It’s been a bumpy few years for the Final Fantasy franchise, it’s fair to say the series has fallen on hard times. Recent games have failed to live up to expectations, or taken the series in a direction that fans have been unhappy with.
Final Fantasy XIV was initially released in 2010 and Square Enix’s latest attempt at a Final Fantasy MMORPG was nothing short of a disaster. The game was broken, full of glitches and considered to be unplayable and unfinished. The general ill feeling towards the game prompted two apologies from Square Enix, and even their CEO, Yoichi Wada, admitted “the Final Fantasy brand has been greatly damaged”
But never one to admit failure where others might have walked away, Square went back to the drawing board and have returned with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn takes place five years after the original Final Fantasy XIV. The original game’s reset button was pressed during an apparent total extinction event now known as The Calamity. While it didn’t wipe out the entire world, it did wipe the slate clean of the old game. All players either Final Fantasy XIV newbies or veterans will start from the beginning.
The story line and characters are pretty standard Final Fantasy fare, crystals, destiny, fate, good nation’s vs. evil conquering empire. Nothing that you won’t be unfamiliar with, but the story always feels secondary here to the main goal of exploring Eorzea and becoming as powerful as you can.
The world of Eorzea is a beautiful place to travel, you’re never too far from a sanctuary or town and each of the three main nations, Gridania, Ul’dah and Limsa Lominsa has their own look. Depending on the decisions you make when creating your character will depend on which of these three nations you begin in. We ended up starting in Gridania and slowly progressed through the storyline there before being given access to the others.
As you explore you’ll encounter enemies and quests for you to complete, in truth there are a lot of side quests, or, depending on your outlook, a few side quests repeated over and over. In all three nations the weaker enemies and easier quests will be on your doorstep, but as you progress the enemies naturally increase in levels. Battles take place in the world, no whirring cut to a battle arena like Final Fantasy games before, and like all MMOs fights take place in real-time in the environment so you have a 360 degree range of attack, and can run away easily if you suddenly realise you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
Some quests can only be completed as part of a team, the MMO standard dungeon raiding, you can either gather a party together yourself through friends, though these friends MUST be on the same server – travel between servers is not yet possible; or, you can have the game try to find a party for you to join. This does take longer depending on your level, quest and time of day, we found an average of 20 minute wait to find raiding parties during working hours.
The classes for your character are split into four main disciplines. Disciples of War are the warriors and cause physical damage, Disciples of Magic are the mages and causing magical damage, Disciples of The Hand are crafters and Disciples of the Land are the harvesters, they find the materials that the crafters will use. At the start of the game you are stuck to one class, but later on this opens up and you are able to move between classes, but the wise will always max out their original class before moving on to the next.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Real Reborn is a good solid MMO experience; the fact it works is a huge step up from where the game started. While we’d stop short of saying its original or adds much to the Final Fantasy series, it is still worth a look to see the lessons that Square have learnt and to get a sense of what a traditional Final Fantasy game could be like now.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is an online MMORPG available on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. There is a monthly subscription fee for the use of this game.