Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (Square-Enix)
Systems: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PC Release Date: August 27th, 2013
ESRB: T for Teen
(This Review will be on the core game through the 2.2 patch via the ps3 version of the game kupo!)
For those who grew up with final fantasy, and anyone who has felt the sting of MMO fatigue in these past years from games failing to live up to their expectations or promises I’d like to bring your attention to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (that’s 14 for those who are roman numeral impaired) I’ll be going over the bits and pieces of what make this MMO a stand out success and easily one of the most accessible titles in the genre in ages, but first! I’d like to talk quickly about the short history of ARR and how it rose from the ashes of the failed Final Fantasy XIV.
Some might remember with bitter memories the short lived release of final fantasy XIV, built as a potential successor to the long running Final Fantasy XI (11) Final Fantasy XIV was square-enix’s next bid into the MMO scene in almost a decade. but for a company who had only released a somewhat successful MMO they had decided to put on the blinders to almost 12 years of progression in the genre. what gamers got on release had been a disaster and although a pretty game with flower pots (now infamous that had the same amount of detail/programming as a standard player character) it had scorned thousands from the then budding world of Eorzea. then stepped in Naoki Yoshida who at the time had been developing content for the failing MMO. given the raigns he orcestrated the unheard of when he and his team created an event that would save Final Fantasy XIV from the murky obscurity of Free 2 Play hell that so many floundering MMO’s tend to go.
He destroyed the world. now I know what your saying “Blizzard did that with World of Warcraft its been done!” but it is really one thing to reinvent a success than it is to take a failing MMO and turn it into what has now been heralded as an imposable comeback. scoring highly in almost every major publication in the industry. but this might already be things you’ve heard as a realm reborn has gotten quite alot of press, but trust in knowing its all well deserved. well now that I’ve given you some backstory it is this moogle’s turn to give you his review and tell you all about why I’m still playing A Realm Reborn and what makes it an MMO you should definitely not miss kupo!
Part I: Storytelling
what is final fantasy without a story of doomed lands and chosen heroes rising to save it? much like picking up a new numbered title in the aclaimed series and popping it in for a good 50+ hour adventure, ARR (a realm reborn) chooses to help ease any new players both to the genre and the world with a wealth of story driven quests in three starting zones. a knowledge of the events prior to your entrance to the world need not exceed the above video as Eorzea is a whole new beast now. taking a more hands on approach than other MMO’s you are the hero and the world is just waiting for your story to unfold which is handled organically as multiple storylines play out from the beginning of your adventure all the way to level 50 (the games current cap). thoes who like final fantasy but arn’t into the MMO format will be pleased to know the game largely supports a solo play style and only requires a group for dungeons and even streamlines this process with the “Duty Finder” mechanic but more on that shortly. going back to multiple storylines you’ll have the main tale progressing you toward a resolution with the empire that threatens to wipe out Erozea and its citizens, then you’ll also have a class based storyline which follows you for your first 30 levels, this subtle additional depth helps broaden the world little by little and the first chance you get to leave your starting nation is a heartfelt one that is very reminiscent of the first steps on a journey from home.
this brings me to the writing! never have I caught myself wanting to read quest dialogue and learn the stories of the people i am helping along the way. both clever, funny, and refreshingly mature it serves to put ARR on a different level than other MMO’s which sometimes opt for a more “kid friendly” approach. be aware that Eorzea is full of colorful characters and sexual references, boozing pirates, and heart rending death is handled appropriately. not to be exempt from the outright goofy at times ARR does its best to really show that a game with more text than voice acting can still be well done and that the strength of a good team of writers can make the difference between caring about the world and just skipping the text for game-play.
without going into it to heavily the main storyline is expectantly dramatic and fans of the final fantasy brand should not see anything to out of the ordinary. its engaging and sometimes a little over the top but serves to give you characters to cheer for and enemies to loath all the while keeping a steady pace toward the final confrontation at the end of the core storyline. while in a unqiue situation than its past incarnations this final fantasy allows the story to continue and in each content update (released every 3 months give or take) a small wealth of story missions push the narrative along long after you’ve beaten the game and scene the credits roll.
Part II: Are you ‘Hardcore’ or ‘Casual’
many MMO’s as of late have come under fire from their core audience or the “Hardcore” group as being overly casualized to welcome new players. ARR offers an approach at content that allows both parties to be satisfied while not sacrificing content for either side. this is done both in dungeons and in various end game content. for instance! I am a casual player, I play a few hours a day maybe a few times a week, I can play a few dungeons, go on some quests and still make some progress toward armor and gear i’d need for later content. the game has two end game raids one of which is geared toward players like me who don’t have the time for a static group (a few players that meet up at regular times during the week) and still enjoy epic fights and engaging stories all the while being accessible to my play style (this is the crystal tower 24 man raid) while a similar person who has more time to work on harder content has access to a much more demanding raid called the coil of bahamut which is made for those people who want the hard core experience they have come to expect with end game content.
while not the only example the game does its best to allow both sides of this dangerous line to enjoy a game that feels made for them. and has systems involved that can easily give a casual player the tools to become a hard core player without sacrificing the challenge or achievement of those who came to the game with those abilities or knowledge. this is done with something called “GuildHests” which serve as MMO party tutorials. these guildhests actually form you up with other players for a short instanced challenge which generally teach you about party and team dynamics of your class and their part in it, thus making the daunting task of joining a party for a dungeon less stressful for those new to the MMO scene and providing less hand holding for the vets who are running content with new players.
there are countless other bridges between the two extremes like dailies (quests that can be repeated daily) and multiple difficulties for most end game dungeons that help both sides play the way they want how they want and this is really something i believe other games should walk away with. that creating more content instead of sacrificing content can help make your whole player base happy and I believe is one of the major reasons that ARR has become the success it has.
Part III: Gameplay (Combat,Exploration,Crafting etc)
while deservedly this section could contain a whole site to itself I’m going to go over my experiences and try to cover what I’ve been through on ARR. Combat, now to many this is a make it or break it topic and one that needs examination, Arr doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel but what it does do it does well. using hotbar (a bar with skills that use timers known as cool downs) combat you have to pay attention to positioning (for some classes) and rotations (a continuous cycle of skills in a combo). these are all things that most MMO’s do and ARR does them solidly, the classes are balanced and the trinity of “tanks, dps, healer” is how they are broken up.
instead of spending alot of time developing new battle systems and trying crazy new mechanics they focused on polishing combat and group dynamics into a finely honed machine. when a group is working together its amazing and everyone should feel useful, the skills are delivered in a linear format and for some this might be disappointing as there is little in way of character customization class wise but this is sacrificed in lue of a more solid and dependable party system when you que up for a random group thus cutting out the “does this person have the right skills?” and more “whats their armor level”
returning to classes there are 17 combat rolls which include the ‘jobs’ that you learn at level 30 of any of the combat classes. these range from gladiator to bard. and include alot of final fantasy fan favorites like black mage and lancer (JUMP!) all of the classes/jobs siphon into one of three party rolls and those are tank, dps (damage per second), and healer. I could go into this group dynamic but thats certainly told somewhere better on an MMO site kupo!
Exploration doesn’t last long in ARR as the world feels just big enough to be interesting yet small enough that by fifty you should have all of the zones well memorized and locations by name. that’s not to say the zones aren’t interesting and there are still some locations that beg for a future dungeon location or even a mysterious event but for now know that every zone is chock full of monsters and events called “FATES” which we will cover in the next section. while the zones themselves aren’t massive with the exception of Corethas (its easily 2 zones huge) they are brimming with atmosphere and their own challenges like long drops and huge monsters to defeat.
Crafting and gathering also have their own classes which run the familiar fair of “go to this node, craft this thing” to interesting minigames which take timing and skill know how. as each gathering/crafting class is just that you can level each one to level 50 on its own. going to a side another unique thing about ARR is that there are no real need for Alternate characters you can level every class, and every job on a single character. get bored of fighting the front lines? why not become a mage, want to stop fighting all together? then its time to fish. the game offers quite a large selection of things to do as well. the fisherman for example (that’s my gathering class kupo!) there is a fishing guide which tells you where you have fished and what fish can be caught there once you catch them and how many are left before you finish. on top of that there is gear for my class and different baits I need to use at different locations which is pretty in depth considering this is a gathering class which most games regulate to just node surfing.
Part IV: Patches and new content/ Dev’s who Listen
I’ve attempted to cover with some clarity the basics of the game and what it has to offer but after spending a few months with the game and having a character with a few classes what is there to do you might ask? where is the end game? or perhaps there are things you’d like fixed? this is probably the best part of this game to date and that has been the open development and creation of new content for ARR. after the failure of ffxiv Yoshida started a blog called “letters from the producer” which was created to regain the trust of the player base and let them in on new things being created or done to the world of ARR. the turn around and feedback from the devs on various issues in the game has been astoundingly quick kupo! the hard work put into all aspects of this title show through in the quick response to problems, and understanding from the dev team.
as for endgame? well when the game first launched it had 16 dungeons and three primal trials (fights with summons ifrit, garuda, titan) as well as the first 5 parts of the coil of bahamut, after 4 short months (delay due to server stability) extreme modes were added for the primal trails, the casual raid the crystal tower was opened, and two hard mode versions of former dungeons were opened up. as if this content was enough there was a large number of fixes which helped make the game even more accessible and changed the focus from grind to having fun while trying to achieve that i90 gear score. 3 short months after that the newest patch hit which added more dungeons, more bosses, more quests. the game has grown exponentially since launch is perhaps the words I’m trying to find. and It appears to have no end in sight as all the things that were added point to a brighter future for ARR. oh did I mention that the coil of Bahamut got five more parts? with the crystal tower upgrading in the next patch the games main two raids are becoming bigger and better.
will you have things to do in endgame? YES and that goes for all skill levels.
I will undoubtedly have another Review coming soon that discusses the Guild systems (free companies) as well as dungeons in the game and my experiances. but let this serve as an enthusiastic view at why you should be playing FFXIVARR!
By the Way if you ever want to party with this moogle you can find me, forge, and war on the Gilgamesh server
player handle: Raleigh Crest
Until next time kupo!