Game Play Systems in FFXIV:ARR
An Answer to the “It’s just a [insert game] clone” argument
When you begin your adventures in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (ARR), your character has a single class with a single ability. Your game play in the first hours is driven by a series of quests provided by the non player characters (NPC’s) in your home city.
These quests can be found by looking for quest indicators hovering over the NPC’s head. They are there to ease you into the game and prevent you from being overwhelmed in your first few hours in Eorzea.
This process continues throughout the first ten levels of the game. Find a quest, complete a quest, find a new quest hub, etc. For experienced MMO players it feels very familiar, this is by design. It leads some of those players to conclude that ‘oh, this is just [insert a highly popular MMO] wrapped around Final Fantasy themed art.’
That, though, is an incorrect conclusion.
The often mistaken takeaway in the first few levels of the game is that this is a quest hub game. This leads to the conclusion that the game’s progression is solo-quest to max level and then do dungeons and raids ad nauseum while waiting for the next expansion or the next shiny MMO promising to do something different.
Make no mistake, this game has quest hubs. You can, if you choose, play those quest hubs throughout much of the game. The quest hubs, though, are hardly the entirety of the game. Rather, they are the tip of an iceberg and the only thing visible when you begin.
Every ten levels or so, Final Fantasy XIV: ARR expands and adds a new layer of game systems. These new systems offer new ways to play the game. Some of these systems are familiar to MMO players, others are familiar to FFXI players, some are unique to FFXIV. By the time you are at the level 30 point, there exists quite a number of things to do.
You didn’t have a ton of them dropped on you at once, but here they are all the same. You are going to like and show up to do some of these more than others. You may find that you skip some of these entirely. Indeed, I hate quest hubs, I absolutely detest them. In Beta-3, I quested (out of necessity) through level 15. I reached level 35 on my Gladiator and darn near that with an Armorer while also knocking off a couple of dozen levels on a few other classes.
I didn’t complete a single quest hub after 15th level on my main character (I could have, I just didn’t). Instead, I took advantage of other game systems that opened up. Sure, I completed the story line arcs for my classes, but I don’t mind story line quests (for those curious, I absolutely enjoy epic item quests). I also ran a ton of dungeons, participated in FATE, finished guildhests and just generally played the game in a way that felt fun.
Game Systems as Layered Content
In this post, I want to depict what we know about the game systems in FFXIV by showing when they open. I find myself discussing layers whenever I talk about this game and there are clearly layers in the content system. Over the remainder of this post, I discuss the game play systems available in each ten level layer. Some of this (the 30+ piece) is based on developer discussions, everything from 1-30 is based on game play in the Beta-3 sessions.
Level 1-10, Solo All the Way (aka “this feels like a [insert game] clone”)
The first levels of the game are designed for solo play. You can cooperate with other players and you can jump into parties for some of the game play during the starting hours. Class and City Duty quests, though, necessitate solo play. During these levels you are introduced to important NPC’s in each city as well as making your initial contacts with the overarching band of good guys (and gals).
Since you spend a good portion of your first ten levels proving yourself to the Adventuring Guild in your hometown and the Class Guild for your starting class, it’s largely a solo trek. There are three game systems open to you in the first ten levels of the game, quests, FATE, and hunting log.
Quests are the standard MMO quest hubs that I discussed at the start of this article. The world around your starting city has dozens of NPC’s each needing help. Helping these people provides experience points, gil (the currency in FFXIV) and occasional items. Some of these quests also introduce yourself to, and entrench yourself with, key NPC’s in the game world. It’s very standard MMO content, fetch quests, delivery quests, kill quests, etc.
FATE, short for Fully Active Time Events, are the FFXIV take on dynamic content. FATE events pop up around the world, your compass updates you when they appear and points the way to them. Completing FATE provides xp and gil. Early on FATE are quite simple, typically of the “hey there’s a swarm of [creature], go kill them.” FATE events become gradually more intricate, with fort assaults and village defenses occurring in some of the level 30+ FATE I witnessed.
You will very likely encounter FATE within your first moments outside your home city. These events happen frequently near the city borders as well as near the starting quest encampments. Following the progression of FATE in a zone will help pull you off the roads and beaten paths and help you find some of the more tucked away parts of Eorzea.
Your Hunting Log becomes available around 5th level. From that point on, you get a new hunting log every 10 levels. Each log has 10-pages and each page requires you to explore the world and kill certain monsters. Completing a page rewards you with XP and gil, completing the 10-pages in the log awards you with yet another bonus.