Let's not beat around the bush, Final Fantasy XIV was a bit of a disaster for Square Enix. It meant that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn had a lot to live up to, especially as Final Fantasy XI still continues to flourish. To rectify this, Square Enix has literally been reborn, with a completely revamped system that is now available on both PC and PS3. Now, with a whole host of hours pumped into exploring the different classes, battling hundreds of enemies and tackling dungeons, it is apparent that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is on track to being one of the best MMORPGs on the market today.
The story of A Realm Reborn takes place after the events of the original XIV, but like many MMORPGs, the story is a very minor part in enjoying the overall game. That being said as far as most MMOs are concerned, A Realm Reborn's story has many fun and cinematic parts. The story quests will also make up a large amount of your time in a Realm Reborn and just focusing on these missions will take anywhere from 30 to 40 hours, excluding all the other stuff you'll do on the way.
You have many options when it comes to creating your own character in A Realm Reborn and the amount of options are staggering to say the least. You can spend as much or as little time as you want creating every detail about your characters background and appearance. There are five different races and plenty of different classes to choose from, and anyone from Final Fantasy XI will be very familiar with them. A nice new feature to classes is that you aren't stuck with one class per character and can switch between them with the same character. Still, having plenty of different characters from different regions and exploring their stories is a large part of the fun.
Story missions can be completed in a party, but many of the core missions have to be completed alone. It's strange for an MMO, especially as Final Fantasy XI was extremely dependent on parties, but it represents a big improvement. Having to go in and out of parties if you are playing with friends to accommodate for this is a minor complaint, but the story missions really keep the pace of the game going for a long time and this is great if you are not a fan of grinding.
Quest variety is something almost every MMO has a problem with and XIV is not exempt from this, but instead does a good job of never making you notice. It does this by giving the player so many small little activities that it keeps them feeling like they are always doing something interesting. For a game that wants you to keep paying to play every month, that is extremely important.A Realm Reborn introduces many ways to for your character to level up besides quests. You can take part in level quests, duties, and F.A.T.Es., which constantly appear around the world. F.A.T.ES. are fantastic for giving you a huge sense of scale, even if you're playing by yourself and what's best, they appear as you're just stumbling around. Just be sure to have at least 3 or more people because while 90 percent of these are extremely easy when a lot of players are online, taking these on with a small group of players can be like signing your own death warrant.
The rest of the features available in A Realm Reborn are very standard for most MMOs, but the Duty Finder is actually a feature players will love and hate at the same time. You use the finder to have the game auto-populate a light party for duties or dungeons. This involves getting a group of four players together to complete the quest together. Depending on many different factors, such as what server you are on, what class you are, how long you are willing to wait, and many other things, you might get mad at how long certain story-based Duties seem to take in comparison to non-story based ones.
This can really bring the pacing of the story to a standstill if you have run out of quest to do for the time being. Hopefully in later updates new systems can be implemented to improve on the duty finder, but compared to other MMOs with similar systems, it does a better job than most at finding players willing to help you out in a similar range of your characters skills.
Gameplay in Final Fantasy XIV will obviously differ depending on what kind of class you are playing. Gladiators are going to have to be always be up close and personal, Archers are best when dealing damage from distance, and Fishermen obviously love sitting around doing nothing. Each class has a unique feel that will make you want to learn every skill, but the good thing is that there's a legitimate reason to. Each class has a guild which offers plenty of quests to keep you busy and gain XP as well as an added bonus. Although after you complete a guild's quest, starting a brand new guild's quest may seem a bit boring at first. However, the abilities you get for completing the quests make up for the easy nature of the early ones.
Many players have dismissed and even been angry at Square Enix for keeping Final Fantasy XIV as a subscription based MMO. This is primarily because the model has largely changed in MMOs, but it doesn't mean the subscription-based model is automatically an evil decision by money hungry corporate fat cats. Anyone who has ever played both free-to-play and pay-to-play MMOs can tell you that they work very differently when it comes to new content coming to the game. The way I view it is if you love playing this game and want to support the developers and show them that you want more content, then $15 a month is a barely asking for much.
In many ways, making a new main installment to the Final Fantasy series has got to be like walking on a minefield that leads to Eldorado for Square Enix. But with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, it's a minefield they have navigated successfully. Even with its minor flaws, A Realm Reborn is one of the best MMORPGs out on the market and it brings the feeling of wonder for anyone who has played XI before. The future of Eorzea looks brighter than ever and Square Enix now has an MMO that genuinely appeals to Final Fantasy fans.
|Visuals and Soundtrack|
|Developing your character|
|Packed to the brim with content|
|Duty Finder troubles|
|Typing on a gamepad|
|Story loses interest after a couple of hours|