Sir Loin of Beef
As many of you are possibly quite aware, problem child MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV has been going through a number of changes as of late in order to make the game worthwhile. The results of those changes? Well, let’s say there’s at least been some progress made.
This little piece will not only serve as my first full blown column for this website, but will hopefully become a regular feature, tracking the progress of Square Enix’s little project to redeem themselves. I plan on doing these regular updates about every month, writing up on what’s been put into the game as of late, and how the overall product is turning out.
The new Producer and Director of the game, Naoki Yoshida, has been kind enough to post a chart detailing the company's progress over the past couple of months. You can find the latest chart here. As you can see, it’s quite a lengthy To-Do list. Rather than go over everything that’s been implemented thus far, I’ll mostly be going over the more notable changes. Without further ado, let’s get this show started.
Where The Hell Can I Find a Bloody Hammer!?
One of the more interesting changes SE has implemented is the item search feature. It functions in a similar manner as traditional auction house systems, in that you can browse a series of menus to seek out a specific item. Once you have found what you're looking for, you can then check to see which retainer is offering the item, and their current location within the market. When you are able to locate their position, you can then go find them in the area specified and purchase your desired item from their bazaar.
It’s actually a very handy system. With the search function, you can find what you need, who is selling it, and get to them in short order. While you still need to actually find the retainer, it is definitely a welcome feature, and helps to cut down the amount of time wasted playing Hide and Seek.
As of this time, the only problem I can see is that the items available for purchase from retainers are very dependant on your location. While it’s definitely not impossible to sell something in a different area, your chances of making a profit are definitely better if your retainer is in a place that gets more traffic, since the marketplaces are not linked together.
Adding a bit more to the use of retainers, players can now have up to two of them in their employ, which actually makes for a bit more freedom in figuring out what to do with them. You can have one hanging out in the markets with the items you're trying to sell, while you can have the other hold on to your more precious keepsakes. Or you can have both of them trying to get rid of your stuff. The choice is up to you.
Live and Let Live
Another thing that’s been added is an indicator denoting monsters that are aggressive. It appears as a red, spiky dot next to the name of the monster, as shown in the image below.
At least now players don’t have to guess whether a monster will want to rip their throats out if they get too close or not. However, there is another issue regarding a monster's strength in relevance to a player's own levels, and the ambiguity of it all. Similar to the problems FFXI had, just because a monster comes off as “Easy Prey” to you, doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t put up a fight, and as you move up in levels and become stronger, the meaning behind a particular mob's strength becomes more difficult to discern.
Then again, there could be other factors that I’m not taking into account regarding a monster’s toughness, but it’s still something that may warrant looking into.
One other thing I want to go over is the new targeting system that was implemented fairly recently. Players can toggle through different targeting modes, depending on either their preference, or their current needs by simply using the arrow keys, or the up and down buttons on a gamepad. This allows players to be able to focus on their preferred targets, without having to worry about selecting the wrong one.
A neat concept, in theory at least. While the Enemy filter definitely helps DPS classes in finding their foes, the Party filter seems largely pointless, since one can already target their party members using the F keys. The Friendly filter is also fairly pointless, since your mouse can pick up relevant NPCs much faster than tabbing through different targets, especially in crowded rooms. Maybe this change is more for gamepad users, and if that’s the case, I can see the significance. For keyboarders, it’s a bit more of a grey area. Then again, I may be missing something else entirely regarding the whole thing, and SE is simply trying to get things ready for the PS3 release.
The Important Things
There are a number of other things that SE has adjusted over the course of the game’s release, such as monster size, more available quests, and adjustments to the leveling curves. A number of these have been implemented to better facilitate the more grindy portions. However, FFXIV is far from ready for prime time.
As of now, there are still a very large number of issues that need to be addressed before SE can truly get out of the “beta” phase they’re currently stuck in. For example, the aforementioned input lag is still a constant annoyance, often making the simplest actions such as checking a NPC’s wares or delivering an attack to a monster take forever to accomplish. Traversing the various terrains is also still a nightmare, as invisible walls and ankle-high ledges will continue blocking your path at every opportunity, ruining the image of an open world. Not to mention the fact that end game activities are still completely nonexistent. Hell, they haven’t even implemented the use of chocobos yet.
Point is, while they’ve been taking steps to make the leveling experience much smoother, and helped to make finding your necessary crafting material less of a pain, SE still has a long way to go if they want to salvage FFXIV. And considering their past history regarding updates, they tend to take their sweet time in making the appropriate fixes. Hell, it took them more than five years just to add Moogles to Selbina and Mhuara in FFXI.
At least they’re making progress though, and they’re listening to the playerbase, which is important in the long run. Here’s hoping the next update will bring some welcome fixes. For now though, what do you guys think about the fixes that they've implemented thus far, and do you believe SE can save the game in time?