So far I'm unimpressed. The game isn't bad. However it's really... quiet poorly designed.
The graphic requirements are high. My computer can handle just about every modern game you throw at it. It can play Crysis on high. I play modern games easily and have no trouble with any games... until FFXIV. Even at the lowest settings there's interface lag. The game at the lowest settings looks like garbage and yet still apparently has high requirements.
Basically the game is very poorly optimized. I should be getting like 3x the fps for what I see on my screen. Instead I'm getting like 20, everything is squished (lowest resolution) and there's slight interface lag.
Then there's the controls. It's like a really bad port (it's basically a PS3 port though the PS3 version will come out later). If you don't have a gamepad (like me) you're doomed to play with peepee poor controls.
The UI is terrible. The tutorials are terrible. The presentation and ease of play is terrible. There are no !s above heads and often no clue on were to go next so you'll find yourself playing a scavenger hunt for missions unless you're really used to FFXI (I played it years ago).
If you look beyond all of that it's a pretty solid game. Because I'm not an MMO n00b I can make my way past the flaws. I would fear for any n00b though. This game is almost as n00b-unfriendly as FFXI was.
The gameplay is fine. It's just that UI, controls and other stuff which isn't.
People might say "go back to WoW!" or suggest it's this way because it's not a casual game. However all of these "problems" could be fixed without it impacting the game mechanics and without the game becoming a casual blast. MMOs should always aim to make their games easy to play, understand, etc because that in no way defines how much depth or detail the game will have. It'll just make it easier to play and swallow.
Open Beta Stats:
World (with higher graphic settings)
Tutorials (n00bs are constantly asking for help)
Dictionary of material you need to memorize (more than average, lots of FFXIV specific game terms, not that intuitive)
Grind (or so I hear there will be points that you'll have to grind instead of do missions)
The good news is that most of these issues CAN be solved. Optimization will improve over time. The UI could be reworked and Tutorials improved. Etc...
The question is will Square DO it? In the past they've been extremely stubborn. I doubt they'll change the UI, improve the bad port PS3 to PC controls, etc. I just don't see them doing it for the most part.
FFXIV will do as well as FFXI. That being... okay.
On the other, I really didn't like the brief trial of FFXI I did.
In comparison to FFXI, is it more grindy, or less grindy?
It's much less grindy. FFXI sucked because it was almost pure grind much of the time. FFXIV is much more user friendly. That said it still has the clunky UI and bad controls and stuff. Also it's no WoW and it has a little bit of grind, just not as much as XI.
The more I play it the more I'm "meh". I'm reaching the point where I'd have to force myself to play it. It's just a standard MMO with tons of kil X/X missions. The story is good and the cutscenes are unique and awesome for MMOs however the story and cutscenes are too infrequent in my opinion. Also there's decent voicework however it just makes me think about how TOR is going to be fully voiced because most of the time there's no voices in this (as with all MMOs until TOR).
Yeah, I haven't seen much to convince me yet that it's not just FFXI part 2, and in my book that's definitely a Bad Thing. I played XI for about three months, and I think I maybe enjoyed an hour of it.
I really enjoyed FFXI, and got onto beta for FFXIV, but havn't got round to playing, sounds like a "better" graphics version of 11, which is not entirely unexpected, anyone currently playing on XI automatically get an account on 14.