Final Fantasy 14 – Second Day, Third Character

The first cold of the autumn seems to finally be over and I can finally get back to using the gym. I’m picking up the pace with my writing course and about to write another short story. My novel is out for some last thoughts with a few friends and the fish tank needs cleaning. We’re shopping locally, to save money, eat more fresh food and to get some exercise. All in all, life is kind of busy at the moment and I’m being fairly focused on my projects… but for a couple of hours a day, I’ve got a new escape.

Final Fantasy 14.

I’ve never played an MMORPG before, I’ve always been nervous about being around other players after a few bad experiences playing online shooters. I’ve always been worried that other players are far more skilled and levelled up than I am, so when Final Fantasy 14 was released last week I wasn’t sure about making the investment of my time and sparse cash on this kind of game.

I love Final Fantasy games in general, though, and because the game was just out I decided to go for it. I even sold my Grandma’s old crockery and some other odds and ends from our latest round of the Great Flat Clearout to pay for a new graphics card. Some fiddling under my desk, a failed new graphics card, a desperate bike ride to a PC component store for another card, and some more fiddling later, the game was installed and up… but not quite running. Square Enix want you to download game updates before you can actually play and, whilst I think that’s a great idea, I think that they should have plumped for a system that offered me a better general download speed than 5KB/s.

… So, the next day I could actually play the game and I have to say, after fifteen hours of fiddling with my PC and waiting for game updates, I wasn’t in the best of moods. To compound my bad mood, FF14 doesn’t really come with any instructions. You’re just dumped in the middle of a location and left to fend for yourself, with only minimal guides to battle, quests, or even what the small number of stats attached to your character actually mean. I spend four hours dying repeatedly because my character wasn’t strong enough to beat any quests, and the requirement to run long distances to get to them, only to die once again, was really putting a dampner on my fun.

This morning, however, I decided to start again; a spur of the moment decision to check that the other character classes weren’t much better than my cute human gladiator… He was actually pretty good and, initially annoyed that I’d just wasted four hours  that I’d have to repeat, I discovered that I could recreate the character and start from scratch…

It was the best decision I’d made.

Right from the word go, this time, everything made sense. I realised that I didn’t have to just go on quests, I could just level up from killing little marmoset and mushroom creatures, as long as no one else was trying to kill them at the time. I realised that if I put my sword away between battles, my health regenerated. I understood that for a non-magic user, the skill points I was earning were best spent on Strength, Dexterity and Vitality because they were the points that related to melee fighters.

Suddenly, running through the forest was fun. In an hour, I’d levelled up to a point higher than my first try, and completed four quests. I’d cheered a few other players who were fighting around me and, thanks to the kindess of an anonymous magic user that was passing by, I was stunning enemies whilst I fought them. I realised that it was fine if other players were at a higher level and that a lot of them were really nice people.

A tip for starting out though: In your initial landing location at a city, there will be an NPC that offers to take you to a local bar. This will get you into the game proper – but when you want to start accepting quests, there’s someone in that bar who will hand them out to you. You then have to go to a nearby camp/crystal to start the quest. This took me an hour to figure out! I guess I felt rushed into wanting to play after all the problems with my PC.

So, I can highly recommend the game and, if you’ve got a PS3, the game’s heading there next spring. Don’t be afraid to look around and don’t feel rushed into starting quests. If you level up a bit first, the game will be more fun and you’ll understand some of the things that Square Enix should have told you about at the start.

It is gorgeous too. In a sunlit glade, between fights, I had my character dance a little before sitting down for a well earned rest while I checked my email. As the sun went down, the sounds of birdsong and  a breeze gently shaking the leaves of the huge trees around me dampened the arrival of my credit card statement, and left me serene enough to tackle the washing.

Bliss.

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