FFXIV First Impressions: Wardrobe

I finally got a beta key for Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, a title so long and convoluted that even its abbreviation “FFXIVARR” is unwieldy. Of course, I was also a bit late to the bandwagon, so I can’t really complain about only getting an invite now, in what is probably the last “closed” beta, which is still open enough to be called a stress test, just because “advertisement weekend to whoever wants to check it out” sounds worse. Well, I’m about to write about it, so I guess their scheme worked.

At the moment, I have a 16 Archer / 14 Conjurer / 9 Leatherworker. My idea was to become a bard, which required 30 Archer and 15 Conjurer. I won’t be able to do this over one weekend, of course, so I just played around with the two contributing classes. The archer is nice, though what grates on my with that class is the very simple system of “your weapon defines your class”, which means that you always wield exactly one weapon at any given point in time. Which for an archer, unsurprisingly, is a bow. Which means that most of the time, you spend plinking arrows into a mob point-blank. A sword to go with the bow would have looked so much nicer. Oh well.

The first thing I noticed during character creation is that, this being a Japanese MMO, you have a delightful number of options to create a bona fide Bishōnen. After some experimenting, I came up with something I enjoyed enough to save as a preset. I hope those won’t get wiped at any point before release:

Pink hair? Check. Eye shadow? Check. Bunny ears? Check. Heterochroma iridum? Check. I didn't even realize the tail would be pink and fluffy until I entered the world. Oh well, it's not like it'll diminish his maliness.

Pink hair? Check. Eye shadow? Check. Cat ears? Check. Heterochrome eyes? Check. I didn’t even realize the tail would be pink and fluffy until I entered the world. Oh well, it’s not like it’ll diminish his maliness.

However, you don’t stay in your starter clothes forever. And while the fashion accidents from mismatched starter gear scraped together from whatever quests provide you is a perennial MMO joke, FFXIV seems to have its own versions of this in store. Refreshingly unisex about its approach to armor models, you end up with outfits unseen in western MMOs:

I don't have a problem with men in skirts, but that particular shade of yellow is quite hideous.

I don’t have a problem with men in skirts, but that particular shade of yellow is quite hideous.

Come to think of it, I might switch the eye colors for release. Eye patches seem to cover the green eye and remove that splash of contrast. At some point though, you reach an uncanny valley of a different kind:

My face is up here!

My face is up here!

That is some sort of equal treatment of male and female characters in video games, alright. (Is that absolute territory on a guy?) And while I found that outfit a bit… distracting at first (the back is not covered much more than the chest, in case you wonder), it’s surprising how fast you get used to it. I had to think of Trainspotting, where Renton proclaims “1,000 years from now there will be no guys and no girls, just wankers. Sounds great to me.” And in a way, it sounds fine to me, too. At least in a game like this, which draws its visual influence from a highly stylized manga style. Of course, it’s extremely impractical to go to battle in this, but I guess if healers can cast spells on you that magically heal you without leaving scars, and you can’t die, your armor choices as a character shift towards the comfortable end of the spectrum. FFXIV is far enough removed from any semblances of realism that it somehow fits the world.

I’m interested to see what else the wardrobe has in store for us.

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