E3 2013 was quite a mind-numbing day but somehow I survived! But that's not all I survived. The highlight of my day, on the floor at least, was being chosen to play the Final Fantasy XIV Ifrit Challenge at the Square Enix booth -- only because it was full and I originally wouldn't have gotten my chance till the next day-- and win. As you all now, I both follow and love Final Fantasy, and as much could be said about XIV.
It's funny, because in a double stroke of luck; not only did I get to play, I got the EXACT combination of character I wanted (for a play-test at least): Playstation 3, Lalafell, Conjurer. I was really curious about how the controller played out in-game that I skipped out on being a Marauder on keyboard.
NOTE: I know this is E3 week, but the NDA is still technically still up. Video, inappropriate screenshots, or information that cannot be disclosed will not be in the article. I was told this during playtime.
The battle involved Primal: Ifrit. For those who played FFXIV 1.0 -- you won't see anything different really. Everything is pretty much the same. Mind you, I did play the game on PS3 and the graphics were still just as good as the PC I owned in 2011 so I can't quite comment on visuals without playing the PC version first (maybe next time).
Though, I did get a tip from one of the developers standing behind me, that the primal was indeed in an "easier" state. As for how much easier? I wouldn't know, but if I'm suppose to beat him to potentially get Astral power for my Summoner, I hope it isn't something too back-breaking. Perhaps we'll see the ability to increase the difficulty on final release.
Alright, if there is ANYTHING that impresses me, it's definitely the console port of FFXIV. The controls were as smooth as butter and even someone who regularly uses a keyboard should be able to figure out the PS3 controller after a few moments of play time.
From the looks of things, you can have about 16 different skills. When you're not holding down the triggers, d-pad is for targeting. When you hold down one of the triggers, all 4 buttons on both sides of the controller turn into the skills you set-up with macros. So for the demo, my right trigger activated my healing spellbook (Cure, Cure II, Esuna, etc.) while the left trigger activated my offensive skills ( Stone, Stone II, etc). Everything was just so convenient and easy to navigate. As far as i'm concerned, 16 "macro slots" is plenty, and i'm sure you can attach commands to them in the menus.
We all got the demonstration from Yoshida awhile back about the controller, but that's nothing till you actually use it for yourself. Also note that i'm that guy that always asks "So can I use a controller?" Tried to on Vindictus, Tera, heck, even Aion (not really productive here, but I tried) and none of those compare to the smooth buttery feeling you get when playing FFXIV with one.
I'll admit, targeting was hard to get used to, since you had the d-pad to worry about, but it's nothing different from tab targeting, which is something I got used to in Final Fantasy XI(bite me).
Still, the level of control I had over a character with many skills while using a device with only so many buttons made healing, and showing-off, that much easier. I couldn't imagine how simple this would be on a non-mage class with less skills!
The game isn't a full-on, action-combat MMO. We know this, nothing new. But there are dynamic to the game that involve positioning like Ifrit's explosive craters and even his fire-breath (which is frontal cone-shaped and very specific). Personally, even having only participated in just one fight, I think Square Enix did it right here. I like Wildstar, but arrows that tell me attack direction? Come-on... At least disguise the stuff with wind currents, laser pointers... Alright, you get my point.
Though, I did play as a conjurer, and one thing I noticed is my heals do not seem to have a range limit. I literally stood as far a way as possible from my gladiator tank and was still able to heal him without interruption. Despite that, I liked to be in the fight casting area-of-effect, just to add excitement to the crowd, heh. I had full faith in the second conjurer, who was fast at healing me, while I AOE-healed the rest of our party.
Also, Ifrit like to put Fetters on the ground. If you didn't destroy them fast enough, that meant a wipe at lv.30. The blasted thing was the bane of all the groups' lives. This shows that Square will likely add more depth to the higher level fights. Perhaps multiple "fetters", a boss that spawns minions. Who knows? This was just a taste.
I'm not going to go into full detail. This isn't a review, and I didn't have access to the menus/macros and what not. But on the surface, which is what I'm basing this on, FFXIV is great game you can literally just pick-up and play (I understand that I was already lv.30 for the demo...). The UI was just that much cleaner and everything is so smooth.
Quite frankly, the ability to use a controller at an on-par level with a keyboard is an achievement in its own right ( please, don't argue with me about superior peripherals here, i'm being general). Maybe on another day, i'll hit up a keyboard and a melee damage dealer to see the feel for a game in that sense. For now, my immediate impression on the game is positive.
Remember, a press demo, much less an E3 one, really is: pick up controller > play > hopefully enjoy. Developers can only hope after that point.
A Realm Reborn launches on August 27th, 2013. Beta 3 opens on June 14th, 2013: stay tuned for streams and video because i'll be all over that once NDA goes down.
This was everything I could muster up in a nutshell. If you have any specific questions, comment below and i'll answer them to the best of my limited knowledge! Also, if you want to see me face Ifrit once again on another class, i'd be happy to! Likely to get better picture too, heh.