Let's get right down to it: unless you've got the patience of Job or are some kind of masochist, you shouldn't play Final Fantasy Xiv. It's problems are so vast that I could spend hours talking about them. The awful interface, the recycled content, the stringent limits on question, the useless maps, the stupid market wards... these issues and dozens more constantly have you asking that age old question, "what were they thinking?" Theres so much wrong with this massively multiplayer role playing game that what's right gets buried under the rubble. The visual technology is great, the flexible class system is a great idea, and there some pretty cutscenes to gawk at. But that stuff is wasted on Final Fantasy Xiv, which requires a lot out of you but gives back so little in return. This isn't fun... its work.
Once you get through the awful and convoluted account sign up process and deal with the sluggish patcher, you might actually start getting excited. Character creation showcases the slick character models, and there are a number of attractive races and disciplines to choose from. Your excitement might even grow once you start the game and get greeted with an attractive series of cutscenes that show off the impressive graphics engine. But things go downhill in a major way once you take control of your character. You are constantly left asking questions like, "how do I know where to go next?" Where are the market wards?" "How do I find out which vendor sells which items?" "Why can't I open my inventory with a single key press?" From the very moment you start, Final Fantasy XIV seems as if it goes out of its way to make you hate it. At first, you might think this is because the game's complexity requires that interacting with it be this dumb and inhospitable. But in actuality, there's a very simple game laying underneath.
Let me give you a few examples of the insane number of failings the game thrusts upon you. The interface is terrible and sluggish. You have to make a number of clicks and key presses to do something as simple as opening your inventory. There aren't hotkeys for basic things like targeting the closest enemy or switching to a different weapon set. If you want a quick way to do these things, you have to create macros, which requires you to know a variety of text commands. Why doesn't the game use standard hotkeys for these things? Who knows. Plug in a controller and the interface starts to make a little sense, but you have to manually configure your gamepad in a utility that's separate from the main game--the same way you have to customize your graphics settings. The map is an abomination. You can't zoom in and out or use the mouse to scroll, you can't set waypoints, and your story objective is listed on a separate but equally awful map that gives you no sense of where you are in relation to where you need to go. Most vendors aren't labeled, and only a few stalls have signs indicating what they sell. If you want to buy something, until you remember who sells what, you have to click on all the merchants to see if they might have what you need. You can buy from retainers, which are player-controlled characters that act as storefronts. But that involves cycling through every single one to see what they're selling. This incredible waste of time could have been avoided with an auction house, or at least some way to search for your needed items. An auction house is apparently on its way, but for now, you need to deal with the worst possible solution to a need that's been figured out and polished up in other similar games for many years.
These are but a tiny number of issues in a game absolutely loaded with them. When you finally start making your way around, you discover that there's really not a lot to this world. In the long stretches between story quests, you take short standalone missions, and you are limited to eight of them every 36 hours, which is insane. These quests are very short, and they are all copy-pasted jobs that give no context to what you are doing. There's no quest writing, no character development, nothing that gives the world any character at all. Even the exploration ends up being disappointing. From a technical perspective, the visuals are outstanding, and there are a few cool sights to take in. But the art design is mostly uninspired. The forests outside of Gridania, for example, are just copy-pasted green corridors. There are deserts and fields, but you won't find awesome eye candy hidden away in the nooks and crannies. Outside of the infrequent story quests and the short standalone quests, which are called levequests, there's mostly just grinding, crafting, and hourly group missions called behests. There just isn't a lot of content, and the content that exists is incredibly basic and totally lacking in personality.
There are a few neat aspects to ease the pain of playing Final Fantasy XIV, however. While you select a class when you first start, you can really be anything you want, whenever you want, simply by equipping a weapon or tool associated with that class. Want to be conjurer? Grab a wand. Want to be an archer? Equip a bow. When you grab a pickaxe, you become a miner. When you equip a saw, you become a carpenter. And so on. Each class levels up separately, though there is an overall rank that you level up in as well. You can even mix and match skills from different jobs, essentially making up your own class as you go. It's a pretty cool system, even though the combat has some issues of its own. It's pretty standard for the genre, though it has a few twists to make it at least semi interesting. Unfortunately, there's not a good sense of progress. Dozens of hours in and you are still fighting rats, dodos, and other creatures that seem best suited for low level players. And enemy placement is a bit bizarre. A lot of areas are barren of creatures to fight, while others feature only pushover weaklings and high-level beasts that will murder you in a single hit--both within a few feet of each other.
When you aren't fighting, you are crafting or gathering. In either case, this involves performing a minigame. It's a good idea, but it crafting wears out its welcome in time. The interface is slow anyway, but it gets even slower here, and the animations are incredibly long. Making a single piece of cloth or a single plank of lumber seems like it takes an eternity. And be sure to grab a notebook, as the game doesn't save your recipes. Instead, you have to either remember them, write them down, or refer to some website or another. In fact, you need to refer to outside sources to learn a lot about what to do in Final Fantasy XIV. A game doesn't need to walk you through everything to be good, but this one goes far beyond wanting you to figure things out on your own. It puts incredibly numbers of obstacles between you and your fun, and none of them come with any benefit whatsoever. The awful interface, the bare minimum quest design, the complete lack of focus and direction, the madness that is the economy--all these things make playing this unfriendly grindfest a total chore. If you want to know even more, the written review goes into a lot more detail. Suffice it to say, Final Fantasy XIV is not the online RPG you should be playing--not by a long shot.