Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - Impression  

A Miraculous Rebirth
by Michael A. Cunningham

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
The game's quality along with its similarities to a single player Final Fantasy, make this an easy recommendation. That said, there is a subscription required to play. Even with the monthly fee, I highly recommend A Realm Reborn, even to those who are not typically into MMOs. It's a great RPG, a great starter MMO, and a fantastic Final Fantasy game all in one.

   If you've followed the Final Fantasy series at all, then you know all about the failure that was Final Fantasy XIV's initial launch in 2010. While a mess, I have to be a little thankful that it was, because it has brought us what we have today in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, Naoki Yoshida's miraculous reboot. This game features a completely fresh feel from the original version and is all the better for it.

   My first MMORPG experience came from Final Fantasy XI, which I played casually for about three years. During that time, I cut my teeth with a small group of friends as we fought crabs in the Dunes, ran from goblins in the same, snuck quietly through areas that were way too high level for us, battled our way to the top of Delkfutt's Tower in a massive group, and much more. The game was a very social experience, which was great at times, but that came with a price. There was very little you could do in that game to progress outside of being in a full, well-balanced party. Want to level? Get a party. Trying to progress the storyline? Better have the right mix of people. Trying to catch up with friends? Better hope a group needs your job or you'll be looking for a group for hours. Over the years these issues were mitigated, but for the first three years that I played it, the content you could do on your own was sorely lacking. Sure, an MMO should have some social requirements to it, but the scale was tipped a little too far towards requiring players to group up.

   Now let's fast forward ten years to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, a game with a perfect mix of social and solo content. Not only does this game offer the right blend there, but XIV has almost everything I liked about Final Fantasy XI with most of the things I didn't like removed or improved. The fantastic class system is back and even more flexible than before, as players can change jobs by simply swapping out their equipped weapon. The world and its lore, something very underappreciated about FFXI, is every bit as strong here. Even the game's characters and storyline are compelling, something oft overlooked in MMORPGs. And the music is once again outstanding. Despite being an MMO, it's like the single-player Final Fantasy game I've been longing for since finishing Final Fantasy XII in 2006, even if the story might be a little too full of fetch quests. When the story does hit home, it's pretty solid. In many areas Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is every bit as fantastic as some of the classic games in the series.

Version 1.0 might have tripped... Version 1.0 might have tripped...

   I'm currently a level 40 Warrior, ten levels from the max, and have had a blast so far. The pacing has been solid, with the right mix of story, questing, and going through dungeons with groups. Almost all of the game's quests can be completed solo and most provide a solid amount of experience to help players level up naturally as they go along. Some of these will be simple "kill X number of Y" quests, but often the story quests will have you and some NPCs fighting off a group of attackers or a powerful monster. It's a nice change of pace from basic gathering quests. If doing quests isn't your thing, there are plenty of other options for supplemental experience. FATEs are special battles on the world map that anyone can take part in for rewards (money, experience, etc.). There are also guildleves, quests where players must complete a specific objective within a set time. I've spent dozens of hours with the game and have yet to even touch the massive crafting system, so there's still plenty of that for those interested. There no end of things to do in A Realm Reborn, so players should never be left wanting.

   There are a few areas of required group content: dungeons and battles against primals (trademark monsters like Titan or Ifrit). Most early dungeons only require a party of four, recommending a tank class, a healer, and two damage dealers. Players can choose a team of four on their own or use the Duty Finder to help find a balanced team. The Duty Finder is a major boon to the game, allowing cross-server team ups for dungeons and story bosses. Simply select the dungeon or battle you want to tackle and the system will find a party for you while you continue on doing whatever you like until it is ready. Even better, if you have two or three of the four needed for a dungeon, simply use the Finder to find a match for the rest. It would be nice if players could have a little more control over this, maybe even allowing for friends from other servers to be directly invited to help. While it is a great help, tossing a group of random people together into timed content with little time to communicate beforehand is a little off-putting. That aside, it sure beats searching for hours to find people wanting to do the same content as you.

   Another great feature Final Fantasy XIV offers is level sync. First introduced in FFXI, it returns here and allows for higher level players to team up with lower ones with ease. Need to get through a level 16 dungeon and only have level 50 friends available? All they have to do is join you, with high level equipment and all, and they sync down to the dungeon's max level automatically. Higher level skills will not be available, but equipment doesn't have to be changed as it will scale down on the fly. This also works in FATEs, allowing characters that are over six levels higher than the max to scale down and participate. This means that you should never have to worry about friends out-leveling you, as you can always team up and work together.

...but A Realm Reborn is coming out swinging. ...but A Realm Reborn is coming out swinging.

   I'll save the fine details of combat for the review, but my experience as a marauder/warrior has been enjoyable so far. In solo content, I have few issues with survivability, and in groups I've had no real issues keeping my party safe. A Realm Reborn keeps the tank, healer, damage dealer trio of many other MMOs, but all of those seem to be able to manage combat solo as well. Being able to change jobs on the fly makes it easy to try out any of them without too much hassle. Keeping up with multiple jobs, however, can be a bit of a challenge. Many of the game's quests that naturally progress you through the story are one-time only affairs, so keeping a second job up will require players to rely heavily on the other leveling options, and that doesn't flow quite as well.

   I played mostly on PlayStation 3 using a controller for everything except typing, and it feels completely natural. The cross hot bar allows for easy mapping of skills to the controller's face buttons, and Square Enix has made almost everything manageable with a keyboard and mouse available here. The PS3 version also looks great, but it does pale in comparison to the PC version in terms of graphical quality. Hopefully the PS4 version holds up to the statement that it will look as good as the PC one. As is, characters are highly detailed and customizable both during the creation process and via armor obtained in-game.

   Despite feeling like a single-player Final Fantasy game, this is still an MMO, and as such has a required subscription fee. That said, the content offered has been worth it for me. Content is plentiful, and the game is stable after a bit of a rocky launch. This is a love letter to the series, offering fanservice and a quality game at the same time. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is the Final Fantasy game I've been waiting on to reignite my love for the series, and it has completely succeeded.

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