Alright, now that I am not half asleep and needing rest, let's go through this!
First, I will be first putting out the negatives, then the positives, because I feel that's how the game left me feeling. There were some annoyances at the start, but overall it left me feeling excited and ready for more. So I'd rather just clear out what needs fixing, what I found from my experience to be bad, and then hit the high points. Also, some of these might be based on my limited, rushed play of the game, so if there are ways to improve the experience in the future, point them out. My hands-on amounted to a rushed play-through of only a few hours.
One caveat I am tossing out now: I am not on the optimal setup. The TV I am using is an old JVC iArt 4:3 standard def TV (36" I believe). As such, some of my issues are not ones I'm reporting on the Beta forums unless there's some huge outcry here that I do so. Just know that you need a 16:9 TV to play this game.
UI customization isn't really complete
AKA Don't expect to play on 4:3.
The chat window is very much too small on PS3 at the default setting. And on the 4:3, the far left and the bottom are off the edges of the screen. The font is also very small for a TV, and the NPC dialogue font is very fine. If you are planning to play far from your TV, change your plans. I didn't see a font adjustment at all, so I think that's basically your one option for chat/NPC dialogue. Mind you, the NPC dialogue is larger, but the fine-lined font looks terrible at 4:3, and my eyes feel the strain of trying to read it. Also, again at 4:3, the dialogue windows are chopped at right and bottom, making quest info impossible.
At 4:3, the menus pile on one another. Buying anything was impossible. If I highlighted the item, and it wasn't the bottom item, the price was totally hidden. I am not sure if anyone else experienced these problems at other resolutions or if the menus were better at higher res, but it was a bit of a downer.
Graphics aren't as good, if that's your thing
The hair looks like helmets, the skins are uniform playdough in colour... you've seen the complaints here and I can confirm them to be true. For me, it's not a deal breaker. 1.0 was bloody gorgeous, but all that beauty led to lag. I'd prefer it much better this way, but mind you the skin could use a little be more definition. Also character customization is more limited for some options (facial hair mainly, But I could swear there were more skin options).
This is NOT a dealbreaker for me at all.
CAMERA CONTROLS/POSITION and TARGETING
THIS. THIS is a dealbreaker lol! I will be posting on the beta forums for this when I get home. Playing as a small Lalafell is ridiculous. The camera is locked in on a spot in the middle of your back. That means at close range, your character fills the screen and your angle is terribly low. It makes it impossible to function. At all. Even zoom the camera out doesn't help much, the lower angle causes you to be unable to deal with enemies who are much taller than you, like the Gobbue and Aurochs. Camera lock-on doesn't appear to fix this, it just causes your camera to tilt in on the enemy at a different angle. This needs fixing. There needs to be a height adjustment option or it needs to be moved to at least the midpoint of the character's head. This led to my death in a FATE to Aurochs because I could not see what I was targeting. The camera needs to dynamically position up on taller mobs, otherwise being a Lalafell is going to suck. Really really badly.
Targeting using a controller is broken. Badly. Really really badly. Left and right work fine when you are coming up on non-aggressive mobs and picking them off. When you are in a FATE and mobs are running everywhere, you are flailing to get a target, then running all over chasing it as opposed to getting one near you. I started just not targeting until my attack hit a mob. Yes, I know, hit Tab. Or Circle Circle X. Either way, it doesn't always work, and it will cause issues if it is not address. I am not sure how best to address it, but it needs tweaking.
There was also a one-off bug that ended my night that I already posted on the beta forums. In the Auroch battle, when I died, I had switched my combat menus to toggle, and when the "Return to Homepoint" dialogue came up I couldn't select it because the combat menus were up. I toggled off the menu... and the Return to Homepoint became untargetable. I couldn't access it at all, and since it was already late, I went to bed.
Combat is amazingly better!
Yes, there's not a large depth here yet. I'm not expecting that. FFXI's combat system took time. LOTR:O's combat system took time. WoW's........... Moving on... Combat will become better defined, but what is there now is a nice, solid base. The means of accessing your combat options (Hold or toggle using your L/R2 with an easy way to switch between them as well) feels rock solid. The fact that you now use all your controller buttons instead of hammering X, brilliant. The abilities feeling more unique? Done and dusted! There is even an order to skills in my case as a Marauder. Use Heavy Swing, a dashed rotating outline appears around Cleave, use Cleave for MAXIMUM DAMAGE! Simple, clean, glorious. Yes, it is spammy, but with autoattack, you could just as wel sit back on trash mobs and let your character beat on them. So now farming is a thing!
There is room for improvement, but I am sure that will come. Also, I am sure that there is more complexity in the system that you will not see running about solo. It feels like the start of a deeper system, and for that I am glad.
Also, running out of range of a Goblim Bomb... Wow.
Controls are like a second skin... mostly
With some exceptions (targeting, some of the context-sensitive actions), you can do like did and never, ever read a help screen yet still control your character. Because of my limited time, I pretty much blew through every tutorial, reading nothing at all. I am sure I missed tons of helpful, useful information. Don't care. I had a ton of fun discovering how to play, and nothing was so complex that I could not discern how to make it work via just trial and error. These are the controls you need for an MMO. There is more depth, again, but allowing someone to pick up, play and have fun... Brilliant!
AND WE CAN JUMP!!!!
Character Creation is much better than FFXI
In comparison to 1.0, you have less options. But since this is going to get compared to FFXI, it's better than that. There are plenty of options to make you look unique. From face tattoos to jewelry to height and facial features, you can look more unique that its predecessor. For people coming back from 1.0, you will see a loss of some options, but none of them are truly bad, and maybe they are just gone for the beta.
Lalafells still should not have facial hair.
The @#%^ing music!
One of the signatures of FFXI was the music you experienced as you traveled. It gave the game a greater personality than other, silent MMOs. As you draw your weapon and attack, the music swells from nowhere, as the enemy dies, it fades away. It's a small touch, but an important one. Idle too long, music starts to slowly rise. It enhances the experience of the game, filling it with life beyond the sound effects of people grunting and weapons clashing. It truly makes you feel like the world is more epic.
Seeing goblins just outside down made me smile. Seeing them fall on their *** instead of having them smash mine, amazing. No longer are there mobs just outside down that will wreck you without warning. Levels clearly show above the heads of all the enemies. Plus seeing old time mobs like mandies mixed in with the new level fodder definitely makes this feel like a natural successor to FFXI. More on that in the conclusion.
Questing made easy
Wow, you mean I DON'T need wiki open to do a quest? You mean you are going to label the NPC who gave me the quest so I can find them later? Are you actually SE? Because you don't seem like SE. Seriously, I was excited to see questing go the way of the ! for ease of doing it. Quests should not be something arcane and obtuse, requiring reams of website bookmarks to decipher. I love the fact that I could bop around and do the quests without the torture of the google searches of **** that I did back at FFXI.
I did not get to craft, sadly, because I couldn't see the option to start as a crafter, and because of my menu issues I could not see when I had enough gil to buy crafting items. It really ****** me off, I wanted to try it SO BAD! I did do some quests but because of my text issues, I can't really say how much I will like the story. The opening cutscene was epic. Got me wanting to get that armor and axe...
Overall, this is the game 1.0 should have been. Since they were not breaking with FFXI entirely (Look, call them Lalafells if you like, they are ******* Tarutarus), they needed to aim for making FFXI 2.0. And this IS FFXI 2.0. More solo friendly, easier to quest, faster paced battles. This is doing it all and doing it all right. Brilliant, 8/10, four and a half stars, not perfect but beyond any expectation I had set for it. This raises the bar for launch, and as I said, I will be there in Beta, and if they keep wowing me like this, I will be there for many years to come.
Edited, Jun 16th 2013 10:53am by Pawkeshup