Final Fantasy XIV E3 Preview

Being the big RPG fan that I am, it’s no surprise that Final Fantasy XIV was one of my most anticipated games of E3. I’ve honestly not played too much of Final Fantasy XI to compare, but that’s probably because I was a little iffy on subscription fees back in the day.

E3 allowed me to get some hands-on time with the fourteenth numbered game in the franchise and although it wasn’t for long, I did get in enough to write something about it.

In Square Enix’s private cozy little Final Fantasy XIV booth, we got our hands on a demo of the beta. The demo was split up into two segments. The first segment had me creating my very own avatar that I would normally play online with in the game. I say “normally” because when it came to gameplay (segment two), we were set up with pre-created characters.

There are several races a player can choose from; these include the Hyur, Elezen, Lalafell, Roegadyn, or Moqo’te races. I went ahead and created a Hyur as I’m always a sucker for the human race in these types of games. I guess I’m kind of boring in that case, aren’t I?

After naming my character and picking my clan – which for Hyur was either a Highlander or Midlander – I was presented with several options to modify the appearance of my character. To be honest, there wasn’t much to pick from. Each category only had few options that could help me create a ‘unique’ character. There were four appearance types, six sizes, a color palette for skin tone, eight different hair styles, and a color palette for hair color. There was a small selection – maybe three – of voice options you can choose for the character, as well.

I was underwhelmed by the customization options, if I didn’t make it clear. I did ask the Square Enix rep guiding me through the game if there would be more options in the final game, considering this is only the beta. He told me that nothing is final yet and that some things are subject to change. I take it he didn’t know for sure, but because it’s the beta, I think we can pretty much assume the full game will have much more customization options – especially with games like Champions Online to compete with.

When I was done creating my character, it was time to move on to the second segment of the demo. The Square Enix logged me out, logged me back in, and loaded me up with part two. This time, I was going to complete a quest.

Before setting me up with a quest, the Square Enix representative taught me the basic controls. I was playing on an Xbox 360 controller hooked up to a PC, so it was interesting to see how they’re making the online game function on a controller. Surprisingly, they integrated the game into the controller extremely well. While I don’t remember all of the controls (I didn’t take note of them), I do remember these: Triangle brings up your action bar at the bottom of the screen, L1 and R1 let you scroll through abilities in the action bar, Square brings up the game menu on the right of the screen, Circle is the general cancellation button, and I’m pretty sure X is used to attack and select. Clicking in L3 allows you to lock-on enemies and objects and using the d-pad allows you to move around targets. I think it was R2 that unsheathes a players weapon. When a player’s weapon is sheathed, they’ll move faster, however when unsheathed, they’ll do just the opposite. Now that I’ve learned the skills, it was time to put them into action.

I joined up with a party of players all demoing the game in the same room. Using the GuildLeve system, I took on a quest with my party, selecting a difficulty that best suited the amount of members we have in our group. Square Enix included difficulty options to ensure their promise that those who prefer to go the lone route and play solo can complete quests without gathering huge parties like they’d normally have to do in Final Fantasy XI.

After the quest began, I followed my other party members into a cavern. We were going to obtain pages from a book. To do that, we had to defeat a few giant enemy crabs (E3 2006 Genji reference). This is where the battle system finally came into play.

Final Fantasy XIV has a real-time battle system but obviously some modifications have to come into play. That’s where stamina comes in. Stamina allows players a certain number of attacks before they have to wait and let it refill. Some attacks cost more stamina than others, some cost less. Of course, while stamina is refilling, players are free to move around and get away from an enemy until it’s full. It keeps the battle going at a slower pace, but it feels necessary to keep the flow in order.

Technical Points, or TP, are in Final Fantasy XIV, as well. This may sound familiar to those who’ve played Final Fantasy XIII before. Players can earn TP in battle to use on special abilities that do more damage than the typical attack. Players have Magic Points, or MP, as well.

Unfortunately, before I could get through merely two crabs, I looked at the time and realized that I was late for my next appointment, which was that Quantum Theory interview that went up on the site yesterday. I might have been able to finish the demo, had the Final Fantasy XIV appointment not started ten minutes after it was supposed to begin.

Oh well. The game’s out this year, anyway. I had a great time with Final Fantasy XIV at E3. While I do believe the customization options are a bit lacking, I’m sure they’ll add more to the game by the time it releases. The combat system, on the other hand, is fluid, fun, and properly balanced for an MMORPG.

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