Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, a game set to rebuild it’s somewhat failure of an attempt at an MMO which was released back in 2010 to mostly negative responses. A Realm Reborn was developed by a different team than the one that worked on the original game and dubbed the new version to be 2.0, keeping the majority of what the game represented and held within its lore whilst improving on its design. Now that is has finally been released, has Square Enix managed to save this dying Realm?
The main overarching story of the game is that a great evil is coming to the world and you must do whatever it takes to push back its advance on your realm. After some hours within the story you come across a Crystal of Light and are told to seek the others out to learn of your destiny. The story stays majorly the same between the different starting areas, keeping the main story intact for all players and the goal to stand against the Empire of Garlean. Now we’re just missing a Princess in distress.
The story of A Realm Reborn is a continuation of the previous release back in 2010, following 5 years after the climax of the war. After “winning” the war, Eorzea is in recovery, trying to gather up its military strength and to restore the devastated parts of the world. The player/s are set the task to make a name for themselves in the world and put forth their own contributions to protecting the world and its peoples against the threats within each country.
Gridania is a city set within a deep and clustered forest full to the brim with trees, Moogles and hunters, setting itself as the “green” country and being one with nature. Gridania is where characters with the starting classes of Archer, Lancer and Conjurer begin their journey in. The beginning cutscene shows the player in a carriage being taken to the main city deep in the forest. It is presented that Gridania is home to the race of Moogles which only certain individuals can see, as well as the Wood Wailers who are the guards of the forest and its people. Gridania is beseeched by an endless horde of nature inspired enemies like Ents and walking plants as well as its main enemy the Lizard like Ixal ‘Birdmen to be precise but to me they looked lizard like’ . I take this place to be my Homeland as it is the area my main started in.
Limsa Lominsa is a city situated along the river and is a marine city garnering a very commercial and fisherman look to its city and townsfolk. This town is known for its various races inhabiting the city due to its trading, holding people of varying races and skin colours and looking very “sea blue”. Limsa is where characters with the starting classes of Marauder and Arcanist begin their journey in. The beginning cutscene shows the player in the bowels of a large Ship and being taken to the city only to be attacked by marauding pirates. After a quick getaway the character arrives in the city to find out that Limsa is forever under attacking and raids from nearby Pirate bands.
Ul’dah is the commerce hub of the world and is found amidst a large expansive desert, Merchants and mercenaries alike litter the streets looking to buy and sell goods as well as spectate within the fighting arenas and Gambling spots. Ul’dah is where characters with the starting classes of Gladiator, Pugilist and Thaumaturge start off their journey in. The beginning cutscene shows the player in a carriage being taken to the city only to be stopped by the Brass Blades. After reaching the city, it is clear it is a bustling hub of Gil and people trying to make a quick coin.
Out of all the areas, Gridania seems the most inviting, having hospitable NPC’s, an easy city layout and plenty of players within its country. Ul’dah and Limsa Lominsa both use elevators that can become quite annoying whilst traversing the cities as you will need to take several different routes to get to where you want to go. No matter your favourite, you will have to visit each city more than once to continue the story as well as level your side classes.
No matter the start area, the main story will stay the same and you will meet most of the same characters you would of if you chose another class. The story tries to make you feel like the “chosen one” but this is very hard to accept, due to the fact that everyone else will be told the same and if I’m not mistaken there can only be one Neo.
The gameplay is almost the same as any MMO, target an enemy and rapidly press the number keys, however it takes the more on-the-move battle style for some classes, most will have to stand still to fight to the best of their classes abilities. The combat feels very similar to Final Fantasy 12, having a similar targeting graphic with fluid attack and skill use. Even when some of the skills feel like they have no power behind them they can certainly do a lot of damage and status ailments. The Archer seems to be given the most free foot movement, allowing you to use all of your skills without having to stop moving, being able to kite most foes.
The spells and skills are very flashy and colourful which can create wonderful sights as you travel the world and glimpse players deep in combat. The flashy graphics can become quite annoying sometimes, as some can take up a large area and fill your screen, blocking your view and obscuring your cursor making it harder to target enemies. Combined with the annoying camera, targeting within the game is very clunky, having to click several times to select an enemy, and leaves you stressed out when someone “steals” your target.
Like any MMO, A Realm Reborn can become very “grindy”, forcing you to hunt down enemies for the sole reason of gaining enough exp to progress the story. The developers seem to have taken a mechanic from Guild Wars 2 to solve the grinding problem in the form of FATEs, which are very similar to the Events within GW2. FATEs pop up at random times on the map and are comprised mostly of “kill these things” objectives and reward the player with varying EXP and Gil amounts depending on the level of the FATE and the difference in level to the current Class you are playing as.
Along with FATEs the game also has several logs from which you can take side goals from, the Hunting Log being a mainly “Kill X amount of Y”. The crafting log is used mainly for the crafting classes within the game and is used as a recipe book and journal of what you have created, awarding EXP for successfully creating items as well as for crafting an item for the first time. There are also logs for gathering and fishing, rewarding players with finding all kinds of different items.
Crafting and gathering within the game is designed very well and uniquely, going for a more of a mini-game angle to the professions. When creating an item you are given a durability and quality meter, giving you a certain amount of tries to complete the item, using your skills to craft the item, upgrade its quality and even buff yourself to create it with better precision. Gathering is done slightly different, giving you a percentage chance at getting a certain item from a gathering source as well as different skills to buff yourself. The whole crafting and gathering system is a refreshing look at the mechanics, but can become a bit repetitive like any other and could do with some tweaking to make it faster.
The music within the game is what you come to expect from a Final Fantasy game, full of pianos, keyboards, guitars and orchestral sounds making up another epic soundtrack. The majority of the music fits the setting they are found in and add to the feel of the world, albeit overplayed a bit within large areas. Fans of the series might be a bit disheartened when they find that a majority of the soundtrack is simple remixed and remade versions of past songs, either instilling nostalgia or a sense that Square was feeling a bit lazy in their sound department.
Voice acting is sparse in the game, only showing up within select Major Story missions, giving voice to the main characters within the game and giving simple noises and grunts to the others. At points, the voice acting can feel very flat as the characters sound very monotone without much change in their demeanour or voice. The dialogue can also feel a bit cheesy at times, going for clichés and stereotypical responses and conversations as well as feeling a bit out of place as you can go 20 hours without a single word being spoken.
Equipment in the game can be very confusing at the start, as you will be shown a plethora of different stats and statistical data which will make no sense, this is made worse as the game doesn’t show you how much better a new piece of equipment is over the currently equipped one besides it armour bonuses. When choosing a piece of equipment you can be shown a certain amount of bonus to Dexterity or Control but not the difference to what you have currently which forces you to open up your character menu to see, which can be impossible when in cutscenes meaning you will have to blindly choose a weapon or armour piece without knowing if it is any better.
Questing in the game is easy and shows you waypoints for the immediate area for the quest in question, showing you where to go to kill an enemy or look for a hidden item. The post-quest explanation is also very thorough in its description as you are given an entire conversation on the matter at hand. Quests can feel few and far between at times however, as you can go a few levels without a single quest at hand to complete leaving you to grind a few levels. The game rectifies its lack of quests with the addition of Leves, which are similar to the Dailies within World of Warcraft and set you tasks of killing monsters or handing in items to NPCs, these aren’t hard to do and allow for you to also choose the difficulty of the killing Leves to win extra experience and Gil.
Besides questing and FATEs the player can also use the Duty Finder, which is similar to a dungeon group finder found in most other MMOs. Using the Duty Finder you set yourself up as either a Healer, DPS or tank and select which duty you wish to undertake, you are then queued up and await a party. Duties are small instances where you have to fight your way to the objective, or be thrown straight into the objective itself with the majority being boss fights. Using the Duty Finder is a good way to get some exp and Gil, but at early levels those are all you are going to get from this mechanic.
Following in the FF tradition, there are Limits to be had, albeit restricted to parties. Limits can be used when within a party, mostly in dungeons, to help your team beat a hard enemy or boss with varying effects. The Limits available right now are; a mass party heal/resurrection, a massive area of effect attack, a strong single target attack or a party buff to reduce damage. Limits are powered up by taking and dealing damage within the party and are used as a team. These Limits look awesome and can really spice up the party system when selecting who to take along with you into battle.
Besides the base classes you have at the beginning, when you get to level 15 and 30 you can unlock higher tier classes, for example the Gladiator can become a Warrior or Paladin if they get to a certain level in Gladiator and another class. This opens up more customizability for the character, allowing you to follow a certain path or specialization, will you go for a dps tank or a tank that can buff and heal.
Unlike other MMOs that only allow you one class or two professions A Realm Reborn allows you to have ALL of the classes and professions…Can you juggle? Like other games in the FF series, you can select a Class from a list and you can level that class how you want, but you are also given the ability to freely swap out your class at any time, allowing you to swap from your DPS Archer to your Healer Conjurer or Tank Paladin classes you have set up. Along with the fighting classes you also have profession classes like woodworker or miner which level up when you do the task they are associated with by either mining ore or making wooden gear. This is an ingenious idea and one I have only seen in this game, with this mechanic the player only requires one character to be able to play all of the available classes and not have to manage several characters.
The races in A Realm Reborn are very similar to what you would find in most Japanese games, the Human look a likes, Elves, the big brutes, the tiny smart guys and… the Nekos. Within A Realm Reborn the races consist of;
Hyur, the modern human is the most all rounded race and sticks to a jack of all trades. The majority of the world seems to compose of this race and seem to be the most wide spread in their vocations. The two archetypes of this race are the Highlanders and the Midlanders, Midlanders being the everyday Hyur who can be found within any country or city, Highlanders being the more mountain oriented type of Hyur as well as taller and stick more to Ul’dah.
Elezen, the Elves of the game who stand tall and slender as well as hinting to be a more agile and intelligent race. Most of The Elezen act rather snooty and are deeply rooted within the lore and background of the places they inhabit. The two archetypes of Elezen are the Wildwood and the Duskwight, Wildwood living within the forests of Black Shroud and are the more lawful and judge types, Duskwight being more like the lost boys living in the forests and keep away from civilization and law.
Lalafell, the gnome creatures of the game which look similar to small animals and are depicted as intelligent beings. Lalafell are few and far between, I myself saw only 2 players paying this race and only around 5 NPCs of this race. The two archetypes of Lalafell are the Plainfolk and the Dunesfolk, Plainsfolk living in flat lands and having more rustic jobs like farmers, Dunesfolk being more inclined to hot climates and calling to Ul’dah.
Miqo’te, the cat race which are humanoid felines with agility to match their persona. Being the Japanese Stereotype of the game, the Miqo’te are varied in their looks ranging from different coats and eyes making them one of the more diverse looking race. The two archetypes of Miqo’te are the Seekers of the Sun and The Keepers of the Night, Sun cats are more inclined to sunny places and are the fewer of the two types, Night kitties are the nocturnal hunters of my homeland Gridania.
Roegadyn, the brute human like race that specialize in strength and melee classes. This race looks almost identical to the Humans and merely have a more top heavy physique, the majority of their NPC counterparts using melee weapons. The two archetypes of Roegadyn are the Sea Wolves or the Hellsguard, Sea Puppies being the sea farers of the race deep in their fishing skills, Hellsguard going for a more mercenary route selling their hulking bodies to be used as weapons.
No matter your race you are treated almost exactly the same when being spoken to, with slight differences in NPCs attitude towards you, acknowledging you as a fellow Elezen or sneering down on you. The statistical variations in the races are little, with only 1-4 points’ difference between the races making the choice less consequential to your Class decisions.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
Overall, A Realm Reborn is a great improvement on the previous release, but it isn’t hard to improve on trash. Although this game is better it is nowhere near a great game or addition to the FF Series as at it stands the game is very unpolished and riddled with problems. Even with the beautiful exterior of the game, it feels very slow and clunky with some of the areas feeling very mashed up and thrown together to make a game as quick as possible. The outside areas within the game aren’t very well sectioned off; as I found myself wander into areas that were 30 levels above my own without any warning besides the golem that smacked my head in.
The community within the game is in its early stages, Free Companies full of new players and very few veterans in the world. A lot of players are willing to help one another and answer questions and I failed to see anyone at harshly within the general chat system or within companies. Like many other MMO’s the players in the field are very quiet, having groups not speak a single word the each other for an entire duty which can make the game feel very unsociable, without much need for talking it isn’t a shock to never have to use party chat.
I give Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn a 4/5, it has a lot to give and a lot more to come, this early look into the life span of this MMO is promising. There are plenty of nick-picks in this game, from the glitches, server problems and spammers but within any game in this genre they are expected and a part of the experience. While this game is not the best it is surely a pick above the rest of MMO’s currently available. A Realm Reborn definitely improves on its past mistakes and builds upon what the world was created before. Whether you are a Square Enix fan or a lover of MMO’s you should give this game a try, just don’t touch the Moogles pom pom.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.