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Can FFXIV compete with Warcraft?

Opinion: FFXIV beta tester Simon Stallwood is convinced it can - eventually...

I have been following Final Fantasy XIV's evolution ever since Sony dropped the bomb of its existence at E3 2009.

Even back then, I had high hopes of an MMORPG that mixed Final Fantasy XI's story and character attachment with World of Warcraft's highly playable game interface.

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An unachievable dream? As it turns out, no - but only if Square is willing to give us some much-needed improvements.

Having spent weeks hammering my way through the beta, I can attest that Final Fantasy XIV is certainly beautiful-looking game - albeit one you will need a high-end PC to run.

Eorzea is an amazing place just to walk around and the graphics are stunning for an MMO. The music, written by Nobuo Uematsu, is also fantastic, and every single piece is of such high quality and complements each area of the game brilliantly.

The battle system, meanwhile, is exactly what you would expect from an MMO of this type. Engage a mob, select your attack and once the timer bar is ready then your character will perform his or her assault. You effectively rinse and repeat this formula until either you or the mob has been defeated.

New moves are learnt as you progress through your chosen class - but you're not bound to just one. By changing the weapon/tool in your hand, you can alternate from a spell casting-type player, to a melee-type, a harvesting-type or even an item creation-type.

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In a neat touch, these are all transferable - so moves that you learnt being a blacksmith and also be used while you are playing as a gladiator. There are many different route to creating your own custom character - which offers more diversity than any MMO I've seen before.

For example, learning Gladiator as a main move-set - so you can become a tank class - is complemented by also learning early marauder moves, because of the hate generating properties these generate. Likewise, by combining gladiator and miner classes you can help your characters moves become much more focused and gain larger accuracy in your attacks.

A large part of any MMORPG is completing quests, which in Final Fantasy XIV are called Guild Leves. Guild Leves are obtained by visiting an NPC who will offer you up to eight Guild Leves every 48 hours - so teamwork and sharing them with other players becomes essential.

Guild Leves revolve around killing a type of mob a certain number of times or, more notably, by gathering a set amount of a particular item.

This can be achieved either through a gathering class (like mining or logging) or by defeating a mob that will drop the item you're after on their demise.

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Alternatively, there are also Regional Leves, which are quests based around a creation class. One Regional Leve had me using my blacksmithing skill to create a sword for an NPC. However, in the materials for the task were supplied and didn't need to be hunted out - which made skilling up this potentially mundane creation class quick and easy. Let's face it, farming materials takes a lot of fun out crafting jobs.

This, along with countless other examples, showed how cleverly and seamlessly FFXIV has been put together - and demonstrates a developer in Square that really understands what makes a great MMO.

It's very rare for an MMO to launch without its problems, however - and FFXIV is no different.

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The decision not to include an auction house system is an awful one. Instead, you hire an NPC to stand in a packed market room - as does everybody else - and players have to discuss trading with each NPC one at a time to get the best price. It's a painstaking process.

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