Beta phase 4 came and went without a hitch. Seemed very much like how phase 3 was, so I was glad to get it over with before too long. I don’t think I could have survived another three “weekends only” weeks of testing with down time for debugging. As the development said, they were waiting on release until people said “enough already, the game is just fine.” And I feel they met that goal with all the plans leading up to the August 27th release.
Of course for me the biggest excitement on Phase 4 wasn’t so much the addition of the voice acting, or the arcanist class, or the housing system. The most exciting part of phase 4 to me was knowing that the data we had would carry over into the final release of the game. That being said, I actually enjoyed it more this time knowing my works would not be in vain.
My first stop was the character creator – which was cake. I had already downloaded and tested the benchmark tool multiple times in the past few weeks, and I had my character all set and ready to put into the game. However, I did do a last minute hair style change, which I think looked pretty good. I gave myself some face paint, kissed my old look goodbye, and launched myself into the trusty ol’ Balmung server to continue my long awaited journey.
Of course with everyone else being an arcanist, I just had to try it myself. It was cool, and a well built class – but I didn’t like having to be the same as everyone else. (so many carbuncles running around @_@). My next-lowest class was a level 16 marauder. I decided to tough it out with arcanist until level 16 (so I could put the low-level content to use) and then try marauder.
Arcanist itself played out a lot like conjurer (a couple attack spells and a cure spell in the beginning) but also the ability to summon a pet (carbuncle) to fight for you. The pet had its own pet command bar (similar to pets in WoW) and you could stand back and issue commands to your pet, and then fight alongside it. I liked using the technique with having carbuncle take all the damage while I cowered in the background and attacked with spells. Seemed to work very well. Carbuncle was pretty self-sufficient and had a good AI set to it, so I didn’t bother with using all the commands on the pet bar. In fact, I would rather just hide the pet command bar somewhere and never use it, but alas people like having their options.
To be honest, I never did like marauder in the previous version of FFXIV. That’s why I stuck with my magic classes and didn’t tough combat classes. But as it was my only other option in Limsa Lominsa at the time, I switched to it for something to do. And I was very happy with the results. The skills at level 16 were just enough for me to get to know the class and play around with some abilities and get a real “bloodthirsty tank” feel. In 1.0, marauder felt like it was “all bark and no bite” with having a high defense but very low attack. In 2.0, I can now deal decent damage and be more self-sufficient with curing abilities like Bloodbath and some defense boost and critical hit enchancement abilities that can be activated when really needed.
During Phase 4 I did manage to unlock most of the map around Limsa Lominsa and travel to the three main city states via the airship. I finished the storyline up to level 15, unlocked guild abilities for ACN and MRD (axe throw is sweet), and traveled out to the NPC that teaches us to dye our gear. The graphics in 2.0 were a bit lacking compared to 1.0 – but the lighting and environments make it well worth the tradeoff. Everything feels very real and solid compared to the lifeless and transparent feel of FFXIV 2.0.
I only have two gripes I came across so far. The first being the voice acting in 2.0. I know people wanted voice acting, and I know SE did a great job picking out people to act out scenes. The problem is that the game was built before the voices came into play, so they had to cram in audio without taking away or messing with what was already there. This isn’t easy to do when the dialogue was made without voice acting in mind. Having to match every voice with every text box and caveat of excitement as it is spelled exactly, trying to hold emotion while having to manually advance each block of text – it just doesn’t work well. I’d rather they record the dialogue and add subtitles so it would play though in its entirety.
Secondly I don’t like the armor colors. I know it sound petty, but I just don’t like the idea of people running around in mismatched gear looking like clowns. I like having the option to change colors, but I don’t like default gear issued to be so colorful. If I am running around with a blue pot helmet, a black harness vest, yellow pants, and green shoes – it just looks silly. I noticed a lot of the reward gear for quests or gear bought from NPC’s defaults to very bright and vibrant colors that do not match. So many adventures dressed up in thigh-high yellow boots and a mustard green shirt with a red hat is just too much.
Anyway my gripes are very minimal with the game so far. I can’t wait for early access this weekend and the game’s release this coming Tuesday. I think it will get some pretty good reviews. While this game does have some similar elements to many of the MMORPG’s out there today, it doesn’t feel at all like a rehash or a redo of everything we’ve seen before. The classes are unique and exciting to play, the graphics are amazing, the lore and story are unique, and there is so much content to experience and unlock. I can’t wait to see the reviews that come out, and I can’t wait to start playing this game and following all the new content, expansions, news, stories, and adventures seen in FFXIV for years to come.