When Square Enix released Final Fantasy XIV it was met with so much backlash that not only was the game made free for many months, it was ultimately taken down due to the constant issues it suffered and the dwindling player count of a free MMO. When Final Fantasy XIV was shut down in a rather dramatic manner, it was revealed that Square Enix would be bringing the game back once they rebooted it almost entirely from scratch. Now that that has been accomplished, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has been released not only for the PC, but the PlayStation 3 as well. Considering the unique platform choice, this review is focused entirely on the PlayStation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIV: ARR.
Final Fantasy XIV: ARR is set roughly five years after the events that took place at the end of Final Fantasy XIV. For those who don’t know, the world was almost entirely destroyed thanks to the awakening of the primal Bahamut. By destroying almost everything in the world, Square Enix has given themselves some unique ground to build a story upon.
Returning gamers from Final Fantasy XIV are able to meet numerous characters that survived the near-apocalypse and visit rebuilt villages and see new areas while new gamers won’t be left out of the loop as they are introduced to a fresh game with a story that continues to move forward with only a few references here and there to past events.
Storylines in MMOs can generally be pretty forgettable and many gamers may simply skip reading the dialogue while accepting any story based quest in an effort to reach the max level and begin the end-game. Any player doing this in Final Fantasy XIV: ARR would be doing themselves a great disservice as the game actually features an intriguing single player storyline that is not only nicely developed but also balanced in a way that makes it so gamers can actually feel important despite being in a world of consisting of thousands of other heroes.
When players begin the game they will start from one of three starting cities where they are eased into the game and begin to hear rumblings of dangers and forces being gathered. The storyline is always kept at the forefront of the player’s questline and although it is entirely possible to get yourself lost with side-quests these story based quests provide some of the best narrative you’ll actually find in an MMO. Without going into spoiler territory players will find themselves placed in a storyline where they gain various allies that can actually fight alongside you in specific instances, as enemies grow in number and begin to feel like a credible threat to the world that needs your help to be saved.
It is also worth noting that, unlike many MMOs on the market, the main story and a number of side-quests are often serious and mature, not frivolous and silly. Sure there are a number of quests that can be taken at face value or simply require gathering an item or performing a simple task, but a number of these quests can be deeper than they initially come off. As such, Final Fantasy XIV: ARR’s story is surprisingly deep and mature in a market where storyline is usually an afterthought.
As one would expect with an MMO, the first thing to do is choose a race and a class to play as. There are eight classes to choose from at the beginning, “Disciples of War” and “Disciples of Magic.” These classes are as one would expect, self-explanatory as the war classes deal with skills and mostly up close fighting with the archer being the only long-distance focused war class while the magic class features the classes that deal with magical skills.
Combat in Final Fantasy XIV: ARR is pretty standard as far as MMOs go, with each skill requiring a certain cooldown time and a hotbar system that can be accessed through the use of the shoulder buttons on the PS3 remote, which is surprisingly versatile and works well for the game. It is worth noting that switching between enemies to target is a big issue with the PS3 version of the game, as it will often target a faraway enemy, completely ignoring closer enemies or even enemies hitting you at that very moment.
Each class plays differently enough, the archer is even able to use skills and attack while on the move, which is great given my affinity for playing an archer whenever possible. The fact that each class plays different enough from one another is a boon because of one special feature in Final Fantasy: ARR, players are not limited to one class per character. In fact, once players manage to reach their level 10 class quest and complete it, they have the option to switch classes entirely.
Switching classes does place you back down to level 1 at that ability, meaning you will be weakened significantly, even if you happened to be a level 50 archer and decided to dabble in a bit of the magic side, requiring the player to return back to other areas and re-level. This adds a complete new aspect to the game as players are no longer limited to one class and to make things even more interesting, there are a few special classes that can only be unlocked if the player happens to have a certain level in two jobs, unlocking secondary classes such as the Bard or others.
Outside of the fighting classes there are also Hand and Land classes which involve crafting and performing gathering tasks such as fishing or acquiring ingredients for crafting. These can require a fair bit of grinding but thankfully the game has a large number of ways to level up the combat side of things outside of your typical grinding enemies in your level range or slightly above it and completing various quests.
One of the most noticeable, and also random, methods of leveling up is hunting for FATES (Full Active Time Events) which are appear in specific areas of a map and only last for a short period of time. These FATES are open to everyone, though players above a certain level range will be synched to a lower level to balance things out, while low leveled characters’ contributions won’t be counted as much. The reason for this is that whatever the goal of a FATE is, whether it is slaying a large number of creatures, defeating a boss enemy or gathering items, the amount of EXP and gil (money) given to the player depends on how well they did in the FATE.
These FATES can be very hectic at times and sometimes you’ll get swarms of people fighting inside of them, which leads to the issue with targeting enemies once again as the system will often target enemies not even related to the FATE or focus on a player character instead. Another way to simply level up by killing is to complete various ‘Hunting Log’ entries which involve hunting down specific monsters to kill and gain a fair chunk of EXP once that goal is met. These entries are expanded with ‘Gathering,’ ‘Crafting,’ and ‘Fishing logs as well to give the player even more chances to gain experience.
Outside of that of course there are also daily quests and dungeons that can be completed in the form of ‘Levequests’ which vary in difficulty and can be tackled only a certain number of times per day and ‘Guildhests.’ Guildhests are short missions that see the player paired up with a group of other players as they must complete a mission which is usually something a bit easy and serves as a teaching method to learn how to work together and gain experience at the same time. Those unfamiliar with MMOs may wish to tackle a few of these before heading deeper into the game where players will fight through dungeons.
These dungeons serve as a great way to earn experience points and equipment as the player has to make their way through a dungeon with a party. While most dungeons in MMOs are simplistic and even a bit easy if the player is skilled enough, Final Fantasy XIV: ARR keeps things fresh by challenging the player in different ways every time, making numerous dungeons true struggles even if your party works well together and is geared up for the fight.
One thing that is an issue however, in both the aforementioned Guildhests and especially in the dungeons, is how the player has to deal with the duty finder. While a nice addition to give players a way to gather a party without begging for one, the duty finder is also terribly designed or classes are very unbalanced in the worlds of Final Fantasy XIV: ARR. You see, playing a DPS usually leaves the player waiting for a very long period of time before they will be placed in a dungeon with a party, sometimes waiting up to an hour or longer just to take care of a dungeon. This also means that if someone leaves the party due to a connection error or something else, replacing that fighter is nearly impossible. Thankfully there is plenty to do while you queue up for the next dungeon.
It is worth noting that PC and PS3 players do end up playing alongside one another, which means that without the addition of a keyboard peripheral for the PlayStation 3, trying to talk to each other through text is nearly impossible as the in-game keyboard is atrocious and usually slow to respond even at the best of times. Thankfully, for the most part, it is easy to learn how to navigate the various menu systems on the PS3 and as mentioned before in the combat section, the lack of a keyboard and mouse doesn’t hold the game back too much.
One of the detriments of playing the PlayStation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIV: ARR is that the player is immediately limited to the power that the PS3 is able to put out. While powerful in its own right, this does mean that this version of the game isn’t quite as gorgeous looking as the PC version could be. However along those lines, there never appeared to be any significant lag or slowdown on my end except when the server itself was having issues. It is also worth noting that the interface on the PlayStation 3 version tends to be not only cluttered and difficult to manage, but the lettering is also rather tiny even on a higher resolution.
That being said, you may have noticed that I mentioned how Final Fantasy XIV: ARR is gorgeous and that is because it is true. Even with the limited power of the PS3 compared to some PCs, the world that the game takes place in is gorgeous and lush with lots of great details to help make the world seem like a livable place. The amount of character customization is nice and it is worth noting that the various armor designs are also some of the most believable and functional looking that you’ll find in an MMO.
Earlier I mentioned that Final Fantasy XIV: ARR, despite being an MMO, actually has a storyline worth paying attention to. However one thing holding the story back is the fact that there is almost no voice work in the game. Sure, many of the main story characters do have some voice work but unfortunately the English dub of the game is rather terrible with many of the voice actors sounding either wooden or completely disinterested in the parts they were playing. Thankfully there is a Japanese voice track option and considering how text heavy the game is already, a few more words to read isn’t much to ask for.
Considering how vast Final Fantasy XIV: ARR can be and the numerous landscapes, dungeons and events the player can venture through, the game requires an exquisite soundtrack and thankfully Square Enix has provided that in spades. Almost every piece of music set to the various areas in the game is wonderful to hear, with a special shoutout to the FATE battle theme and the numerous boss fights and dungeons that you must navigate through as you level up, giving gamers a reason to actually listen to the game’s music rather than their own.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is something that usually doesn’t happen in the game industry. Many other companies would have simply have wiped their hands of the game and walked away as they try their luck with the next MMO. However Square Enix has managed to do what many may have thought impossible by reviving the game and making it perhaps one of the best MMOs out there, especially for those who would be limited by a poor computer. The PlayStation 3 interface may be a bit unwieldy at first but it works well enough as players take advantage of the game’s great combat and class system to diversify their character while making their way through Realm Reborn’s storyline and simply enjoy the game’s gorgeous world. Keeping gamers entertained as they play an MMO is difficult but by giving them enough to do and enough variation between classes, Final Fantasy XIV: ARR manages to put itself ahead of the rest.
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