Back in 2010, Square Enix released their second MMO; Final Fantasy XIV. It didn’t just fail, it was a catastrophe. It had almost entirely negative critic reviews, claiming it was a horrendous experience not to be touched. Most companies may chalk it up to a loss and move on, but Square Enix did something pretty risky. They took the game off the servers and claimed they would redo the entire thing in version 2.0, better known now as A Realm Reborn. It seemed like this was beating a dead horse and Square Enix had other projects to work on that made redoing an already failed game a waste of time. Well, A Realm Reborn was released only a few weeks ago and it shocked the world by how incredible it actually was. Square Enix has one of the greatest comeback tales in video game history by not giving up on their product to recreate one hell of a MMO.
Let’s get something out of the way first. As everyone knows, there were some major server issues when this game originally came out. I did experience them when I first started playing and sometimes had to wait before I could log in. Luckily, I never had to wait more than a few minutes, which is pretty amazing considering there were others that couldn’t login for hours. However, those have been fixed completely, and there shouldn’t be any more server issues (if there are, I haven’t experienced them). So, if you’ve been waiting for the servers to be fixed before purchasing this game, then now is the time to go ahead and commit to the buy.
It was an interesting idea to start this game where the last one ends. Final Fantasy XIV concluded with a giant battle that more or less ended the world. A Realm Reborn begins with that same catastrophic battle where Bahamut obliterates practically everything. Skip forward five years and then the gameplay starts with you as an adventurer looking for—well—adventures. The world of Eorzea is rebuilding after the Great Calamity that transpired (Bahamut destroying everything). It’s not all about peace and growth; however, there is a threat of an oncoming war against the Garlean Empire in the north.
Saying anything further could potentially be a spoiler, but rest assured the story is well done. It is cliche mind you. A new adventurer with a special talent of sorts that must help neighboring countries unite against the evil nation looking to invade and cause chaos. It’s been done before, but it’s still enjoyable to experience. You hope to see more cut-scenes that are voiced, but most of the game is told through text. This isn’t exactly a negative—if you don’t mind reading of course. It starts a little slow and I even found myself skipping some texts early on, but as the game continues the story does pick up.
If Square Enix knows how to do anything, it’s creating an interesting world and making it look beautiful. Is this the best looking Final Fantasy? No, but it is undoubtedly pretty with some spectacular environments to explore. The game runs smoothly despite that, and there were only a couple times the textures were slightly askew. Each country has varied landscapes to really make you feel like you’ve traveled to a different region in the fictional world. There is even whether to add more immersion as you’ll often find yourself in torrential downpours that blinds your vision. Plus some incredible music with that familiar Final Fantasy vibe, and you’ll feel right at home. It’s certainly a world you can lose yourself in.
Getting down to the actual gameplay, it begins exactly how you expect a MMO to start. You create a character and pick a class. The beginning of an MMO can always feel slightly overwhelming, but A Realm Reborn does a good job of slowly explaining everything as it becomes relevant. It doesn’t spam you with everything in the very beginning or cheaply inform you that you can check a primer in your menu instead of slowly explaining something to you. As you come up against something new, the game pops a little menu to explain it to you. This persists throughout the entire game as long as it is something new. It’s extremely helpful for newcomers who aren’t use to this genre.
On a whole, A Realm Reborn is for a more casual MMO player. It isn’t really tough or too complex until late in the game. I won’t call this game a “button-masher” because it certainly isn’t that simplistic. However, there are definitely some MMO’s out there that will laugh at the simplicity this game entails. I was a Pugilist mind you, so my job was pretty simple, being a healer would undoubtedly bring on an entirely unique experience.
As I stated, the game gets tougher later on of course; there is a steady rise in difficulty that appears to be pretty balanced. However, overall, the game never really kicks your teeth in where you feel it’s impossible. Generally, if you die it’s because you did something stupid. It wasn’t the game being unfairly difficult. This doesn’t mean A Realm Reborn is a cake-walk of course, and it certainly doesn’t mean it is bad. This can even be considered a good thing seeing how it welcomes newcomers with open arms instead of shunning the unwanted newbies. This is simply a warning to the hardcore MMO gamers out there. This isn’t going to challenge you as much as other games, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
The game starts out pretty slowly. You run around doing normal quests for the first fifteen levels or so. The usual: run here, kill that, run here, grab that, run there, talk to that person, and then run back. Luckily, it is in the beginning of the game so you won’t find it boring. You’ll be so busy learning how to play and getting lost that these simple quests are exactly what you want. Once you get to around level fifteen the story mission will involve Duties. This is where the game picks up and slows down all at the same time. It picks up, because Duties are far more fun than the countless fetch quests you do. Duties are where you enter a dungeon with other players and have to work together to fight through hordes of monsters along with the inevitable boss, while getting some nice loot of course.
The wait time to begin a Duty is the reason the game slows down. Entering a dungeon requires a Healer and a Tank, which can be found via the Duty Finder. It’s essentially a digital line that every stands in before entering the dungeon as the game tries to group people together. The problem is how long it can actually take. A majority of the classes in A Realm Reborn are DPS classes that focus entirely on damage. Finding a Healer and a Tank can take time. The shortest I ever had to wait was about twenty-five minutes. The longest took me about two days to actually get past one dungeon. It was series of problems: waiting up to forty-five minutes to find a party (multiple times), incompetent players that made it impossible to complete a dungeon, people logging out mid dungeon, my own internet giving out, and just waiting and waiting and waiting to give it another try.
That was horrible to experience, admittedly, it was a lot of bad luck, but it is still extremely important to note. I had almost no say in what was happening and it’s an example of how other people can ruin your chance or progressing onwards. It wouldn’t be too bad if the wait wasn’t so awful. Of course, you aren’t actually standing there with your character waiting. You can run and do anything as you wait. You don’t even need to go to the dungeon to activate the quest, you can do it through the main menu. This allows you to run wherever you want as you wait, and a notification will pop up letting you know when your group is ready. It teleports you to the dungeon and once it’s completed, it brings you back to the exact spot you were before the Duty. It is really the only reason waiting for a Duty isn’t completely frustrating….only a little irritating.
Using the time to complete other quests is certainly wise, but you can only level up with non-story missions for so long. They don’t give you nearly as much XP as you really desire, but most of all. They get boring after you do only them for so long. Mixing it up with a story mission and Duty helps, so when you are waiting to advance the story, the normal quests can get beyond tiresome.
There are levels (repeatable quests that require an “allowance” to activate) to kill some time while gaining valuable XP, but what a majority of people do as they wait for Duties, is run around completing Fates. These are randomly generated group fights that appear in the open world. It could be one big enemy or a lot of small ones. The more you help in the Fate, the more you’re rewarded. They are very popular and extremely helpful in leveling so every player nearby joins the Fate. I do mean everyone, because they essentially become one big, massive, laggy, cluster of characters dishing out hundreds of spells and attacks. This is the only time the game ever really lags badly, and it can be tough to target properly. They are so advantageous that many people don’t bother with other quests, and will focus entirely on Fates for a majority of the game, since they dish out an unfair amount of XP.
The best feature of A Realm Reborn is the ability to switch classes whenever you wish with the same character! Instead of logging out and creating another whole character to try a different class. Switch your weapon and you become that class. You can even save your setup for each class so no need to personally switch every piece of equipment every time. Switching classes isn’t an optional side-feature either. Once you level one class to level thirty, you need to level the secondary class to fifteen to unlock a Job. For example: a level thirty Pugilist and a level fifteen Lancer will unlock the Monk Job. It’s an interesting way of combining classes, and there’s the plus of sharing some abilities across classes. That makes it beneficial to level up another class and take one of their abilities to fit into your fighting style. Also, to make it a little less demanding when you level a second class, the difference in levels between your highest class and whichever one you’re currently leveling, will enact some bonus XP so leveling will go quicker for that class. It was a smart move to lower frustration levels of constantly grinding.
There aren’t only fighting class of course, there are plenty of crafting type classes you can experiment with: Alchemist, Weaver, Carpenter, Goldsmith, etc. They all have their uses that can be exploited. That being said, I never really dove deep into this side of the game, because I never found it necessary personally. I tested the waters to see what it was all about, and I could see the potential in the crafting classes, but I never wanted to commit all the time it would take to reach that potential. During my Duties I asked my party members if they liked the crafting system or not. Every player said they tried it a little, but didn’t care for it, or they were planning on doing that in the end-game. This isn’t to say the craft system is a thoughtless extra. You can spend a majority of the game as a crafting class if that is what you wish, but from what I experienced, many people didn’t bother with it. That doesn’t mean others may not find a crafting class they love and really spend a lot of time with it. It’s really up to you how you want to play, and that’s always a nice way to go about a game.
Besides the long wait to enter into a dungeon, there weren’t really any major grievances to complain about that made my experience completely miserable. The map was annoying too use, and although I did technically get better at understanding it. I still found it irritating. It doesn’t tell you if an objective is above or below you, which can make for some confusing times when according to the map you’re right on top of the objective, but it’s actually three floors above you. It’s a small negative that’s easy to live with but still worth mentioning. You use your map a lot, you want it to be as user-friendly as possible.
I put many hours into it trying to experience as much as I can. It’s tough to find a good stopping point in an MMO to write a timely review. There is so much more I have yet to experience that I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of what this game holds. It will take hundreds of hours to really dive deep into this game, and I have no doubt that it will take that many hours to experience it all. It may sound like a steep price to purchase the game then pay a monthly fee on top of that. But if you enjoy MMO’s or love Final Fantasy, then you should definitely try out A Realm Reborn. Just remember kids, it’s always fun and games until the Tank dies…then it’s anarchy.
This review is based off a review code of the PlayStation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn developed and published by Square Enix.