After hearing a lot of the more game-centric crowd at work discussing the merits of “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn”, I’ve decided to give it another go-round.

Earlier in the year I played the demo for it, and while it is nothing truly inventive and is, in fact, highly derivative of games like World of Warcraft, it did have some high points. What ultimately led to my avoidance of the title was simply the fact I had about 30 other irons in the fire and I’m not a big enough anime nerd to get a lot of the cultural nuances.

That and I’ve never been all that interested in the franchise, so a lot of the things that cause squees of delight from fans are pretty much lost on me.

With that said though, I purchased the game yesterday and jumped into the world last evening with the intent to give it a fair shake – and to see what has the folks at work so enamored.

To begin with, if you’ve ever played World of Warcraft (and chances are good you have – virtually everyone at this point has) you’ll be right at home in FFXIV. Everything from the UI and general controls to the basic mechanisms of the game like questing and combat are virtually identical. In fact, the most noticeable difference is the GCD (global cool-down timer); in WoW it is 1 second, in FFXIV it is 2.5 seconds – this makes things feel a bit less button mash and more tactical… Not much mind you, but a little.

The biggest difference between the two has to be character class; FFXIV has a lot of them, and all of them can be accessed on the same character. So altaholics might be disappointed in the title as you only get one character.

On that note, the character creation scheme is pretty nice. So while the basic character is a selection of anime staples such as magical girls, oddly effeminate guys, cat people, and the pre-requisite tiny child-like race, the chances of seeing another character that looks identical to you is slim.

And also in typical anime fashion there is some story here, but it is really obscure and uses a lot of cultural references I just don’t have – so I’ll be damned if I can figure it out… Something about a talking crystal that messes with my character during these random blackout sessions and some girly-guy in a mask who is trying to be all ‘hard’, but really comes across as walking with a lisp.

Granted, I’m only ten levels into it – meaning I’ve only had three blackout sessions and encountered masked-guy once, but so far I am assuming my character did way too much LSD in the 60’s and is having some wicked hallucinations.

The game is very pretty though – very pretty. When it rains everything actually looks wet – which is actually shocking the first time you see it. The monsters so far are the typical MMO cannon fodder – giant versions of things you see every day like bugs and such… With maybe the exception of the giant talking mushrooms.

Yeah – way, way too much LSD in the 60’s…