Press Start: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
posted on 09.24.13 at 05:55 PM EST by (@admeady)
Leveling up after a Phoenix Down.

Taken within the context of Final Fantasy XIV’s original, ill-fated release, Naoki Yoshida’s A Realm Reborn is a spectacular turnaround. Square’s once clunky, unwieldy online role-playing game is now, relatively speaking, the bastion of accessibility, ease and convenience.

And for the sake of ease and convenience here, this brief review, which will detail our thoughts on the game in general, will end with a Discussionist. Feel free to ask questions about anything game-related: from mechanics to materia, from dungeons to loot drops.

Questions and their respective answers will be added to the bottom of the review.

Adam

In its own parlance, then, Final Fantasy XIV has ‘leveled up’ – it’s now a stronger, more diverse, and more useable piece of software. But it’s also software that you might’ve used before – fetch quests, grinding, dungeons and crafting lie at the heart of its skillset. Indeed, Reborn is mostly by the numbers: kill, collect, craft.

And that aforementioned accessibility comes at a price: the vast majority of Reborn’s core grind is incredibly easy. I say this, of course, as a long-time Final Fantasy XI player – a game in which attracting even a single additional enemy mid-fight would guarantee almost instant death for almost everybody involved.

So, if you happen to hold a nostalgia for the way those numbers are packaged, as I do, A Realm Reborn might just be the grind for you. In a genre that now draws so heavily from a particular blueprint, it’s difficult to describe Reborn without describing so many of its counterparts – meaning you’re more likely to be drawn to the game’s world than you are to its mechanics.

You might find the idea of riding Chocobos, killing Ifrit or making materia in world inhabited by swaths of land to explore and players to party with far more appealing than the game itself – which, although well-executed, does little to distinguish itself from its contemporaries.

And it would seem that Yoshida knows this, too. Reborn is undoubtedly a love letter to Final Fantasy staples: materia, summons, Biggs, Wedge, Chocobos, Magitek – these are what define Eorzea. It’s a smart decision, and one that helps the game set itself apart from other games in the genre.

These are far more than mere references, too. Materia can be attached to slotted gear to boost its stats, Chocobos and Magitek armor are mounts, and summon fights – known as Primals – are instances designed especially to test a parties co-ordination and skill. A stark contrast to Realm’s quest-to-quest grind, it’s these fights where the game truly shines.

Using context as a differentiator, then, is prominent in A Realm Reborn. Fates – world events where players gather to kill large numbers of enemies spontaneously – dungeons, quests and instanced events are merely a repackaging of the same theme: endless killing.

Fortunately, Reborn’s combat is incredibly fun. Role-playing staples of tanking, healing and damage dealing very much define the game’s mechanics. Threat management – known as enmity, hate or aggro – area-of-effect attacks and pulling are constant considerations of a successful part, and that’s just at a surface level.

These mechanics don’t merely inspire or inform Reborn’s approach to co-operative combat – they dictate it. Indeed, these aren’t roles decided by the community at large, they’re almost mandated by the game itself. The Duty Finder, a dungeon matchmaking system, will only start an instance once it’s found a tank, a healer and two damage dealers.

A Realm Reborn is seemingly designed to be a ‘horizontal’ game – it’s not about spending hundreds of hours to grind one job to an inflated level cap. This is evidenced by class-swapping, which can be done by simply equipping a class-specific weapon after unlocking that class at the corresponding city. With a click of a button, then, a level 50 Paladin can become a level 1 Conjurer.

Thankfully, this doesn’t entail much effort. Each class has its own abilities hot bar, meaning you’re not forced to change or re-arrange your abilities every time you switch. Gear, too, can be saved as sets. Should I decide to change to a Black Mage, I simply click the assigned gear set icon. Jobs can’t be changed in dungeons or whilst in combat, though.

If you happen to be particularly committed to a particular class, though, A Realm Reborn’s journey to Mount Level Cap is certainly a brisk one. It took me the course of a week to reach level 50 with my Paladin, with others telling me that they had “been level 50 for days”.

Adam’s verdict

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn ultimately feels like a foundation, a solid framework for greater things to come. Its beautiful environments, Final Fantasy-infused world and solid mechanics create an experience that’s fun to play – it just might not create an experience that you want to stick around for in the long run. At least, not yet.

Matt

Aside from possessing all of the bearings of an expected Final Fantasy game, A Realm Reborn is a new, fine-tuned product that is practically inviting you to play it. As Adam noted, the game is a lot easier and forgiving than its genre predecessor, Final Fantasy XI, but don’t count the difficulty (or lack thereof) as a negative just yet.

A Realm Reborn is designed to take players who are completely new to the MMO format and turn them around into experienced adventurers who will be able to constructively work with others in party settings. If you’re an experienced player of the genre hailing from games like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, TERA, or even Final Fantasy XI, the first twenty levels might feel a tad too tired. If you enjoy it enough to continue thereafter, the game will open its gates to a variety of extremely fulfilling content.

Starting at level 15, players will be able to unlock Sastasha, the first real dungeon. Sastasha is a great entry level, full-length experience with only a few mechanics designed to ease newbies into thinking about how intermediate and expert dungeons may function later on. From that point forward, the dungeons become more challenging and the game starts to reward your character with more complex and intricate skills to use. The difficulty might seem casual at first, but by the time you’re attempting dungeons such as The Sunken Temple (level 35) you would have long forgotten about how easy this game once pretended to be.

Dungeons do a fantastic job of challenging players to work together as a group. The game ensures each player has a job to do and effort between everyone must be equal to succeed. DPS classes will constantly be forced to change their attack targets to time-sensitive objects and enemies. Tanks always have to be mindful of their position as well as where the boss is facing in relation to the group. Healers can become very stressed for mana during high damage fights and must manage their MP consumption wisely.

For your efforts, the dungeon bosses will always reward the players with gear, and thanks to the intuitive Need/Greed/Pass system, you don’t ever have to worry about someone stealing your equipment if you’re the only member of the party who can use it. The dungeon will also reward you with additional treasure chests potentially containing loot if you explore the roads less traveled, instead of rushing straight to the end.

To shift gears completely, A Realm Reborn’s crafting system is a whole new beast compared to that of its competitors. As opposed to simply gathering materials and clicking a few buttons to make items, gathering and crafting have been turned into mini-games in which efficiency and skill is required. If you excel at it, you can craft high quality items that offer bonuses and fetch more gil on the market. As an Armorer, I spend countless hours per day slamming my hammer down forging cuirasses, helmets and shields. The surprise: I actually enjoy it. As someone who has never cared for crafting and gathering in any MMO, Final Fantasy XIV has me spending an equivalent amount of time between slaying monsters, and making items in which to slay monsters with.

Matt’s verdict

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn delivers some of the most satisfying content not usually found in MMO’s at launch. Despite the easy entry levels, the game promises to please as we look toward its bright and hopeful new future.

Question and answer

With all this said, however, we’ve barely scratched the surface. For all its references to previous games and its uses of tried-and-tested mechanics, there’s still much to be said about A Realm Reborn. Let’s discuss it then, shall we?

If there’s anything you’d like to know, ask your questions below – we’ll do our best to answer them. And if you happen to be playing Reborn, what are you thoughts? Will you be playing beyond the free introductory period?

Ask questions or share your thoughts below, folks.

For more information on subscription fee costs and system requirements, visit the official Final Fantasy XIV website: North America, Europe.

  • McPoo

    Does the combat have that awful wonky look to it like most MMO’s?

    And bearing in mind it’s an FF game, is the story completely awful or does it get the job done?

    • uhawww

      The combat is surprisingly solid and very technical, somewhere between FFXI and TERA.

      As for the story, it’s pretty damn good.
      If you’re a fan of the Ivalice settings (FFT, FFXII), then you will be in for a number of treats. Overall, a very fun, very FF experience.

  • iam_yotbox

    I’m a PS3 owner, and this would be my very first MMORPG. I saw mentioned that FFXIV:ARR is friendly to those who aren’t MMO players.

    Does being on the PS3 hurt the experience? Would waiting for the PS4 version be better if I don’t want to go PC?

    • Adam Meadows

      I played on PC, although I had many party members who played on PlayStation 3. It supports mouse and keyboard on PS3, but many played with a controller, and it didn’t really seem to hamper them in the way I would expect. I have no doubt Gematsu has FF14 PS3 players. Of course, it doesn’t run as well as the PC version, provided you have a decent PC.

      They will be offering a transfer program from PS3 to PS4. A one way transfer, that will remove your access to the PS3 version, but give you permanent access to the PS4 version. Basically, it’s a free game trade.

      It’s very accessible, for sure. I don’t see any reason to wait, given the transfer.

      http://gematsu.com/2013/09/final-fantasy-xiv-ps4-beta-begins-february-22

    • http://kazriko2.tumblr.com Kazriko Redclaw

      As someone who bought the PS3 version entirely so I could eventually get the PS4 version for free, the PS3 version isn’t a terrible way to go.

      The graphics are acceptable, and better than the PC version of FF11 for sure. I play the PC version with a logitech controller anyway, so I don’t find any difference there. You have access to 16 macros per bar on your controller, and it’s quite quick to access any of them. It’s not terribly hard to switch between different bars either, but I try to squeeze everything I need in battle into my main 16.

      The only issue I’ve had with the PS3 version is that I’ve had enemies that just don’t appear on screen for me to target, yet they’re attacking me and my health goes down. It happened in 4 different places in one map, and I haven’t gone back in the PS3 version to see if it happened again. I’ve heard some people complaining about this happening on PC as well, but I’ve never observed it on my monster PC. There’s posts on the net on how to alleviate this by turning some graphical features off, so I’m going to try that next time I play on PS3.

      The big benefit of the PS3 version however is that it has never once crashed on me, where the PC version has. Probably because I’m using a video card that the game wasn’t targeted for (AMD HD5870.) The crashes happen less frequently when I force the graphics card fan manually to 60% to keep the temp below 65C.

    • Tetsu

      The PS3 version is great.

      After playing dozens and dozens of hours of ARR on PS3, I can give it a full recommendation.

      Make sure you have a wireless keyboard to go with it.

      It’s free to upgrade to the PS4 version if you own the PS3 version, so no harm in beginning your time in Eorzea now :)

      The problem that Kazriko has had, is a lag issue. It definitely does help to turn off some of the graphical effects to alleviate that problem. It’s usually when your in a large group of people that this problem occurs.

      • http://kazriko2.tumblr.com Kazriko Redclaw

        This wasn’t near a FATE or any other area with a lot of people, it was a quest area with about 15 monsters in it, and 2 out of those 15 didn’t appear. Maybe the server that map was on was overloaded, but it’s hard to imagine that 15 monsters would be too much for the PS3 client to handle, especially when I killed the 13 of them that I could see, so there were no other monsters left in the area except those two. It actually happened 2-3 more times in other sets of monsters, but all of those times were still in the same map. (Eastern Thanalan.)

        Also, I tried both logging out and logging back in, and waiting 5 minutes then running back in, and the same two monsters were still invisible and resumed attacking me. I was only able to finish the quest because some other character came along and killed the monsters I couldn’t see. It’s puzzling really. I’m going to go back in and play with the PS3 again for questing, and see if it happens again. I’ve only been crafting on the PS3 since that happened.

        • http://kazriko2.tumblr.com Kazriko Redclaw

          I went back in and did 3 dungeon runs, as well as several random quests around another area, and didn’t encounter a single error, so hopefully that issue has been banished and I can stick to using the PS3 in the future. :)

    • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/matthew-frassetti/77/7a6/b44/ Matthew Frassetti

      I played FFXIV:ARR entirely on PS3 up until recently and never had any problems. The controller is intuitive and simple. The only thing you would need is a USB keyboard to chat with others. The only thing it is lacking is visuals compared to a high end PC.

      • http://kazriko2.tumblr.com Kazriko Redclaw

        Even then, the visuals aren’t bad in any way. As I said below, they’re better than FF11 was when running on a high end PC.

  • Yuri Meitzen

    i played the beta and the only problem i had with the game was because it was too quiet… and didn’t had voice-overs so… i know this isn’t a problem anymore but it’s just on cutscenes? the AI that gives us quest also speak? and… how is the sub?

    also… there’s no voice chat right? i played on ps3 and that was another problem = especially when u’re leading a bunch of people… and it takes a lot of time to type on the virtual keyboard =

    • Tetsu

      You can use a USB wireless/wired keyboard with the PS3 version. You can also use a mouse if you so desire, but controller and keyboard combo works best on PS3.

      Only story cut-scenes have voice-overs.

      There is a LOT of text dialogue, even from NPCs. You might find yourself skipping through paragraphs of text to accept a quest sometimes, although you get an abundant back-story on said quests, just depends on if you have the time to read it all.

      I do believe you can set-up voice chat via the settings if you have a mic, but I’m not positive. I know that the PS4 version’s native voice integration will be a snap to use, so if you plan on buying a PS4 it’ll be free to upgrade to that version.

      • Yuri Meitzen

        so about the keyboard adapter for the ps3… does it still open the virtual keyboard everytime you want to type something… or not?

        nah i’m happy playing it on the controler the only problem is to comunicate xD… if there were voice chat on ps3 i probably wouldn’t wait for the ps4 version but anyway.. i know there are a lot of text dialogue that’s why i asked if there were voice overs… as i said the game gets too quiet because of it

        • Tetsu

          No, the virtual keyboard does not open when you type, and you dont have to press any extra buttons to start typing. You just start tapping away at the keys and the text comes up automatically in the chat box, without prompt. You can battle and type at the same time no problem.

          I donno, I grew up in the era where there was no such thing as voice-overs, so voiceless games don’t bug me at all, especially RPGs.

          • Yuri Meitzen

            oh me too xDDD but it felt weird on FFXIV xDD maybe it’s the music i dunno =x

            anyway thanks for the reply ^^

  • Devilgunman

    This game is fun with engaging stories and so many extra things to do along the line. It is friendly for mmo newcomers until you hit lv30 when dungeons get really challenging and you need to start learning your role in the party. Also even though the game makes you feel like you can solo all the way through, it is very highly recommended for you to join a free company as soon as possible and get in touch with your company as much as possible. Late in the game party communication is the key and you will run into too many assholes with Duty Finder. However this game also has some serious flaws. The very obvious one is that leveling relies too much on FATE grinding, especially from LV40-50. Since exp earned from FATE are much much higher than any other means, all you will do is running around among hordes of chocobo and spamming area attacks until you get gold and you will be doing this for days and days. It can get really boring but overall it is still a solid game.

  • Kobracon

    My god that lvl 30 dungeon…..Brayfox….Longhorn? Or whatever its called. That was really when the difficulty of the dungeon’s spiked for me. The dungeon was far longer then the previous ones and then DAT POISON DRAGON!!! Our healer kept running out of MP! After 4 wipes we finally killed, it was actually really satisfying ^_^

    Also I agree on Matt’s post about crafting, I never thought I’d spend hours crafting and NOT notice its been hours. They put so much detail into crafting and even gathering that they really do feel like separate jobs and not just professions like in, say, WoW.

    • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/matthew-frassetti/77/7a6/b44/ Matthew Frassetti

      I’ve read posts on forums and whatnot by quite a few people who actually haven’t even begun Disciple of War/Magic classes, and are only playing Land/Hand classes. The gathering and crafting aspects of the games are NOT supplements as you described, such as the professions in WoW. They work completely on their own.

      • http://kazriko2.tumblr.com Kazriko Redclaw

        The only downside is with the new game, you can’t actually put things up for sale in the market until you pass a certain part of the storyline, and for that you have to get a war/magic class up to level 18.

    • AnimusVox

      Ugh I tried that duty last night, I’m a healer, and my glob, my cute little Lalafell body was not ready. ; ;

  • Guest

    Então, eu sou um cara de história orientada campanha aventuras solo. Apesar de eu entender foco on-line do jogo, há algo para mim no jogo?

  • RSene

    So, I’m a guy of story driven solo adventures campaign. Although I understand the online focus of the game, there’s something for me in the game?

    • AnimusVox

      Yes there is. And I gotta say the story is pretty damn good if I do say so myself.

      • RSene

        Wow, glad to hear that. Guess I’ll give a try then when I can.

  • McPoo

    Can I play as an elf in this?

  • http://www.samuraiprincess.com Mr Fwibbles

    I’m a level 30 Gladiator on the Siren server, and while I’ve had a ton of fun with the game so far, I also have a lot of suggestions for improvement (for example: why can’t we talk to an NPC while mounted?). Every server is overrun with RMTs, in fact it’s impossible to play for more than 15 minutes without seeing a shout or receiving a tell from one of them. They’ve even taken to hacking accounts and running bot scripts that let them mine underneath the map and warp between mining points, but it seems like nothing is being done about it and they’re being allowed to run rampant. I’ve heard stories of people reaching the level cap and then quitting because of a lack of endgame content. The servers are still very laggy most of the time and there’s often a wait in a queue just to log in. Unfortunately I’m also a victim of the random crashing with the “pure virtual function call” runtime error that’s well documented but Square-Enix seems to be ignoring that too.

    All in all, it’s a fun game – especially the dungeons, as long as you play with friends and not impatient random people – and I love my free company/linkshell, but I have some concerns about the game’s future, what with how Square-Enix is currently handling it.

    • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/matthew-frassetti/77/7a6/b44/ Matthew Frassetti

      Being that the game just released less than a month ago, it’s impossible for Square to tackle every single issue that has arose since launch. They had a hard time fixing the initial bugs and server overflows and they ARE working on the current issues. You just need to give them some time.

      If there are people quitting because there’s a lack of end game content, I don’t see why. There is quite a bit of gear to earn running dungeons at level 50, as well as an 8-Man raid (The Coil of Bahamut). Next month they are releasing The Crystal Tower, a 24-Man raid. The end game content is there and it is growing even more. They have lots of stuff planned, so stick around for a few months!

    • http://kazriko2.tumblr.com Kazriko Redclaw

      The RMT and Botters should only be a temporary thing, at least in the volume that exists now. Right now they’re just completely overloaded by the number of people logging into the game, far more than they ever expected to show up this quickly. There’s no easy way to report them yet either. Long term, once they have an easier reporting method, and their GM staff isn’t so overworked, it will hopefully be better.

      As for people quitting because of lack of end game content… I just don’t understand those sorts of people. There’s so much other stuff to do, and so many jobs to level up. There’s always more stuff to get from rerunning the dungeons. I’ve played more than 60 hours since it came out, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of the GAME content, and haven’t even gotten to the endgame yet. These people must be devouring content like locusts to already be complaining about the endgame.

      Of course, I’m playing fairly scattershot, with 2 characters, and 4-7 jobs each on those 2 characters…