So for those who've participated in the alpha, how are this game's chances looking? Is the combat fluid and quick enough to attract less MMO-savvy players? Does the interface work well in practice? Does it retain enough unique elements from 1.0 to separate itself from WoW?
Inquisitive minds etc. etc.
It's hard to really say at this point because of how limited the alpha content was. You can get a general idea from the official videos, sans the Dora the Explorer-style clicking ;p I think even relatively newbie MMO players will find the game easy to get into (though the jury is still out on the controller interface since they haven't implemented it yet), as the layout, controls and tutorial are very standard for the genre. Which is a huge improvement, because you didn't get much of any instruction in 1.0. What was available in the alpha was an organic, intuitive and logical progression for a newcomer. In regards to unique elements, there just wasn't enough content to really answer that question - BUT, the world itself feels like a true Final Fantasy setting. The variety of the zones, the attention to detail, the music: everything just felt whole. FFXI 1.0, despite all the improvements they made before the servers went down, felt more like an engine tech demo than an actual world. I think the comparison to WoW will be unavoidable, as it's ubiquitous for the genre, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm still coming to grips with that question though. Despite all the improvements, does it really "feel" like it's own game or just a mash up?
I'll be completely honest. For a really long time I wanted to see a game that married the conveniences of WoW with the lore and world of a Final Fantasy. Having played a half dozen games that emulate the WoW form factor, I can say that I was getting a little tired of it. Games like TERA, Aion, Perfect World, Rift etc. *scream* WoW clone in design, but hold their own because people fall in love with their combat/crafting/raiding/world/graphics. When FFXIV 1.0 came out it was so lacking in basic MMO functionality that seeing them in ARR was a significant relief. But, I can't help feel like something was lost in merging what made an FFO MMO so different than the norm with the niceties of genre expectations. My first impression when I was playing the alpha was part shock and disappointment. I was in shock because the game had changed so significantly, it felt like I was playing a completely new game save for my familiarity with landmarks, NPCs etc. The disappointment came when I looked at the quest log and realized that once again, fetch questing survives another generation. Of course, questing, no matter how mundane will always remain a staple of any RPG - but I guess because everything else was so completely new, I was secretly hoping to see something new in that respect also. But again, as such a limited content was available, it's impossible to really judge the finished product. The combat system is no where near complete, animations still require tuning, the combo system still needs alot of adjustments, the limit break system isn't even in yet, neither are the F.A.T.E. and new behest and hamlet systems. But even in it's limited and incomplete state, I can see their vision, and it's impressive.
Do I think the game deserves another spin for newcomers and jaded former players? Absolutely! After seeing the miracles they performed with ver. 1.0 and thus far with ARR, I have a lot of confidence in Yoshi-P and his crew to deliver the game fans want. It is not FFXI 2.0 as the forum whiners keep dreaming about, but its a significant step into bringing an FF world into the modern MMO genre and has the potential to introduce gamers to the series who may have never touched an offline FF before - there's that much fan-service planned. The open beta will be the real trial by fire with the public, and with beta characters carrying over into the retail release, I think everyone should take advantage of that free test drive and form their own opinions.