Final Fantasy 14 - Review Revisited at the One Year Mark
by Matthew F. Hibben
One year ago Square Enix (SE) released their next generation MMO Final Fantasy 14 to what was a very rocky start. SE over the past year has released several patches to help address many of these problems as well as add content and direction for the game. This week's Game Tech article explores the myriad changes that FF14 has undergone.
In the Beginning
A year ago I started playing and reviewing FF14. My review at the time was largely positive, running on assumption that many of the problems I encountered would be addressed in short order. Many problems that plagued FF14 at launch have been addressed, in fact most of them have, but this transformation from rocky beginnings to reasonably polished, have taken nearly a year to realize. To be fair SE has had to deal with the adversity of massive earthquakes and a restructure of the development team.
Rewinding the clock to last October and thinking in terms of what first struck me as problematic with FF14, there was the dreadful delay to do anything within the game. This delay of game play took the form of endless confirmation commands, client/server side communication issues, and general delay in every action the player took.
Now these issues have all improved, some more dramatically than others. Most actions now are very responsive, and SE is doing a pretty good job of moving away from confirmation commands.
New Features at the One Year Mark
At release, the content for FF14 was the grind. Players back in October of 2010 could do one thing and one thing only for the most part, and that was to grind levels (once called ranks). This departure from grind centricity to actual story based content has been evolving every patch since the game's release. For story based content there are now close to a hundred quests and missions players can partake of, as well as dozens of Notorious Monsters (NM's) to conquer.
With the last two major patches SE has also released instanced dungeons. There are now 3 instanced dungeons players can overcome as well as 3 new outdoor dungeons called strongholds. These dungeons and strongholds give players a place to learn more advanced group play as well as gaining sought after loot.
Travel in Eorzea has changed dramatically over the past year and specifically over the last patch. Patch 1.19, the latest content patch, added two new forms of travel for players. Chocobo mounts as well as airship travel are now available to players.
Players can now partake of FF14's most iconic forms of travel. Chocobo mounts are available to rent for a small amount of Gil, or can be obtained permanently through the player's respective Grand Company. Airships are a mode of travel linking all of the major cities and tickets between cities can be purchased one way for Gil. Developers have also stated that more types of mounts and chocobo breeding are in the works.
In addition to the new travel changes are the addition of FF14's first factions, the Grand Companies (GC). Each city has it's own GC and each player can only belong to one GC. Players can undertake story based missions as well as repeatable missions called "Leves" that increase the players currency and standing within their respective GC.
Many new changes to crafting have also come about in the latest patch. Many new and difficult recipes have been added as well as the debut of the materia system. The materia system is a way for players to augment there current gear with what is called materia. Materia is basically the distilled essence of a player's gear that has been transformed into a jewel like object. These materia can then be forged into other pieces of gear through what is called Melding.
Melding one materia into gear has a 100% success rate, and also requires the use of what is called catalyst. Catalysts are gathered by DOL (Disciple of the Land) jobs once a quest is completed and the ability Fingerprint of the Gods (FOTG) is equipped.
More on Materia
Materia is a new system that allows players to upgrade there gear in powerful ways. Players are able to attach more than one piece of materia to gear, once they have attached a number of pieces of materia and acquired an upgraded set of materia tools. The chance for attaching multiple materia drops dramatically though, but there are some tips to increase these chances. High quality items increase their chance per each level of HQ. Meaning a +2 item would have a higher chance of success than a +1 item and so on. The order of materia inserted into gear also matters. The best success rate I have found for attaching materia is to go from rank 3 to rank 4 materia of different types. The final element that I have observed is that qualities of materia within a rank also affect the outcome, better quality materia within the same rank will decrease the chance for success.
What the Future Holds
Recently SE released a large amount of developer information on the direction FF14 will be taking. It seems over the next year many exciting things will be unfolding within the world of Eorzea. Advanced classes called the Job System will be coming out, the redesign of Eorzea exteriors, and siege battles, are some of the highlights that will be unfolding this coming year. I have looked over these documents and while impressive to say the least, I worry about the time table to execute them.
With all of these latest changes as well as the new changes announced, SE has decided to commence billing. Over the past year billing has been suspended indefinitely while the game was remade. This announcement has been met with mixed responses from the player community. On one side, SE needs to make profit in order to fund the changes planned for the game, on the other, should players pay for a game that still feels like a late beta? Only time will tell how this decision plays out.
Gameplay Video of the Changes to FF14