I was going to write a detailed description of how my first play sessions in Final Fantasy went, but then stumbled upon this blog, where Rank-n-Vile describes exactly my play experience, up to and including the point where our spellcasters get killed by fungus due to the combat interface being as unintuitive as it is sluggish. Quote: "One thing of note is there is next to NO hand holding. You are basically told NOTHING." And that is key to the new player experience of Final Fantasy XIV: Everything works differently than you'd think it would work, and the only way to find that out is by trial and error, as the game refuses to tell you anything. I strongly recommend reading some FFXIV websites with player guides before trying to play the game.
Several hours of struggling with the game later, and armed with a lot of previous experience of similar games, I got to the point where I understood the game much better. Unfortunately the frustration doesn't end there. Even after you understand the UI, it remains overly complicated and sluggish. The game is pretty, but you pay for that by looking at black "now loading" screens often and for long whiles. And every command you give seems to lag by several seconds, so even gathering and crafting are slow to the point of draining all fun out of the activity.
The basic premise of Final Fantasy XIV is that you not only *can* play many classes with the same character, you more or less *must*. You've already read about the hard xp cap of 8 hours xp gain per character class per week, but long before that you will run out of quests for your class. Then you either grind, or you equip the tools of a different class, which lets you level and quest as another character class.
What is really good is the epic main story quest lines, of which there are three, based on which starting location you chose. These are told with extensive cut-scenes using in-game graphics, and putting your character right in the middle of them, just like they did in FFXI. The problem is that at least in the beta that sort of content is limited, and you better not make a second character in the same starting area, because the long cut scenes are only really good when you see them for the first time. And while that sort of storytelling works great in a single-player game, it isn't what I'm looking for in a MMORPG.
So I remain with my decision not to buy Final Fantasy XIV. Not only is much of the gameplay rather tedious, but the general slowness of the unresponsive controls make the basic elements of the game not much fun. If the basic elements aren't fun, then I just dread having to repeat them over and over. Final Fantasy XIV is a game which looks great on screenshots and videos, and even the feature list doesn't sound so bad. But the implementation is so convoluted and often just plain bad that it makes Final Fantasy nearly unplayable. Try the open beta and give the release version a miss.