Final Fantasy XIV
It was our last game of the day yesterday; worried and wearied we stepped into the exclusive behind closed doors access are to Square-Enix’s behemoth forthcoming MMO Final Fantasy XIV. Wearied because E3 is, how can we put this… nackering, and worried because, let’s be frank, MMOs don’t tend to come across well during thirty minutes of hands-on. We reckon we played 0.00000001% of the game as a whole.
First off we created a character. We tried quite a few variations from slender ladies to bearded men, but there was simply no way we could get our creation to look like anything other than androgynous gay man. That’s the JRPG way. Still, if you don’t mind that, and we definitely don’t, having played this genre for the best part of two decades, they all looked pretty cool if anime is your thing.
Next we were taken through the interface. Very standard stuff in actual fact. MMO fans will be instantly familiar. Sheathe and unsheathe your weapon and you can run faster or slower, be ready or unready for battle respectively. We were using a mouse and keyboard in this instance and so highlighting targets was a simple case of clicking, then moving your character within range to attack.
In the demo section a vast array of combat moves cheerfully adorned the lower taskbar area of the screen. Next to our target was the its health and battle gauge and our own stamina gauge. Within our stamina gauge was a smaller bar which represented the stamina cost of pulling off the next attack we’d selected; different attacks, buffs and so on require different amounts of your stamina, which recharges in realtime.
Pretty early on in any fight, you’re going to run down your stamina bar, especially if you need to use buffs to get the upper hand on the enemy. From there on in attacking and defending becomes a largely turn-based affair, allowing you to carefully choose your next tactic while your stamina recharges. Some people may find all this stat-paced, slow, plodding battling boring, us? We absolutely love it. It’s MMO battlechesss and we can’t even tell you how relieved we are that it functions in this way.
It was near impossible to get a sense of scale of the world of Final Fantasy XIV since the entire demo quest took place in some rather lovely caves. It involved chasing huge armoured crabs (Giant Enemy Crab!) and to do so we were teamed up with three other journalists taking the roles of other character archetypes. We were a warrior class, but there are magic, priest and all the usual variations of tank, DPS and battle support available.
But here’s the rub; the game is beautiful. This is something that always irks us about MMOs in general. Almost unanimously on PC, MMO developers tend for the most part to allow for the lowest possible denominator when it comes to your PC’s configuration. They want Johnny Skint to be able to play their MMO on his three year old laptop and while there is a sliding scale, catering for these types of players ultimately means that during the development stage very little of the overall budget is spent on making sure those in the higher echelons of PC specification get the eye-candy they paid for.
No such worry with Final Fantasy XIV. It’s primary format is PS3 and it’s with an eye on that kind of power that the game has been created from the ground up. And, we can exclusively reveal that the game will most likely find its way into the hands of players with the option to switch into 3D, should you have the necessary gear. Sitting lonely and unloved in a dark corner of the demo area was the game running in 3D on a PC. When quizzed about this, our man from Square-Enix told us that they were conducting a feasibility test. Hmm.
Later, during our interview with Square Enix’s Vice President Of Software Development, Hiromichi Tanaka, we asked him about it and he told us via translator that “because it’s an MMO, it’s very important to be IN the game. 3D really adds that aspect to your gaming experience.” Take what you will from that, but we would say that’s a near-certainty that it will be arriving in 3D. Sony is pushing hard to be the world leader in 3D gaming and when you consider how massive FFXIV is for them, two and two most definitely make four.
Overall, we were hugely impressed with Final Fantasy XIV. Though, it slightly terrifies us how much of our lives may be scooped up by its very existence in the future. Ah well, another year another game.