If we’re talking purely about game quality, Final Fantasy XIV may have been the best game at Sony’s PlayStation VR TGS booth, but it wasn’t the best VR experience. And that’s something I want to stress right away: VR experiences can and will vary widely from user to user. This game’s VR version made me nauseous and I had the slight beginnings of a headache. I am not saying this will happen to you, but I have to be honest and report that it happened to me.
Final Fantsy XIV is already a very polished, complete game available on PCs and PlayStation consoles. With a huge, detailed, beautiful world, it was easily one of the most interesting games to try in virtual reality. Visually, FFXIV VR satisfied overall. The characters and environment looked great through the first-person view I was given in my PlayStation VR headset. I was a knight in a wooden house, able to run and look freely about, wherever I wanted — everything looking clean all the while.
There was some clouding in my peripheral vision, or rather, on the borders of what the headset let me see. If I’d look with my eyes instead of turning my head — something we do way more than we realize — the edges of my field of view would be blurry. A couple of times, a giant message box appeared in front of me, but I couldn’t read it, because it bled off screen; so I had some of it blurry and some of it invisible. I also couldn’t see my own HP bar during the Titan fight, which players will tell you is kind of a big deal.
Navigation problems made themselves immediately clear. While I could move anywhere I wanted via the left stick of my DualShock 4 controller, the right stick didn’t move the camera. My right thumb instinctively moved to it several times, to no result. I could sort of shuffle left and right, but not really move that way while also looking that way. The only way to turn my character was to turn my whole head, which, in a small room with a chair and cables and a TV and other people around… is problematic.
I love to explore the environments in my games, especially quality MMORPGs like Final Fantasy XIV (and incidentally, I have an on-and-off relationship with its predecessor, FFXI). But doing this in FFXIV not only started to hurt my neck from all the jerking around this way and that, but also started to nauseate me. I’ve never gotten sick on a roller coaster, video games, or on a plane or rough boat ride (of which I take many, living on a tiny island). Motion sickness was practically foreign to me, until this.
My group fought the famous Titan. While I was able to bust out my skills without much problem, and my team members could the same, the actual process was strenuous, and I struggled to finish. I said more than once, “Guys I can’t do this much longer,” as I was pushed to the brink. I couldn’t really imagine myself throwing up, but the way things had gone downhill so quickly, it didn’t seem worth playing that game of chicken. Every passing second, I wondered if I would be staying till the end of this fight.
The victory fanfare played, and I immediately took off my headphones, relieved to be done. I closed my eyes, unable to endure anymore while the booth people undid my headset. FFXIV is pretty and fun, but the PlayStation VR version was making my stomach turn.
Every time one of these trade shows rolls around, I dabble in it and I’m impressed all over again. If I can ever fully detach myself from Final Fantasy XI, I’ll jump into the world of Eorzea. And when that day comes, it’ll come without a VR headset.
Full disclosure about my vision. I’ve had eye surgery, and while my vision is a dope-ass 20/15, I tend to get headaches with almost anything 3D. I don’t know if the two are related, I can only anecdotally tell you it wasn’t that way when I was a kid and played Virtual Boy.
Amusement park attractions that use 3D visuals and the 3DS gives me an instant headache that sticks around. However, PlayStation VR did not give me a headache or make me sick when I played Danganronpa VR or when I went through Summer Lesson. I had no ill effects from those, but Final Fantasy XIV’s VR version resulted in the experience above. This is so you know the whole deal.