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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

By Kelevandos22-07-2013
MrJenssen (editor)
Bis18marck70 (editor)
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

The Defence

Square Enix
Square Enix
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core i5
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce GTX 660
AMD Radeon HD 7950
4 GB
20 GB

Chocobos, Moogles, Crystals, jobs, Dragoons, Bahamut, Cid... I could probably go on with this forever. Being one of the longest and most notable game series out there, Final Fantasy engraved all these words deep into the hearts of so many players. Now, the release of a remade 14th instalment is drawing near, making everybody unsure whether Square Enix will be able to change the rather negative reputation of the online FFs.

Released back in 2002, Final Fantasy XI was the series’ first MMO, as well as the very first cross-platform representative of the genre. Players from around the globe joined forces through PCs, Xbox 360’s and PS2’s. The game is still being supported and developed, with a few hundred players active to this day. Generally speaking, it was a success, despite the certain ‘uniqueness’ in the gameplay mechanics. Its spiritual successor, Final Fantasy XIV, emerged 8 years later and...was a failure. The majority of the criticism it received concerned the overcomplicated gameplay systems, which were surely ambitious and maybe even enjoyable at times, but lacked proper tutorials. It made the players feel lost and uncertain what to do. Their discontent and the amassed press criticism lead the developers to publish an open apology letter, followed by the replacement of the team and finally, taking down the servers in December 2012. Since then, a new team has been working on A Realm Reborn, the remade version of the game.

Even Gabranth was little once, you know?

Even Gabranth was little once, you know?

Final Fantasy XIV: RR is in beta phase now, with weekend events taking place each week and everyone can participate (you will find the registration link near the end of this text). As Pixel Judge’s resident fan of the series, yours truly decided to sneak a peek at it and tell you if it’s worth getting at launch. Also, while I had the dubious pleasure of playing the original game, it seems likely that most of you didn’t, so the text will be as non-comparatory as possible.

Our adventure begins with a beautiful cinematic explaining the ‘redecoration’ of the realm, one made with the fantasy and epicenes only the greatest developers out there are able to achieve. It involves a certain villain and a scary lizard, and is quite believable. We are then thrown 5 years into the future, when an adventurer arrives in Eorzea (the continent which the basic game takes place on) and, guess what, we get to create that adventurer! The creation process is a little masterpiece, combining lots of functionality with a dose of artistic flair. We can now preview the hero in 3 different sets of clothing, 5 environments and 2 poses. Final Fantasy XIV features 5 playable races - the muscular Roegadyn, feline Miqo’te, human-like Hyur, proud Elezen and the community’s favourite - the diminutive Lalafell. Each race also has two tribes to choose from affecting the general appearance and starting stats.

When we are done customizing our hero’s appearance, it is time to get him or her a job. This is an important choice, as it will also affect the starting location of our story. There are 7 options - an Archer (bows), a Pugilist (knuckles), a Marauder (axes), a Gladiator (swords), a Lancer (spears), a magic-based Conjurer (support) and Thaumaturge (offensive). Do not overthink your choice though - Final Fantasy XIV employs a brilliant system of job-switching, making the initial path only temporary.

Looking like an idiot because low level? MMO. Looking awesome despite that? Final Fantasy!

Looking like an idiot because low level? MMO. Looking awesome despite that? Final Fantasy!

After the opening cutscenes, our newly created protagonist ends up in their town of choice and is quickly ‘persuaded’ to join the Adventurer’s Guild. These are troubled times for Eorzea, the folk are untrusting, so the best way to gain your reputation is by helping out wherever you can. This brings us to the quest system which, generally put, is a combo of the classic “Kill (10) rats in the cellar” system known from games such as WoW - and the recently popularised “active event” idea, as seen in Guild Wars 2 or Defiance. So while in, let’s say, GW2 you have a map full of random events, but no certain reason to traverse this map, FF XIV eliminates the problem by leaving the “static” questing intact. It is impossible to tell how this will work in the long run, the general reception of the idea is positive, as it covers both randomness and a basic “drive” to play the game.

Whilst we’re on the subject of travelling; there are numerous ways to move across Eorzea. Walking barefoot, enhanced by the use the Sprint skill, quickly turns into taking advantage of the Chocobo-renting net (temporary mounts limited to one map), up until the moment when we get ourselves a permanent mount. In addition, every city has its big crystal and a number of little ones, between which we can freely jump, shortening the time required to complete the fetch quests. And if we end up in the wilderness far from home, the Return and Teleport spells (both with “Earth time” cooldowns) will quickly get us back to civilization.

The job system, a signature element of the series and one of the most ambitious things in the original FF XIV, has undergone some changes and is now more non-veteran friendly. Our protagonist does not have a level of their own, but instead levels a chosen class. Interestingly, the term refers to both combat and “crafting” specializations, dividing them into four groups - Disciples of War, Magic, the Land and the Hand. At level 10 of our chosen class, we can freely choose another one and use it in parallel. This effectively leads to mastering as many gameplay types as we want, all within one character slot. Moreover, changing a fierce Gladiator into a sneaky Ranger in the heat of battle requires as little effort as swapping weapons.

A FATE encounter in action!

A FATE encounter in action!

The battle system itself closely resembles the one from Final Fantasy XII, with an opponent being “marked” and all the abilities fired their way, while our character runs around dodging hits. The resemblance goes even deeper, with the system working better on a SIX-AXIS pad than with a mouse-keyboard setup. So even if you plan on buying the PC version of FF XIV, you better find yourself a gamepad.

Now for the audio-visuals. I have some bad news for the fans of FF VII and XIII - Realm Reborn has almost no sci-fi elements, nor guns. However, if it’s Vaan or Zidane you like - welcome home! Final Fantasy XIV is a high fantasy title, with all the innate features. The fairy tale-like forests are inhabited by tentacle-flapping plants and bird-like humanoids, while the azure high seas spawn with pirate ships and marine monsters. Every skill-shot is a feast for the eye, every model is beautifully detailed and animated, and the equipment we find during our journey...well, it makes you feel like you are playing a Final Fantasy game! Also, if it is the visuals you are concerned about the most, PC is the only way to go, as compared to its console counterpart the difference is colossal.

As for the music - it is a masterpiece. The tracks by Nobuo Uematsu were the most unforgettable element of most FF games up to date and so are they here. If you are a fan, you will immediately recognise lots of familiar tones and if it is your first encounter with his works - you will come to love them. I always find it hard to write about game music, as I usually perceive it as something you have to experience in order to understand, so you best just check it out by yourself, in this video for example. It is worth it.

If the blue dots at the map's edge ring a bell - you are awesome.

If the blue dots at the map's edge ring a bell - you are awesome.

It would be too beautiful without some bitterness, wouldn’t it? Firstly, it will not be easy for Square to receive the forgiveness of the playerbase after the original game’s failure. For the people who make some effort to check the spectrum of the changes, like you dear reader, Realm Reborn will surely be a title worth trying. But I fear that the majority will simply stick to the “failed Final Fantasy MMO” label, never actually giving the remake a chance. It is up to Square’s marketing department to solve this, but things like the controversial decision regarding the financial model may make it a hard task indeed. What decision? Well, the game will be subscription based, with half a year of plating priced 12.99$. This is not much, but again, in the age of “freemium” titles, such a choice can hardly be regarded as popular.

We still have some time (and a few beta weekends hopefully) until Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is officially released, so the game may change a bit, but one thing is clearly already visible - the development team decided to give up some of the convention-breaking nature of the series in favour of making the game more enjoyable for a wider group of players, but also did their best to preserve the uniqueness and the certain surrealism we love in Final Fantasy games. And guess what? They did it! All that is needed now is one more chance from the community, which was kind-of already granted, with the beta amassing over one million participants. Would you like to check it out yourself? Head here and enlist for the tests!

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Posts: 3290

Man, that is a DAMN nice looking game