Final Fantasy XIV Deserves a Better PlayStation 3 Interface

It's not terrible, but some of the choices are head-scratchers.

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Square Enix

Before we get to my interface bugbears, I’d like to note for the record that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has an exceptional intro video: a slick, re-watchable sequence of armies battling on the scale of Pelennor Fields through a glass Avatar-ly with a twist of Avengers end-extravaganza, as magicians cast not Magic Missile or Meteor Swarm, but that old standby: “Pull down a small moon, like from the sky, then drop it on your opponents like a boss.”

And then the moon cracks open to unleash a cosmic Brobdingnagian dragon, which means everyone out of the pool, Tiamat’s here to party with his pals Galactus and Ragnarok. (Though here they call the dragon a worm, or would it be wyrm? Oh never mind.)

I love gonzo stuff like this. If you’re going to think big, you might as well swing for crazy, too.

That’s me filling the say-something-nice-about-the-game quota. And I’m digging FFXIV overall, but I want to talk about the PS3 interface, because while it’s a huge improvement over the PC mess that shipped in 2010, it’s weighed down by its PC pedigree in sometimes maddening ways.

In short, the PS3 interface feels like the middling PC port I expected it to, but my expectations didn’t soften the blow. It’s a better than average PC port, but there’s still a mouse pointer lurking in the browser-like login screen where there could have been buttons (also: not a crummy browser interface). Or take the game itself, where you have to hit the Select button to tab awkwardly between three HUDs, your eyes tracking a tiny Mickey Mouse-like white glove as it teleports panel to panel; functional, yes, but confusing busywork when you’re trying to make a zillion other things happen.

And what’s with the undocumented (in-game, that is) gamepad shortcuts you need to know about to tweak the interface properly? L1 plus which button makes the mouse appear? You make the interface vanish by clicking Select and what? That stuff’s outlined in the virtual manual, but that’s exactly where it shouldn’t be when you’re trying to play the game and don’t want to keep logging in/out (or, heaven forbid, grapple with printing from the PS3).

Moving on, why, on my 720p 19-inch display, does the default interface place large swathes of windows outside the screen border, truncating vital info (I’m thinking the Armoury screen’s item-info boxes in particular)? You can’t move the log window in the HUD configuration options because you have to do it in mouse mode why, exactly? Shouldn’t all the windows be fully visible at whatever resolution by default? Couldn’t you just fold tweaking the log window into the HUD config screen instead of shunting it under mouse mode?

Imagine having five or six windows open in whatever modern operating system, giving up your mouse and having to tab between everything, or occasionally trip not-obvious shortcuts to access others, and you’re getting close to what this feels like. It works, and where the game’s not forthcoming, you can find out how with a search engine. But don’t kid yourself: the only console version of a triple-A publisher’s flagship MMO deserved better.

Not that it’s bad enough to put me off enjoying the game, because everything else about the interface is workable, and I prefer the gamepad’s trigger-based shortcuts to a mouse/keyboard interface during combat (so far anyway — maybe I’ll be less impressed down the road, when what I want to map out ability-wise exceeds the gamepad’s allocatable space).

I just wish Square Enix had spent a smidgen more time decoupling the PS3 version from the PC one. Hopefully by the time the PS4 version arrives — and the company just confirmed PS3 owners can download that version gratis, plus access the beta when it kicks off next February — it’ll have fixed this stuff, or at least agreed it’s worth improving.