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Back April 11th, 2009 Forward
In which Meg reviews her first taste of FFXI

Okay, went out and spent my birfday money on Monday (which just happened to be my birfday) and bought a collection of manga (Trinity Blood vols 8 - 10, Fake Vols 1 - 3, Love for Venus 3, Fullmetal Alchemist 17) at Borders. Borders in Perth have cut back on graphic novels and manga, so I'll probably be buying online again *sigh*. Thanks be to all the gods for the Madman site (cuts out the middleman, since they're one of the main importers to Australia). Then I dropped in at the nearby Electronics Boutique, and discovered they had not only the "Wings of the Goddess" expansion pack for FFXI, but the FFXI 2007 edition pack (original game, plus three expansion packs - "Rise of the Zilart", "Chains of Promathia" and "Treasures of Aht Urhgan"). Ooh, thinks I, a FF game I don't have, and at $25 a pop, that's not bad. Grab.

Having put in my fortnightly dole form on Thursday (thus ensuring I'd actually have money in my bank account the following day, or so I hoped) I installed and tried out the game yesterday morning. So far it looks like I'm not going to be bothering with keeping things past the trial period.

For a start, the "Play Online" interface is a clunky whatsit. Okay, yes, I know it's designed principally so people who are playing games on PS2, PS3 and XBox360 consoles are able to connect online to play various other Squeenix games, and it really wasn't designed with PC users in mind. However, it is still klunky, klumsy, and at times slower than a wet week in winter. So, strike one.

Strike two: the game itself has possibly the least intuitive user interface I've ever run up against in years. Now, let me be clear on this: World of Warcraft is not the only thing I'm comparing it against. My initiation into the wonderful world of MMORPGs was through Dark Age of Camelot, and I haven't quite been playing WoW for a year. I've also been playing various RPGs and strategy games since the first computer my family owned (1989, in other words). I've seen a lot of user interfaces, in varying difficulties, and I've rarely had to look hard at the manual to learn my way around them (which was a mercy, in some cases, since my brother rarely actually purchased games when we first had a PC...). With this one, I tried my usual trick of "learn through doing" and discovered myself rather lost.

Strike three: The game itself presumably has brilliant graphics. However, my laptop (which I tend to use as my main PC these days, since it has more working USB ports than the PC - ie any) can't render them sufficiently. Now, before anyone starts to tell me that a laptop is never going to have as good a graphics card as a PC and why don't I just upgrade the graphics card or similar, let's point out a few different things. Point one: never in my life have I owned a top-level gaming PC - I don't see the point in spending the money on something that's going to be obsolete in no time flat. I choose my computers for their ability to last. Point two: I'm currently using said laptop to play World of Warcraft, and if any game could be said to be appealing to the high end gamers, surely it would be that one. Point three: this is the 2007 edition of the game. I bought the laptop in 2008, so presumably the graphics card would be able to handle games created in 2007 (which this one wasn't - it started out back in approximately 2001).

Then there's all the little annoyances, like the fact that I had to clear out a whole heap of stuff off the hard drive to make room for this one game (4GB of original game, plus the expansion packs, plus another 1.2GB of patching, which originally said it was going to take about 12 hours to download... and wound up taking about 4 or 5); the fact that I can't turn off the background music and leave the sound effects intact (hint to game designers: it doesn't matter how good your composer is, the music will get annoying after about the fifth run through. Give us a way to switch just the music off); the way the quest givers have to be discovered through trial and error (rather than having a nice clear indicator over their heads); the way the mouse controls the camera angle (and there's no way to switch this off or slow it down, so the mouse has to sit still); the lack of options available for character design (up to 8 faces and a choice of 2 hair colours for each); the lack of a way of tracking quests (I've had to resort to pencil and paper again, for the first time in years); oh, and the "pay by character" pricing model, which is a right whatsit for someone like me who enjoys creating a lot of different character types to see which one they prefer to play. There is a *lot* of room for improvement.

I'll keep playing, and see whether I learn to like it any better, but at present I'm somewhat disappointed. Squeenix are definitely better at consoles than PCs.

Current Mood: critical critical
Back April 11th, 2009 Forward