Last time, in my coverage of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, I talked about the world that the game takes place in, and discussed an initial feeling of disconnect I got from playing the game. Today, I aim to discuss the experience of playing the game a little more in depth by going over some mechanics of the combat, as well as my progression through my guild.
As I stated last time, my character is a Lalafell who started out as a Lancer, so my introductory experience with combat was focused mostly on head-to-head fights. But before I could unleash my lance on some monsters I had to first find my guild— a feat not very easy, considering the vast size of the game. I was still learning the map and getting lost was the norm for me at the beginning. I remember being thrown off by the silliest of things, like the difference between old Gridania and new Gridania.
Learning the map system and how to find your next objective is very important in A Realm Reborn. My advice is to take some time and sit down with the maps, learn them inside and out, before your first real quest. Also never go anywhere without your map up on the screen, the mini-map/radar is not nearly as effective as having the map out there in full. This kind of exploration and reliance on the main map reminded me of another Square Enix game actually—Star Ocean: Till The End of Time.
When I introduced myself to the Lancer Guild, my determination to the lance was called into question. I had to prove my worth as a warrior. From here on out I found myself in a set of quests for my guild that were very interesting to me. To prove myself I finally left Gridania. I stepped outside and saw the world displayed out in front of me, a vast long dirt path stretched far out into the forest. I felt a sense of awe from it all. During my first time coming out of the village men mounted on Chocobos ran right past me as soon as I spawned outside. It’s then that I noticed their user names above their heads, and thought how those were other players like me, and soon enough I could be riding from village to village on a Chocobo, too.
I had matters to attend to, though. I had to make my way through the lancer guild before I could dream of grander adventures to come. I still remember my first battle. There were many others like me; all running around the outskirts of the village fighting Little Ladybugs, Ground Squirrels, and Forest Funguars. In fact you could say there were too many like me. All the monsters were getting picked off before I could even attend to them with my lance. All I could manage at first was helping to land maybe one or two blows on a monster someone else was fighting. I stuck at it, learned the environment around me, and soon figured out the spawning points to the monsters. After figuring this out, finally, I found my true first battle.
The best way to describe the combat is to say that it is fast and addicting. The earliest stages of fighting don’t offer much beyond auto-attack, defend, and whatever else you may have assigned as your hotkeys, such as items like potions. But as you progress you learn more moves and abilities to fight with. I eventually found myself craving battle after battle with the monsters of Eorzea, I wanted to challenge myself and learn all the moves I could. Gaining abilities and watching the level up sequence on the screen were all very rewarding.
Keeping track of the time it takes to commit moves, and watching your health, magic points, and tactical points all at the same time can provide a rush near the end of intense battles. The actions you can take are all based around a time system, somewhat like the Active Time Battle (ATB) in previous Final Fantasies. Here, each move (hotkey) has a set amount of time that you must wait until you can use it again. After an action is committed, the hotkey will go gray and can’t be picked again until all its color has returned to it. The color comes back to the hotkey in a spinning motion like a clock. Some hotkeys take longer then others to regain their color, so balancing out moves is vital. It’s all about endurance. You can only act when your spindle has spun around 360 degrees again giving you back your color, just trying to make it to the next spin, that’s how I will remember my most hectic of fights.
Speaking of hectic fights, perhaps the craziest moments happen during FATEs. What are FATEs? Well a FATE is a Full Active Time Event, and they can be seen on your map while wandering around the world.
These events are like big battles that everyone around can come in to, and the rewards for joining in are much higher then normal rewards. When one enters the radius of the FATE, you begin to participate in it. Usually, you will fight hordes of monsters, and the more you help out with the battle, the more you get out of it. FATEs are a great way to get a lot more experience points—a lot faster then the traditional grinding methods. They usually have some insane amount of other players in them too. Clustering together side-by-side with other players, I hectically unleash my attacks on the horde, backed up by countless others all at once, who fought alongside me and healed me even though we weren’t friends or party mates.
Progression through the Lancer Guild was fun, and gave me an identity in the game. I felt a connection to my guild, and all the other players in it. Ywain, our guild master was wise, and often times his missions had a moral reasoning behind them. He wasn’t just some dumb man with a strong weapon. No, guild master Ywain was an honorable warrior who raised others to respect the lance, and wield their polearm as an extension of themselves. Being a lancer means you must send out a barrage of attacks while right on top of your enemies. The most important aspect of a Lancer is his mind to read the field, his spirit, and most important of all, his courage. Ywain has taught me “a lancer’s courage is the product of composure and resolve.” Rushing in blindly is something anyone can do. Finding the proper opportune moments to send out your barrage is what a lancer does.
That said… not everyone agrees with guild master Ywain, and that’s where some trouble began for our little guild. One night a man terrorized my fellow members, throwing them across the training floor. He had no respect for them, or for our guild. He was tall, dark, and strong, with white hair, and pointy ears. His name is Foulques, and to say he disagreed with the teachings of Ywain would be an understatement. He found Ywain to be nurturing weaklings, and felt that he was mollycoddling them too much. Foulgues only believed in raw power. As I entered the guild on that night, he charged towards me with his lance out, ready to kill. I did not move an inch. I just glared intensely towards him with a warrior’s aura, much to the fear of Ywain and the other members, and to the shock of Foulgues. I did not let him bully me. I would not stand down to someone who disrespected our guild. Foulgues left shortly after, and the night was mine.
That would not be the last I saw of him, as I would meet Foulgues again on my adventures in the lancer guild. Oftentimes, he would get in my way, and interrupt my missions. Foulgues had an interest in me, though, as I had not shown fear on our initial meeting. He told me how different I was from the others, and that I had promise. Ywain finds Foulgues dangerous, but I find him to be my rival.
Food for Thought:
1. Foulgues reminded me a lot of Fou-Lu from Capcom’s Breath of Fire IV. Maybe it’s because of how their names are similarly spelled and because of their similar color schemes. Or maybe I just really like Breath of Fire IV.
2. The scene where my character stood up to Foulgues was probably meant to be a pretty cool moment. Though I somewhat chuckled since I choose a Lalafell. Seeing my character that looked like a little kid stand all serious face up against the baddie while everyone else was cowering was amusing.