From the ashes of failure, a new Phoenix rises.
If we’re being honest, Final Fantasy XIV was a resounding failure. While there were many aspects within the game that I thoroughly enjoyed, the end result was a mixture of disappointment, technical issues, vague directions, and a rest system that kills a drive to play. The game debuted with such negativity that Square-Enix took away subscription fees for those who signed up in the first month. So it surprised no one when Square decided to kill the project and resurrect it as a completely fresh experience. And, boy, did they do an incredible job.
Final Fantasy XIV takes place on the enormous world of Eorzea. The Garlean Empire lurks just beyond the borders of the three prominent city-states – Limsa Lominsa, Gridania, and Ul’dah. As the player, you awaken from a dream urging you to seek the crystals of light. From there, your story begins and the world of Final Fantasy XIV begins to unfold. With numerous jobs to switch through and easy access to do so, conquering Eorzea couldn’t be more accessible.
The first thing you’ll notice when you enter the world of Final Fantasy XIV is how pretty the game is. Final Fantasy XIV is easily the best looking MMORPG to date (and probably for some time to come). Keeping with Square-Enix’s trend of popping out beautiful visuals, A Realm Reborn is populated with incredible scenery, gorgeous character models, brilliant gameplay effects, and fabulous cinematics. Just take a look at screenshots on Google or this review to confirm. On PC and PS4, this game is truly a visual tour de force. The PS3 version, however, ran sluggishly and often could not render enough to be a competent game – all because of the tremendous graphical world.
The chunk of XIV’s story is told through main story quests. They begin with your home city-state but quickly branch out across the entirety of your map, leading through each city-state and Coerthas (a wintry land of dragons) before reaching its conclusion with the Garlean Empire. Of course, countless quests, guildhests, company quests, and more are available to tackle in between story quests (especially should you not meet the level requirement to begin those). In all, you can expect well over 100 hours of gameplay (especially considering the constant updates) – all worth your monthly subscription (of various amounts, depending on your subscription plan).
Gameplay in XIV is very similar to your traditional MMORPG’s. On PC, you have customizable hot bars and UI’s, allowing for complete control of your interface. What stands out to me, however, is the PlayStation optimization of the game. Mapping your abilities to a controller is extremely easy – and so is using that controller in combat. Skill and abilities are set to the d-pad and face buttons, and you can switch to a second layer by hitting your bumpers – by holding them, you can switch to any number of pre-set hot bars you created for your PlayStation. And even if you do not wish to use a controller while on your PlayStation, the game offers a mouse and keyboard setup for control.
Now, most people flock to MMO’s for the end game. I’ll explain the grandeur of that further in this article. What I’d like to talk about is the pretty in-depth story contained within Final Fantasy XIV. Like most MMO’s, the ‘main story’ spans from levels one to the max (in this case level 50). Most MMOs garner a quick click-and-skip storyline. In other words, it’s there simply to be there and to supplement leveling. I felt drawn in, however, to the storyline in XIV. Perhaps it was because I’m a huge Final Fantasy nerd, but the plot line was pretty legitimate. Your ventures to push back the Garlean Empire, while battling Eidolons and the mysteriously masked men who control them, is actually fairly fascinating. The main cinematics and sections of dialogue between missions is fully voiced by an excellent cast of actors, bringing life to the characters.
But outside of the main story line, there are a large set of dungeons to clear (some directly tied into the expositions). These dungeons provide ample opportunity to learn your jobs, gain experience, or find new gear to use while leveling. The best part of the dungeons in Final Fantasy XIV, in my opinion, is the party finder option. I dabbled in many MMO’s in my lifetime, but Final Fantasy XIV is perhaps the first to utilize a successful party finder. Sure, once you draw near level 50, or find yourself as a black mage in the end game, some wait times can become tiresome. For the most part, you can find yourself fully partied within minutes. This is much more reliable than shouting in World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XI in hopes of finding a group (although, at least in Warcraft, I could usually find a party).
What happens when you reach max level and clear the main scenario? A lot! In its original iteration of 2.0, A Realm Reborn, a decent amount of end game material existed. Throughout updates and, eventually, the Heavensward expansion, there is now an incredible amount of endgame content (not to mention flying mounts). My Heavensward expansion review will come at a later date, but understand that you can raise your item level to well over 100. To do this, you must run the high level dungeons, dungeon rhoulettes (randomized dungeon selection that nets you end game currency), and some endgame quests. This rewards you with end-game currency that changes with every major update. Usually split between two sets of currency (one for the highest level gear and one for a slightly lower level set of gear), the player can slowly build his/her armory. The catch? You can only earn a set amount of tomestones (the name of the currency) per week. Don’t fret, however. If you have capped your amount of tomestones for the week, raids like Alexander will drop items used to make very powerful gear (Note:Alexander is from the Heavensward expansion).
There is a few forms of PvP in A Realm Reborn in the shape of small, 4v4 battles (death match) or large, three-way army skirmishes (king of the hill type battles). These will net the player more tomestones and PvP currency, so it is a worthwhile endeavor if you fancy some PvP gear or need a few more tomestones.
Lastly, A Realm Reborn boasts a well composed soundtrack. The notorious Nobuo Uematsu composed a majority of the original soundtrack, with others taking the helm for future updates and the expansion. With that said, Uematsu set the tone and style with the original, a trend that has carried on with each addition. What’s even better is that after a few updates, the game even touches back upon nostalgic tunes from past Final Fantasy. For example, when riding around in your Magitek armor mount, the theme from Final Fantasy VI hums in the background. The only music that ever is out of place or even comical is the Eidolon battle themes, particularly the Alexander raid. This is one of the few MMO soundtracks, and soundtracks in general, that I happily own.
Final Fantasy XIV offers fans of MMORPGs an incredible experience with significant depth. Whether you play for story, end game, or the guild life, you’ll find more than enough to keep your to-do list filled for months. In fact, Final Fantasy XIV had been my longest running MMO subscription. The only reason it’s suspended is because I’ve recently moved. I highly recommend this for lovers of the MMO genre that aren’t distraught by a monthly subscription fee.