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New Cities & Level 40 Content - A New Final Fantasy XIV Hands-On Preview

Posted Tue, Aug 17, 2010 by Ralsu

I enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to San Francisco and take part in a Square Enix demo of Final Fantasy XIV on August 10, 2010. The demo was a chance for select members of the press to get a peek at some never-before-seen areas of Eorzea, the world of FFXIV, before Square Enix showed it to the rest of the world at Gamescom on August 17.

The demo in San Francisco consisted of three parts: creating a character in the starting city of Gridania, making a second character in the starting city of Ul’dah, and experiencing some high level content on premade characters.

The female here is an NPC, but the male is a player-made character. In Final Fantasy XIV, your character is part of important story scenes. >>Gallery

Readers should note that the decision to play Final Fantasy XIV is a commitment. FFXIV plays and controls very differently from most other MMOs, so it has a steep learning curve. The payoff is the story that FFXIV delivers. Once I had created Ralsu, he appeared in every cinematic for the stories in his starting city. The immersion of the player into the story is something not seen in an MMO since…well, Final Fantasy XI. Before describing the new content I experienced, I want to comment on the aspects of FFXIV that make it so different and (potentially) hard to pick up.

The controls in the FFXIV demo are, in a word, very unusual for an MMORPG. First, I found it next to impossible to use the WASD keys by themselves to move my character. The A and D keys made my character turn at a right angle and move left and right, respectively. Meanwhile, the camera would stay fixed, so I would see my character moving from the side view. In order to turn the camera to see what was ahead of me, I needed to use the right mouse button or the camera control keys (IJKL). In the end, I found I could move very smoothly by using WJSL. This meant using two hands to move and letting go of the mouse, certainly an awkward control scheme for the average North American gamer. I could tell it would be a terrific scheme for a controller, though. Using the left analog stick to move forward while changing the camera with the right analog stick is standard on most console games. Since FFXIV also releases on the PS3, this makes sense.

Two other control settings that are counter to my MMO intuition are the use of the number pad “-“ key to open the main menu instead ESC and the use of the space bar to open the chat menu rather than Enter. It takes some getting used to, but opening the main menu with a key on the right side of the keyboard allows players to keep moving forward while opening the menu. Since FFXIV does not give players the ability to jump, the space bar goes unused outside of chat, making it the perfect key to open the chat box. Again, these controls are different from what most PC MMO players are accustomed to, so many of the guests at the demo found themselves disoriented at first.

The final way worth mentioning that controls in FFXIV differ from the norm is the Active and Passive systems. In FFXIV, your character does not run around with his sword drawn all the time. With weapons stowed, players are in the Passive mode. This is the mode for talking to NPCs and logging out of the game. To attack enemies, players must draw their weapon and enter Active mode via the F key or clicking an icon on the action bar. As with the other controls, this slight difference had many demo gamers puzzled.

Enough about controls. On to the content!

Gridania

The cinematic for Gridania opens with the Ralsu walking through a lush, green forest filled with wildflowers and vines. He hears an ethereal voice commanding him to “Hear.” “Feel.” “Think.” He glances at the sky and sees a meteor shower fade into the real sky, where an airship is crashing to the ground. Something falls from the airship, and Ralsu heads toward the projectile.

Upon entering the clearing, Ralsu sees two people lying on the ground, a Miqo’te pugilist named Yda and a Lalafell conjurer named Polyamo. Both are unresponsive at first, but on the third try, Yda rouses and Polyamo rises to wonder where they are. Yda reasons that since they fell from the sky and landed in a place filled with beauty and nature that they have “gone on to the Great Beyond.” She even thinks Ralsu is “psychopomp” come to guide them on into the afterlife. Polyamo disagrees, swearing by Rhalgar’s, the god of Destruction. The two continue arguing for a bit, but then bloodthirsty wolves close in, and Ralsu has to help save Polyamo and Yda.

Once Ralsu defeats the three closest wolves under my control, more surround the party, and things look bleak. At that moment, giant roots pop up out of the ground to pick up two of the wolves. A treant rips forth from the ground and drops the wolves into its gaping maw with its appendage-like roots. Palyamo and Yda confer for a moment, and Ralsu overhears them agreeing that the time is right to…

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