It has been three years since the release of Final Fantasy XIV, and during those three years, the game has become known as one of the worse entries into the beloved series. Critics, fans and even the higher ups at Square Enix themselves said that the game was a disaster and damaged the Final Fantasy brand due to several bugs and glitches that made it unplayable. Even if you could weather through all of that, there were gameplay elements that restricted the player and made it a chore to do even the simplest of tasks like leveling up characters. And that was just the PC version of the game, the PS3 version was “still being worked on”.
The game was so bad that it forced its producer Hiromichi Tanaka to resign and leave SE, made (now former) SE president Yoichi Wada apologize several times, and forced a drastic overhaul with new producer and director Naoki Yoshida.
So now with a new person in charge, how do you fix a game that is widely considered to be the one of the worse in the series’ history? Simple, you destroy it with a falling moon that housed Bahamut and start over.Out of the ashes of FF XIV and after an extensive beta testing period that took four phases to complete, the last being for the PS3 version, FF XIV was reborn as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
With a fresh start, a new producer/director, and a new direction for the re-launched MMO, can A Realm Reborn bring back the adventures that it had lost, or is the game doomed to repeat the shortcomings of original version and be deemed a failure?
Best Intro Movie Ever in the Series - I’d like to get this out of the way real quick, ARR has one of the best intro/world ending movie that I have seen in the series and maybe in any MMO. Titled “End of an Era” it was shown about a year before the release of ARR and marked the end of FF XIV version 1’s end and the start of ARR alpha/beta phases.
What I love about it is that it sets up this sense of dread and despair. Two groups fighting while the world, as they know it, is ending and no matter who wins the battle, the world would have ended, so either way both sides lose. As all hope seems to be fading away when Bahamut is readying his final attack, the warriors of light (that would be you and your friends) are transported five years into the future, the realm safe, yet still suffering from the events of that day. Hope is once again restored as you and your friends ride off in searches of new adventures. The intro movie really gets you pumped to jump right in to the game and go exploring, all the while looking really great. Speaking of looking great…
What a Wonderful World - As petty as it may sound; the graphics in ARR are an improvement over FF XIV version 1 and are way prettier. I know that graphics don’t always make the game better, but in ARR everything felt more alive. From the forests of Gridnia and the desert dunes of Ul’dah to the seashores of Limsa Lominsa, everything feels alive and looks pretty to look at. Sometimes I’d would just walk around the Black Shroud, located in Gridnia, and just hunt monsters while taking in the scenery.
Easy to Use Command Interface - Developing an MMO interface to use on a control pad can be a bit difficult. It limits the use of macro keys, function keys and other aspects usually found when using a keyboard for MMOs. For ARR, SE created the Cross Hot Bar, modeled after the XMB that PS3 users are used to. Options such as maps, settings, logs and character stats/inventory can be accessed very easily without having to use macro buttons. The CHB also maps actions, skills, magic and items to the D-pad and the four face buttons.
Players can access up to two cross sets at a time by pressing and holding either the L2 or R2 buttons. The cross sets are customizable, giving the player more options to suit their style of play. The player also has access to seven other sets, which gives even more options as later on in the game, players will have the ability to chance classes and have faster access to skills, potions and other consumables. However if you insist on using a mouse and keyboard, the game gives you that option as well.
No More Restrictions - One of the biggest faults that FF XIV version 1 had was its several restrictions that it placed on players. One of those restrictions was that players were only allowed to play only one hour a day and if they played longer, xp earned would be cut in half and their stamina/mana would regen much slowly. Thankfully with a new direction, these have been taken out allowing players to freely enjoy the game at their own pace without worrying about a looming clock to stop their fun.
Able to Solo Most Quests - It was a bit confusing at first when SE decided to take an MMO approach to the FF series when they released FF XI. Since then fans have warmed up to traveling with human companions instead of AI. But there are times when you just want to solo a few quests on your own for a quick fix. If you’re that type of player, ARR does give you that option. Most of the quests in the game you are able to solo with the exception of boss battles, dungeon instances and world events.
Switching Between Classes is a Breeze - One of the things that I don’t like about most MMOs is that you are locked into your class. If you want to tryout another class, you would have to create a whole new character and go through the process of leveling that character all over. Now I don’t mind the leveling and going through that class’ tutorial, it’s just that once you start reaching the higher levels you get attach to your character. You two have been on tough adventures and to just toss him aside to start over doesn’t feel right, at least to me.
In ARR, not only does it let you switch jobs, it also allows you to keep your character as well. At level 20, you are given permission by your guildmaster to freely pursue other classes and jobs. Then the game explains that switching weapons gives you access to different classes and jobs. They make switching even easier by giving you six gear sets so that you can fill each set with gear for that class. Then all it takes to switch classes is to equip the set you want and there you go. Do note that when switching classes for the first time, your level will be brought dwon to 1, since you are entering a new class. But all previous stat gains will remain intact so you don’t have to worry about losing all that hard work. Switching classes can come in handy when the second class is one of the many crafting classes and there isn’t a merchant to fix your weapon for miles around.
Tons to Do - As cliché as it sounds, there is tons to do in ARR. I mean seriously there is a ton of things to do. Let me break it down for you as simply as possible. After choosing your race and customizing your character’s looks, you have one of three city-states to start in: Gridania, Ul’dah and Limsa Lominsa. Each of them house different starter classes: Gladiator, pugilist and thaumaturge in Ul’dah, lancer, archer and conjurer in Gridania and finally the arcanist and marauder in Limsa Lominsa. Choosing one of these classes will land you in that city, for me I picked an archer and started in Gridania. In addition to the story quests, depending on what class you picked you will also receive that class’s guild quests.
On top of that each class has a hunter’s log that shows you monsters that you can kill for xp. Kill the required amount place in the log and you gain bonus xp. Complete the first tier and a second tier of monsters unlocks for you to hunt. There are ten tiers in all. There are also random quests from NPCs you run into, the new FATE (Full Active Time Events) which are almost like random battles, guildleves are daily quests that you can perform for xp and gill and they are divided into four different types. Not to mention the expansions coming soon (more on that in a bit) and at level 20 you are able to switch classes and do those quests. The point I am making is that there is a lot to do and even if you reach the end game with one class there are several classes to play as, and lots more coming in the next few months.
Strangers Working Together - The way that ARR handles dungeon instances and boss battles is this: even before the instance can start, the game pairs you up with a random group of the same level, give or take a level or two. It also pairs you up with what is needed in a party; example, as an archer I deal damage per second or DPS. So in one instance, the party needs two DPS, a healer and a tank before it can start. Once the necessary party is gathered, then you can start the instance.
In ARR, even after getting resurrected for the third time, as a party we retreated to a previous area of the dungeon and start coming up with a plan of action. After that we cleared the dungeon with ease. Another example of strangers working together is during FATE encounters. During this one FATE, this monster was dealing a poison attack that would deal damage over time while calling on its minions. As other archers and lancers were trying to kill the main monster and were about to die, a small group of conjurers and white mages showed up and provided healing support. From my experience in other MMOs, strangers don’t really play nice with each other.
Content and Special Events Incoming - When a MMO tries to involve their community by having events, it really brings players together to have a good time while at the same time giving them really cool quests to part take. SE takes this to heart as they kicked off All Saint’s Wake this week and it'll run through November 1. All Saint’s Wake is basically the game’s version of Halloween so NPCs will be out and about dressed up. Players can even part take in special Halloween themed quest. Events like this not engage players, like i said previously, but also keep the game alive with content. I’m sure we’ll see something like this again when Christmas draws near.
Speaking of content, special events are just the beginning. In addition to the Lighting FATE crossover, in patch 2.1 players will have access to the Wolves’ Den, a PvP arena, and will able to build and customize their own homes. And this is just beginning as SE has big plans for future events, expansions and much, much more.
Backend problems - While I have nothing too critical to say about the main game, I do have issues with backend of things with the game, such as subscriptions and server troubles. I don’t have an issue with paying for a subscription; I do have an issue with the lack of payment options. Sure I could pick up a subscription card or pay by credit card, but 1).Some of my local game stores don’t carry the sub cards, I’ve checked and 2). After what happed with Sony and the PSN intrusion back in 2011, I rather not have my credit card info up. So I deal with having to buy PSN money cards and put money in my account. It would be great if SE has an option to buy a subscription from the PSN Store, I and many others use that method and are most comfortable with it.
As for server issues, hopefully SE can increase them. It gets a bit annoying that I have to wait in line to jump into a game when I’m the only one waiting. With the surprise that the West gave SE when everyone rushed out to buy the game and play it, servers need to be increased.
To say that Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn is an improvement FF XIV version 1 is an understatement. By removing all the restrictions that it haD previously, updating the graphics engine, making the UI easy to use for PS3 players, making class swapping easy, having strangers work together and supporting the game with post launch content, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a much better game than it was almost three years ago. However there are issues that I have with the back end of the game, such as the lack of payment options for subscriptions and over capacity servers. To be fair most MMO share these same problems, but since this is technically SE’s third MMO, they should have learned from their mistakes. Especially with FF XIV version 1.
Regardless, if you are yearning for an MMO with a Final Fantasy feel, pick up the game and a subscription card. And if you are ever on the Diablos server, be sure to drop a line and let’s save the realm as warriors of light.
*This review was based on the PS3 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.