It's a given that Final Fantasy XIV is going to look fantastic, but it looks even better in 3D, which we found out during a tech demo at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Even though some of us may be wondering why Square Enix decided to go with another massive multiplayer online game, producer Hiromichi Tanaka told us that Final Fantasy XI's graphics were a bit out of date, so it was time to upgrade. FFXI players should know that Square Enix does intend to keep the servers running as long as people are still playing.
The tech demo showed us what the game could potentially look like. Square Enix hasn't made any announcement that the game would actually come out in 3D. We began our demo in the port city of Limsa Lominsa, a pirate town that is conveniently perched on a cliff, so we were able to stop at several vista points to take in the view. As we watched the sun set below the horizon and the light reflect off the crystal blue waters, it was quite a sight to see. There's definitely a distinct FFXI feel to the city, as the world is populated with races that are similar to FFXI. The decision behind this was to build a familiar world for FFXI players who want to make a switch.
When it came time to do a proper gameplay demo, we were transported into a cave where we were about to join something called a guildleve. We were invited by another player to join this small quest where our goal was to kill a couple of giant crabs. The purpose of the guildleve is for you to set off on lesser quests and complete them quickly and effectively. We were controlling a Miqo'te (mithra-like) thaumaturge, a sorcerer who had a selection of spells and abilities already available. We were told that leveling works differently in this game and that you don't gain experience points anymore to level; it's a skill-based progression instead. No more farming for that expensive scroll anymore!
The job system, which is also known as the armory system, is now closely linked with crafting. Your role depends on what weapons you're using, and by crafting the weapons that you need, that will direct you down the path of one of four disciplines. The purpose of our demo was on combat, but we'll be sure to provide more details on how the job system works when we get the opportunity to experiment with it more.
When exploring the world, you can be in a passive stance, which will allow you to regenerate health and run faster. By pulling out your weapon and being in an active stance, you won't be able to regenerate, and you'll run slower. Switching between the two depends on the situation, but you obviously need to be active in order to engage an enemy. By using a controller while playing on the PC, we were able to easily pull up a menu and toggle between the different spells at our disposal. There's a stamina bar that is divided into two parts. The bar will replenish over time, and as long as it stays mostly full, you can continue spamming skills. But if it dips below a certain threshold, you'll have to wait before you can use another skill.
Our demo ended rather quickly, and we spent a good amount of time running around the cave because the crabs kept taking off. Because we were playing as a thaumaturge, there was more of navigating the menu rather than physically clobbering the crustacean. It also didn't help that we caught the attention of some spirits who then proceeded to chase us through the cave, and because we wandered away from our party, it was difficult to fend them off solo.
In 2D, Final Fantasy XIV does look and feel similar to FFXI, but when the 3D glasses went on, everything felt more alive. When we walked into the cooking guild, we watched the non-player characters chop veggies, flip patties, and do other things around the kitchen to make our mouths water. The steam from the stew helped make it seem more appetizing. After running around the city for several minutes, our eyes did start to feel tired, but how a person reacts to 3D glasses depends entirely on that individual.
No release date has been announced for Final Fantasy XIV yet, but Tanaka did tell us that Square Enix would like to ship it sometime in 2010. We'll be sure to keep you posted with more information as soon as it becomes available.