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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Review

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#1 of 2 OFFLINE   Lauren Upton

Lauren Upton

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Posted September 18 2013 - 04:32 PM

Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn Review

 

Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, also known to long-time players as 2.0 is here. Does it live up to the expectations of fans and newcomers? Keep reading to find out.

 

As I’m sure many of you will remember in September of 2010 Final fantasy XIV 1.0’s launch was not well received by the public, reviewers and players alike. Many of the expected components were missing: the User Interface was slow and poorly designed, collision required players run around most obstacles, and there just wasn’t enough to do besides grinding (leveling off of enemies/mobs in the game) until your eyeballs wanted to fall out of their sockets. Overall, it was dull, repetitious, and didn’t hold much long-term playability causing many to cancel their subscriptions. In November 2012, servers were shut down, and the public was notified that there would be a successor.

Now, on to the real reason you are here, our review of A Realm Reborn, otherwise known as 2.0;

 

Character 1.jpg

 

Story

 

After players spend a multitude of time customizing their character, before entering the world, players must choose what class they will play. The players’ choice in class determines their starting city. Class quests and hunting log requirements stem from this choice.

 

Story elements differ initially, but there is a commonality that is shared among the heroes, as mentioned later, that requires the stories of each city to align with one another.  I won’t get too deep into the story’s details here as to avoid spoilers.  The basic gist is that you are one of many survivors of the calamity that took place 5 years ago and humanity is still trying to recover. One of the side effects of the calamity is those that survived can’t seem to recall the heroes that helped turn the tide of the battle years ago.  You soon find out Evil is attempting to show its ugly head again and put it to an end.  If you take the time to pay attention to the dialogue, you’ll find the story is at times, a bit predictable, but it’s taken the liberty of connecting some of 1.0’s story components and making them connect to the hero you are today. In between major plot points you will be assigned mundane tasks that are somehow relevant to your fight against evil.  I understand this is an attempt to help players get some more XP, but there are so many of these, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated.

 

One notable issue I ran into is that the game tries to guide you through the first 20 or so levels with tutorials and pop-up windows. That help quickly disappears after level 25 or so. I certainly don’t expect my hand to be held, but a newcomer might find the sudden drop off quite unsettling. (Separate class quests consist of their own individual story lines)

 

Graphics

 

Just like its predecessor FFXI, Final Fantasy XIV ARR is cross-platform.  Right now this only pertains to PS3 and PC players, but it has been confirmed that come February 2014 PS4 players will be able to join the fight as well. The only real noticeable downside with the PS3, tends to be the extended loading times due to its out dated hardware. This includes loading into another zone or map, major city, or cut scenes. The game itself runs on DirectX 9, but don’t let that fool you. ARR’s engine is based off of Square-Enix’s Luminous engine, lowering the games’ high PC requirements and allowing for better scaling of graphics. The development team does intend on having the game compatible with DirectX 11 at a later date, but chances are it will be during the next expansion.

 

Environment  

 

In a word, the game’s environment is stunning. My review PC is certainly not brand new nor top of the line (I’ll post my computer specs below). Yet, the only real thing I felt was lacking, was the foliage. In the grand scheme of things that’s hardly anything in comparison to the scale of how beautiful the game is.  Even on the PS3, the game has vibrant colors, detailed character models, and options are available to adjust certain settings such as shadows and lighting, textures, and various other details.

 

Many of the location names on the map are the same, however the geographic layout including dungeons is completely different. The story begins with a cataclysmic event striking the world of Eorzea 5 years ago. As a result, much of the land has changed. This doesn’t just extend to locations of camps or the NPC’s that reside there. Entire zones that were once lush and green are now winter wastelands. An assortment of weather effects can also be experienced depending on where you are, including lightning storms which span across the night’s sky, snow flurries, rain, etc..

 

Scenery 1.jpg Scenery 6.jpg

 

Getting around the world is quite easy. At first you’ll have to run around from place to place. I found myself stopping during my travels many times to stare in awe at the detail that went into immersing the player. Early level traveling is a pain until you explore some. There are giant blue crystals placed at camps and in cities called “Aetheryte crystals” that you must touch or “attune” to. Each one you touch opens up a marker on your teleport list that you, for a certain amount of gil (currency), can travel to. There is also the option of using airships. Airships must be unlocked via the main story line, but they open travel between each of the main cities for a set fee.

 

User interface

 

Pulling up menus quickly, changing gear at the blink of an eye, crafting logbook that actually tells you recipes instead of you having to check a wiki every time you want to make something – It’s all there.    It’s clean, fully customizable, and given how 1.0 was, 2.0 is a VAST improvement. Via the games’ in-game menu PC players can do anything they’d like with the game’s UI. Keep in mind though for those interested in the PS3, that the basic structure for the PS3’s ability bar layout can NOT be changed. Also, targeting is also a bit of a pain, but once you set things up how you like, playing should be easy. PS3 players can also play with a keyboard and mouse, but again – the layout cannot be changed.

Another thing that can’t be changed, whether on the PC OR PS3, is quest tracking. For some reason, the first 5 quests you pick up are the ones that are tracked. If you pick up new quests, until those original/first quests are completed, new quests will not show up on your bar. Every single time I attempted to find the location of a quest objective, I had to open my quest log, click on the map icon within the log, and then navigate there. Sometimes I repeated this 5-6 times before I finally reached my destination.  I don’t understand where Square was going with this, but the inability to change it is very frustrating, especially if you are working on several classes at a time.

 

HUD.jpg Character settings.PNG

 

Gathering is another example of how simple CAN be better. I simply had to walk up to a tree as a botanist that was marked as a node on the mini-map and right click. A list comes up with all the items you can obtain. Depending on my level, certain abilities could be used to increase my chances of obtaining an item and making my bounty more plentiful. “Field craft leves” have also been incorporated to help leveling not be quite so monotonous.

 

Profession log.PNG

 

Easier Crafting. Disciples of Hand (the term crafting classes are referred to) now get a journal with all of their recipes in it. New recipes are discovered as the player levels. In 1.0 as a Carpenter I would need 7 items to make a pole arm, but half of the components were either created by other trade classes meaning I’d have to spend money to acquire it OR I’d have to go out somewhere and find the right mob to farm the necessary item. NOW, NPC’s in cities sell most of the low level base materials and recipes that once required 7 items, only require 3-4,making crafting so much more enjoyable. Market boards have also been implemented for players to sell their items. No more bazaar!

 

Combat

 

Final Fantasy XIV uses real time combat and remnants of FFXII’s targeting system. The real time combat is quite similar to other conventional MMO’s. As for FFXII’s system, the use of blue and red arrows representing good and bad. This is a simple mechanic that makes a huge difference in grouping for a dungeon. If you are being attacked by an enemy,  the line is red, and if you are being targeted by a comrade, the line is blue. Actions are on global cool downs (GCD is 2.5 seconds by the way), and it’s that long for a reason. Like any previous Final Fantasy title you are given just a bit of time to decide your next action before the world around you reacts. This didn’t really make me feel like combat was slow in any way, but people that are used to World of Warcraft’s ability to cut down on the GCD timer, might have to get used to it.

 

Interchangeable classes still exist.  Players can level every single class on every single character, meaning every single battle class, gathering, and crafting class on ONE character. The player’s initial class must complete their class quest up to level 10 and then they may take on other classes. For example, after a player has finished a dungeon as a Tank, they can do it again as a conjurer/healer. As long as the player meets the level requirements, they can! Let’s not forget that you have the option of using “cross-class abilities”. An example ability that I have on my bars is known as “second wind”. I learned the ability when leveling my pugilist and it can be used on another class as an instant heal.

 

Content   

 

Players will not be disappointed by the amount of customization available. Depending on the race chosen you will be able to change muscle tone, height, and even chest size!

 

Leveling

In 1.0 quests were only given a player’s main class and their respected city’s storyline. Now, quests can be found in various camps and cities throughout Eorzea. The only downside is there simply aren’t enough quests for a player to level their class to 50 let alone multiple classes. Square-Enix’s intent is that players level through content and not through quests. They have also implemented other activities to make up for this by including a new mechanic/event referred to as “Fates”. Fates are events located in each zone that allow players to join others in completing objectives such as killing a boss or protecting a farmer from invaders. Players gain experience and other rewards based upon how much they participate. “Fates” create a double edged sword because they are dependent on how much players team up and take out the common enemy. Many Fates are triggered based on the number of people in the immediate area. This can create quite the frustration if you log in and no one else is around. I found myself on several occasions in an area trying to take on these events alone and often end up dying with no one around to resurrect me. “Leves”, one of the only ways to level in 1.0, have returned.  These are additional quests issued by NPC’s located at certain camps, Inns in major cities, and Grand Company headquarters. Different Leves are available based on class and they come in 5 level increments.

 

Chocobo and Character.PNG

 

There are many other activities to promote community:

Achievements

This is something that is perceived based on the type of gamer you are. Personally, I love the fact you are rewarded with items such as gear and titles for your character. Some of these rewards/achievements are only available for Legacy characters, but there are a lot of things to do and who doesn’t enjoy showing off their vanity items to people? Just me…? Oh well…

 

Free companies- (aka guilds)

as you gain experience for your free company you will gain levels and gain access to specific actions. These actions include crafting boosts, experience boosts, and reduced durability loss.

 

PvP

Player versus player elements WILL be implemented. I got a chance to play a few rounds during beta and I’m regretting to inform you that there is no open world PVP. Sorry guys. There are other game modes that will be added later on, but as of right now, there is only arena based PVP consisting of 4 vs. 4 or 8 vs. 8 matches.  Players start the match in a small gated area. Players get about 2 minutes to buff before the match begins. It’s basically a team death match scenario. Kill or be killed.

 

Guildhest 

 Are short duties that are designed to teach players how the mechanics in a fight work. They are introduced to the player after they’ve reached level 10 and completed the introductory leve quest.  They are performed in a party size of 4 people and are a nice addition and help player’s get a bit of extra experience, both in combat and leveling.

 

Guildhest.PNG

 

End-game

 

Dungeon groups based on its content are composed of groups/parties of 4, 8, and 24.  The more people in the group, the more difficult the content will be. The duty finder system, which is the game’s instance grouping system- is cross server. This, I have mixed feelings about. It can be positive in the sense that you don’t have to sit around and wait forever for a dungeon group. However, it should be coded to where those on the same server should be chosen over those on other servers. This gives players a chance to meet new people on the same server as opposed to grouping with someone and never seeing them again.

 

Many of today’s current MMO’s have a problem providing end game content. Dungeons are standard difficulty, but SE has confirmed that they intend to incorporate “hard-mode” difficulties later on. The lower level dungeons you played while leveling have now become level 50 instances with new layouts and exponentially harder content.  If there isn’t enough to do after you hit max level, why should you continue to pay a subscription? Naoki Yoshida (also known as Yoshi-P), the game’s producer and director, assures players, there has been content placed to suit both the casual and hardcore gamer.  

 

FATEs will expect you to group up and defeat a common enemy.  Primal encounters are also available for 8 player groups. These encounters have DPS checks, enrage timers, and are a LOT of fun. These primal fights will grant weapons with different effects. The next set of content is the relic weapon quests. This is a VERY long quest line that allows the player to only obtain one weapon at a time. After this is completed, it’s off to coil – the first real end game content. Most of the fights here contain damage (DPS) checks and I can only say I cannot wait to see more.

 

Ifrit hard.jpg Garuda Hard.jpg

 

Sound

 

To give the game a fresh/new feeling, the legendary Square-Enix/Final Fantasy composer Masayoshi Soken has returned once again and he does not disappoint. Yes, you read that right, the score has been completely re-done and I hate to sound cliché, but it is music to my ears! Soken manages to blend the perfect melody for each situation and environment. Whether it’s running down a coast line with friends outside of Limsa Lominsa, mining in the fields of Thanalan, or riding your Chocobo through Coerthas, newcomers will be delighted with all the variety Soken’s score has to offer.  Fans of the series and his previous work will be given a feeling nothing short of absolute nostalgia.

 

Voice acting

There is voice acting, but only for the main story line. Only about 30% of the cut scenes that take place actually have voice acting. The audio will be in the language players selected when installing the game. Subtitles for these cut scenes will also be in the language selected. A pleasant surprise is those players that want to listen to the game in another language, say Japanese, can! Audio for the plethora of cut scenes throughout the game can be changed in System configuration and now your ears can rest! While the performances aren’t worth of any accolades, for the most part the voice acting is passable. Unfortunately, there are certain characters that are particularly poorly acted, which can decrease immersion yet not so noticeably as to detract from the game.

 

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is what the original game was meant to be. Square-Enix over the past several years, has worked to create something special. Yes, FFXIV ARR isn’t the perfect game, but they are listening to the player base and remembering that sticking to the basics isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Paying a subscription of $15/month to me ($10/month for legacy members), is worth it as long as Square continues to deliver on its promises and there is so much to see, explore, and experience. Expect a few bumps along the way, but rest assured that this game has a lot of offer as long as you show dedication.

 

 

Overall Rating : 8.5/10 



#2 of 2 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted October 27 2013 - 09:51 PM

FYI, Intel is giving this game away right now.. free, to everyone who purchases an I5 or I7 processor.  So, it's a nice add on.


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