Review: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
To recover from a misstep is not always easy. Not only do real work on oneself is need to understand its mistakes, but one must also convince back the public with awareness that they are changing to the right path. After the disastrous results in 2010, Final Fantasy XIV is betting a lot on Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. A worthy renewal?
Many of you remember the official apology from Square Enix about the debut controversial release of Final Fantasy XIV. A rare phenomenon in the industry, especially as it was followed by a radical change of the production team. After three years of hard work, and countless betas with returning players, A Realm Reborn landed… in a complete mess. Square Enix had obviously not expected the crowds (though predictable in terms of preorders), and sometimes it was impossible to connect to servers for several hours. However, if I talk about this here, it is mainly to tell you that this didn’t affect this review. Not only it was a temporary problem (largely repaired by the update around September), but again it did not affect the qualities of the game.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn on PS4 is quite characteristic of the Square Enix model, after the release of the PC and PlayStation 3 versions. First thing, the visual aspect is intended particularly close to what it is currently on a good PC. Whether it is the draw distance, light effects, textures or fluidity, it is clearly not in a forced copy and paste port of the PlayStation 3 version and is undoubtedly the most beautiful MMO released on consoles.
But Square Enix was not satisfied with that because handling has been greatly revised. The game played on the DualShock has been improved with a more efficient lock system and ergonomic interface, in addition to being customizeable. Hell, even with some sort of witchcraft power, you can even go as far as plugging a keyboard and mouse to play like a PC player. Crazier still, you can make use of the PS Vita remote play feature, but I do not really advise this for intense fights, but it may very well help you when you are doing casual activities like crafting or fishing.
A Realm Reborn on PlayStation is inevitably at its peak with updates 2.1 and 2.2, which add many elements for high level players (brutal dungeons) PvP features (Lairs), new cosmetic changes, plus the ability to customize their own domain in specific neighborhoods. Finally, the automatic search of players for instances has been improved, although it still happens at a slower pace than I would prefer.
So let’s talk about the story. Five years after the disaster that saw Bahamut out of its prison destroy Dalamud, you wake up from a long slumber after the cataclysm. You discover a world that was rebuilt without you, and your hibernation is a good excuse for a long tutorial to refresh your memories. This soft start is told with the help of many cinematics, a constant feature throughout the adventure. Indeed, the main story of A Realm Reborn is very scripted, always a good thing in the world of MMORPG. By the way, know that your choice of the five races (Elezen, Hyur, Lalafell, Miqo’te and Roegadyn) will have no impact on the adventure. It must be said that the main frame is rather strict and differs only slightly for each person other than setting the city where you start your start, which itself depends on the class you have chosen (Gladiator, Marauder, Pugilist, Lancer, Archer, Conjurer, Thaumaturge, Arcanist, Rogue). However, all three city scenarios begin in a similar manner.
The beginning of the adventure is like a great tutorial. As it is often the case in MMO games, you are sent from one NPC to another to learn the basics. Besides, you will roam almost a full hour before getting your blades dirty on your first monster if you follow the normal course of things (you can always deviate from the main quest). Regularly, you can also advance to a series of quests for your class and that brings you to beat a boss (sometimes accompanied by other enemies) in a solo instance. The advantage is that the rewards for these quests are rather generous in class specific equipment, or even in dedicated skills. However, we must admit that the thread of your evolution is somewhat tedious and I would have liked that some elements are unlocked faster. The possibility of developing another class opens at level 10, level 15 opens dungeons, chocobo at 20 and etc. We will return to these different elements later.
Besides the classic quests given by NPCs randomly on your adventure, you will have access (from level 10) to people asking of you such tasks as killing specific monsters or accompany an NPC from one point to another. You can also change the difficulty level to boost your experience bonus and gil (game currency). Generally well paid, these missions have still another constraint: you need permission to participate, the latter being automatically distributed every 12 hours. You also can do “guilds operations” and raid dungeons. In the later, you will often have to rely on friends, as you’ll face strong enemy while performing sub-missions to achieve your goals. Find a key, destroying orbs, if these goals are usually in your way in the early dungeons, things get complicated later. The advantage of the dungeons is especially the loot chests where you can find rare equipment (through a roulette system that picks who in your team gets the loot). Since these chests are usually hidden out of your way, it’s a group effort to find them. The catch is that you have limited time to finish the dungeon.
Finally, on the topic of leveling up, taking the adventure to the plains may also be a good idea. Indeed, you will quickly find a bestiary book that rewards you when you defeat all monsters in an area (which can be done during certain quests). You can also come across live events that are triggered randomly which you can chose to participate or not. If slaying these live events nasty bugs are usually boring tasks to wait for, they provide a significant bonus experience which can be farmed (unlike quests), although it will often wander around and wait to fall on these events.
After a series of modern MMOs, such as Guild Wars 2, I can’t help but to point out at the rhythm of the combat system. Rather than speaking of a real downside is the lack of risk-taking which can disappoint some players. Although all MMOs are not obliged to comply with the law of the “action” influenced like TERA or Guild Wars 2, the core gameplay of A Realm Reborn suffers from some platitude that tends towards mathematical repetition and systematic actions in order… At least at first. Apart from the natural order of unleashing skills, the only important factor to manage is the position of the character on the battleground, either from an offensive standpoint (bonus when attacking from the side or from behind) or defensive (to avoid areas of attacks). During the first 30 levels, 99% of fights have a somewhat limited value and only the mini-bosses, and Primordial bosses (summons) are bringing a bit more of action by asking the player to move more tactically, taking care to of the minions that affect the power of their master, for example. Anyway, it was not until level 30 that you finally see A Realm Reborn evolve by offering more full-bodied challenges (particularly dungeon), but also a more refined gameplay and becomes more creative with the job system.
Much of the interest of A Realm Reborn has indeed been the freedom given to the player to work on several classes with the same character. Since it is only necessary to change weapons to change the class, you can suddenly drop your level 42 archer to start a fresh Pugilist at Level 1, for example. Of course, your stats take a hit and you have to grind the new class pretty much as you mounted your first ones (but you have a significant experience bonus). It’s long, sometimes tedious, but it helps to unlock skills that will be usable even when you play another class, allowing you to mold your character in your own style of play. Certainly, you are limited and may not have all the skills of all classes at once, but making the right choices, your character becomes more effective in combat. This system thus develops when one has reached level 30 in a class and level 15 in a secondary class, allowing, via quests, to discover jobs. For example, a player who is an arcanist level 30 and level 15 occultist can unlock the summoner job and five additional skills. In all, there are 9 jobs that are available to you at the moment and no doubt more to come via updates. Obviously, it is with these tweaks that A Realm Reborn really kicked off, which is felt especially through a surge in difficulty with dungeons, quests and other guilds and operations, but also through a more powerful narrative story with an epic RPG solo experience topped by a grand finale after level 50 (the current maximum) level achieved.
With its content, it is clear that A Realm Reborn has a good future on the long term. Obviously, all the elements are not a great success. For example, the Great Company of system in which you upgrade and buy special equipment via tickets (which acts like Additional money) does not seem of great interest. Other issues still need to be improved, such as guild system (called Free Company) which still lacks functions, automatic groups search for instances that take forever to happen (1:30 to find a group is a bit much) or a PvP mode that is not even implemented. But that has not stopped Square Enix to work its end game with more interesting content that opens at Level 50. dungeons particularly difficult to complete already, get harder with changing bosses’ AI (new attacks) or the legendary weapons of each class, a kind of super-quests that will take you hours. Suffice to say that you get what you pay for your money, which is a lot to say for a MMORPG that charges you a subscription fee of $12.99.
I’ll finally close out this article with the technical aspect of the game, an element that A Realm Reborn will not get shy showing off. It is not uncommon to be impressed by the size of the environments and the proposed depth of field, backed by a remarkable fluidity. Attention to detail makes each region, each city unique and that one can easily identify thanks to the panorama generated by this world that comes to life. However, the PS3 version is (rather logically) below the PC and PlayStation 4 versions with choppy textures, more pronounced aliasing and less impressive light effects. But it’s at the musical point of view that A Realm Reborn demonstrates a real superiority over other MMORPG, offering high class compositions worthy of the Final Fantasy series. Melancholy songs to remind us with powerful melodies drown in many remarkable compositions, without being invasive.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was reviewed using a PlayStation 4 review copy of the game provided by Square Enix. The game is also available on PC and PlayStation 3 in both retail and online store releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• The mixture of classes
• The Freedom
• Technically and artistically successful
• Greatest MMO musical themes
• Complex Dungeons
• The live events which sometimes break the monotony
• Great high quality content
• The side activities
• PS Vita Remote Play can be useful
• Takes too long to reveal its true potential
• Gameplay that lacks of originality
• Too many classic and typical MMO quests
• Subscription that can be a bit expensive (but not outrageous)