So the Final Fantasy XIV beta is over now. I realize it was a beta, and not a demo, but either way I’m pretty convinced I shouldn’t buy the game. At least, not right now.
The game, in its current state, is just so, so hard to play. The entire interface is a clunky, barely-responsive mess. You press buttons, but they don’t respond for up to a full second. You open a menu, but it doesn’t populate right away, so you sit there for a few seconds wondering if the game is crashing out on you. The mouse cursor moves precisely 75% as fast as it ought.
Which, okay, all these things make the game pretty much just like FF11. What I can’t figure out, though, is why they didn’t try to improve on FF11’s interface. The time-honored excuse is that the game is designed to be played with a gamepad, which explains the clunky interface. But no, see, I own a dozen FF games that were all designed to be played on a gamepad. None of them are even in this ballpark of clunkiness.
Heck, if you play FF12 on Active with Gambits turned off… why, that’s pretty much the ideal gamepad interface right there. It’d need some tweaking, of course: an L2/R2 controlled action bar, the ability to set macros to your menus instead of individual spells, etc. But it would make for a far better baseline than what FF14 uses.
I think my complaints about the game really boil down to three things, which really drove me nuts. There’s just no way I could tolerate these things for the hundreds of hours it’d take to make any tangible progress in a typical MMO.
1) The correlation between the on-screen animation and the scrolling text in your message box is quite tenuous.
Sometimes the message pops up first: “Your dude swings his sword!” Then, maybe three seconds later, your dude will actually swing his sword. During that three seconds you cannot interact with the game, because your dude is technically now committed to an animation which hasn’t loaded yet. Other times the situation is reversed: your character will do something, but there will be no indication of what the result was for another second or two. In this situation your dude is free to queue up his next action, but since that next action might be contingent on the result of the previous one the optimal move is to just sit there and do nothing while the chatbox takes its sweet time.
2) The inability to do anything with the map just about drove me absolutely crazy.
The mini-map is next to useless and can’t be zoomed out at all. The full-screen map takes two clicks to get out of. And you can’t set waypoints on it, no matter how much your little heart desires. I’m the type of player who pretty much lives off his in-game map; I end up checking it two or three times per minute. I could probably survive with two of these three frustrations, but I shouldn’t have to. It is 2010, guys. This isn’t rocket science. Right-click the full-screen map to set a waypoint. Waypoints ride around the edge of the mini-map, showing me where they are. Did… did I just blow your mind?
All the characters in FF14 wear horseshoes, so their footsteps are extra super loud. This is actually a weird, pervasive problem that spans all games everywhere, and I’m not sure why. In real life I only notice footsteps if, for example, a woman in high heels is walking across tile in a quiet, echo-y hallway. In games? Clompclompclomp. The problem is actually worse in FF14 if you’re playing as a lallafell, though. Since your legs are half as long, you require twice as many footfalls to get anywhere, so the sound is more like clpclpclpclpclpclpclpclpclpclp!! You can turn down the volume of sound effects, but I don’t want to kill all effects, just that one brain damaging one. Can we please get a toggle for this? Or better yet, just please stop doing it?
I’m not holding my breath, but maybe Square-Enix will clean up these issues (and some of the dozens and dozens of more minor ones) before the PS3 launch next year. If they do another open beta then, I’ll take another look.