I have to say that there is a pretty big lack in the adventure part of FFXIV so far. I played Beta and really didn't get much of a feel for it as it was really buggy and almost unplayable on my machine at the time. Now that I have purchased the game and am playing casually with my wife, I am noticing that it isn't nearly the 'oh wow' feeling that I had when I started FFXI. I think the Disneyland analogy is pretty accurate as well, but here is my first impression of the game starting from the beginning:
Character Selection: I can't wait for this to get an overhaul - It was almost like FFXI all over again, with some minor improvements.
World Selection/Opening Storyline: So far I have only seen Limsa Lominsa (Beta) and Gridania, and I think that so far the Gridania opening sequence really drew me in more. I was actually interested in what was going on and wanted to continue the starting quest line.
Exploration: So far I have done very little aside from where the story has directed me and to do Leves. I think that is what is bothering me the most right now. In other MMO's, you start killing things close to where you start... and then they become too easy, so you branch out and try to find things a little harder. Sometimes you would find something that was going ot agro and just destroy you, other times you owuld find something to kill that worked... you had to learn where to go and what to fight. This is sadly missing in FFXIV... little symbols that tell you level/agressivements seem to take away from the nervous exploration that makes games challenging and interesting. Throw Guildleves in there and you end up killing the same handful of mobs for level upon level because you just change what level they are. While I don't mind them, working classes to level 10 to get a feel for what they are like is pretty boring stuff to start with... killing the same mobs over and over while doing it is somewhat painful. I'd rather see this shift towards the Feilds of Valor style in FFXI, but with a more robust feel to it. Not sure how that can be accomplished, but hopefully they can find some way to fix this aspect. Doing Leves really seems to deter people from needing to explore areas. I am also anticipating some big changes to the maps. From what I have seen so far, the game looks like a lot of paths and tunnels and not a ton of open area/world exploration. I like big open maps that have different levels and obstacles over this web-style approach.
Gear: I really hope V2.0 fixes some of this... maybe it is because I am new, but so far I am wearing a potato sack...I managed to track down a matching sack hat to complete the ensemble... so I look extra begger-esque now. I got excited when I saw a new body piece that I could wear... only to put it on and say 'hmmm, a slightly more white potato sack!'. That being said, I have seen some pretty cool looking gear on some people running around. Some of if is the new Job AF, other stuff is just other gear that looks cool... but I think this still needs some improvement. I know that are probably working hard to stay away from gaudy gear that is seen in other MMO's, but they did a decent job in FFXI of having variety with decent looks, especially in the later years. Hopefully V2.0 can revamp the gear a little... as there is no erason I should be wearing a sack for armor for more than the first 2-3 levels. I definitely don't expect awesome looking gear right off the bat (I think FFXI it was around 20-25 that you started really seeing stuff that was cool-ish), but I have seen people in the 30's wearing stuff that doesn't look any more shiny or colorful than my current sack... and one of the things that really entices me to level is the thought of new gear/weapons.
Other thoughts: Overall I am liking the game, although that might not be super apparent from the above info lol. I like new feel of the battle system, I like storyline (thusfar), and I like what they have done with adding jobs and how they work alongside the classes. I think they are moving in the right direction with a lot of things, but need to really focus on a few of the basics to really make FFXIV shine before a re-launch.
tl;dr - The game design needs to change to push players to explore more of the map... and the map needs to change to allow exciting exploration. They need to vary rewards and give visual improvement to existing gear/weapons in the earlier stages of the game. They have done a good job with the story so far, but that only takes you so far before the boring grind of leveling takes its toll.
95THF, 95DRG, 90BRD, 94BLM, 95BLU, 90COR - Retired: Nov 2011
Someday soon my friends, this ride will come to and end, and we can't just get in line again.