It’s not often that a game gets a second chance.
Even with MMOs, where bad starts are normal, a bad start that doesn’t get better can doom a game.
However, Square Enix has taken a new way to trying to solve the disaster that was Final Fantasy XIV: kill the original game, redevelop it and relaunch it as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. And they might have a good start for getting series fans back interested in the game.
I took the demo out for a spin on the PlayStation 3 and the game starts off with the standard MMO fare, character creation. There are five races with two clans for each race. Every choice has minor stat differences, but everyone will find their own character.
Character customization is fairly in depth as well for players that want their perfect character. The game also has you choose your Patron Deity for elemental resistance and what type of class to be: Gladiator, Pugilist, Marauder, Lancer, Archer, Conjurer and Thaumaturge. One thing that FFXIV has going for it that other MMOs don’t is the ability to change and level different classes without making a new character. However, this ability doesn’t open up until after level 10.
In fact, the early levels of the game really do nothing to help draw players into the game. I know they have to be teaching quests to show everything off, but the teaching part seems lackluster. There were a few times that I was left scratching my head trying to figure things out, especially when quests started wanting you to go to new locations without letting you know where the locations are.
I soon got the hang of it, though, and got into my usual grind of getting all new quests, completing them one by one and getting the next batch. The game features four quest types early on: standard MMO quests, like fetch quests, talking to people or slaying monsters, FATE quests, class quests, called guild quests, and the main quest that advances the story.
FATE quests are similar to events in Guild Wars 2. They’re huge quests that randomly open up in the world that require you to kill a large amount of enemies or do other tasks with random people. At the end, you’re given experience based on how much you contributed to the event. It’s an interesting system that could really help extend endgame replay if used well in later levels.
It’s a bit too early to tell in the game, but the missions seem to have captured some of the good storytelling that Square Enix is known for in the series. Normally, the story is next to worthless in MMOs and is just used to get you from area to area. IN FFXIV, you can tell that the team actually is trying to tell a good story with the main missions and it’s wise to actually read the quests as you go along.
Moving to gameplay, combat itself is fairly slow. Enemies and your character attack and have a slight cool down before attacking again. Abilities, such as spells, have a universal cool down as well, meaning instant-cast spells can’t be used one after another. Combat also features a combo system that opens up ways for increased damage or buffs by stringing together the right set of abilities.
One interesting thing to note about the game and about the class changing feature is that skills from one class can be used by another class, letting players make their perfect hybrid class if wanted. A side-effect of doing the classes like this is that leveling is fairly linear, meaning there’s no skill trees to deal with to hit a desired skill earlier than another skill.
The mouse and keyboard is definitely the way to go, but the controller isn’t bad to use for the game. The spells and skills are mapped to the face buttons and D-Pad, and L2 and R2 can change between two sets to give different skill uses. R1 can also switch between skills and social features, such as emotes, group invites and more.
One of the big problems I had with the game was the targeting system. Pressing X normally makes you target the thing in front of you. However, in battles on the MMO that would often force me to target another player instead of an enemy, forcing me to tap left and right on the D-Pad frantically to try and find the right thing to target. There were quite a few times that I barely did anything with a group in a battle because of the targeting system. A way to target only enemies in battle would be nice, especially for non-healing classes.
The game features quite a few other items that are standard MMO fare, such as fast travel, sprinting and more. I did find the sprinting a bit odd. It’s a skill you cast that last for a few seconds before wearing off and needing to be recast after a cool down. Why you can’t constantly run like in other titles I don’t know.
The best thing the game has going for it currently is the graphics. The game looks really impressive even in the beta. If the entire game continues looking like the intro areas, A Realm Reborn may be one of the best looking MMOs out there.
Overall, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn looks to be a huge step up from the previous entry. The gameplay has been redone, glitches were rarely seen and overall, it feels like a solid MMO experience fans of the genre have come to expect. As long as the monthly fee doesn’t scare gamers away, the game should be a solid entry in the genre when it launches.