Does the Final Fantasy XIV experience change greatly once you have a group of like-minded individuals to share the game with? Find out in this week's installment of the Final Fantasy XIV MMO Log.
Kotaku's MMO reviews are a multi-part process. Rather than deliver day one reviews based on beta gameplay, we play the game for four weeks before issuing our final verdict. Once a week we deliver a log detailing when and how we played the game. We believe this gives readers a frame of reference for the final review. Since MMO titles support many different types of play, readers can compare our experiences to theirs to determine what the review means to them.
Welcome to week three!
Tuesday, October 5, 10:00PM Eastern - Like A Frightened Bunny
In my first Final Fantasy XIV MMO Log I played solo, pledging to join a linkshell (the Final Fantasy equivalent of a guild) the next week. In my second log, I again spent a week playing solo, once more pledging to find a linkshell, going as far as to make sure everyone knew my character name and server.
So of course, on Tuesday night after the post went live, I was bombarded by private messages from total strangers. Thanks to my tenuous grasp on the Final Fantasy XIV chat system, many of you sent me friendly messages, asking me if I wanted to join your groups.
I was completely overwhelmed, so I did the only thing I could do.
I did a bunch of levequests, which made the text fly by so fast I couldn't respond to anyone.
If anyone tried to contact me on Tuesday night and got no response, I was busy killing moles, marmots, and those annoying stick-legged spindly things.
Then I discovered a fun fact about running Final Fantasy XIV on my laptop. On my desktop, alt-tabbing out of the game while in full screen mode kills the game, while windowed mode is fine. On my laptop, sneezing kills the game. Pressing the keyboard too hard kills the game. Thinking about Italy kills the game. Watching recorded episodes of Top Chef on your television's DVR kills the game.
At around midnight I decided to put my playing on hold, and sleep like a normal person — holding a giant stuffed frog my fiancée got for her birthday.
Wednesday, October 6, 11:00PM - I Get Oogled
Not only did I receive a lot of in-game message, I also got several emails from friendly folk inviting me to their linkshells. One was from a group called Oogle, which has a lovely little website over at GuildLaunch.com and will probably get very annoyed at me for posting that link, inviting the internet to come look.
It's their fault for inviting me.
The leader of the linkshell, a fellow named Dai, seemed nice enough, and he was in the same camp I was in. That's an important thing, because you can't just teleport around willy-nilly in Final Fantasy XIV. Porting takes anima, and when it runs low, you're stuck walking.
So out of curiosity and convenience, I became a member of the Oogle linkshell. Suddenly I had a nifty little shield next to my name, letting everyone know that I enjoyed shields.
The first benefit of a linkshell is having green chat on the side of your screen. This chat can range from tiny arguments to funny comments, requests for help to offers of aid. You might not always be involved in the conversation, but it's nice to know you've got a group of people who won't be taken aback if you join in.
Dai and I actually spent a good thirty minutes trying to find each other. Camp Drybone was terribly crowded, and the way Square Enix handles crowds is to make only the few people closest to you immediately visible. This makes for some entertaining attempts to find someone standing right next to you.
Dai ran past me at least three times before we finally linked up.
Suddenly I was a member of a family in the game, but by the time it all came together it was close to 1AM, and I had work in the morning. I headed off to bed, eagerly anticipating doing linkshell-related activities the next day.
Thursday, October 7, 9:00PM - Rape, Loot, Pillage, and Burn
Here is your average combat-based levequest in action:
They don't really take that long solo. Sometimes your targets will run away at the last moment, guiding you to a new group of creatures, or the time it takes to get to your targets will run long, but generally this is what you get; quick, easy-to-handle missions.
Things get a bit more chaotic when you add linkshell mates to the mix.
I logged on this afternoon prepared to run the few levequests I had and then do some crafting, but it turned out several members of my linkshell had levequests in the same location, so we grouped up.
After fifteen minutes of travel, organization, and the odd bathroom break, we had a party eight strong, ready to take on the world, or a group of dodos.
We took turns initiating our levequests. When a player starts a levequest, they are given a choice of five difficulty levels, ranging from one star (solo) to five stars for a full fifteen-person party. Since we had a pretty strong group, we five-starred all but the most difficult levequests.
We tore through monsters without any real regard for tactics. It was extremely difficult to target creatures with seven other players trying to get in their whacks. One of my linkshell mates suggested a macro that targets the closest non-player being, but I'm too busy hitting things with my axe to make note of it. I should probably do that later.
We burned through everyone's levequests at Camp Drybone and moved on to Camp Horizon, where some of the higher level players had levequests. These were much more difficult, and we had to keep the difficulty at around three stars. Even then I died multiple times, and the rewards seemed to scale downwards for the lower level players.
All in all we spent about three hours doing levequests, with a short break to visit the city of Ul'dah proper and an ill-conceived attack on a higher level creature that could have taken me out three times with the damage it caused in one strike.
Still, it was a good group, and each death came with laughter - there's no real death penalty, other than a temporary debuff.
I went to bed feeling really good about Final Fantasy XIV, thanks to my newfound friends.
Friday, October 8, 9:00PM - Taking A Break
I stopped by my brother's house late in the evening to help him through a tough portion of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West on the Xbox 360. I went home at 2AM. No FFXIV for me tonight.
Saturday, October 9, 1:00PM - I'm On A Boat
Remember that axe I was trying to make last week? Turns out the recipe requires a ridiculously high level item, and an NPC in another city sells the same axe for a modest sum. Screw crafting. It was time for a magical journey to the land of Limsa Limosopapilla.
That's not the real name of the city. I just never say the correct name. I can't even type it. Correct me all you like in the comments, and it will do nothing. Limsa Lollalimpsa will forever be beyond my reach.
Thanks to my linkshell friends, I learned that there is a ferry that travels between the continent I started on and Lonesome Linswalla. After a teleport to Camp Horizon and a short run to the shore, I was standing on a pier.
Then the boat came, and I mistakenly told the linkshell "I'm on a boat!"
The song lyrics fly for two minutes. On Teamspeak the linkshell leader chastised me. "See what you've started?" he asked.
Of course I did. It was beautiful. That is what a social MMO is all about.
The boat ride was uneventful. I asked the NPC steering if I could drive. He didn't respond. I begged. I pleaded. I ran about the deck like a madman. After something like 10 or 15 minutes, we zoned into Linseed Loretta.
I found my axe, made my purchase, and ported back to Ul'dah.
"You should attune to the crystal while you are there," said my linkshell leader. "So you can teleport back later."
Lesson learned and note, I ran to the adventurer's guild to pick up a couple of levequests, only to find they are all out.
That's the problem with playing with a large group. There are only a set number of levequests you can do in any one location per week. Once you burn through them, you need to move on to other places. Like Lamba Libido, the city I forgot to bind myself at.
Edit: I have been informed that the set number is eight, and it resets every 36 hours. Silly me.
Or Gridania, the forest city to the north, only a short 30-minute run from where I was.
The map of the area surrounding Gridania is a ridiculous lattice of twisting green pathways, but I finally made it there.
I completed a few levequests, much like the ones in Ul'dah only more verdant, and call it a night.
Sunday, October 10, 7:00PM - Meanwhile, Back in the Story...
The quest that began when I first created my character picked up again once I hit level 10 in my main profession (Marauder), so I decided to spend Sunday night advancing the quest line.
I don't want to spoil the story for anyone, so I will keep this short.
The man who died in one of the earlier MMO logs was carrying important information, and the key players are considering using the dark arts to return his spirit to his body so they can obtain it.
Also, I am adorable in cutscenes.
The story was slowly building into something interesting, and I was glad I stuck around long enough to see how it progressed. Hopefully I will make it to level 15 to check out the next chapter.
The Story So Far
I feel like I am getting somewhere, but the buildup is very slow.
Every time I log in and play it feels like I'm working towards something, but I'm still not quite aware what that something is. Will the story get really good? Will my skills suddenly be in demand? Will my linkshell break out into song again?
And about that linkshell. What a great group of people. I'm normally hesitant to group up with total strangers, but this worked out really well. I'm enjoying my time with Oogle, even if they can't resist being on a boat.
Now I've only got one week left. I'm feeling a little sad that my time is coming to an end, though I can't tell if I'll miss the game or miss the people when upcoming projects begin to compromise my time.
We'll find out next week.