With New World's recent announcement to delay launch until Sept 28th and my general dislike of Crowfall I've found myself in need of an MMO to hold me over a few weeks. With the uproar around Blizzard/World of Warcraft and some high profile defections to Final Fantasy XIV (FF14) I figured now is as good as time as any to give the 8+ year old game a go. I dropped my $20 into Steam to get the starter edition and here are some thoughts after a few hours of play and leveling two starting classes to level ten.
The immediate thing about FF14 is that it takes its time. It is a Final Fantasy RPG first and an online game second. Watching some new player videos and reading some guides it is strongly recommended to accept this fact before you start playing; which I am glad I learned about before starting or my expectations would have been off. The RPG portion is also primarily solo driven thus far and other players are pretty much background noise at this point.
Also slowing down to match the Final Fantasy RPG pace of the game is the combat (at least initially in my experience thus far). Cool down between skills is longer (I think 2.5 seconds) and classes do not start out with abilities that can be used in-between that global cooldown. My understanding is later on I will have more "off global cooldown" abilities to mix in. At first this felt a little boring, but now that I have two classes (Lancer and Archer) up to level ten I sort of dig it. Coming from New World closed beta and Crowfall where action is fast and furious it is a nice change of pace; ironically also fitting my physical skill level much closer (I'm old and getting older and my reflexes reflect that).
The story in FF14 get's a lot of praise, but I am not sure I buy into it. I am already just fast clicking past a lot of text boxes as a lot of NPC speech feels like filler. I've heard it gets better overtime and that players really get engaged with the characters that recur in the story, so we'll see but for right now I am blowing through text boxes and only skimming for the basics. I do prefer when there is voice acting in the scenes; it is a much better experience, but unfortunately that is few and far between for some reason.
As far as graphics and the game world the age of the game is showing in the starter area I am in (New Grandia?). This does not detract from the experience; character models are great and there is an impressive array of variety to clothing, armor, weapons, and mounts. However, the rest of the world is bland and mostly unimpressive. Monsters sit around in tiny groups and often don't really fit with the area. Buildings are inconsistent, some you can enter and others you cannot. Interiors are well done for those you can enter.
I have found myself stopping several times to watch another player playing a song, watching an impromptu dance party, or craning my neck skyward after catching sight of an epic flying mount. One memorable moment was going up a giant log ramp and a motorcycle-looking mount blew past me; engine roaring. In the grand scheme I do find a charm to the game even with the dated graphics.
With what I've done thus far and where I am going I do foresee myself continuing to play. I have not determined a goal yet to shoot for. I did make a class change to Archer which feels better than the Lancer I was playing previously. I like that it is easy to switch and I think the main quest line (referred to as MSQ -- main scenario quest) offers enough rewards that I may be able to keep both classes leveled. After switching it was much quicker to level the second class and so I may dabble into a healer/support role; it seems like I need to always hit three different builds/clases in an MMO to find my home. Also if I do end up in dungeon/raid content for some reason I don't want to be relegated to just a DPS role (which is Lancer and Archer).
I think FF14 will hold me over for a bit more at this point and I've already gotten my $20 worth out of it. If time permits I would like to get through the original content and into what is called Heavensward (spelling?) as I hear its even better. I am glad that I gave it a whirl and enjoy reading and learning more about the game. If anything it is clear the community and developers of FF14 care deeply about the game which is refreshing.