Final Fantasy XIV Review: Getting Things Right (update)

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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Price: $39.99
System(s): PS4 (Also on PS3 and PC)
Release Date: April 14, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Square Enix (Square Enix)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence

Final Fantasy XIV started off on a bad note. I mean if you have to go free2play while you’re trying to fix it, there might be a major issue for the game. If you realize you need to reboot it by destroying the world, again, there might be a major issue. There were problems in storytelling, design, and programming. Square Enix admitted that they messed up on the development of the game, and set to work on Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn . When it was released, it was like a breath of fresh air, mostly because it actually worked. Huzzah! Now, the PS4 version proves itself just as capable as the PC and PS3 installments.

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Life after the Cataclysm

With Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the story takes place five years after the Cataclysm, where the primal elder Bahamut destroyed most, if not, all of the continent of Eorzea. This, in real world terms, is known as Square Enix hitting the big red reset button. Because of a last ditch effort and spell, the lives that would’ve ended in the Cataclysm were held in stasis until it was safe to re-enter the world.

The events of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn cover two main plot lines. Everyone is left trying to rebuild civilization on the continent of Eorzea after the destruction, which leads to a war between empires not based on the continent of Eorzea as well as the various forms of beastmen. At the same time, figuring out what happened between Bahamut’s release and the adventurers returning from the magic that had saved them is quite a mystery. It leaves plenty of potential for expansions and months of play.

The primals, characters that are the equivalent of summons from previous games, also play a major part in the story. Specifically, since the energy needs for summoning the primals seem to be damaging the planet, the Garlean Empire is intent on killing the primals. There is another reason why the Garlean Empire is attempting to permanently kill the primals, and that reason is a reference to the conflict between Christianity and pagan religions. Specifically, the primals are heathen gods. If you are playing as a summoner though, you’ll be able to summon smaller versions of the primals known as Egis.

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Entering an improved Eorzea.

World building is hard, especially in a MMORPG, as you need to create something that people want to return to. The mechanics and logic for the way the world works need to be solid, the stories within compelling, and of course there must be plenty of things to do or see. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn does mostly well, but there are times when the experience is still barely adequate.

FFXIV: A Realm Reborn looks stunning on the PS4, even though its graphics engine is a stripped back version of the original FFXIV. It’s hard to walk away from, because, much like any other Final Fantasy games, it’s just gorgeous. I kept wanting to explore and get a closer look at anything that I could examine, which made questing occasionally difficult. With how much the world invites exploration, it is great that the continent is as big as it is. Just be forewarned on the size of the world that, much like Final Fantasy XI, travel is deliberately paced. So, until you unlock the Aetheryte fast travel system in different areas, it’s going to take a while to go places. Then again, the deliberate pacing is only bad if you don’t enjoy taking in the sights and possibly gaining experience from discovering something that you haven’t found yet.

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The user interface for the console versions of FFXIV: A Realm Reborn, something that had some complaints for the PS3 version, works a lot better on the PS4. Part of what makes it an easier and more streamlined UI is the touchpad, which works as a mouse and tracking pad. While there is some awkward HUD navigation if you’re not using the touchpad, it would be foolish to not take advantage of something that helps make sense out of the HUD and menu navigation. Using a keyboard and mouse is still an option and will make both navigation of the HUD and messaging easier. However, the Dualshock 4 does allow a control scheme that is almost as comfortable and intuitive if you take advantage of the ways that the Dualshock 4 has been upgraded from the Dualshock 3. It just takes a little getting used to if you’re used to playing MMOs on a PC without a gamepad and using voice comm programs like Ventrilo.

Something that A Realm Reborn could use more work on are some of the quest lines. It’s not to say they’re bad or there isn’t any form of logic behind the weaker quest lines. However, some of it really just feels like busy work. For example, one of the first quests you get is to deliver a pie. I can see why, since you might need to bribe the head of the market to gain access to it. There’s logic to it. However, possibly a better possible way to introduce and gain access to the market would be news of a thief that you have to find and catch. That being said, there are quite a few quests that feel more like unnecessary busy work, which is more a problem of the genre rather than the game. Moving forward and creating expansions won’t necessarily fix this problem, but it would minimize it by creating more strong content.

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FFXIV: A Realm Reborn‘s FATE system is fun. However, the novelty of it is rather short lived. There needs to be more variety in what happens during each FATE. At least with my experience of it so far, it’s just dropped in one of the more common low level enemies that you run into in a specific area. The amount of time that it runs rarely changes unless it’s a bigger FATE zone. There’s little variation in the tactics of your enemy, for example, charging almost blindly in a certain direction. Due to how uniform the FATEs are, they just feel like you’re trying to grind for experience. They really don’t feel like they’re adding anything to the game. The Guildhests are better handled as missions that you don’t just wander into. You have to find a Battlewarden to accept and start a Guildhest, Aside from usually having a greater variety of enemies, they also serve a bit like a tutorial or refresher on how to do battle in the best ways against different enemies and odds. Guildleves also act in a similar way to the FATEs, but in a deeper way by shifting a random event to a contract in the form of a card given with a specific mission on it. The missions for each style of the Guildleves also are suited to the type of disciple you are. Battlecraft Leves are for the classes best suited for combat (Disciples of War or Magic). Another way of thinking about the Battlecraft Leves would be bounties. Landcraft Leves are best suited to the classes that work with the land (Disciples of Land), so there will be different resource harvesting and land survey missions. Tradecraft Leves cover the classes that are directly related to crafting (Disciples of Hand), so you’re going to be working on filling orders for manufactured items.

There is also something else that gets a little annoying. There’s the occasional spammed message in the chat with an alert sound that makes it sound important. Don’t worry, it’s not. It really just seems to amount to a third party asking for real world money for a set benefit. You see it in all MMOs. It uses roughly the same language, just adapting certain terms to fit the specific game. The only reason why these spammed messages become an issue is the fact that they are long enough and happen frequently enough to make you need to start paying attention to the chat log more than the game just to scroll back through messages to see if you missed anything important.

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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn also already has a thriving community, even having been out for just a month. There are guilds that will invite you pretty quickly. You can start up conversations to get more information if you’re lost. It just makes the game more approachable. And an MMO with a strong and active community, even if you want to play on your own, just makes it a bit easier to dive into a world that you’ll be spending a lot of time in. That’s definitely a good thing if you’re not used to playing MMOs. The option of playing with rather than around guilds or other players is great. However, if you don’t have friends already planning, you can meet new players by using the Duty Finder, which allows you to join in with other players on a variety of quests. dungeons, hests and leves. The great thing about the Duty Finder is the fact that it’s not limited to the world your character is on.

On the guild front, there are multiple different types, two of which you will have to join to advance in the story (Adventurer’s Guild and the class specific guild, in my case, it’s the Lancers’ Guild). However, there are also the free companies, which are the player created guilds. I haven’t had experience with the free companies yet, mostly because trying to understand the other aspects of the game. One of the great things though is that if you aren’t able to find a free company to join, whether through application or invitation, you can apply to create your own Free Company at level 25, provided you have at least four starting players and 15,000 gil.

Depending on how you play, character progression is pretty freeform, at least in comparison to other Final Fantasy games. Classes are more adaptable, allowing you to switch when you feel you’ve gained a certain level mastery. Jobs are more fixed as they are a specialization within a class. However, if you want to do a multi-class character, you can. The changing of classes can be done through the armory system, which makes class changes as easy as changing your weapons. You’re a lancer and want to become mage? Use the armory system to swap out your lance for a mage’s weapon(s). You can change classes at almost any time except for within battle. If you want to use some of the more prestige jobs, you’ll want to multi-class anyway. For example, if I wanted to become a Dragoon I would need to increase my lancer level to 30 and then multi-class to a marauder by bringing that class to level 15.

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Eorzea reborn.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn fixes pretty much everything that went wrong with the original version of the game. There are still some rough edges in terms of some of the quest design and spammers, but that is more a MMO genre problem than a game-specific issue. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is gorgeous, with intuitive Dualshock 4 controls that elevate this installment above the PS3 port. It’s easily played, with an active community, and feels like it’s was built for the PS4. This might be a MMO I can actually stick with, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. If you want to play Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn on a console, the PS4 version is the way to go.

Editor’s Note: Apologies. A comment saying there was no cross-play functionality has been removed. The statement was false, and there is cross-play functionality with the PS3/PS4/PC copies of the game.

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  • Daniel Lund

    Great review! I only have one thing I’d like to comment on.. “The only real limitation is that there is no cross-platform play since the PS3/PC worlds are separate from the PS4 worlds.” … My wife and I play together. I play on either PC or PS4 (depending on which room/TV my son is occupying) and she plays only on a PS3. We are on the Malboro server and have no issues playing together on PC-PS3 or PS4-PS3.

    • Jenni Lada

      My apologies! I was supposed to remove that remark upon editing this writer’s review and I did not. There is definitely cross-platform play.

  • Daniel Lund

    I apologize… one more correction. “For example, if I wanted to become a Dragoon I would need to increase my lancer level to 35 and then multi-class to a marauder bringing that class to level 15.” For Dragoon you must complete your LVL 30 Lancer quest and be at least a LVL 15 Marauder. As long as you complete the LVL 30 Lancer quest and have at least a LVL 15 Marauder under your belt you can do the quest to become a Dragoon.

  • aldo

    the guy above is wrong, there is cross-platform, ps3/ps4/pc players shre the same servers, i play alongside with pc or ps3 players