I’m on a dozen “positive” posts for FF14 of late. They are not effusive in praise, just that they tend to finish on a rather positive note. Looking back on my WoW post history, I don’t think I’ve gone more than 5 in a row without a gripe post, or armchair design item. Heck, my Anthem series has 1 positive post total (to which my brother kindly asked why I was playing it at all). Hindsight here is that I was playing WoW out of habit and small bits of fun – I was clearly not enjoying it as I once did. It was somewhat cathartic to hit the uninstall button a few months ago.
I do need to find the balance in some constructive (?) comments with regards to FF14. It’s not perfect… nothing ever is, but it’s leaps and bounds the best themepark MMO out there, across pretty much every meaningful system. Now, there are some bits that are a bit harder to swallow…
- New player experience. I am somewhat convinced that FF14 has given up on this as for almost any practical purpose, you’re better off buying the MSQ skip + level boost. By doing so, you actually lose out on all the tutorials (there are many) and the rather solid on-ramp experience from 1-20. That player counts are growing is astounding to me.
- MSQ time spent. I enjoy the MSQ, I think it’s well written and consistent. You can’t actually see any of the Scions outside of the MSQ, so there’s no weird time travel issues here. (Compare to Khadgar being everywhere and nowhere in WoW). That said, you’re looking at 40 hrs per expansion, with a good 75% of that stuck in cut-scenes. Relevant for the current expansion, but good golly, anyone trying Endwalker for the first time has nearly 200hrs of content to get through. A more obvious way of getting to NG+ would help here.
- Glamor & Customized looks. Given the small inventory size and multiple jobs, it’s a right mess to have a set of customized looks at the top end. Which is kind of odd, since FF14 really is a glamor competition.
- Gil costs. Ok, this is not really an issue for top-end players, but it is for anyone going through the MSQ and doesn’t understand the Aetheryte system. Teleport costs don’t scale with level, and the sources for Gil are not readily apparent for anyone who is leveling. Plus, the process of gearing for any MSQ post-campaign quest is stupidly expensive. I don’t think it makes any sense to force an ilvl for a dungeon that you can faceroll through.
- The default UI. Clearly designed to be console friendly, the base UI is a mess to look at. You don’t really understand how bad this is until you’re in group content and half the real-estate goes away. You can (and should) manually change a bunch of settings/layouts, but if ever there was a place to mod, this is it.
- Job variety. I guess this depends on your perspective. There are really only 5 classes (tank, melee, physical ranged, magic ranged, and healer). There is not objective difference in playstyle between two warriors. Jobs are akin to WoW-specs which change the buttons, and order of button presses, to execute the same goal. That means there are currently 17 (19 with Endwalker) variations in play. This DRAMATICALLY helps with balancing. Look at WoW and the 36 specs, 4 covenants, half dozen ‘valid’ talent choices, and the nightmare that results (36*4*6 = 864!). I didn’t add Shards or Legendaries either (note: covenants, shards, legendaries will all be wiped in next expansion too, making this a borderline dumb approach to design). tldr; if you like min/maxing, FF14 ain’t really the game for you. Is that a negative? Maybe?
- Player housing. I personally think that there shouldn’t be any, only guild (free company) housing, where you get a room (and perhaps a fee for a slightly larger room). You’re just not going to find any (problem A) and the design interface is really rough (problem B). I am continuously amazed at how creative players are in regards to decorating – just wow.
- Inconsistent mechanics. This is a personal one. FF14 does a great job at using a set base of UI elements to train responses. Red = bad, blue = good. Rotating arrows show direction. Icons above your head indicate stacking or spreading. There are however times where there are either no indicators (meaning you need to look at a boss, with particle effects going all over) or the indicators do not correspond to the learned behavior (e.g. the stack icon but you should not stack). These feel like anecdotes that players need to memorize.
That feels like nitpicking. There aren’t any systems that are inherently bad. Everything in the game has a purpose and even stuff from 8 years ago is relevant in some fashion today. When’s the last time you tended your garden in Pandaria, or even visited your class hall in Legion?
What would be interesting to see is FF14’s ‘quit wall’. The point where players generally decide to stop playing due to the effort no longer being a match for the rewards. I’d be super curious to see how many people make it all the way through the MSQ, how many folks have a 2nd job, and the type of content consumed on a daily basis. Even with New World launched, I still have a daily queue on Cactuar, so anecdotally there are still a LOT of players logging on. How long will this increase go post-Endwalker?