Thursday, September 12, 2013

Snow On Her Shoes, Frost In Her Hair : FFXIV

MMOs tend to be much more alike than they are different. Every new entrant to the field comes freighted with ghost memories, reaching outwards from the designers, inward from the players. In the same way we struggle to describe a new band without citing past names as calibration, so all talk of new games relies on references to those we've already played.

Playing FFXIV, the constant referent in our small Linkshell has been Vanguard, in great part for the crafting which bears many similarities, but also for the settings, the feel and most especially the look. In its day the game to which the late Keith Parkinson gave his unmistakeable visual stamp was rated by many, myself among them, as the best-looking virtual world yet brought to screen. Not everyone agreed. Some people positively loathed its gritty textures and pointed at the ill-fitting rocks that could, not infrequently, be found floating a few inches clear of the ground.

I barely noticed those shortcomings at the time, swept up as I was in the richness of the tapestry of that huge, open world but re-visit Vanguard now and the dropped stitches show. It does look tired.

Technology and taste, neither of them stand still. Right now FFXIV seems to me, by some margin, the most visually accomplished virtual world into which I have stepped but five years on, maybe a lot sooner than that, Eorzea too may look worn and weary. Greedy eyes may all be focused elsewhere.

For the while, though,it's a joy to explore. If I have a current goal it's to visit all the overland zones and take a positively heroic quantity of screenshots. As I mentioned in a reply to Chris K.'s comment on the previous post, gorgeous though the screenshots are they don't really do justice to what I see in-game when I take them. The lighting and weather effects particularly rely on motion and don't always come across. Maybe I should take some video.

In a restless drive to open out the world and find new horizons, last night I made it to Coerthas Central Highlands, a 35ish zone somewhat above my Arcanist's level but not so far as to make a cautious traveler pale. It's the first snow zone and snow zones have a long history of being among my favorites in any MMO. Sometimes they can be featureless expanses of white; more often they're pristine, shimmering wonderlands of silver and winter blue. Occasionally, like Carpathian Fangs in The Secret World the snow has clearly lain for a long while, becoming trammeled with mud from the wheels of passing carts and the blood-caked boots of adventurers.

What I've seen of Coerthas so far is closer to Carpathian Teeth than Iron Pine Peaks although it's hard to be sure since it seems to have been night for most of the time I've been there. Perhaps days are shorter in the North. The only action my Arcanist has seen so far was when she engaged what appeared to be some Demons in a FATE. That turned out rather well, and profitably, but when there's no gang to follow she's felt safer behind the impressively thick walls of some very doughty keeps, not least since around her the muttering is of dragons.

Faint hear ne'er won fair screenshot, however, so in the interests of Eorzean photojournalism this evening will see her pushing ever further northwards in search of mystery, adventure and, with any luck, a snowstorm or two. until the inevitable yet almost certainly unforeseen encounter, possibly even with the rumored dragon, returns her without ceremony or warning to her bind.

Which is in Ul'Dah, the desert city far to the south. Good thing FFXIV's not quite so old-school as to require a return trip to corpse or a prayer at a gravestone. That's one nostalgic note I can manage very happily without.


  1. Funny that, just last night I was calling FFXIV crafting Vanguard-Lite with LotrO animations (which to my mind was a compliment).

    I fully agree on bot your views of Vanguard then and now. Age of Conan comes pretty clsoe to FFXV's beauty but for some reason FFXIV runs so much smoother. Right now FFXIV is a hoot for people who like to explore, and you only get the minimum of Achievement B$ for ti so it's clean pure exloration fun. A huge shame about all the invisible walls though.

    1. I have a sealed copy of AoC on my bookshelf. It's been there for years. I bought it long before the game went F2P but the moment just never arrived when I felt I had sufficient time with no competing demands to give it a try. It's the forgotten Western AAA MMO - it's rare for anyone in the corner of the blogosphere I inhabit even to mention it and I can't think of a single blogger I read that plays it. I really should give it a run sometime.

      Also, I completely agree that the absence of achievements for exploring in FFXIV makes the exploration much more enjoyable. Achievements detract from satisfaction for anyone who isn't an achiever, I believe. It's like being patted on the head by a great-aunt.

  2. I've been over that bridge a hundred times and all it ever was was 'bridge'.

    I sneaked onto FFXIV on the quiet and when my friend asked me what I was doing on Early Access Day 1 for a moment I was very tempted to lie because I knew what was coming.

    But I couldn't do it, so within a day my whole crew is in The Race again just like all the other MMOs. Stupid morals.

    Hell is other people. Loving every minute of it.

    1. I backtracked to your blog to see if it might clarify your somewhat gnomic comment. It didn't but it was a great read. You'll pardon me for not adding it to the blogroll but I think it may be somewhat, erm, specialist.

      I look forward to seeing your future comments on Tobold's D&D posts though :P


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