Let me begin by saying that, for the most part, this is not an essay in criticism. I understand and fully accept that this is an MMORPG, and as such does not answer to any rules except those laid out by its authors, developers and designers. But when you accept some rules that are grounded in scientific, RL principles you are opening the doors to examination and, as such, hopefully constructive criticism.
Part 1: Fantasy Vs. Practicality
The first law of Armor is to protect the wearer. The idea behind body armor is to keep its wearer from harm. A soldier will purchase the best armor his or her money can buy, if s/he lacks the skill to make it. In Real Life, the best armor is made from scratch, by hand, and fitted exactly to the body specifics of its wearer. In FFXIV:ARR, the best armor is ‘dropped’ – already made(?), and one-size-fits-all(??) whether you are a small Lalafell or a huge Roegadyn.
Now the problems behind the first law – protect the wearer – arise when faced with the question: Protect the wearer from what? Swords, clubs, maces, lances, axes, daggers, animal bites small and enormous, claws, poison, elemental magic, non-elemental magic, arrows, cold, heat, rain, sonar attacks, bullets…to list a few. Swords alone have a variety of attacks – slashing, piercing, stabbing. Clearly, it is impossible in RL to provide protection from anything and everything.
Magic. Yes, there’s the ghost in the machine, the spanner in the works. I know that there are laws of magic in FFXIV:ARR. But it stands to reason that you can enchant armor against one element, at the cost of being weak against that element’s opposite. And the more you enchant armor to be strong against magic, the weaker it becomes against physical attacks.
The second law of Armor is to allow freedom of movement without sacrificing too much protection. It will do no good to be impervious to swords if you are unable to move out of the way of an onrushing cavalry. Even heavy armor should allow free movement of arms and legs, although less than that of light armor. And this is where FFXIV:ARR has some design flaws. I can’t imagine a mage trying to run in flowing, heavy robes; or a dragoon attempting to jump in rococo-florid metal boots; or a bard hiding while wearing a hat twice his size and star-spangled tights.
The third law of armor is crucial to some battle roles in RL: to camouflage the wearer, keeping them from harm by making them – ahem – blend in, often to not ‘pull aggro’ away from the tank(s) and hand-to-hand combatants. Camouflage is vital for archers, bards, mages and arcanists, scholars and summoners. This means wearing clothing that can match one’s surroundings. But, when was the last time you saw any of these in gear which blends in? Of course, in most dungeons there is little or no camouflage. It’s all large, open spaces.
Part 2: iLevel
One of the most startling differences between FFXIV:ARR and any of its single-player console game precursors is the iLevel. In FFI – FFXII, you raised your character’s level. This resulted in permanent increases in stats. The highest level you could get was mostly 99. Now, you cap your level at 50. It’s the things you obtain that ‘increase’ your stats, albeit not permanently. And, like all other gear dropped in dungeons, they come in goddamned SETS, that take an insufferable amount of tries to complete. This is understandable, since the full set usually gives a large bonus when worn.
I cannot imagine being denied entrance to a dungeon because YOU ARE NOT WEARING THE RIGHT STUFF. Missing the dungeon key, or the scroll of permission, spell of opening, etcetera I can understand – but being told that “You are not wearing the underwear of everlasting dryness or the T-shirt of everlasting freshness,” no. While the doorkeeper would be reading the entrance rules, in RL the adventurer would simply kill him and enter.
Part 3 – To Craft Or Not To Craft
You have spent 100s, maybe 1000+ hours getting to the highest level of Armorer. You STILL cannot make the best armor. You can repair it, add materia to it, but you cannot make it. That makes no logical sense. Think about it. You understand it enough to re-forge it, polish it, mold it…but you cannot take the raw materials and make it. Maybe you cannot obtain the raw materials? Not yet, at any rate. The trade-off hardly seems fair, especially on a Legacy Server where every player is level 50 everything.
Part 4 – Slaves of the Fashion God
Forget the Primals. The God of Fashion rules Eorzea. Countless are the times I have heard players complain that they are missing some part of a set. It means THEY DON’T LOOK RIGHT. Or complain that the gear is unattractive, or the WRONG COLOR. Do you put that much thought, or suffer that much angst, when choosing your work outfit for the day?
Honestly, I doubt anyone ever complained in FFXIII that their new pants made their butt look big. So, Square-Enix invented the ‘glamour prisms.’ This means you can appear fabulous in anything (or nothing), while wearing your unfashionably ugly highest ilevel armor. All the world’s a stage, and all Eorzea is a runway. By the way, didn’t anyone tell you that bloodstains are really hard to get out of white robes?