Final Fantasy XIV, the latest installment in Square Enix's long running Final Fantasy series, is a massively multiplayer roleplaying follow up to the powerhouse developer/publisher's last entry into the genre, 2003's Final Fantasy XI. Our first impressions were favourable, but while we found some definite potential, we also found a game that could've greatly benefited from further incubation time.
Square Enix's first attempt at an MMO, Final Fantasy XI, was released in North America a year after its Japanese release date and had some very redeeming qualities. It was also generally considered by most to be too difficult by MMO standards. The same team is now back with Final Fantasy XIV and it's obvious after playing the game for 15 hours that they've learned from their mistakes while also falling back on some bad habits.
The first thing to know about Final Fantasy XIV is that it borrows very little from Final Fantasy XI. Sure, the playable races look very similar, your chosen class isn't set in stone and Chocobos are still a part of the world. However, aside from these elements the remainder of the game has been significantly rethought.
One such change is the game's quest system. In Final Fantasy XIV they're called Guildleves, and each one is given by NPCs within city states where all adventurers start their journeys. After an NPC gives you one the next step is to open your map and find the location of a floating crystal (this is a Final Fantasy game after all). These crystals, which are found all over the world, operate as a kind of social gathering point for players on the same rank of Guildleves. It's a system that forces players to gather and sometimes translates into spontaneous parties working together on the same Guildleves.
Final Fantasy XIV is the first Final Fantasy game in 10 years to feature a soundtrack fully composed by series veteran Nobuo Uematsu. It's possible that Uematsu took his return to the series as a personal challenge, because everything I've heard so far has been nothing short of masterful.