After taking days to get into the Final Fantasy XIV beta, I finally made it and had the opportunity to play for several hours. And as I have it from a reliable source that the NDA is lifted (trying to find any information on the Square Enix site is an exercise in frustration), I can tell you about the game. My first impression was a good one, the game is truly beautiful, and the opening sequences are well done. Unfortunately that good impression ends the moment you have control over your character. Because saying you "have control" is somewhat stretching the truth. If you would study the best practices of how to make a user interface for 20 years, and then DO THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE, you probably still couldn't design a user interface so completely horrible, unintuitive and user-unfriendly as Square Enix has designed for Final Fantasy XIV.
Thus my "playing" session is better described as a "struggling with the controls" session. The UI is apparently optimized for the PS3, and trying to play it with a mouse and keyboard is like trying to steer a car with an outboard motor and a rudder. Worst of all is combat, where everything feels so unresponsive that it isn't fun at all. But the horror isn't limited to that, everything else is also done in the most complicated and least intuitive was possible. Want a quest? Well, you first have to get the quest description in the city, only then can you go to the quest hub, start the quest there, and then go to the actual location where the mobs are. And that's the kill quests, which have the huge advantage of actually working, I repeatedly failed an escort quest because the escorted NPC had pathfinding problems. And if you want to look up information on the beta tester site, the game crashes when you alt-tab out.
I would like to tell you how to improve your gear, but fact is that I already made several levels and did a number of quests without yet getting any gear upgrade. My loot up to now consisted of strange stuff like a "walnut +2". Maybe its crafting material? At least if you try to sell it you only get 1 gil per item, which makes me think that selling isn't what you are supposed to do with it. The starting quest leads you to a crafting guild, but if you haven't selected a crafter to start with, you can't do any crafting before you learned how to switch classes.
While I did like the graphics and the cutscenes that open liven up the quests, I couldn't get myself to like the combat system. And if the basic activity which you need to repeat over and over isn't fun, there isn't much use in playing the game. Thus the first thing I did after ending my play session was to cancel my preorder for Final Fantasy XIV. I'll still try the beta for a bit, trying if the controls get better if I install a gamepad, but right now I don't have high hopes for this game.