Final Fantasy XIV has three different city-states to start in. The beta only lets start in Limsa Lominsa. At a press event, I got to explore Gridania and Ul’dah.
Pick Gridania and you start the game in a forest. The character I created, a magically gifted Roegadyn with blue hair, meets Yola and a a Lalafell wearing a monocle who think they’re dead. When they come to their senses a pack of bloodthirsty wolves attack. They aren’t as ferocious as they sound since the wolves stand down until you strike them. This part was a tutorial section where I could practice using spirit dart and my two area of effect spells blizzard and fire.
Practice time ended when a treant uprooted and started eating the wolves. A movie played out where my main character, looking shocked, ran with his two new friends. The group was saved by a moogle that taunted the group in mooglespeak.
Ul’dah begins with a party. My character, a Miqo’te armed with an axe, entered the desert town on a Chocobo driven caravan. The town was bustling with all races and a few characters that looked like the puppetmaster puppets from Final Fantasy XI. A smooth talking character named Thancred took the spotlight until they brought out a monster in magical handcuffs. The crowd cheered until the Gobbue broke free and terrorized the town.
While everyone was running away, my character and a cowering Thancred ran towards the Gobbue. Like the fight with the wolves, the Gobbue was passive. I made short work of it with my character’s axe before heading to Ul’dah’s guild.
The Miqo’te Marauder was built for soloing. She could handle most basic enemies like moles on her own. The Marauder class gets a parry bonus if you stand still for a few seconds, but in most fights you want to move. Final Fantasy XIV tracks your position relative to the monster you’re fighting. All Disciples of War classes can deal extra damage to some enemies if you hit them from the side or behind, similar to the Thief class from Final Fantasy XI.
My Roegadyn Thaumaturge couldn’t take as much damage so I pulled enemies like honeybees (surprisingly dangerous at low levels) and mammels from a distance with area of effect spells. You can’t recover MP by sitting in Final Fantasy XIV, so I was more conservative when it came to spamming blizzard. The spirit dart was like the fight command. All classes can recover HP while running. As long as your weapon isn’t drawn you’ll regenerate.
Aetheryte crystals in town restore your character and trigger guildleves (read: quests). I picked a monster hunting guildleve in Gridania and hunted shriekshrooms. As soon I triggered the guildleve the map pointed out the monsters so I didn’t have to waste any time finding my prey. I had 30 minutes to complete the quest, but I didn’t need that much. Including walking, it took about seven minutes to complete. Maybe the guildleve was too easy? In Ul’dah I set a mole hunting quest to the toughest difficult level. Now enemies were a real threat, but even solo I still managed to complete it… after a few deaths, of course. I didn’t make it far enough in the game to fight cool looking monsters like the Basilisk pictured above.
After each quest an Aetheryte stream teleports players back to town. That’s just one of the time saving features Square Enix introduced in Final Fantasy XIV. You don’t need to be a White Mage to teleport either. Every class in the game can teleport to any visited Aetheryte crystals. This feature was handy during the demo since I could spend more time on quests instead of trekking back to the guild. A representative said Final Fantasy XIV has more teleport spots than Final Fantasy XI too. Definitely useful.
The quirkiest feature? Believe it or not, there’s an emote for “meh”. Type slash /meh and your character shrugs their shoulders.
There’s much more to Final Fantasy XIV that I didn’t get to see. Square Enix created quests just for crafters and sparkling spots on the map where you can mine for minerals. Since I didn’t get a chance to use a Disciple of the Land, I ran past those in search of more monsters to fight. Changing disciples is as easy is equipping a weapon. It’s possible, if you build up your character this way, to slay an ahriman with a sword then switch to blacksmith and repair your blade on the fly. My level four character wasn’t nearly that skilled so impressions like those will have to wait until after September 30, the day Final Fantasy XIV comes out on PCs in North America.