Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Review
It’s rare for an MMO to get a second chance after a horrific failure of a first release, even rarer for it to be remade so well that fans overload the servers and fill up all the available servers after release. As soon as you enter the realm of Eorzea it is made clear that Square-Enix fully intend to make up for their past mistakes and offer you an excellent MMO experience.
In many MMO’s, such as World of Warcraft, there’s an overarching story in which you are one of the thousands of heroes who are all helping the main NPC’s in the game. Rather than being the hero of the game yourself you are usually part of a team of heroes who vanquished evil. However in FFXIV: A Realm Reborn you are the hero of the game, NPC’s praise your efforts personally and make it clear that only you have the power to stop the unrest in Eorzea.
The storyline is excellent. In true Final Fantasy style it is deep, exciting and gripping, while I don’t want to reveal too much, cut scenes can lead up to epic conflicts and battles, and rather than clicking through quests and rushing to level as I have done with previous MMO’s, I find myself taking time to read quest text, even from quests which are not on the main storyline.
The writing is fantastic, it includes multiple humourous and subtle pop culture reference and throwbacks to the FF Games of the past and many NPC’s are given distinct personalities. Many cut-scenes are even voice acted. However this can make you panic on occasion as scenes will switch fairly suddenly from voice acted to silent, making you think something is wrong with your game – it does take a while to get used to.
FFXIV has very strong gameplay, I have dabbled a bit in each battle role so far (Healer, Tank and DPS) and found all have their merits. Combat is impressive, in groups, tactics and intelligent play are needed from all involved to beat encounters and it definitely feels more challenging than other MMO dungeons.
Even before level 50 (the level cap) the player will be thrust into dungeons and encounters that will require strong group play and teamwork, after level 30 there are very few dungeons you can breeze through mindlessly. While this can become frustrating for some when your group just can’t get it, it’s refreshing to see challenge being implemented.
Overall, Combat is good but some classes are a little clunky, such as a summoner (as pet control needs some serious work), solo play can also get a bit repetitive as you level, but if you break it up with group play it can keep the game interesting and fun.
Secondly the class and job system is excellent and something that is very refreshing to see in an MMO. Got bored with tanking as a Gladiator at level 25? No problem, go to a different class guild and choose their class via a quest. Meaning you can, at will, switch your class by merely swapping your weapon. Of course you do have to level your new class from level one, but if you already have one class higher you get an experience boost to make the levels go faster, meaning it’s easier for you to catch up and play something else.
Not only can your player pick up any combat class you want, you can pick up all fieldcraft (gathering) or tradecraft (crafting) professions you want too. Disciple of the Land (Fieldcraft) and Disciple of the Hand (Tradecraft) classes work like any combat class would, you start at level one and then gather, craft or pick up quests to raise your level. Higher levels grant you access to better abilities, recipes and materials. Crafting and Gathering are a whole game in itself.
Also, for those of you who enjoy playing with the economy, FFXIV have a Marketboard where players list their items for sale making it possible for you to line your pockets with the in-game currency, Gil. However, players at level cap have serious concerns about the economy as there are many Gil sinks, but not enough ways to earn it. Effectively meaning the economy will shrink due to Gil only being made off of other players.
In addition, it is worth noting that for the first week of release, as with many other MMO’s, logging in was a nightmare and it could take hours to get in a world if you could get in at all. The servers were heavily loaded to the point Square Enix had to stop digital sales and character creation. They attempted a fix on Wednesday the 4th September, which from what I can see has resolved most if not all the issues, at least for me. Some people are still reporting occasional errors and digital sales and character creation for many worlds is still disabled. These problems angered many, many fans and should not be looked upon lightly. That being said, Square Enix’s transparency throughout the issues was reassuring, they apologised profusely and let fans know what the plan was, which is always appreciated.
Eorzea is a beautiful world. There is no doubting that FFXIV is one of the most aesthetically impressive MMO’s out there if not the most. While the world is smaller in comparison to many other MMO’s, this means the attention to detail in all the areas is excellent, from rolling grasslands to exotic jungles and beaches to arid deserts, FFXIV’s graphics really blew me away.
In addition, character customization is impressive too, the amount of options you have to make a character look how you want and look good is great. NPC’s and Player characters are well detailed and movement animations are excellent too. Emotes that your character and NPC’s can perform look and feel lifelike, and though I have played for quite a while now, I am yet to see any noteworthy graphical glitch or bug.
Overall, FFXIV blew me away with its graphics, the Luminous game engine seems to be working excellently and FFXIV: ARR will blow players away with its beautiful world.
Final Fantasy games are often accompanied by a great musical score, and FFXIV:ARR is no exception, with new atmospheric music and throwbacks to older FF games, the music is well worth keeping the background music enabled for. Granted, the Chocobo theme for when you mount up can get tedious, but this is not really an issue as there is an option to disable it in the character options menu.
Sound effects and atmospheric sounds are good too, you really get a feel for the place you’re exploring, for example a dungeon Haukke Manor where a possessed woman lives, the sinister music and creepy atmosphere really compliments the dungeon well.
Voice acting is a bit hit and miss in my opinion. Some characters are great, and their voices give them personality however others can seem a bit wooden and definitely feels as if it is just someone reading a script, which is a bit disappointing as one of the characters who you interact with a lot is one of the voices I’m talking about (I’ll let you readers guess who).
The controls of FFXIV:ARR are fairly standard for most mouse and keyboard MMO players, abilities on hotbars and keybinds for abilities. However, there is the option to play with controller, and it’s a simple click of a button in the system menu to swap between the two.
While the controls are simple enough, customizing for optimal play is not obvious, other than the in-game tutorials, there is a fair amount the player will have to learn for themselves, such as customizing your HUD, resizing bars and other control options are not mentioned outright and it will take a while for players to grasp, but with any MMO, you learn new things every time you play.
In summary, the controls seem fairly standard and simple as you would see in the majority of MMOs, while they are easy to use, the system could do with some quality of life changes, such as pet control improvements and customisation options, which would make optimal play a lot easier.
While the game did have severe launch issues, it really is hard to be or stay angry at a game this good. Square Enix’s apology for their failed first release of FFXIV is an excellent one. I really am struggling to stay neutral with this game and stop singing it’s praises but it really is tricky not to. Granted login was a mess for a week, but once you got in, you were greeted by a gripping, enchanting and beautiful game world with very addictive gameplay. It is definitely worth checking out if you can as you get 30 free days game-time with a purchase and I highly recommend giving it a try – although perhaps waiting a few more days until server congestion dies down and character creation is back up would be prudent. I am thoroughly impressed with FFXIV:ARR and I am glad that I decided to give it a go, lets just hope I don’t get too addicted!