Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – Impressions

Probably one of the most interesting stories of hard work, dedication, and faith in a game is that of Final Fantasy XIV, the MMO RPG. Players fought against the Garleans who were determined to conquer the world and control its Aether, a material that powered Magitek machinery. In a world where players can ride Chocobos, wield magic with an incredible force, and fight their way through an open world as a customized, epic hero, what could go wrong? Well, Final Fantasy XIV came out in 2010, and was a total flop. Such a bad flop, that Square Enix CEO Yoici Wada actually stated the Final Fantasy brand had been greatly damaged by the game, and apologized to fans everywhere. From a broken combat structure, to multitudes of bugs and glitches, many players believed the game was virtually unplayable.

Final Fantasy XIV -   A Realm Reborn

Then, something incredible happened. Instead of letting the game die out, and trying to stuff it back in the metaphorical drawer of broken dreams and promises (there was an open spot next to Highlander II: The Quickening), they blew it up. You heard me – blew it up. The end of the MMO universe in Final Fantasy XIV came to an abrupt end last year with a literal apocalypse, and created A Realm Reborn. The game takes players and throws them into the game after the apocalypse and into a world completely reborn.  The game is even top of the “Most Popular Games” board on GameFAQs, ranking above League of Legends, Skyrim, and Saints Row IV.

Leading up to today’s official launch for both PC and PlayStation 3, the response from fans has been overwhelming.  So much so, that the servers couldn’t catch up to the sheer amount of people playing the early access. The initial response has caused a heavy load on the servers, resulting in constant, system-wide server maintenance to be observed on multiple occasions over the past few days, and has been inaccessible for hours at a time. Square Enix has been taking multiple steps to resolve and absorb the server issues, but it would seem they did not expect the kind of popularity A Realm Reborn has received.

Final Fantasy XIV -   A Realm RebornGetting tired of alts? Yeah, me too. In FFXIV, there’s a shift in mentality that changes the way people level. You get one main character that can play any class, have any skill, or do any job they want, no matter what race they choose. Instead of having to level separate characters for each class, players can use the same character and level up separate Jobs individually, and switch out Jobs whenever they wish. This is a wonderful concept because it helps avoid logging in and out over and over again based on what you need to run with for endgame content, and creates an added attachment to your character that you don’t always get in other MMOs. Many gamers have leveled characters in the past and then realised they preferred to play a different spec, only to be too attached to their character to switch, or worse: saying goodbye to their main and using them as an alt. People breathe life into their characters, and it’s nice to see that their skills won’t go to waste and can be customizable.

Players will have five different races to choose from when creating a character, all with their own unique look and history. There are the Hyurs that are a basic humanoid race, Elezens are elf-like, Lalafells are tiny humanoids, Roegadyns are giant humanoids, and Miqo’tes are a feline-humanoid mixed race. It may sound like the character selection would result in a bunch of creatures that all look relatively the same running around, but the selection is truly varied – characters standing one foot tall with tiny little hands, or gigantic 8-foot-tall warriors wildly swinging their swords. While you can choose to share a last name with someone, your first name has to be genuine for each server. Watching people in early access come up with some awesome character name choices like Bacon Bit or Spider Man makes the last name ability seem like an incredible idea. Top this customized name option with heroes sporting unique features like kitty ears or huge pointy hats, there’s a general feeling of true diversity in this newly discovered universe. You’ll find people jumping in to fight alongside strangers on their way to their own goals, chat sections filled with gamers helping each other out, and even gameplay designed to encourage players help one another, where characters will still get credit on quests for killing creatures someone else tagged.

Final Fantasy XIV -   A Realm RebornUser interface is extremely important for people spending countless hours in front of a keyboard. The general layout is very well-executed, and includes a directional Map and a fully zoom-able Map at your disposal. There is also an easy-access menu system to the far right that helps navigate things like your Items, Character, Hunting Logs, and so much more. The combat is very typical for MMOs, including Tab targeting and Quest-based grinding, so returning players will be able to jump right into the action and skip the Tutorial as well!

Were you a fan of the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within? If so, you won’t be disappointed with the incredible cutscenes and graphics in the game, as it mirrors the animation in the movie, only with your customized character in the scene instead, adding that extra little bit of internal bliss for gamers. Even the in-game content looks very polished, with flowing riverbanks and shiny new avatars to run around with. All shapes and sizes can be seen in the form of different enemies and characters, and includes all the major creatures of the Final Fantasy universe – even Moogles!

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With so much to offer, and such a wave of popularity, it’s hard to tell whether this is a passing fad or a game that will stand the test of time. With the graphic quality, diversity in individual character development, and pure Final Fantasy feel, it’s hard not to fall in love at first sight, but in the end the fans will decide if this is truly a match made in Heaven, or a passing fancy. The initial server issues (while frustrating) are indicative of a successful launch, as many MMOs still have problems long after BETA stress tests have been performed. With so many MMO RPGs going free to play, it may also be harder to justify A Realm Reborn having a $14.99 monthly subscription to newcomers.  Still, the game is in its early stages, and the endgame content is still in our future, with plenty to keep us grinding away in the meantime.

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