Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Impressions – Risen From Ashes

The subtitle for Final Fantasy XIV‘s re-release, A Realm Reborn, is incredibly apt.

Final Fantasy XIV’s original launch was plagued by an astounding number of issues, from technical to balance-related, and the game ended up crashing headfirst into the dirt. Square Enix, rather than letting all that work go to waste, set out to completely overhaul the game and rebrand it. The result is Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and while it’s a very traditional-minded MMO, it’s also the prettiest and most flexible of its kind since Final Fantasy 11.

A Realm Reborn starts off with the world undergoing a cataclysm that reshapes civilizations and landscapes. In the aftermath, various countries and cultures band around crystals, hoping to use them to bring about an era of peace and prosperity. However, nothing is clear about how this goal will be accomplished, and various political figures and adventurers have signed on to try to bring order back to the world. Of course, there are also wars and banditry and hostile wildlife all disrupting the natural order, giving those on the lookout for coins or quests something to do with their lives.

When said in game, it sounds complex, but it boils down to simple adventurism. In a way, it’s a metaphor for Final Fantasy XIV itself: Everything seems complex and interwoven, but that’s more a function of its presentation than actual complexity. Final Fantasy XIV is actually a fairly simple game, and that’s where its strength lies.

Once you’ve made your adventurer and set out to make your fortune, you are introduced to the world of A Realm Reborn through detailed cutscenes. These cinematics often include dialogue choices, so you aren’t just watching something that is completely static. Unfortunately, this also means that a good portion of the early game cutscenes and dialogues are totally unskippable. If you’ve made an alt, you have no options to start ahead; you have to sit through everything, even if you’ve already seen it before. Thankfully, there’s almost no reason to make an alt except to play as a different race.

This is because A Realm Reborn uses a “job” system, much like Final Fantasy V or XI. After you reach level 10 in your starting class, you are given the option to switch between classes at guilds and learn the abilities of that class. Tired of being a Pugilist? Try your hand at being an Archer or a Mage instead. Each class plays a little bit differently — the Pugilist is more of a rogue-type character, for example, while the Lancer has more of a tanking role — so you can indulge various playstyles on a single character. However, your main plot is influenced by the class you chose at character creation, and you’ll always be stronger with your starter class.

This flexibility also extends to the crafting professions. There are no arbitrary restrictions on how much you can learn here; make everything you want to make, in whatever professions you want to learn. However, it’s always smart to specialize in professions one at a time, as attempting to power level every profession at once is incredibly painful. Find what you like and stick to it before branching out. After all, you’ll be better in combat with the gear you want if you stick to a single profession and max it out first.

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5 Comments on Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Impressions – Risen From Ashes

Derek

On July 19, 2013 at 11:24 pm

I was very impressed after playing in the beta test over the last month. The graphics are far better than any other MMORPG out there. No inventory management required (didn’t even fill 40% of my inventory after 40 hours played). On the fly job and gear switching. Well designed quests and area activities. Hoping to see some voice dialogue added to at least the main story quest.

I really only have two issues with the game. The 2 & 1/2 second global cooldown, and mixing PS3 and PC players. Any PC FFXIV:ARR player can attest to just how inefficient using a PS3 controller or any gamepad is when it comes to post level 30 content, especially if a tank or healer uses a controller. I played 30 hours from the get go with a PS3 controller on PC. While it was extremely satisfying to play an MMO on the sofa with a controller (the controls are astonishingly well done), it was just not responsive enough in dungeons. I mean I can perform what others may see as satisfactory tanking a dungeon with a controller, but certainly not in my eyes.

With a controller every time a player switches targets (requires every 3 to 5 seconds minimum for tank), they have to; release R2 or L2, then press cancel, then press left/right one or more times (using R1+one of four filter buttons when necessary), then press select target, and THEN re-press R2 or L2 and use an ability. With keyboard all I gotta do is rebind TAB from cycle enemies to select nearest enemy, then that entire long rotation on the controller becomes TAB + 2 or TAB + 3.

I can just see it now. (chat) “Looking for party member. Keyboard + mouse players only.”

Blue

On July 20, 2013 at 10:30 am

@Derek That’s silly. The controls for gamepad are amazing, and to be honest after using both extensively I strongly feel gamepad users have the upper hand. They’re able to access dozens of different hotkey combinations in a split second, whereas keyboard users are limited by their own reach and reaction time. I’ve never had an issue at all with the controller, all of my reactions were completely precise and actions were completed as quickly as physically possible. Gamepad takes quite a bit of practice, but hardcore controller users will probably have an advantage over keyboard users in PVP. Never had an issue, completed all content in beta, and did over 20 hours of testing on level 50 mobs as well.

As for my impression to the beta, definitely one of the best if not the best of all MMOs to date. I’m a pretty big Final Fantasy fan and this game has a lot going for it.

Mike

On July 21, 2013 at 6:33 am

From everything I played, this is shaping up to be a fantastic game. I had little to no trouble using a controller on my PC and it felt very fluid. It felt like a very well done beta, with content limited up to level 35. I am a bit surprised that the writer of the article neglected the mention of a duty finder and chocobo companion functionality, which both worked out great and was humorous to party with friends and have a chocobo attack a notorious monster with your party without being a hindrance.

I would think that form a development standpoint, showing a beta from a straightforward, risk-less angle, would be a smart thing to do. I can imagine that content later on will be much more involved. You can only expect so much from 4 man content vs the 8 man+ content coming at release.

Kinsky

On July 21, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Some minor quibbles:

- The path of the story is not influenced specifically by the starting class you pick. Your starting city is determined by the location of your starting class’ guild, and the first part of the story introduces you to different personalities based on your starting city, but all three city quests join into a common path after level 15. Later on you’re given the chance to formally choose a city to fight for when you join a Grand Company (story quests around level 20-25) and this decision is not limited by your choices at character creation.

- Your starting class is not more powerful than any other class you choose to level.

- Lancer is not a tanking class (like I said, minor quibbles)

- Public quests (officially called Full Active Time Events, or FATEs for short) do not dole out rewards based on competitive rank, so there is no real “top spot”. FATE rewards are according to your participation, like the random events in Guild Wars 2 or RIFT.

I feel these points needed some extra clarification. It’s also worth noting that this game is difficult to judge fairly from just the first part of it. At the beginning of the game, the bar of complexity is set a bit lower than average, and at endgame it’s set higher than average (at least according to the producer/director, who hasn’t given me any reason to doubt him yet) resulting in a much steeper increase in combat depth than you would classically expect from a MMORPG. Thus, if you only play up to level 15 or so, the experience you’ll take away will be fairly limited. As a legacy player with a few classes already at 50 (Marauder, Lancer, Conjurer), I had the opportunity to play around with each class’ full range of abilities, and they all had an impressive spread of combos, buffs, debuffs, and utility skills. None of the abilities I saw really felt like fluff. Additionally, there’s a lot of room for customization and versatility as you can select many skills you’ve learned from other classes to add to your action bar.

Yoshida made a long post on the beta forums (mirrored at http://pastebin.com/ApgM8UfG ) thoroughly explaining his ideas and goals in the design of this game, it’s very much worth reading to understand what he’s trying to do.

Skeff

On July 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

My question is whether the economy is the same as the original version of FF14 where there was no auction house but people just selling stuff out of their inventory (Bazaar).