E3 2010: Final Fantasy XIV PreviewBy Stephen Johnson - Posted Jun 17, 2010
What We Know:
The 14th major Final Fantasy game (no one has ever counted how many smaller games bear the Final Fantasy moniker) is a massively multiplayer online fantasy game directed by Nobuaki Komoto that promises a huge, varied online world for you to adventure/live in.
What We're Seeing:
Final Fantasy 14 is a full-on subscription based MMO set in the Final Fantasy Universe that will allow you to party, level, chat with friends, have adventures, PvP and enjoy all other manner of MMO goodness. "Wait a minute," you may be saying. "Isn't there already a Final Fantasy MMO? I swear, it's called Final Fantasy 11."
Why, yes. Yes, there is. But Final Fantasy 14 is different. "Different how?" you may be asking. Well, let's start with the visuals. Final Fantasy 14 ditches the last-gen look of FF 11 in favor of beefed up graphics only possible on current PCs and consoles. Whereas the last Square Enix MMO was forced into looking cartoony, FF 14 looks beautiful: The look is on par with Final Fantasy 13, and, in a sense it's even better than 13 because it's in 3D.
Although the company hasn't announced its 3D plans, on the E3 2010 show floor, Square Enix had hooked a couple computers up with powered 3D glasses to give you an in-depth look into the game, literally. It works really well, too. The familiar third person perspective of FF 14 is the perfect use for 3D, and it's nice to look at the beautiful, neon color of Final Fantasy with some depth. But sightseeing is only part of what you'll be doing when playing this one. Another key difference from Final Fantasy 11 is that the game is no longer so party-dependent. Where it was all-but impossible to progress in FF 11 without your pals (or a PUG), Final Fantasy 14 will have a lot more to offer MMO gamers who prefer a loner approach to their online world. How that will be accomplished wasn't really explained by Square, so we'll have to take their word for it.
The E3 2010 demo I played didn't reveal all that much about the game. It was was pretty short, but featured a tour through the character creation system where I chose form among four different races (there will likely be more by release time) and chose one of four different classes: warrior, magic, land (farming), and hand (crafting). Each broad class will offer a number of sub-jobs, allowing you to, say, choose "hand" and become a Blacksmith. Or choose "warrior" and be a Marauder or Pugilist. The characters have that familiar Final Fantasy sheen, all with perfectly aquiline features and perfectly arranged hairdos. All will be highly customizable both from the start and in terms of in-game gear.
When the game is released, it will feature a skill-based progression system as opposed to an experience point system like Final Fantasy 11. This means that levels won't exist in favor of skills. The game will also feature a job system, so your appearance and skills will change depending on what gig you sign up for.
Final Fantasy 14's guild system will allow for leveling a group of characters as opposed to an individual, so you and your pals can work together to progress. I'm not sure how this will work yet, as Square hasn't really detailed it, like much of the content of this game.
After I created a character, I teamed up with four other E3 attendees, and set out to wander around and do a quest. The demo was very rudimentary, as is the combat system, which was your basic, "click on a dude to hit" style. The goal was marked on the map, and consisted of a clutch of giant crabs hanging out in a cave, waiting for us to destroy them. So we did. And we completed the quest.
There's not as much to say about the game as you might expect. Obviously, the finished game will require hundreds of hours of gameplay, and involve deep story lines and interactions, but we only got ten minutes on it before being hustled off, so I can't offer much of an in-depth opinion. How about this: As far as gameplay, it's functional. And as for visuals, it's extraordinary. The game will hinge on long-term interest and how many of your friends sign up for subscriptions.