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

Combat was the downfall of the first iteration of Final Fantasy XIV, to be sure. A Realm Reborn had to make everything better in order to avoid falling into the pitfalls of its predecessor.

Thankfully, it does. Those familiar with traditional MMO combat will feel instantly at home. Running around and punching beetles and wolves and cacti is the same sort of auto-attacks-with-abilities system we’ve seen since the days of Everquest. If you know how to play World of Warcraft, A Realm Reborn will be so familiar you may even feel deja vu. However, it does spend a little more effort on making things such as positioning, buffs, and item usage more important. A Pugilist, for example, enters different stances with each attack, and depending on his stance and location relative to the enemy, he’ll receive different bonuses or cause different effects.

This reliance on MMO tradition is A Realm Reborn’s greatest strength, but also its greatest weakness. If you’re already familiar with MMOs — especially Rift, Warhammer Online, or World of Warcraft — A Realm Reborn may be too familiar to entertain. The visuals and animations of slashing and casting your way across a battlefield are far better than other contemporary MMOs, but the core of the combat is the same “cooldown management” game players have complained about constantly since the dawn of the genre.

Quests are also very traditional. Go here, kill that, bring loot back to base. Still, there are two quest-related systems that manage to set A Realm Reborn apart. First, there is a very well-implemented public quest system that spawns randomized quests for an area at periodic intervals. Doing these quests can give you great loot and XP, but only if you beat out other players for the top spot. Second, there is a “hunting” system that asks you to kill certain numbers of monsters to complete tasks and gain XP. Both systems were fun, though I didn’t get much chance to really chew into them; our full review will have more detail.

When I say that A Realm Reborn looks better than its peers, I mean it. It’s the best looking MMO I have ever played, bar none, and would give many modern console titles a run for their money in terms of great visual design. Effects are complex, but stay subdued enough to be easily read by nearby players. Racial silhouettes are distinctive, especially some of the more oddball races. Textures are colorful, and the alternation between bright visuals and subdued environments makes characters and enemies pop out at you. Most importantly (especially for a Final Fantasy game), enemy designs are clever and give off a sense of artistic indulgence, despite how dangerous they might be.

Things do does get a bit confusing in larger fights, unfortunately. Effects can be a bit too gaudy, often obscuring the action and keeping players from clearly recognizing certain skills. Likewise, enemies and players can stack into a confused, jumbled mess of polygons and color if someone bothers to aggro too many. This is a problem in other MMOs, to be sure, but it’s especially problematic here thanks to the high fidelity of the visuals.

It’s hard to find a clear flaw in A Realm Reborn. It’s visually engaging, has a good amount of customization, and a functionally sound combat system. It’s certainly better than either of its predecessors (Final Fantasy XI and the original version of XIV), but it’s tough to say if it’s different enough to actually spend time in. It oozes Final Fantasy style, and that’s the most unique thing about it; everything else is taken from other games and polished to a mirror shine.

Perhaps the worst thing that can be said about Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is that there weren’t any real risks in what I played. Everything was straightforward but well-made, and systems all interlocked in satsifying, but predictable, ways. That said, for those looking for a “next-gen” MMO that sticks close to the genre’s established formula, Final Fantasy XIV is worth keeping an eye on leading up to release.

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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).