The Bird is the Word! Exploring the Realm Reborn Anew

Over at Party Business, an MMO blog I only recently discovered and that you should check out, Kunzay talked about getting his Chocobo and what he’s generally up to in FFXIV. Having only just completed the Chocobo step of the main storyline myself, I can say that I haven’t been this satisfied unlocking a mount in an MMO for a good while –

Sylberry all psyched on her new Chocobo!

Sylberry all psyched on her new Chocobo!

It’s true that FFXIV makes you work for almost everything: unlocking mounts, dyes, cosmetics and more. Nothing comes for free, except for that very generous bagspace – someone at Square Enix must really hate bags in MMOs. That’s okay though because thus far, all of the perks are reasonably attainable for the normal player and usually tied to the main storyline, anyway. It gives me satisfaction to unlock new features as I go and I’m already knee-deep in the multi-classing system which has always been this franchise’s big forte.

I don’t know what endgame will hold and I’m in no rush to get there; endgame is made for achievers, not explorers such as myself. This is the good time right now, this is my time in a new MMO when there’s still a vast, strange world to explore and so much to see and smell and listen to. For me and my kin, MMOs tend to get smaller and smaller the closer we move towards endgame, not bigger. I do not wish to complete this part of the journey.

The world is beautiful (new gallery!) and the story is well-told. It puts a wide smile on my face whenever I meet old friends or hear familiar tunes, like the time when I embarked on my first airship journey and parts of Liberi Fatali from FF8 played in the background. I even love learning the lore of the three different cities and main factions, granted the quest text and speech bubbles get a bit too much at times. You can tell that storytelling and world building are SE’s bread and butter – if they can’t do this type of stuff, who can?

On Immersion in A Realm Reborn

I’ve been debating if FFXIV:ARR suffers from its loading screens between zones as opposed to more persistent worlds such as Azeroth or Tyria; I’ve come to the conclusion that this is not really the case except for the loading times inside cities that get somewhat tedious. Eorzea for one, shares the virtue of a very life-like and authentic topography with LOTRO, whose wilderness and nature are second to none in MMOs. Even majorly important and too often overlooked aspects of immersion, such as scale and sound effects, come close in FFXIV where a forest sounds like a forest and thanks for that. Ul’dah or Limsa Lominsa aren’t quite Bree, yet they don’t feel as anachronistic and oversized as Divinity’s Reach and offer the more interesting and fun “NPC life” by far. Furthermore, SE employ a neat little trick to make outdoor zones feel more connected: even when you approach zone gates, you can in fact see the adjoining zone. It’s a very effective illusion and example of how small things can make a big difference to how big the world feels to the player.

Eorzea’s day-night cycle is somewhat frequent which allows players to enjoy the changing light conditions which, along with the weather effects, are pretty spectacular in FFXIV. When it’s not foggy, cloudy or sunny, there are at least three different stages of rain I’ve experienced so far, from a misty drizzle to a soaking curtain and windy gush (leaving your clothes all glossy wet). What I will say is that the transition phases I love so much aren’t celebrated the way they deserve: dawn and dusk happen far too quickly for my taste but this is hardly a make or break criteria.

Will the rain ever stop?

Nasty weather in FFXIV

If I have one big gripe where immersion is concerned, then it’s the invisible walls in FFXIV that seem so random. There’s rocks you can jump onto, hills you can climb and edges you can jump down from and then, there’s those where you can’t for no discernible reason. There are caves you can stand in front of and gaze inside but never enter for that invisible hand keeps pushing you away. Now to clarify, this issue isn’t nearly as big as in games such as Witcher 2 which boil down to “generously railroaded wilderness”; for the most part FFXIV is perfectly traversable. However, that just makes the random, invisible walls stand out all the more.

Last but far from least, the music deserves a special mention: I don’t know why I came to Masayoshi Soken’s work so late (maybe because the entire soundtrack is such a royal pain to acquire) but the music for A Realm Reborn is nothing short of delightful, an incredible companion to my adventures in the field. Nevermind the heavy-handed and complex multi-phase pieces for the primal battles which players seem to upload more than anything else to youtube – it’s the city and town tunes where it’s at, the zone music and battle themes. Right now, the FFXIV soundtrack makes up 50% of the reasons why I am playing and having such a great time, so really check it out sometime and let me leave you with three of my favorite tunes for the day!

17 comments

  1. I love your screenshots. :) I totally agree about the music, as well as the ambient sounds – so gorgeous. Have you experienced a lightning storm yet? I think that may be my favourite.

    I think some of the invisible walls may be leftovers from the first incarnation of the game. Aside from the half a million reasons why the game was so unplayable, one of my pet peeves were things like a tiny ridge in the landscape which was ankle-high on your character and yet you still couldn’t jump over it. :D

    I still love this game so very much.

    1. Ohh yes, I forgot the lightning storm! :)
      And that would make a lots of sense, I was wondering if this isn’t some 1.0. baggage. Would be nice if they still improved this issue.

  2. The Primal music is probably the best VGM I’ve heard in any MMO. Garuda’s theme definitely made our first go of attempts at her more enjoyable despite wiping 14 times in a row to her.

    1. There’s few I like but generally speaking, I find them to be overhyped – not in the sense that they’re ‘bad’ but they’re fragmented and really work best ingame when doing the encounter. They’re technically interesting but esthetically, soso. ^^

  3. You are having *exactly* the experience in FFXIV I did. Unfortunately I found it only lasted until about the mid-30s. By then the visuals had lost the extreme impact they’d had when they were fresh, the storyline seemed to be going on a bit and it all started feel quite like the parts of old Everquest that I don’t remember with rose-tinted glasses.

    It’ll be interesting to see whether you find the luster stays on longer than I did. Those major, significant, achievable milestones like the chocobo mount seemed to dry up in the mid-levels and the game began to feel more like work than play. I am 100% certain I would have played longer had the gameplay been easier, by which I mean less restrictive and less tedious. It’s a fantastic environment but I need either more freedom to explore or more entertainment while I grind than FFXIV seems willing to provide.

    1. Yeah am waiting for the dreaded 30ies and cross my fingers it won’t be like LOTRO’s 40ies, that’s all I can say atm. Am also trying not to level too many different classes because it seems very tedious to me to have no quests left and only grind leves and fates and dungeons for more exp.

  4. All the little details in this game are so lovingly crafted, from the NPC chatter to the ambiance in various areas that are worth turning the music off to enjoy from time to time. On paper FFXIV is not a breakthrough innovation in MMO design, and I should be in the category of MMO-vets who have seen it all and is perpetually dissatisfied with such fare, but instead the game grabbed onto me back in open beta and I’m still playing it regularly and loving it. I really enjoy the boss fights for the primal trials and raids, too.

    The end of this month will also herald the addition of FF7-style Chocobo racing and FF8’s Triple Triad card game, which I am -inordinately- excited for. =P

    1. I am looking forward to the expansion even if I’m so far behind. :) That’s the upside of starting late, I guess, lots of things to do!

  5. There’s something about Asian MMOs that always make worlds feel smaller to me. I think it is the invisible walls. While many do succeed and making things look bigger, they still have trouble not being linear walk-ways. I readily admit that may just be my bias speaking, as Asian RPGs in general aren’t very open compared to their Western counterparts, but it is a feeling I rarely shake.

    1. JRPG vs. western RPG is two different worlds entirely. JRPGs are traditionally about linear narrative and following a hero’s story, without actually being the hero so much. Quite often they offer roundbased combat. Western RPGs have all the character development early on, customization even, and more open world approach and active combat styles. So yes, very very different.

      MMOs on the other hand have no right to be like JRPGs imho; the railway experience and finite storylines are detrimental to world building and longevity. It might actually even affect social mechanics more.

  6. Hi there and thank you for the link & recommendation!
    FF XIV is a really nice game; i too like it when you unlock stuff as you go- it gives the player something to look forward to in the early and middle game. I don’t know if i really like it being tucked into the main story, though. For instance, i thought the retainer came very, very late in the story. The first crafting profession with level 10 is also a bit late, in my opinion, because it takes some time to get there.

    And don’t get me started on the mandatory dungeons! Granted, they’re not long, but i remember hesitating a week or so to even launch the game knowing that i had to do those before getting the retainer. These are also reasons for not (yet?) rolling an alt on some server where i might find fellow bloggers on.

    The maps? The zones are beautifully crafted, i agree. But similar to Age of Conan, i can’t seem to get a grasp on the world; don’t know if it is because of the portals or the fact that i’m teleporting all the time (i got 50 free ports via some veteran reward).

    Hm, that sounds more negative than i thought. Fact is, right now i love the game- there are always some threads to follow, always something to achieve and/or explore. The game also caters to different playstyles like almost no other MMORPG on the market.

    PS: love the new design of your blog!

    1. Enjoy it while it last is my motto. :) I hope I can steer clear of the grind for a bit.
      And thanks – am quite happy with the blog now, SUITS ftw right? ;)

  7. The environments are great but do tend to start to blend together as one levels up the different classes. Perhaps it’s something that needs to be savored in bits like a fine, dark chocolate in order to fully appreciate it. (Unless you are fond of grinding, I suppose.) If I were to come back to it today after a break of several months I would undoubtedly be much more appreciative of the visuals and the prolix quest text. The soundtrack, however, never gets old.

    Have you experienced any of the “special” weather effects? I remember being in one of the zones near Gridania when the weather type changed to “Tension” – the atmosphere became electric, mysterious, and awe-inspiring all at once.

    1. Yes, I believe that’s the lightning storm? I’ve seen it once so far, very cool!
      And am really trying to avoid the overexposure by not leveling more than one job (two classes) although I already started off wrong there, lol. -.-

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available