experience that is not one to be missed. Set for release one August 27th for the PC and Playstation 3 (the PS4 version is planned for a 2014 release), anyone with a desire to explore, loot and level through a beautiful world in a game that blends innovation with genre-approved staples should known that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn might just be the game they are looking for.

    Spoiler: show
    By all reports, Final Fantasy XIV was an awful, awful game. I was fortunate enough to never find myself anywhere within a 50 foot radius of that monster, so I went into the closed beta for A Realm Reborn bright eyed and without the painful memories of the original with which so many others seem to be stuck. I was cautiously hopeful that it would at least be decent, but what I saw impressed me more than I could ever have expected. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is shaping up to be a great MMORPG experience for genre tragics and Final Fantasy obsessives alike (all the better if you’re like me, and fit into both categories).

    After taking a lot of time to make my character just right (there’s a lot of detail there) and sitting through a lengthy, unskippable introduction cutscene (why do these things still exist in 2013?), I was finally into the game proper. What I found looked nothing like the picture of FFXIV 1.0 painted by reviews. For starters, my map featured the ever familiar yellow exclamation marks that indicate a quest hub... that’s right, A Realm Reborn has a quest progression system that follows the genre formula to the letter, with no daily restrictions to be found.

    The widely panned leve quests from vanilla are still here, and now limited to six per day (you can save up unused ones, however), but they’ve been revamped to the point of actually being fun. Also the fact that they’re no longer the sole way to earn experience addresses a lot of the issues with the original system. On top of quest hubs and leve quests, you can also earn decent experience from random world events along the lines of “Imps of attacking the village, please save us!”, and class specific hunting challenges, which all combine to make the path to level 50 a very open one.

    One of the few good things about FFXIV, which has carried over to A Realm Reborn, was arguably its defining feature: the ability to change class on a whim, simply by changing your equipped weapon. This is facilitated by a gear set system, allowing you to switch equipment (and class, as a result) at the tap of a button. Square have also smoothly avoided the potential problem of bags overflowing with gear for different jobs by creating a separate, larger inventory specifically for equipment. Of course, it wouldn’t be a job-based Final Fantasy without the ability to carry learned skills from one class over to others; in ARR, each class has a limited number of Cross Class skill slots that you can fill with select abilities from other professions.

    Additionally, meeting certain level requirements allows you to specialise your class, gaining access to some powerful abilities in exchange for versatility. For example, the Conjurer base class is a healing/damage hybrid, while its White Mages specialisation is a dedicated healer. These specialisations are much more suited to group play, but reverting to a base class for soloing is as easy as un-equipping an item. Overall, the job change system works flawlessly - I always liked the idea of not being locked into one class, but A Realm Reborn’s approach to this has impressed me more than I ever expected.

    Crafting is also tied into the the job change system, with gathering and crafting professions having their own classes, rather than just being extra things to learn. To justify this, Square has left the old “gather materials, wait for a progress bar to fill” approach behind, instead opting for a crafting minigame. It’s somewhat hard to explain without going into a lot of detail, but it basically involves managing resources to create the best quality item you can without breaking the materials, with crafting-specific stats and skills adding some depth. It’s a surprisingly engaging mini-game, and this is the first MMO I’ve played where crafting actually feels like something that is worthwhile in its own right, rather than just a mildly tedious hobby that is necessary to get gear or cash.

    Of course, the beta isn’t without its issues, but I’m cautiously hopeful that these are just optimisation issues that will be ironed out. Most glaring are the enemy animations, which are terribly jerky and distract from an otherwise good looking game. The beta also completely lacks voice acting, despite the characters being animated for speech during most cutscenes - but I suspect that this is due to the voice recording still being in progress. It’s mildly bewildering to see but not hear people speaking as you read their words, but I don’t imagine this will be the case in the final product.

    Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is looking good - really good - and not just in contrast to the abysmal Final Fantasy XIV 1.0. I’ve enjoyed the beta a lot more than I anticipated, and am eagerly awaiting the game’s full release on August 27. My only real concern is that the game’s subscription model may turn people off from the outset, and never give the game a real chance to shine.

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    Spoiler: show
    Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – My Opinion for Closed BetaFinal Fantasy XIV was indeed known to be not the kick. So Square Enix had summarily decided to revise the entire game. In August, the revised version under the name Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn finally appear now.Here are some impressions from the closed beta phase.From old to new?Final Fantasy has always played a huge role in my childhood. Part four, five, and especially Final Fantasy VI are still my absolute favorites when it comes to Japanese role-playing games. Is reason enough for Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV disastrous time in the closed beta of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn reinzuschnuppern. Square-Enix has finally laid over backward to still make a good ff14 gil RPG.FF 14 – A Realm Reborn – 02 (Source: Square Enix)The reason why I sniffed purely in the beta, is the lack of good Japanese role-playing games that have a big fancy world and a dense atmosphere. Right here can Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn quite thick points. Although the game is not a graphical masterpiece, but the design can appear only half as bad as some graphic weakness. The whole world seems all of a piece, is alive and ready holds many moments where you stop times just to enjoy the beautiful view. The great music that was composed by Nobuo Uematso and some other talented composers, fits perfectly into the game with a.Also, the fact that at every nook and corner fan service is operated, all long nose makes for a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach. Whether music, monsters, or the design of certain armor, Final Fantasy fans will meet a lot of familiar.FF 14 – A Realm Reborn – 04 (Source: Square Enix)During gameplay Square Enix picks in most cases back to well-known. You grab a race and a class, then your ideas to fit your character and you can start the adventure. Except that the class is determined by your choice of weapon. For every weapon you donated other skills. So falls off a strict class system and you can happily try everything to find your own style of play. Running battles in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn from more or less like World of Warcraft and are a mix of car and light-Attack Action Combat deposits. That may be some gamers of games like Tera or Guild Wars 2 be lame, but I find it quite enjoyable.This way I can finally back relaxed and gamble does not always flit like a Batty at the opponent around. Moreover, it fits the old-school charm, the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn sprayed at all corners and ends.FF 14 – A Realm Reborn -03 (Source: Square Enix)Otherwise, there is just the usual. Your questet rejoice before you go, take on side quests, makes all sorts of stuff here with the craft professions and stand in different guilds. All this is not really new and certainly nothing special. However, Final Fantasy XIV has: A Realm Reborn has so much to offer now that your entertainment. In spite of the fact (or perhaps because of) that everything somehow oldschool and not enforced feels modern and innovative in the game, developed Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn at least in my eyes its very own charm.

    Capsule Computers
    Spoiler: show
    Final Fantasy XIV is the latest entry in the Final Fantasy series of Role Playing Games from Square-Enix and is also the second Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game entry for the franchise. Final Fantasy XIV 2.0: A Realm Reborn is the second version of the Final Fantasy XIV MMORPG, with the first version closing down due to the gameplay being stale and uninspiring. It’s no surprise that Square-Enix has made an attempt at correcting that mistake, and has since come out with the second official version of Final Fantasy XIV.

    When starting Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn as a returning player, you will notice that in the character selection screen there will be a server selection box in the bottom right hand corner. If you’re eligible for a legacy character, that is, a duplicate of your character from the first version of Final Fantasy XIV, then you’ll see a legacy marking on servers where your Legacy characters reside. What’s cool about this is that even if you already have a Legacy character on one server, at least in the build we played, you could still make a new character on another server.

    Speaking personally, I had two characters from the original XIV game available to me. A Miqo’te and an Elezen. After comparing the characters through screenshots, I determined that nothing had really changed about them, physically speaking. Even better, is that they had retained their levels and equipment. However, when you start a Legacy character, you’re still able to modify some values, such as starting class and other minor details.

    Once you start the game, things get a little bit stale in regards to Legacy characters. You see, at least in the beta build that we played, you’re treated to this cool cutscene where your character is fighting a dark figure in what seems to be a hallucination. However, from what I’ve played of the game, this is the same cutscene that regular characters are treated to as well.

    After this flashy cutscene of zero relevance this early in the game, you’re taken to a scene of you on a carriage ride with the character Bremondt. On this carriage ride, you meet some Moogles that only apparently special characters can see, as make some arbitrary decisions that seem to have no bearing on gameplay, or at least no evident bearing on gameplay. Also of note is that this carriage ride is exactly the same for Legacy characters and regular characters.

    Once this cutscene finishes, you’ll find yourself in Gridania (at least in the build we played). Gridania is one of the few main cities in the game and is the one located in the forest. But before you can initiate any commands, or move, you’re greeted with a popup box asking you to do some stuff. This is the same whether this is your first character or your 20th character.

    The best part about being a Legacy character is that you can equip most of your (was it 5 year old, or 200 year old?) older equipment from back in version 1.x. What was kind of disappointing was that most of your jewelry no longer carries any statistical bonuses, although your armour is about right. Now with the armour, one thing I noticed was that Legacy characters can no longer wear armour higher than their previous level. This means that for those of us wearing gear one or two levels higher in order to grow into them, you’re basically starting with a bag full of unusable items. But hey, at least you’ll be able to wear something cool it 50,000+ experiences time. While we’re on this subject, it should be noted that whatever amount of Gil you had when you left 1.x is what you start with in 2.0.

    Final Fantasy XIV is a pretty scripted RPG experience from my experience with both versions of the game. The storyline is linear and non-inclusive of other players, as well as having almost no way to move but forward in its progression. What irked me quite a bit was that everyone in Gridania kept referring to my obviously high level character as a newbie. Listen, Adventurers Guild person, I was here back when those things were crashing into Eorzea and I fought in that epic final battle. Do you really think that *I’m* the newbie. Compared to me, you’re the new one.

    One thing that I enjoyed about being a Legacy character was that it was easy to steamroll through all of the lower level storyline quests with incredible ease. This is even after the game adjusts your level down to the storyline level so that it doesn’t seem trivial. Although, it should be noted that when this does occur, you also lose access to all of the skills higher than the level you’ve been gimped down to. I expect this to annoy anyone that has their hotbar filled with only high level skills.

    Considering that you now have all of this free time from basically easy-modeing the game, you can spend it sight-seeing. What’s great about Eorzea is that a lot of the landscaping has changed. It’s actually one of the first things that players of the original version will notice. Back in 1.0, running through gridania was like running through a maze, or a Phantasy Star Online game. However, now, it is a much more open area. Although, oddly, it feels like the distance between Gridania and Uldah has been shortened. There’re more sights to see, but there are definitely either shorter, or less, areas between the two.

    During my time questing through Eorzea as both a Legacy character and a non-legacy character, I can say with certainty that the game isn’t different at all in comparison to being a regular character or a Legacy one. However, it has to be noted that this was written during a Beta-test phase where most of the content was active, but still not all of it. So this may change based on, not only player feedback, but because it just wasn’t implemented yet. However, I’m not Square-Enix, I do not represent Square-Enix and I am only stating my own experiences with this build of the game.

    Overall I’d have to say that so far into development, the Legacy character implementation is seeming like nothing more than a headstart for the players that have sunk in a lot of time on the previous version. While I understand that there is that level of attachment that players will feel towards their characters, based on what I have played so far, there is really no significant story benefit to running a Legacy character. There is only the character likeness, strengths and equipment to ride on. Start with your Legacy, but don’t expect too different of an experience to the rest.

    Spoiler: show
    Final? Square Enix doesn't know the meaning of the word. That's apparent enough from the avalanche of Final Fantasy games we've seen since 1987, but it's especially true of its approach to its last MMORPG. By all accounts--including Square Enix's--2010's Final Fantasy XIV was an abomination, a shameful excuse for an MMORPG that couldn't even pull off the simplest kill-and-fetch quest without tripping over itself. And so I tiptoed into this "reborn" incarnation of Eorzea with caution, fully expecting the world to crumble around me pixel by pixel. That didn't happen. Against all odds, it was good, and I found myself reluctant to leave when the closed beta breathed its last. But was it enough to justify such a Herculean effort? I'm cautiously optimistic.

    Rest assured, this "remake" essentially amounts to a new game--I'm reminded of Augustus Caesar's boast that he found Rome in brick but left it in marble. Concerned that FFXIV didn't embrace the franchise's lore with enough devotion? Know and rejoice that chocobos here probably outnumber the palm trees of Miami, and Magitek Armor war machines shuttle you about later into the leveling process. Limit Breaks, the group-based ability unlocks, made their appearance in the last beta, and there's even a group finder. Hated the crippling lag? A Realm Reborn features silky smooth framerates on both the PC and the PS3. Missed Final Fantasy XI's console integration? I sampled FFXIV on both the PC and PS3, and I found the latter's gamepad-centric gameplay only slightly more complicated than playing God of War. Square Enix even addressed the concerns that the original told you little to nothing about how to play--in fact, almost to a fault. Description-laden pop-ups describe even the simplest features in encyclopedic detail, and a full 30 minutes of story and introductions passed before I was able to pull out my archer's bow and shoot stuff. (While we're at it, what's with the absence of good beards in the character creator?)

    It's largely worth the wait, though, because the gameplay's actually fun now. It may be a little hard to tell what's going on in groups thanks to an overreliance on flashy abilities, but it gains much of its excitement in the simple fact that there's accessible group play in the first place. As of the last beta, there's even a group finding tool and (surprise, surprise) Limit Breaks, the group-based skill unlocks common to the series since Final Fantasy VII. Long before the first dungeons appeared around level 15, I'd experienced around 20 of the FFXIV's new "FATE"s (or Full Active Time Events) that evoke the dynamic events of Guild Wars 2 or Rift. They add yet another layer of variety beyond the surprisingly enjoyable storyline (as of yet still unvoiced), as does the welcome introductions of Final Fantasy's familiar concept of jobs--i.e., a feature that allows you to become the class corresponding to the weapon you're wielding. In short, polish and surprises await around every turn. There's no question: this is how Final Fantasy XIV should have been at launch.

    The problem for Square Enix is that that launch was just under three years ago. A seemingly small number, but that's an eon on the MMO scale. Even Rift hadn't popped up yet back then; in 2010, announcing you played an MMORPG was still almost tantamount to saying you played World of Warcraft, and the paucity of choice paradoxically created larger and stronger communities. The intervening years saw the rise and decline of Next Big Things like The Secret World, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Guild Wars 2 that both bedazzled and underwhelmed us, and countless indistinguishable free-to-play MMORPGs now peck away our nickels and dimes with microtransactions. Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 reared its ugly head in a world without the thinning playerbase such variety brings. At least it's timed right for release. It has only WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online to steal its hype for now, and both of their release dates sit firmly in an undisclosed future.

    It's the pesky payment plan that will prove the biggest hurdle. The folks behind Final Fantasy XIV have pushed so strongly for a subscription model that new lead director Naoki Yoshida insisted that FFXIV would be shut down without them. But Yoshida's reasoning seems sound. With free to play, he said in a translated VentureBeat interview, "You don’t know what you’re going to be getting, and because you don’t know what you’re going to be getting, you can’t plan ahead." Content, he believes, is more important, and I'm inclined to agree. As attractive as I find the thought of playing for free, I've come to prefer the subscription model and what I see as the generally finer and more reliable content it brings. The constant reminders to spend this or that in a game's cash shop robs games of the immersion roleplayers so eagerly crave, and the core combat content seems to lack much of the thought and creativity. But considering that Final Fantasy XIV makes few efforts to bring drastically new elements to the genre despite its polish, new features, and snazzy updated graphical engine, Square Enix will have a hard time winning over players beyond the bunch who were soured by the first go-round with this model.

    Indeed, during a brief guided playthrough with Matt Hilton, Square Enix's community manager, I couldn't help but ask why Square hadn't just scrapped the sad wreck of the original and released a new MMO entirely. There's certainly enough material here to justify it, and a new name might attract players who still recall the taint of the original's name but haven't followed A Realm's Reborn development enough to think of it as any more than an expansion. The answer I received, PR-oriented but honest, was that to let Final Fantasy XIV slip away untouched would have left an indelible stain on the Final Fantasy name. And it's true that the extent of the revision sometimes defies belief, making what I've seen of Final Fantasy XIV look like one of the most impressive apologies to a player base to date.

    That might be enough to propel Final Fantasy XIV to success beyond the launch rush. Even so, any sustainable subscription-based success will likely be a muted one--one better suited to around 400,000 subscribers (to quote Yoshida's own number from his VentureBeat interview) than to Blizzard's fabled and largely unattainable millions. As Final Fantasy XI proved, that's more than enough to deliver an unforgettable MMO experience, and the seeming restoration of the series' good name might provide the push needed to reach those comparatively humble numbers. At present, it's a standard MMORPG, but it's one with heart (and a smidge of desperation) and Yoshida's love of the genre reveals itself with every click.

    Spoiler: show
    Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn launches August 27 on PS3 and PC. VG247′s Dave Cook has been played the beta and charted his noob-like progress every step of the way.

    I’ll admit that I never played the original Final Fantasy 14, so I’m not au fait with exactly why gamers and critics hauled it over the coals, and before I started doing these Noob’s Journey blogs last year my general experience of MMOs was limited at best.

    That said, I do remember looking at a batch of pre-launch screens and thinking they were more HUD than game. If I hadn’t known better I might have mistaken the table-heavy shots for some weird fantasy DLC for Football Manager 2012.

    I was this close to getting on the phone to Sega and asking what the fuck Sports Interactive was playing at. Poor GUI design aside, I had limited practical knowledge as to why Square-Enix reeled Final Fantasy 14 back in and decided to re-make it.

    Since then I’ve tried to further my experience of the MMO genre. It started with my first Noob’s Journey blog on Guild Wars 2, a game I thoroughly enjoyed despite my initial concerns about getting addicted or having to spend many hours to get the most out of it.

    In many ways I’m starting to better understand what makes for a solid MMO experience, although I’m certainly no expert. Going into Final Fantasy 14: A Real Reborn as a long-time fan of the series brought with it all kinds of expectations, but I quickly found them to be incompatible with the turn-based console instalments. They’re quite different.

    This isn’t your regular Final Fantasy experience, but it’s certainly no slouch. I’ve spent the past week playing through Square’s beta phase on PC to try and get a handle on where the MMO succeeds and where it still needs work. This is my noob’s journey.

    Arise, Noob Journeyman

    See him above? That’s my character ‘Noob Journeyman’. He’s of Hyur descent – Final Fantasy 14-speak for ‘human’ – and because I’m Scottish I bracketed him into the ‘Highlander’ sub-race of tough, northern brutes. I’m a big fan of melee-class characters in any game that gives you a choice, so I decided that twatting things with swords was the best way to go

    After making my character I was treated to a strange cut-scene that saw Journeyman wearing brilliant armour and a crown fighting what I can only describe as a bad bastard. I should explain that Final Fantasy 14′s world of Eorzea was largely destroyed by the dragon Bahamut when Square decided to close it.

    Now, five years later, the realm has been reborn and many warriors of the old world roam the changed lands with lingering memories of their past lives in the old Eorzea. My guess is that this flash of the past is from Journeyman’s days in the old game, or maybe it’s a glimpse of the future? Fuck me this is confusing.

    Anyway, Journeyman’s quest for fame and riches began at the grand city of Ul’dah, which is A Realm Reborn’s starting point. It’s a huge hub of attractions and players that reminded me a lot of Final Fantasy 12′s capital city of Rabanastre, thanks to its grand walled keeps and cobbled roads.

    I was quickly accosted by a sneaky-looking punk called Wymand at the city gates who told me that if I wanted work I should head to the Adventurer’s Guild, so I did just that. Now, I think the term ‘adventure’ needs to be redefined in this context somewhat, because while I was expecting the guild to dispense exciting hunts and battles in exchange for XP and loot I had to first undergo an assortment of dull fetch quests.

    The next 30 minutes were spent walking around Ul’dah, ferrying objects to NPCs, putting up posters for lazy-arsed merchants, threatening people and at one point I think I irreparably broke up a squabbling couple. Journeyman was quickly becoming king of the dicks, and I didn’t like it.

    It’s clear that these initial chores are there to ease newcomers into the MMO experience, but compared to the exciting opening moments of my Guild Wars 2 play-through it was tedious and slow. I just wanted to batter small creatures into pulp, but the game wasn’t letting me. When the opportunity to abuse raccoons came, things started to improve.

    While I was walking around doing the work of sods, I was pleased to see just how busy the server was (I’m playing on ‘Bahamut’ if anyone’s interested). It was refreshing to see so many people giving Square’s re-make a chance, because despite my own impatience with the starting quests, I had no additional complains.

    The world’s visuals are solid, the typically ‘Final Fantasy’ music gave everything a charming veneer and the HUD no longer reminded me of the dreaded spreadsheet I do my taxes on every year. I didn’t have much to grumble about, but I still wonder how those who felt burned by the original Final Fantasy 14 feel about Square’s changes.

    Cactaurs versus clutter

    I know, I know. Even in the above image there appears to be a lot of HUD-chunder all over my screen, but it’s not that bad honestly, and you can even drag, re-size and minimise elements to give yourself a clearer view of what’s going on. It’s fine, honestly.

    By this point Journeyman was just past level five. I had progressed from clobbering small creatures into paste and was content fighting Cactaurs out on the Western plains of Thanalan Desert. It didn’t take long for me to properly understand have the games combat worked and this is entirely to Square’s credit.

    See, part of what put me off MMOs for so long – and I explained this in my first Guild Wars 2 blog – was that their scope and density really intimidated me. As a person who has to play a lot of games for his job, the thought of having to pour 30 hours into hitting rats before reaching level ten didn’t appeal to me.

    I was totally wrong in my fears of course, as no traditional MMO makes you grind that hard for that long. In Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn your understanding of the rules comes naturally and at a pace that neither overwhelms or confuses. Veterans of the genre might find it slow to start with but I was thankful for the chance to learn the game’s combat in such a safe, stress-free area.

    Battling itself is straight forward, with both hot-bar and hot-keys for special attacks such as combo hits, healing magic and more. It felt intuitive because of its familiarity but it didn’t do anything new or striking at the outset.

    For example, you have HP, MP and TP, which is effectively stamina used for dispensing special physical abilities. If you’ve played any RPG or MMO, you already know how all of this works. I can’t complain too much as it’s a format almost everyone readily understands, but I didn’t feel overly-enthused by the mechanics at hand.

    I also yearned for the big dynamic events of Guild Wars 2. While I was perfectly happy killing a set number of creatures to fulfil a bog-standard quest objective, I felt isolated. I wasn’t a member of a group or guild, and even though there were scores of human players all around me fighting beasts I didn’t feel part of their activity at all.

    In Guild Wars 2 you can engage in big dynamic skirmishes with about 30 other players and grab a share of the spoils. While you may never speak with those people there is always great incentive for players to get involved and help each other out. It also felt like you really were part of a big, world-consuming war, but I never felt that vibe during A Realm Reborn’s opening hours.

    While Final Fantsy 14: A Realm Reborn runs perfectly well and does everything right, it limps along slowly at the start. I’m well aware that MMOs are massive and do come with a learning curve, so for the second part of this blog I’m keen to compare my initial experience with gameplay much further on.

    So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

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    Final Fantasy XIV is home again
    For all the good things I had to say about Final Fantasy XIV's beta test, there was one negative thing I didn't say because it just wasn't fair: For all the improvements, the game didn't feel like home.

    For all the frustrations I've had with Final Fantasy XIV over the years, somehow, at the end of the day, stepping into Eorzea always felt familiar in a way that only Final Fantasy XI could match. But the first two beta phases felt, well, restricted. They were supposed to be like that, but I still found myself straining at the limits simply because there was some indefinable soul not yet in place.

    As it turns out, that soul was Thanalan. Phase 3 is importing old characters this weekend, and that will really solidify it, but testing the waters in the first weekend's test was what made me feel as if I could go home again after all.

    From a technical standpoint, the first night of the beta test went wonderfully. I had absolutely no problem logging in right away, getting my character (re)created, and starting up play. Despite being surrounded by people on all sides, I never noticed any slowdown or lag, and there was only one time that I encountered a quest that was actually buggy in some ways. The test was running amazingly smoothly, which is very much to its credit. It was also well-optimized, as even huge gatherings for FATEs didn't result in notable slowdown or overtax my machine.

    I started off with Pugilist because I wanted to see how the class had weathered the changes in the game. The downside is that Pugilist's tanking proclivities appear to be a thing of the past, presumably to give players a melee DPS option without a lance. That loss comes hand-in-hand with a unique class mechanic that makes the game a lot more fun to play as you're punching, though.

    Pugilists have three separate forms: Opo-Opo Form, Raptor Form, and Coeurl Form. Some of your attack skills require you to be in a certain form, while others simply have an additional effect in a certain form, but each one places you in a new form. The result is that you can string together long sequences of attacks that feel like combos but aren't strictly limited by only chaining off of certain skills.

    It was a different experience, definitely. All of the classes have a much more distinct "voice" now, and Pugilist's emphasis on martial stances definitely provides that, but I do sort of miss the tanking and MP-heavy nature of the class from the old days. Perhaps that can be folded into Ninjas in the future.

    The battle system hasn't changed up much, but the pacing of battle in the lower levels definitely has improved, giving characters a much wider selection of active skills in the lower levels. It's still a very skill-heavy setup, with your abilities used frequently and resources being hard to exhaust in quick fights, but having more things to do means that you get a better sense of how your resources do run down. There are at least a couple of main Ul'dah story quests that throw you into long battles without a chance to breathe, forcing you to watch as your TP and MP dwindle and to understand how to manage those pools.

    Eventually, I was able to start making my way around the world, and it's here that the game started to shine even more. Thanalan and La Noscea are both beautiful in their own way, and both are diverse without giving the impression that adjacent zones are disconnected. Traveling to Limsa meant a chance to try out Marauder (which is still a lot of fun) and to look at all of the wonderful coastal scenery.

    Adding these regions back made a big difference because it made me feel as if the game world was anchored properly. I've played FFXIV long enough that it feels wrong to have one nation without the other two, to be told that I can't just roam around at my leisure. It made the test environment feel more welcoming and more joyous even if not many of the actual mechanics had changed.

    Not to say that this test was all sunshine and light, but most of the non-light moments were personal nitpicks. I'm not fond of the fact that every guild is now actually centered around training your character, for example. Part of what I enjoyed about the guilds in the first version was the sense that these organizations had a purpose in a larger society. That place is diminished somewhat into places of learning with an ancillary function. I'm also both upset and concerned that the Marauders have taken up residence in the Coral Tower because if I don't get my guns, I will be a very sad man.

    I'm also slightly annoyed at the functionality of the Armory Chest. Conceptually, it's great, storing plenty of gear and ensuring that you can use the same piece on multiple classes if it's what works best. Functionally, though, it felt as if dragging stuff around was more cumbersome than it needed to be, and the interface was a bit clunky.

    So, you know, major issues that means the game will inevitably fail and all that.

    This weekend's test will see the return of old characters, which is very much anticipated. I'm writing this from the past, but you'd better believe I'm looking forward to getting back in the saddle.

    Final Fantasy XIV's buffet effect
    A little under a year ago, I wrote a column about how Final Fantasy XIV needs to generate a wow factor. It needs to surprise people, have something unique and special to offer. There was a lot of stuff that felt distressingly rote, and that wasn't good.

    So what's changed since then? Well... not a huge amount, honestly. There are several features in the beta that feel like rehashes of things we've seen in other games, like FATEs and quests and instanced dungeons and so forth. Yet the game is clearly generating a wow factor, something that I'm happy about.

    This week, I want to throw that previous article out completely. Just kick it to the curb. As I've been playing the beta weekends and seeing what the game has to offer, I've realized that there was something I was completely failing to embrace and consider. It's the power of the buffet.

    If you've never been to a buffet, congratulations on not being fat. But beyond that, you've never had the experience of dropping a fixed amount of money for as much food as you can toss on your plate at any one time. And you've never understood why a good buffet place is wonderful in a way that a regular restaurant isn't, even though regular restaurants actually serve you a plate of distinct food instead of trusting you to shuffle over to steam trays and spoon in whatever you want.

    The thing is, normal restaurants rely upon serving you something unique. The management isn't rolling out the Double-Wide Super Southwestern Nacho Burger just for the heck of it; it's because this is the only place you can get a Double-Wide Super whatever. Hopefully these unique offerings are actually good, since a restaurant can't live on selling Bleach-Infused Chicken with Broken Glass Breading, but the core is serving you something new.

    By contrast, the buffet doesn't care if you've had it before. The core is variety and combination. You've had french fries, you've had pizza, you've had mashed potatoes. You can't usually get all of them together. Yes, all the meals are familiar, but you can combine them however you want, and that is also valid.

    I mentioned back when talking about the early beta phases that the questing in Final Fantasy XIV is fairly standard. It's nothing bracingly unique, familiar to anyone who's played an MMO in the past several years, without any particular novelty. You click on things and kill things and talk to NPCs, and aside from incorporating minor bits of brilliance like not making you fight over clickables, it's pretty straightforward.

    The key is that it's supposed to be that way. The goal isn't to create a totally new model of questing; it's to create a series of quests that work very well in a game where you don't have to bother if you don't want to.

    After about level 10, you really can do anything you want in the game. Even before then you have a huge amount of options, with nothing forcing you to keep questing instead of filling out your hunting log or whatever, but once you've unlocked levequests and other classes, the game pretty much just lets you off the rails. Don't care about the story? Cool, here's plenty of other stuff to do, and you can come back to it whenever you want.

    Dynamic events exists. They're not the biggest thing in the world, but they're there, they work, and you can just jump in when you want to. If you don't want to, you don't lose anything by opting out. See something you want to do when you're overleveled? You can jump over, sync down to the appropriate level, and go to town.

    Want story-heavy stuff? That's in place. Want to go your own way? That's in place, too. Most of the limitations in place simply prevent any one model from being too functional rather than force you to do one thing or another in order to advance. You can easily tool around with different classes and make it to 50 as a crafter without ever having to worry about FATEs if you would rather just make things and sell them.

    This, more than anything, is what made me fall in love with FFXIV in the first place. Yes, the launch version of the game was a mess, but the fact that you could easily find yourself on a lengthy personal quest to put together a new spear was profoundly worthy. And none of that has been removed or diminished in the new version. There are challenging multi-stage battles against bosses, there are dungeons for people who like those, and there's stuff and stuff and stuff all over.

    And you don't have to pick. It's all under the same roof. You can find yourself choosing to level something completely different on two different nights while playing the same game with the same character. That's a bracing idea, and it comes back to us from other games -- some departed, some still right here.

    In other words, I was right that FFXIV wasn't focusing on unique aspects, but I was wrong in thinking that the remixed version was somehow less valuable than novelty. Most of the games we remember aren't the first ones to try ideas, just the first ones to try them with polish and panache. If creativity is a matter of combining ideas in interesting ways, I feel it's best to point to this buffet of ideas in Eorzea and marvel.

    That having been said, I still want more options for customizing my class. Come on, people.

    Believing in Final Fantasy XIV
    This week, I'm going to do something different. I'm going to talk about my wife.

    Lest anyone worry that this is the start of a Paul McCartney-esque slide into sappy sentimentality, there's good reason for this. Ms. Lady has been mentioned on previous occasions as a gaming partner and skilled roleplayer. She's not as into MMOs as I am, but she plays them a lot and she certainly knows what she likes and what she doesn't. And let me tell you, she didn't like Final Fantasy XIV.

    This is a point of view I hold against absolutely no one, but it sure as heck meant that she was not interested in the relaunch. She'd had enough of the game after the first couple of tries to break in. The relaunch had no hooks to pull her back in, no interesting features that stirred her interest, nothing but the promise of a game she'd already decided wasn't good enough to play.

    And that all changed.

    I make no apologies for liking the launch version of Final Fantasy XIV, but a lot of that was loving what it could be rather than what it was at the time. It's a discussion I've had before, but it's also one that's adjusted by the fact that I am a journalist who writes about MMOs, something my wife is not. I spend a lot of time and effort examining games, and I can easily be fascinated by something that's meant to be transparent in actual play.

    So I can rant and rave about how cool the class guilds were, but the first quest didn't come in until you hit level 20 and had been playing the class for a while. There were only two more after that. I can appreciate what guildleves were meant to do, but the darn things still just get thrown at you with no rhyme or reason or motivating factor to go to the next camp. I can appreciate the dynamics of class abilities, but that meant picking through dozens of skills that were functionally identical to other ones in a vain attempt to find the right configuration.

    More than anything, I was willing to sit through a lot of broken choices to reach a point that most other games started at. She was not, and she honestly didn't care.

    I'd mention features to her, and she'd listen and nod but then move on. Sure, housing sounds great, and yes, a lot of changes had been made before the shutdown, but as far as she was concerned it was building upon an unsteady foundation at best. The fact was that FFXIV wasn't fun, and all of the added bells and whistles couldn't change the fact that the core gameplay wasn't fun whatsoever.

    So I went to San Francisco in February. I told her that I'd let her know if the game was good, and she replied with a snort. And we all know what happened on that trip because I wrote about it in great detail.

    That got her attention because odds are good that if one of us raves about a game, the other person will like it as well. Fortunately for her, both of us had Legacy status, and that meant that when the first phase of beta rolled around, we were in the same boat as everyone else with Legacy status.

    Cut to now, when she is absolutely ecstatic about the impending release. It's the first game that's had her this fascinated since we were playing World of Warcraft together, which was many years ago now. Perhaps most curiously of all, now she almost wishes she had played the game more in its original incarnation because she sees what the game was trying to accomplish originally.

    This, I think, gets to the heart of what's changed in the game, and it's something that some of the detractors don't or won't process. For all the changes the game has endured, the core concepts of the launch version are still in place. All that's been changed is the presentation and the execution, and that makes all the difference.

    At launch, you have some choices of path as I mentioned last week. Once the game had a few patches under its belt, you had more. But even if we neglect things like the Duty Finder (which I look forward to with rapt attention), the problem was that the game didn't really go out of its way to show you where these things were or establish any sort of flow. You were still tossed out and told to fend for yourself once the opening quest stopped, the equivalent of just leaving the pieces on the table and walking away.

    The relaunch gives you the tools to slowly move through the game at a steady pace, introducing you to concepts in something of a slow roll. You aren't having your hand held; you're being shown the options and then let out in controlled environments where you have three options, then five, then nine, and so forth. By the time you can do anything, you know how to find everything. You have a picture of the world as a whole.

    It's easy to be cynical, and the game does have issues. But it turned someone who wanted nothing more to do with the game into someone who's excited to play each phase of testing, then excited to see the full game on launch. That's something special right there.

    Forced group quests in Final Fantasy XIV
    There are certain things I hate in MMOs. One of those things is a forced group quest.

    Final Fantasy XI introduced me to this idea in a roundabout way by giving every player a single quest ("accomplish something") and forcing him or her to group for pretty much all of it. I didn't need a group to walk around San d'Oria, but pretty much anything else required a full group. It made me give up on Dragoon, and it meant that I've spent most of my life feeling that forced grouping is one of the worst things that a developer can implement.

    That having been said, I think Final Fantasy XIV might have actually gotten it mostly right. Not perfect, but considering that the development team felt it was important to include these quests, I think they've at least provided us with the best possible implementation for this content. So the inclusion doesn't really bother me after all.

    Let's get something out of the way before we go any further, however: Not wanting forced group quests is not the same as wanting to play a single-player game. Final Fantasy XIV comes from a long line of single-player games; you can be fairly certain that most of the people playing are familiar with that fact. There's a number after the title, for example.

    I've written about this before, but the short version is that there are lots of reasons to play MMOs that don't necessarily correspond to being in a group at all times. Having group content is very different from having your story stop and demand that you get a group together right now to progress. Group quests are often a whole other ball of wax.

    For starters, a lot of them don't actually coincide with anything worth repeating; you'll be fighting enemies that reward only you despite needing other people with you. So you need people who either have the quest or are generous enough to do it despite that fact. Assuming you've actually assembled a group, hopefully your group is actually capable of getting through the content without a hitch. Plus, these quests are worth bothering with for only a small period of time, and no one wants to face a brick wall of content until you can manage to work around all these restrictions.

    So let's address the last point first: Hitting a brick wall in terms of content in FFXIV is really hard to do.

    I talked about this a bit the other week, but the fact is that even if you never dip into the group content of the game and thus block yourself off from further exploration of the story, you are still awash in things to do. You've got class content, you've got leves, you've got sidequests, you've got crafting, and you've got hunting logs. I haven't tried this for various reasons, chief among them being the fact that the game is not yet released, but I'm willing to bet that if you really wanted to go from 1-50 without ever grouping up, you'd be able to do so.

    Beyond that, there's the simple fact that the group quests currently in place amount to "go into these dungeons." Not "do something strange and time-consuming in these dungeons," just "go in and fight your way through." There are time limits in place, and truth be told even amateurs can clear a given dungeon in about an hour with some dawdling, less with an efficient group. This is not painful content to complete.

    More to the point, though, it's content that's meant to be experienced multiple times because it's a low-level dungeon with stuff for lots of classes and plenty of experience to earn. People will be queueing up for this even if they've already cleared the quests because there are rewards to be earned all the same.

    And even more to the point, it's still worth experiencing even if you're overleveled. If you get distracted and wind up leveling past the usual range, you can still queue up and just sync down to the appropriate level with no real loss of time or reward. Or switch to a class that is level appropriate. There's no statute of limitations, no point at which a dungeon becomes completely obsolete. That is a big change from other games, one that allows you to enjoy content at many levels without diminishing the experience.

    I keep mentioning queueing for good reason. Remember, FFXIV launches with a group finder. It would be problematic if the group content you needed to do were all quests, but the group finder (all right, Duty Finder) works effectively and lets you set up for all of the things you need to do at this point. Instead of trying to chase down a group, you have groups just waiting for you to ask in. How readily available they will be down the line is a bit more questionable, but at least for the moment they're in steady supply.

    About the only thing that Yoshida hasn't done to make grouping better is physically changing people to be more capable in group content. And I don't think that's within his power.

    Do I like having the story throw a forced grouping curveball at me midway through? Not especially. But I can recognize the thought process that goes into it. And it's done in such a way as to be as unobtrusive as possible while still giving players incentive to team up. I'm as leery of forced group quests as the next person, but this won me over most of the way.

    Final Fantasy XIV makes me happy in small ways
    Final Fantasy XIV makes me happy for a variety of reasons. Some of them I've written about, and some things make me slightly less than happy on a whole. The point is made either way: I like the game, and there's a lot of stuff to write about, a lot of big issues that easily sustain a whole column on their own.

    Not everything I want to write about does that. There are a lot of things that I think the game does right that can't be discussed over the length of a column without repeating myself several dozen times. I don't want to write that column and odds are good you don't want to read it, either.

    What I can do instead, though, is compile several of those points into a single column. I want to look at the things that I like about the game that aren't big enough to merit a whole column but are big enough to be worth mentioning

    Distinction of class

    When Final Fantasy XIV launches, it will have eight combat classes. (The sooner that number increases to include Musketeer or whatever the antecedent of Ninja will be, the better.) Two of these classes are meant to be tanks, one (possibly two) acts as a healer, and four (possibly five) are DPS. We don't know exactly how Arcanist will play out, but we do know that each class has to maintain an identity and be worthwhile when it's got some competition.

    Longtime readers know this is something that I harp on quite a bit. And I'm quite happy to say that FFXIV does a good job of making each of the classes feel distinct and playable while still retaining overall functionality, which is no small task.

    Gladiator and Marauder both have the same goals as tanks, but each one has its strengths and weaknesses. Marauder is a bit less capable of providing hard mitigation and can't block, but it hits harder and it's great at focusing in one single targets. Lancer and Pugilist are both up-close physical damage, but Lancer is more about burst combos and positioning while Pugilist maintains a steady flow of combinations and damage.

    We haven't seen Arcanist yet, but I can feel confident that it will be unique while working within the established framework of the game. That strikes me as pretty darn awesome.

    Beauty in the details

    Saying a game is gorgeous is really pointless because a lot of games are gorgeous. It's also subjective as heck, saving virtually nothing about the overall quality of the gameplay or setting or mechanics or anything else. I've seen remarkably beautiful things in every game I've played, even when the game didn't deliver on all of the promises of that beauty. It's praise without any actual meat.

    That having been said, there is a camp on hot springs with changing stalls.

    Verisimilitude is a word I throw around so much I take a five-cent hit on my paycheck every time I use it, but to me, that's a new class of gorgeous beyond just having nice graphics. There are so many little visual treats all over, little details that make the world feel like a place where people live and work. Some of them are easter eggs, some of them are graphical touches, but all of them make the game feel alive and energetic.

    I've always loved the look of the game, even back in its first incarnation. The revamped game looks to just be even more attractive in motion.

    The roleplaying community

    I freely admit this is wholly irrelevant to most of the population, but the community on Balmnug is one of the most familiar roleplaying environments for me, and having it back is a big deal to me. I look forward to getting to run around freely once more.

    Smart little touches

    Some elements of FFXIV are still remarkably archaic. There's little reason why you should be forced to drag items over from your inventory to trade them to NPCs when there are countless better ways to execute the same system. But then you run into something that's so elegant and graceful that you wonder why it wasn't done before, or if it was done before, why it hasn't been copied in every game.

    For example, while the Armoury Chest is occasionally inelegant, it's a great way to make sure that you can keep all of your equipment in the right place across multiple different classes. Then there's the way that Aethernet in the cities allows you to teleport straight to the gates if you've attuned to every location. I also love the little gauges right by each item that show you at a glance how damaged an item is and how close it is to being fully spiritbonded. And lest I forget, I'm thrilled that quests you can't yet accept are shown with a little red icon along with an explanation of when you can accept that quest.

    Oh, and the game stole Guild Wars 2's habit of making gathering nodes and interaction items unique for each player. It's used to great effect, and I approve wholeheartedly.

    Some little bits and pieces of the game still feel oddly lacking, bearing the markings of a bird that did not, in fact, descend from the same dinosaurs as every other avian. Despite that, there are just as many touches that speak of a singular vision and talent, and that just makes me happier than I can possibly explain. So I'm pleased about the game for a lot of little reasons aside from just the big ones.

    The mandatory early dungeons of Final Fantasy XIV
    You're going to be exploring at least three dungeons in Final Fantasy XIV no matter what, possibly more. Progression in the main story requires a trip through Sastasha Seagrot, the Tam-Tara Deepcroft, and Copperbell Mines. While I've talked a great deal about the ethics of including this grouping experience, what I haven't really discussed are the actual dungeons themselves, even though that's certainly a big deal.

    Let's be honest here: If this stuff isn't fun, all of the talk about the validity of forced grouping is kind of pointless. Even if you can, there are times when you shouldn't.

    Fortunately for the long-term viability of these dungeons, all three have more than just nice loot (which is apparently shared between them); they also offer a fun ride through regardless. So as you could probably infer from all of the text up to this point, let's take a gander at the first three dungeons in the game and the ones we know for a fact you have to clear right off.

    Constant, universal truths

    First of all, as mentioned, all three dungeons seem to share the same fundamental loot list, including some very nice and visually distinct chestpieces you can earn for Disciples of War and Disciples of Magic. They're worth hunting down for cosmetics or for lower-level classes, certainly. I know I saw the same aetherial weapons drop in two separate dungeons. So there's not one dungeon or another that's better for loot purposes.

    There's not one that's better or worse for experience, either; all of them are pretty excellent for that purpose. Rank 2 hunting logs generally have a few enemies in them from these dungeons, who are utterly unmissable, and every single dungeon pushed me up another level by the time I had finished. Even when I re-ran Tam-Tara and had to sync down, I got a very hefty chunk of experience in the equation, meaning that there's plenty of benefit to running something and syncing down once again.

    Most pulls at this level don't require more than basic group coordination and focus on one target at a time and so forth. I'm told that later on it's more important to order your kills, but I'm not sure how much of that is just a matter of things getting dicey if the whole party is attacking different things. Focus on one thing and bring it down.

    The layout of each dungeon is straightforward, with a couple of branching paths here and there that lead to an extra chest or two. You can argue that it's not cool to have your dungeon experience be largely a line; I have actually played through the original Wailing Caverns in World of Warcraft, so I am entirely fine with the idea that you can't wind up looping in circles for a week.

    Also, despite queueing up for each dungeon as DPS, I never had wait times of more than 20-odd minutes. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that it's a beta, perhaps it's the server, and perhaps a lot of things. The point of anecdotal data stands for those who want such.

    Sastasha: Pirates until you can pirate no more

    Was there ever a hope that La Noscea's first dungeon would be about anything other than pirates? Limsa Lominsa's entire tourism board consists of reminding everyone that pirates exist, and here we are, dealing with pirates. The quest is even called It's Probably Pirates, for crying out loud. Because pirates.

    Cards on the table: I am completely sick of pirates and have been since I was eight or so. At least Final Fantasy XIV generally portrays them as a bunch of criminal thugs who happen to be on a boat instead of lovable scamps with an organ that generates flip one-liners.

    Let's talk about the actual content of the dungeon: You have a running fight with a pirate captain which consists of killing adds, you fight a kitty and learn to not stand in things, and you don't get any really nifty mechanics until the last boss requires you to seal grates or deal with adds spawning. What it does offer is lovely scenery, with all of the Las Noscean cave brilliance mixed in with some underground dwellings, followed by a cavernous dock at the end. Pretty, but the boss fights are essentially tutorials for later stuff, and it's not until the last fight that you really get something unique if you've played MMOs for a while. But it's all very capable, and it might be the most fun to run casually.

    Tam-Tara: Oh, right, squid-faces are a thing in this franchise

    Unlike the other two dungeons, Tam-Tara really doesn't have much of anything going for it. Its bosses are repetitive, the scenery isn't terribly attractive, and the mechanics of even the last fight are pretty mediocre. That being said, it's still a good dungeon -- it's just the weak link in the trifecta, that's all.

    The point of the dungeon is that you're trying to break through to the center of this underground tunnel system to stop a ritual, but because the whole thing is laid out in a linear fashion, you can't possibly miss any individual part of this. Most of the boss fights consist of focus-firing down several things before dealing with a tank-and-spank boss, with the sole exception being the end boss. That's a bit more involved, as he periodically becomes invincible and summons a mass of enemies that need to be dropped with area damage quickly.

    It's fun, but it doesn't light me on fire, even with the benefit of no pirates.

    Copperbell: The finest gimmickry Ul'dah can offer

    If the mechanics in the first two dungeons struck you as kind of pedestrian, good news: Copperbell doesn't play like that. Copperbell Mines offers three boss fights that are the very definition of gimmick fights, along with some wandering pulls that require the group to really be on the ball. Really, being on the ball is a constant requirement in here, and while it's not brutally difficult, an uncoordinated group will wind up wiping a few times.

    The first boss is pretty simple, but first you have to contend with a full gauntlet of enemies, meaning you need to keep your resource expenditures in check so you've got gas left for the boss. Second fight is all about bombs, splitting slimes, and beating up spriggans. By the time you get to the last boss you're in a two-way race to kill adds before they break down a wall while still putting out damage on the boss, something made significantly harder when the other DPS doesn't bother listening to the announcement of more adds.

    I might be bitter.

    Copperbell isn't ridiculously tough, but it does ask you to be on the ball and an active participant in the game, and it mixes up dungeon strategies a fair bit. I'd like to see more stuff along these lines, an emphasis on understanding mechanics instead of just raw numbers.

    Spoiler: show

    Spoiler: show

  3. #3
    Sandworm Swallows
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    Good to see positive reviews on it. I know Gamebreakertv is making a channel for it apparently starting today.

  4. #4
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    Just wanna take this time to thank you 6souls. Your hard work is always appreciated.

  5. #5
    The Defense is ready, Your Honor
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    Well done, as always, 6souls. The gaming section would be nothing without your updates.

  6. #6
    Relic Shield
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    Nice work, I was looking for something like this. Definitely gonna spend some time checking these out later tonight.

  7. #7
    But I don't want my title changed
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lucavi View Post
    Well done, as always, 6souls. The gaming section would be nothing without your updates.
    My thoughts exactly.

    Thanks, 6souls.

  8. #8
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    Here's another you can add, done by one of the Yogscast crew. Full video coverage apparently with SE's permission.
    Youtube Link

  9. #9
    A. Body
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lucavi View Post
    Well done, as always, 6souls. The gaming section would be nothing without your updates.


  10. #10

    Quote Originally Posted by Savanah View Post
    Here's another you can add, done by one of the Yogscast crew. Full video coverage apparently with SE's permission.
    Youtube Link
    Thanks, great introduction for people like me who haven't been in beta yet.

  11. #11

    Adding to the 6souls thanks. Your hard work is appreciated.

  12. #12

    Sweaty Dick Punching Enthusiast

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meresgi View Post
    Good to see positive reviews on it. I know Gamebreakertv is making a channel for it apparently starting today.

  13. #13
    D. Ring
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    Sometimes I like to watch those sorts of things to see what all they get wrong, but he just kept saying "X" "I" "V" instead of... anything else, saw it was an hour long, and just closed it down.

  14. #14
    Black Mage
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delirium View Post
    That's pretty promising too. He would have been super happy with 500 viewers but got like 2500.
    Also, them doing a channel is in itself a good sign considering how much Gary hated v1.0. Was an ongoing gag where he'd toss his CE box across the room before other shows & he even shattered the disc I think. Lol

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