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Special APFFRT 4 Interlude: Final Fantasy XI vs. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: /images/autobot.gif + 1
I feel bad for not having an APFFRT ready today, but since FFXI is what I was doing instead, I thought it might be fun to use that to post something anyway. Obviously the first half-hour of any MMO is going to be pretty unremarkable (that's why these games didn't make it into the bracket), but they can be compared to one another. I have been playing both by myself lately, taking things slowly and playing as the game was originally designed. I've only hit level 20 or so in FFXIV, and in beta, compared to level 30 for FFXI. In both cases I've only done stuff in the original game; no expansion material. To be fair, I will be comparing the games through level 20 or so - when you visit all three starting cities.

Game 1: Visuals
FFXI's visuals hold up pretty well on PC, although they are surprisingly bad on 360. They are horrendous beyond belief on PS2, but I'm not going to hold that against them. FFXI's visual style is kind of generic, although every now and then I notice that it has a hint of cel-shading that I quite like. The biggest problem early on is that all of your gear kind of looks the same, including some nice sort-of-quested sets. This changes later, but early on it's a lot of bland armor and subligar (of which the less said, the better).

The one thing FFXIV always had going for it, even in the original release, was that it was beautiful. Well, ARR has increased performance and somehow kept the graphics just as good. Combined with a new varied and fantastic world design, this game is one of the nicest-looking I've ever played. The gear looks great, even at low levels, and the dying system makes that even better. Enemies are varied and cool, spell effects are good, and the UI is fantastic.

FFXIV's biggest strength is certainly its visuals, and it has almost certainly the best in the entire series. FFXI's aren't too shabby, but they can't compare with the new hotness.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Real Reborn leads 1-0

Game 2: Audio
FFXI predates voice acting in MMOs, but there's plenty of sound here. The music is all right, although I tend to tune it out or turn it off altogether simply because you spend so much time in any given area of an MMO. The starting cities' music is something I've long grown a bit tired of, as well. However, the sound design of FFXI is quite good. Most monsters have a subtle sound to indicate that they have noticed you (the most memorable being the squeak of bats). Actual combat sounds aren't terribly varied, but they do a good job keeping track of what's going on.

FFXIV does feature voice acting, but only during the introduction and one random (albeit awesome) cutscene. It's kind of a disappointment, especially in this day and age. The rest of the sound and music is all fine. Like FFXI, the music kind of stays in the background where it belongs. The sound design is fine, but nothing especially notable.

This is kind of a tie, given that both have audio that serves its purpose, and well, but nothing of particular note so early on. FFXIV gets the edge because even though the voice acting is limited, it's quite good. Also it largely involves the villains, who are in the FF12 vein, and I'm all about that.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn leads 2-0

Game 3: Combat
FFXI's combat is weird in that there are kind of three totally different types. There's standard party combat, where you repeatedly kill the same thing that's very dangerous, but can be taken down efficiently if the party is a well-oiled machine. There's plot combat, which is usually either extremely dramatic or extremely easy, depending on how over-leveled you are. And then there's what I've been doing, no-frills, low-level combat against the mobs the designers probably originally intended you to fight. This is definitely the least exciting of the three, but it really appeals to me. The game becomes a test of endurance rather than strategy, but there's not a ton of danger, so it's kind of relaxing. It's sort of like playing FF4 or something.

FFXIV combat is fast-paced and potentially dangerous. You tend to fall into particular cycles of actions, depending on class. This is fun but can get repetitive. I'm a huge fan of starting you off at full TP - this lets trivial battles end quickly, and doesn't make much difference in a protracted fight. Combat is tuned to be fun, and it's still a challenge if you want it to be. With all the monsters' levels visible, it's extremely predictable, which isn't as exciting but can be a lot less stressful.

At high levels, I think FFXI wins this hands-down. However, most of the cool stuff in FFXI is either high-level or on an advanced job, and neither of those applies here. Low-level combat is fine, with weaponskills and magic and whatnot, but FFXIV has combos, awesome mechanics (like the Thaumaturge's buffs), and is just generally more fun early on.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn leads 3-0

Game 4: Advancement
FFXI currently has 22 jobs, but you start off with only 6 to choose from. At first, you're restricted to a single job, but eventually you will unlock the ability to use a second job (at half your main job's level), giving you a lot of flexibility. Sure, with the starting jobs there really aren't that many viable combinations, but it's still cool training up to get a wider variety of situational abilities (especially, at this point, for mages). Gear is also super important, but you aren't unlocking anything really crazy at these levels, so it's mostly just about maximizing attack power and defense.

FFXIV restricts you to a single class at first, not even letting you switch to any others, but once you can switch, things really open up. You need to join guilds to unlock jobs, which limits you pretty severely until you reach the other towns, but you always have access to at least one alternate combat job, one gathering job, and two or more crafting jobs. (Actually, as of the last beta there is no gathering job and only one combat job in Limsa Lominsa, but that will change at launch.) There isn't any relevant crossover between job types, and at low levels everything but combat jobs is more or less independent from one another - much like crafting in FFXI. However, combat jobs can freely share abilities, which is cool - even if you mostly just want more healing at these levels.

This is an interesting comparison because FFXIV is actually more restrictive until level 10, but there isn't much point in playing a second class in FFXI until level 18 anyway. At level 20, both offer a lot of variety, but FFXIV has more classes and more class types, plus crafting isn't worthless at low levels like it is in FFXI.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn wins 4-0

Conclusion
Well, that wasn't as competitive as I'd have thought, especially since I'm currently playing and loving FFXI. Still, it's a good sign that FFXIV was basically FFXI, but improved in each category. It would have been very interesting to compare original-release FFXI to FFXIV 1.0 - both games were very different than they are now. FFXI is (approximately) a billion-times more player-friendly than it was 11 years ago, and FFXIV is actually fun even if you're not an OCD nutjob.

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There is no Mythril Sword in Elfheim
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