Review: Fantasy Earth Zero

Square-Enix hates computer users.

I get it, they are primarily a console company. Wunderbar. But every computer game they make is a nightmare to play.

See, dear readers, I often subject myself to potentially painful experiences for other’s sake. In this case, I subjected myself to Square’s free-to-play PVP MMO, Fantasy Earth Zero.

Fantasy Earth Zero boasts cool graphics, interesting gameplay, and all the accoutrements of the Asian free-to-play model: a cash shop that is 100% required to play and enjoy the game.

Fantasy Earth Zero delivers on exactly one of these promises: the cash shop.

I am by no means short of cash, but upon reading that a 15 minute wait would be imposed for using PayPal or Google Checkout instead of typing in a number from the back of a card purchased in the supermarket checkout line, I thought to myself, “Lane, Chris Hansen is going to be mad at you for playing this game.”

Screenshot

Ganked from MMOSite apparently.

I understand that the F2P model is attractive to younger players because it costs less money (at least until the cash shop is involved). I understand that kids can probably beg a $10-$15 card off their parents in the checkout line, which will give them a considerable amount of in-game microtransaction points.

But I am nearing twenty seven in a month, and it is unseemly that I play a game dominated by younger people. The lack of mature play is further dampened by the PVP focus of the game. PVP attracts thirteen year old boys of all ages.

The graphics are substandard, even by my relatively low MMO standards. I do not mean that the graphics are necessarily bad, but they make me look fondly on Final Fantasy XI‘s graphics. Square is never known for producing games that are high in the eye-candy department, so I was willing to forgive this…

Until I started trying to play the game with the keyboard.

For such a badly-designed game, I actually have a fond spot for the UI. It is neat and useable, except in terms of the special attacks necessary to play the game. There is a single attack button (the left mouse button, which one will click with a Diablo-like fury) and a set of possible attacks that are bound to the mousewheel. Selecting attacks means scrolling through them, or in the alternative, pressing a number key to activate that attack.

Whereas in another MMO, like WoW or WAR, simply pressing the button is enough to trigger the attack. I found this two-step system to be unnecessarily clunky, and actually found myself hindered by my competence at playing MMOs. I would be on to my next button press by the time my mouse click went through, resulting in many missed attacks.

Combat also suffers from terrible lag, despite my relatively low latency and excellent framerate. A main feature of combat involves using strafes and jumps to dodge incoming attacks. But because of interface lag, there is no way to overwrite the current command. Therefore, if a player clicks “attack” but suddenly needs to dodge, the entire attack animation must cancel before evasive maneuvers can be taken.

Other MMOs do not suffer from this conceit; it is possible to jump around one’s opponent like a demented monkey in WAR, for example, and use all instant cast attacks while on the move. Not so in Fantasy Earth Zero, despite having a heavy PVP focus. Again, this penalizes people that have developed skills playing other PVP MMOs. Good for the kids with the 7-11 bought microtransaction cards, bad for grumpy lawyers.

So the gameplay is balls, the polygons are blocky, and the style screams early 2002 anime… what good can we say about Fantasy Earth Zero?

Not much, I am afraid. However, should you wish to have a relatively low barrier to play, the cash shop offers really cool weapons and armor available at levels players will have achieved by finishing the tutorial. Some say “naked greed,” I say, “would be cool if I did not have to wait 15 fucking minutes to get my microtransaction points!”

Screenshot Two

The UI is very functional, but it cannot save this game.

One of my favorite things about Dungeons and Dragons Online (and presumably, Turbine’s upcoming F2P version of Lord of the Rings Online and German wunderspiele Runes of Magic is that buying points is quick, easy and painless, even for those of us not purchasing 7-11 cards. The points arrive instantly, but their use is limited more toward buying things like potions that boost experience gained, which really aids in leveling.

All in all, Fantasy Earth Zero presents an entirely skippable experience in the MMO world… and yet again, we lack a truly excellent free-to-play PVP experience. I hope sometime in the near future to obtain a Vindictus beta key and test that game for my readers… or perhaps I will venture further into the for-pay worlds of Darkfall or Mortal Online. As it stands, a player’s best bet for excellent PVP action is in Warhammer Online and World of Warcraft. WoW presents an easier barrier to entry and is demonstrably easier to solo-play in, whereas Warhammer tends to be overcrowded for PVP at the start (where an endless free trial is possible) and at the endgame.

The saddest part about Fantasy Earth Zero, however, is how worried it makes me for Final Fantasy XIV. The Square Defense Force has mobilized to defend the game against every criticism offered of it, and so far, it looks like some of the lessons Square ought to have learned from what they did wrong with Final Fantasy XI have not been so taken to heart. Still, I will likely be trying it out, and would be glad to offer a neutral and detached evaluation if only Square would give me a goddamn beta key. Cough.

9 comments on “Review: Fantasy Earth Zero”

  1. “The saddest part about Fantasy Earth Zero, however, is how worried it makes me for Final Fantasy XIV.”

    I hope you get a chance to review FFXIV along-side the 11/5 Lusipurr review. The points you covered in this review are basically what I want to know about for FFXIV before I commit to making it my second full-time job.

  2. I can tell you that the FFXIV beta sucks balls.

    After spending a whole week downloading the 12GB client
    from Squares servers at a fascinating 1.2 kb/s speed on
    my T1 line, I almost cut my wrist when I found out what I downloaded there.

    The game isnt a very good MMO (although I have to say that I didnt enjoy FF11 much either, so if you are a fan of FF11, this one might appeal to you), and its plagued by so many issues that many beta testers cant believe that Square is still pushing for the set release date.

    This said, I have been waiting for another good FF for a long time now, but since FF13 Square is dead for me, no longer a seal of quality rpg gaming but a fit candidate for NVIDIA graphic benchmarks, since graphic seems to be everything Square is about nowadays.

  3. My problems with FFXI were fairly simple: stupid combat, terrible usability on anything but a PS2/Xbox, too much focus on grouping without an adequate system for finding groups, lack of solo play, heavy penalties for player death, and unrealistic endgame expectations. But I have some friends that are hardcore FFXI fans, so I have continually given the game the benefit of the doubt.

    Unless the UI is made more keyboard friendly, combat is more active, and gameplay is adjudsted to provide equal access to solo players (or, in the alternative, grouping is made easier), then the game will have the same problems as FFXI did/does.

    That said, FFXI was par-for-the-course as far as MMOs went during that time (it was basically a cutesy Japanese version of EQ). I don’t want to see a WoW clone with SE cosmetics, but WoW remains the gold standard because Blizzard does so much right in terms of MMO playability. The quest system seems fun, the free-wheeling class/job/skill system seems geared toward making it accessible… but if the combat is boring, the graphics are too high to run on most machines (even I am going to have to upgrade my machine), and the game mechanics still punish players that aren’t within the 1% of super-hardcore players, it won’t last in a world where there are other options, including Cataclysm.

  4. wow, this sounds like a colossal turd. I almost downloaded this shit a while back. thanks for the heads up Lane. I’m also happy to see others spreading the word about Vindictus. I figure that since you tend to play tank that you’ll be Fiona. I’ll probably play her until Kai comes out.

  5. I loved FFXI, but it just got to be to much with the whole leveling and getting a crap ton of missions done to just maybe be ok at end game, FFXI was only a good game for people who had friends helping them or where in within the first 3 years. Looking at this game i too get scared for what XIV will become although its good to hear that FFXIV will be made for a more casual play then Hard Core play.

  6. My FFXI experience was pretty dismal. I had heard the soundtrack well in advance of the North American release, so I already decided months before release I’d start my character in Gustaberg (epic BGM). This was only my second MMO I had ever played. I knew these games were pretty grindy and that I’d be killing the same monster upwards of hundreds of times. Bought the game day of release, and spent the next 24 hours (like most others probably did) downloading patches. What a great start.

    Rolled a Warrior. The first 15 levels were kinda fun. Then the game decided I couldn’t advance anymore in any reasonable fashion without being in a party. I tried that a couple times (once spent over 2 hours looking for a group). I didn’t really understand the LinkShell or whatever system at all, nor would any guild invite me, nor did any of my RL friends play FFXI. So I was pretty screwed once I hit level 15. That was it, after two weeks I stopped playing and never loaded it up again. Loved the graphics at the time, the music is great and the battle system was ok. Overall gameplay just plain sucked.

    When it comes to dungeons and raids, I’m all for groups. I’m not some anti-social misfit, I love playing MMO’s with others. However, I like leveling solo unless it’s with a RL friend. For leveling, I do not like waiting for others to catch up, nor do I like being forced to keep up to the pace of other people. FFXI blew chunks for my style of playing. Having to sit down for long periods of time just to heal was absurd too.

    WoW was my saving grace. Then I realized that game with its dailies and weeklies essentially becoming a second full-time job (just to keep up with others) was pretty evil too. Looking forward to seeing how FFXIV and/or Guild Wars 2 change things up.

  7. See, FFXI could’ve been a great game if partying were easier, LinkShells were easier to form, and server choice was better.

    For an MMO, it pretty much penalized you unless you formed an EQ-like clan… which was, again, how people thought MMOs would go down. Only hardcore MUSH/MUDers would play them and devote the time. “Casual MMO play” was a relative unknown, but that unfortunately made online games a niche market.

    I think Diablo II really showed off the potential of cooperative PVE play in an online game, and Blizzard put those lessons into WoW, which revolutionized the field. Now, the Asian social MMO (Ragnarok, Gaia, Mabinogi, Maple Story, etc.) is slowly creeping together with the Western hardcore MMO. The F2P model is probably the future, but Square still feels like they’re stuck in a 2000 mindset when it comes to MMO play.

  8. Guess who got a FFXIV beta key today?

    *thumbs point to Lane in a douchey fashion*

    This guy.

    Review coming next week. BRB LOLZ.

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