Developer(s): Square Enix
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Platform(s): PC, PS3
Review Platform: PC
Release Date: August 27, 2013
In 2010 Final Fantasy XIV devastated fans of the franchise with a release that can only be described as an utter catastrophe. I was lucky I never came near it. I even felt a sense of relief as I watched the online world of FFXIV crumble, hoping the developers would take action and remedy the situation…and they did! Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a new start, a clean slate, an admission of past failures and an appeal for a second chance. While A Realm Reborn doesn’t add anything particularly new to the MMO genre, it offers a remarkably gorgeous world that’s bursting with activities and exceptionally diverse monsters.
I’m no MMO expert. I consider myself an occasional visitor who takes on a few quests here and there, but I don’t typically invest in these types of games. As an MMO novice, I feared becoming overwhelmed with A Realm Reborn since this isn’t a genre known for its accessibility. Surprisingly, the game did a fine job of easing me into its world. Once I got past the frustrating server issues earlier on, getting into the action and taking on my first adventure was seamless.
It’s impossible to talk about a Final Fantasy game without addressing the visuals. From the moment you lay eyes on the vast, detailed landscapes and breathtaking character/creature designs, you’re immediately reminded why the series resonates with so many gamers. A Realm Reborn is stunning and it may be the finest looking MMO to date. The cities radiate with life and you truly feel like a living member of a massive community. Looking back at some of the original FFXIV screens, I was fascinated by just how much better A Realm Reborn looks compared to its predecessor.
As with most MMOs, the first few hours can be a chore. Deliver an envelope here, drop off some supplies there…heck I even had to pick up coins from the floor in what may be the shortest and most pointless quest ever. Most of these “mini-quests” are meant to introduce the game’s various functions and gameplay mechanics, but it’s puzzling that certain significant aspects are never explained…so you’re forced to fiddle around until you figure things out. Maybe I just missed a blurb within the endless pages of introductory dialogue, but it took me a while to discover how to simply hotkey my potions and items. I should also mention that I played with the Xbox 360 gamepad (which works wonderfully), so it’s possible that the M/KB works better for menu navigation.
But my biggest problem weren’t the derivative introductory quests, but the counterintuitive map. Tracking quests in a nearby area is no problem, but once you’re asked to venture beyond the city walls, good luck navigating your way through the massive labyrinthine world without a proper directional indicator. Luckily, you’ll spend so much time going back and forth that you’ll probably memorize most locations without having to consult the map. Also, once you’re able to teleport to the various cities, it becomes less of an issue.
The real fun starts a few hours in. Once you’re leveled up enough to take on more substantial quests, A Realm Reborn shows its true colors. Everywhere you turn lays an opportunity to advance your character and engage in various battles. As you’re exploring the vast vistas you’ll come across FATE events. These events allow you to take part in group battles which can sometimes be crazily overcrowded. They’re fun, if not a bit silly, as you oftentimes feel completely overwhelmed by the dozens of players occupying the screen. What makes the progression even more exciting is the ability to switch between classes once you’ve reached level 10. This Armoury System is reminiscent of the job systems in FF III, V, and XI and works as easy as switching your equipment.
It can take days (depending on how much time you spend leveling up and how many side quests you take on) before the narrative becomes meatier and before the entire world truly opens up, but it is well worth the wait. Just when I thought I’d seen most of what A Realm Reborn has to offer, I realize I only scratched the surface. Reviewing MMOs is tricky because it would take months discovering every nook and cranny of this monstrously large universe, but I feel like the dozens of hours I’ve clocked in so far are enough to share my thoughts. As someone who isn’t typically interested in MMOs, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed A Realm Reborn. If you’re am MMO connoisseur, you may not find anything particularly innovative here, but what you’ll find is a superbly polished world of Final Fantasy that’s radiating with content and breathtaking visuals. And if you’re like me…and have always been hesitant about the MMO genre, this may be the game to change your mind.
|Final Score||“A Remarkable Improvement”||8.0|
Stunning…Absolutely breathtaking environments and incredible character/creature designs. This may be the finest looking MMO to date.
If you've played one, you've played them all. A Realm Reborn doesn't reinvent the genre, but it offers a superbly polished gameplay experience that takes place in the world of Final Fantasy. It even offers Xbox 360 gamepad support which is a really nice little extra for those that prefer a more console-like experience.
A slow start…but once the game opens up, it's impossible to step away. A worthy investment.
Typical Final Fantasy tunes with some memorable new tracks and solid sound effects.
Review by Tin Salamunic
Tin Salamunic is the founder of The Game Scouts. He is a Video Game Journalist during the day and illustrator by night. He's been obsessed with video games since the early NES days, collecting every major system and game on the market. Video games are the reason he pursued the illustration career and he hopes to be creative director for a video game company one day. All Articles by Tin.