Updated Thu, Feb 21, 2013 by Ethec
The controller interface is probably the most brilliant I’ve seen in my admittedly limited experience playing RPGs and MMORPGs on console – so much xo that I might prefer to play ARR on controller rather than mouse and keyboard when it comes out later this year. Any gamepad will work on a PC – not just the PS3 controller – which is handy given that getting a six-axis controller to work on your PC can be a merry adventure in barely functional, slightly scary third-party drivers.
The gamepad interface is as simple as it is powerful – while the basic circle, square, triangle, and x buttons perform basic actions like talk, jump, and perform basic actions, holding L2 and R2 turns the d-pad and action buttons into two 8-slot hotbars. L1 and R1 swap between sets, allowing players to access emotes (a big part of the MMOF experience traditionally), hybrid skills, and macros with relative ease. Likewise, the UI switches from a typical line-abreast hotbar to four diamond shaped hotbars that illuminate as the R2 and L2 buttons are held down.
Both PC and PS3 players will be able to use a keyboard to communicate when their gamepad UI is active, but the game won’t use sixaxis to determine your control method of choice. This means you can’t set down the PS3 controller and game on your mouse and keyboard when you want to be suddenly sociable. (That is, not without flipping a software switch.)
And use a keyboard to communicate you must, at least if you want to stick to officially supported chat channels. Fearing the intimidation factor for its younger, console-based, and (especially) female players, SquareEnix still has no plans to officially support voicechat. “If she was going to join a party with him, if you had an official voicechat system she might feel obligated to join in. She could get scared and not want to play anymore”
If you’re interested in the controller interface, check out the SquareEnix’s gamepad commentary video.
I dove into the game for some first-hand impressions, and after a fairly generic character creation experience (though I’ve always loved how FFMMOs allow you to choose your character’s birthday on a calendar that roughly mimics our own Gregorian goodness), I found myself in a ingenious blimp cart (one that I want to exist very badly), floating my way to a village in Gridania.
Without spoiling anything, the experience was the same not-interactive, less-than-epic series of cutscenes that drove many nuts in 1.0. Then, upon arriving in the village, I was treated to a non-linear series of beginner quests. If you found FFXIV to be a gorgeous world that almost punishes you with immersion, and you enjoyed it, then rest assured that ARR is still your cup of tea. For myself and others, we’ll hope that SquareEnix streamlines and amplifies the experience during beta.
The highlight of my playtime was the dungeon play through in The Thousand Maws of Toto Rok. The community team gathered eight folks together and investigated some techno-magic fusion gone awry. I chickened out with my Archer set with some Cure and Revive abilities from the Conjurer tree. The dungeon was a several stage experience peppered with trash mobs, visually repetitive but smooth on performance.
A scorpion-like boss named Graftias spawned waves of baddies, nasty Fleshy Orbs that did AoE damage if struck, and expanding pools of poison after his tail shed its shell halfway through the fight. After two wipes, we organized part of the group into an add-killing machine and won through to some decent loot. While the eight person group size might be a little unwieldy, the community folks ensured us that five players of the required level (and, I’m guessing, more skill) could complete it. And, thanks to FFXIV’s hybrid class system, you run a much lower chance of needing a healer or tank.
Perhaps one of the most stunning announcements of the hands-on event was that FFXIV will simultaneously release on the PlayStation 3 and PC as a cross platform, cross server title.
That’s the promise, despite never releasing as intended on the PS3 and the just-announced PlayStation 4. “I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors about the next-gen,” Yoshida commented, “but whenever that comes out, we’ll make sure the quality of the graphics takes advantage of the latest and highest technology.”
Yoshida-san offered another comparison video showing areas such as Camp Tranquil, Black Brush, and Buscarron’s Druthers in PS3 and PC views.
It’s no surprise that PC obviously won out on crispness and clarity, but PS3 was definitely in the ballpark. PS3 players will be able to check out ARR themselves in the third phase of beta, according to Yoshida.
Our thanks to Naoki Yoshida and the Square Enix team, first for a desperately needed and deserved rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV, and for showing us a bit of A Realm Reborn. If you can’t wait for beta to begin in the next few months, a benchmark application is available starting today. Square Enix is hoping to show you how far they’ve come in terms of making the game’s graphical brilliance shine on even low end PCs.