When Square Enix made the decision to burn Final Fantasy XIV to the ground in order to build it anew – which is what literally happened in-game once Square Enix made preparations to relaunch the game – it was considered a bold, if not unprecedented move.
A move that, if it were to fail, could spell disaster for Square Enix as a whole. Think of it as another potential Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within-type disaster, but potentially worse.
Fortunately for Square Enix – and fans of the franchise – it seems that, based on my impressions thus far, that the developer’s time and money spent to rebuild Final Fantasy XIV was not in vain.
In fact, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn managed what seemed to be impossible in my mind after having gone through severe MMO fatigue – it got me excited about an MMO.
As The Inquisitr ran through already in our impressions piece (which you should read if you’re clueless about MMOS and/or this game in particular), Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn takes place five years after the events of the first version, and much of the world that isn’t in total ruin has seen better days.
To say the least.
The environments may feel familiar to veterans, but the atmosphere feels alien; and by alien, I mean it feels like what it should have been in the first place. By all accounts, Final Fantasy XIV was just an MMO – and a poor one – with the Final Fantasy brand attached.
In the case of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, not only did Square Enix manage to flesh out its many gameplay and MMO mechanics, the team also managed to make the game feel like you’re in a Final Fantasy game. For the most part, at least; if you don’t pay attention to quest text, particularly in story quests, you may miss a lot of that charm.
It also does look incredibly gorgeous, I must admit. I’ve taken far more screenshots than I probably should have, and that’s atypical behavior for me.
Granted, not everyone will be taken in by the Final Fantasy charm. Square Enix obviously delivered heavily on the fan service considering there’s just about every famous monster from the franchise in the game (some of which you can even have as a “pet”) but that isn’t the extent of its charm.
Sure, some of the non-story quests (we’ll get to that soon enough) may be a little on the monotonous side, as is the case with most MMOs, but there is usually at least some Final Fantasy charm in each one, be it in the form of quest text or through other means. If nothing else, the gorgeous environments, the lively towns, and the monsters will certainly remind you.
I would like to say that the quests don’t involve a lot of running a marathon across the world, or speaking to someone else within whispering distance of the quest-giver – things of that nature – but alas, that is not the case. Fortunately, uninteresting quest design did very little to detract from the overall experience, but your mileage may vary.
If you were to judge Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn based on its basic quests, however, you would be making a big mistake. The game also features two other types of quests: the main story quest, and your class’ story quest. Both of these types of quests have story attached and, for the most part, all of them I have encountered so far – up to level 30 – have all been entertaining. In fact, those quests alone would make the game worth playing for me.
The stories don’t exactly get off to a quick start, but stick around long enough and you should come away feeling, at the very least, like the time invested seeing how it all plays out was worth it. That is, unless something goes horribly wrong towards the end of the story quests.
With all of that being said, some may find the story quests to be bland at best – it’s not going to hit the spot for everyone. If you approach it as something super serious with epic, globe-spanning battles with massive armies and kingdoms full of political intrigue, well, I’ll give you the short version: this isn’t that.
It’s perhaps not as grandiose as its main franchise counterparts, but the dialog (props to the localization team, by the way), characters, settings, atmospheres, and certain “events” can come close at times.
If you need some driving force beyond the story quests, there is something else: unlockables. After completing certain story quests, you’ll gain access to an inn (used to gain “rested” experience) complete with an armoire (used to store armor/weapons), and your very own Chocobo.
While most of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn will feel familiar to most, there is one thing that will require some adjusting on your part: the game’s inventory system. Rather than putting all fo your potions, crafting materials, junk items, weapons, and armor in the same inventory, the game splits it.
Your standard inventory – opened by pressing “I” – contains your potions, crafting materials, and junk. You have plenty of slots, so there isn’t much concern about constantly having to go back to town.
The Armory, on the other hand, is different – this is where you store your weapons, armor, and accessories.
Perhaps the most important of all of the unlockable features is the ability to change your class. That’s right, non Final Fantasy MMO veterans – if you so choose, you can change your class at any time. The ability to change classes unlocks at level 10 for each class, and some skills can even be shared between classes.
Continue even further and you’ll unlock the ability to use your Chocobo as a companion to fight along side you. Your Chocobo has its own leveling system that is independent of your own level, but it will always scale to level that your character is currently at. Leveling up your Chocobo allows you to assign it skills – and roles.
If you want your Chocobo to keep monsters away from you, you can build it as a tank; if you need more damage applied to your enemies, you can go down the damage path; and if you need healing support, you can build your Chocobo as a healer. Fortunately, you’re not locked into one of those three; if you so choose, you can build a hybrid Chocobo damage dealer/healer, for example.
It remains to be seen how useful these partners actually are. Even if you have another mount available, you can’t use that other mount while your Chocobo is summoned as a partner. Combine that with the fact that it requires Gysahl Greens to even summon the partner in the first place, I rarely find myself calling my partner out.
If you prefer running about, exploring the lands rather than progressing through quests, there’s an option for you as well – and one you’ll be using quite frequently later on in the game. In each map, certain events referred to as “FATEs” will appear on the mab, denoted by a symbol with a blue circle around it on your map.
These are timed quests, and do not require you to be in a party; a group of people can simply run in, complete the objectives, and reap their rewards based on their participation. The participation system is, for the most part, fair – just don’t expect to get the best rewards if you joined the FATE right around the time it end, or if your level is too low
As for the combat – which you might as well call the core mechanic behind the entire game – it’s about as traditional as traditional gets. You select a target, use a skill which initiates a global cooldown, and you use yet another skill (or, early on, the same one) and so on and so forth.
This perhaps may be a it too traditional for some, especially considering that the game’s global cooldown slows down the pace of combat. How much of an issue you have with global cooldowns will largely depend on what type of MMO combat you prefer.
For me, at least, it was something I got over fairly quickly.
It wouldn’t be an MMO if Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn didn’t have any dungeons, and you can rest assured that it does. In fact, one might say it has a lot of dungeons – at least as the first 25 levels are concerned.
Most of the dungeon designs aren’t particularly interesting in terms of aesthetics, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; care was taken to make the dungeons you and your party explore appear to be like actual dungeons, abandoned and filled with creatures that want nothing less than to be your friend.
There is at least treasure to be found. Oh, and experience.
This may change later on in the game, but the trash mobs – the monsters you encounter before the “bosses” – are generally pushovers and, from the perspective of a Gladiator, very easy to tank. Most of the mini-bosses in each of the dungeons leading up to level 25 are fairly simple, but it’s the main bosses themselves that offer a challenge – in theory, at least.
Each boss, including the very first boss you encounter, has a mechanic associated with it; it’s not as simple as “tank and spank,” as they say. With that being said, these boss-specific mechanics don’t do much to actually make the battle harder, but rather more engaging.
My issue with difficulty will likely decrease as I experience the more higher-level dungeons.
Overall, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn feels like a solid, and even polished MMO. Many of the areas I’ve encountered so far are packed with things to do, and it gives you a sense that you’re always working towards something; be it simply leveling, or progressing the plot.
If you’re looking for something to revolutionize the MMO genre, however, this won’t be the game to do it. While it does manage to polish and innovate on established mechanics, it’s still very easy to tell that this an MMO as an MMO can be. For some this will be fine, but those in the middle of MMO fatigue may be put off by this.
A big part of the game – the Final Fantasy charm – will also be lost on those who don’t care or have complete disdain towards the franchise, and it likely won’t hold up for that crowd.
If you’re looking for something that is a polished MMO with plenty of things to do – at least early on – then Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is definitely worth checking out for veterans and newbies alike. Especially if you happen to be a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise.
The big question is, does Square Enix have any hope of keeping this going? We’ll find out soon enough.
Note 1: The Inquisitr will be posting a follow-up review at a later date to talk about jobs (extensions of classes) as well as the crafting and gathering systems as I simply didn’t feel I had enough time to gain enough knowledge to make anything in the realm of a fair critique. Thus is the nature of reviewing MMOs. Not will we be covering that, we’ll also be talking about some of the “end-game” content as well, provided I can find the means to do so on the Excalibur server.
Note 2:: As FFIX:ARR players may have noticed, no mention was made in this review regarding any of the server problems that were going on during the first week of launch. Although the server problems were very severe and personally frustrated me a great deal, the goal of this review is to give you an idea of how the game plays; MMOs are constantly evolving, issues rise and fall, and MMO launches generally are, well, terrible. With that being said, the server problems – and the fact that it took a week to get it mostly fixed – were disappointing.
This review is based on the PC version of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.