Yes, I know it’s been out longer than that. But I also ran into the “realm full, please try again” problems after launch, so I decided to wait a bit and focus on other things. I picked it up early last week, which makes it now 8–10 days since I started again (don’t know exactly any more).
At the moment, I’m enjoying the hell out of the game. I love the visual style, the quirkiness, the wonderful English localization. Some people complain about too much to read, but… really? I think it’s great! Some people make it sound as if reading was a chore? I never got that. In fact, the game is best when it uses text for conversations. The voice actors are not all that great, in my opinion. Thankfully, you only have voices in rare important cut scenes, everything else is text, so it allows me to imagine voices that are much better than the voice actors.
It’s my current “main” class. Again, I really like it. It would be great if I had another attack abilities or two… playing offense feels a bit like a WoW frost mage around 2005… but I won’t complain. It has some refreshing simplicity, and I don’t expect to do a whole lot of attacking once I reach max level anyway, so it’s a transient thing.
Healing-wise, white mages feel awesome. Especially now that I also got a HoT at 35, I feel quite powerful, and there’s little I think I can’t heal. Except for stupid. Can’t heal stupid. I had it a few times with people in groups who don’t move out of stuff. Here’s the thing, though: I can still heal them through it most of the time, if it’s not an insta-kill thing. But I won’t be able to keep that up, and I will probably run out of mana towards the end of the fight.
Mana is the big Achilles heel of white mages, anyway. You can pump out lots and lots of healing, but your burn through mana sooo fast… bards with their MP regen song have become my best friend. Especially if I don’t have one in my group, it becomes management game: when can I stop healing to regen? Can I afford to use small, cheap heals to fish for the proc that gives me a free heal? More than once, I was OOM and medding for the last 20% of a fight (typically if I enter a dungeon at the low end of its level range), and the fights got really close, losing either a DPS in the process, or a tank at 5%, with burn phase hilarity ensuing.
If I get my white mage to level cap (and I assume I will), I wonder what the end game will be like. I’ve never played a healer to level cap, so this would be a new experience for me.
Got to have a tank, too
One downside of the free classing system in FFXIV is that I can’t decide. I ping-pong between conjurer/white mage and gladiator, with my prospect on the paladin advanced class. I seem to do this a lot more than I other games, where I would have to roll an alt. The barrier for switching around is much lower.
My first experience tanking for groups on my gladiator was miserable. I won’t sweet talk it. Between 16 and 19, you do your first three dungeons within the story line. The problem is that at that point, you’re missing vital tanking tools (you only get a snap aggro “taunt”-like ability at 22), and the ones you have are weak (the AoE aggro builder is almost useless until you get the improved version at 20). As a result, tanking at low levels feels like a constant uphill battle. I was close to throwing in the towel, especially since I’m still somewhat scarred from my last long-term tanking experience before I stopped playing WoW.
I tried again in the mid-20ies though, and it’s a much smoother experience now. I’m slowly getting to the point where I feel more at home with the targeting system, too. It seems like every game has an ever-so-slightly different implementation of tab-targeting. They behave differently, and it can be infuriating if you try to quickly switch between mobs to taunt them back or distribute aggro abilities. The click system also took some time to get used to. I still miss a way to have non-overlapping name plates, but for now I resort to the “aggro list” at the left of the screen, which also gives you rough estimators of how your hate is compared to your group members. I’m a bit annoyed of the calibration of that thing though. Aggro is denoted by four icons (green, yellow, orange, red), so DPS has a quite fine-grained information about when it gets dangerous for them (green: guns ahoy! yellow: doing great on the damage, mate! orange: Awesome, you might want to be a bit careful though! red = OH MY GOD GET IT OFF ME!). You simply lay off in case you hit orange. On the other hand, there is no advance warning for tanks. The instant a mob switches from red to orange, it takes off. Oh well, guess I’ll have to get used to that and be vigilant.
A cruel FATE
FATEs, FFXIV’s implementation of “dynamic” events, are both a blessing and a curse. They are fun if you just do them on the side while traveling (the main story line has you do a lot of traveling). The rewards are a bit out of whack, though. If you have enough people, you can wrap up a FATE in less than a minute, and you receive (depending on your participation) about as much XP as for a normal quest. That means that FATEs can be a firehose of XP. The difference is especially great to dungeons: I would assume that you can probably make about four times as much XP per hour grinding FATEs than doing dungeons. That’s just too much of a lopsided distribution. Sure, dungeons give you chances of high-quality loot. But, here’s the kicker: FATEs award grand company seals, and you can use those to buy high-quality loot, so that advantage of dungeons is non-existent either. From and XP/hour point of view, there is no reason to do dungeons more than once for story progression and map discovery XP.
As a result, people swarm FATEs. No, seriously. I’ve seen 40–50 people descend on a FATE likes flies on a corpse… or piranhas on a piece of mutton dipped into the water… or whatever other comparison you can come up with in your mind, I think you get the picture I’m trying to draw. In the evening hours, it’s so bad that I’ve had FATEs where I wasn’t able to hit more than one or two targets, because every mob that spawns was instantly DPSed down so fast that I couldn’t finish a single cast before it died. It’s probably because I’m not ahead of the leveling curve this time, because I level two classes at once. It would probably have been a better idea to focus on one first and stay ahead of the curve enough to prevent that issue. But it’s too late for that now.
Dungeon for sale
I can see now why servers are still locked in the evening hours. I really wish SQEX would look into dungeon XP again. Because the situation is so lopsided, it’s also hard to find dungeon groups on your own server via chat. About half the time, I resort to finding at least part of the group via the dungeon finder, something that I really like to avoid as much as possible, because I’d like to build social ties to people on my server. That will probably get better at level cap, though. I see calls for high-level content in chat already.
Some of those though… are not quite what I would’ve liked to see:
Drama seems to be the resident server-first guild. I’ve seen them advertise with “raid every night”. I don’t have a problem with that, more power to them if that fits their play style (I’m getting too old for such shenanigans, I think). I’m not a huge fan of the “sell spots for dragging” though. Especially that early in a game’s life cycle. There is so much else you can do if you can’t finish a certain dungeon at the moment. I can understand if some people aren’t interested in gathering or crafting, but there’s also leveling other adventuring classes (which might also give you additional abilities for your main class to use).
On the positive side, I’ve had a lot of fun with runs staffed with people from Moogle. I think the most fun so far was with a tankless group. We ran content almost at-level (two DPS were +2 levels, one was +1) and it worked great! Better than many runs with tanks that I had. It probably helped that one of them was a bard… remember what I said about bards earlier? I added all four to my friends list. I’m trying to fill that list slowly but surely, because I can’t really decide which type of guild (free company, I mean) I want to join.