Review: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PS3)

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Title: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (6.3 GB)
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix Product Development Division 3
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: T
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC.
The PlayStation 3 Blu-ray disc version was used for this review.

*** Note: The Blu-ray disc version of the game requires a mandatory install and registration using the PlayStation Network. Once the client is installed and registered, you do not need the disc in the drive to play the game. ***

Throughout gaming’s history, many crashes and failures have occurred. Atari’s ET almost single-handedly killed the video game industry. Nintendo’s decision to outsource The Legend of Zelda to Phillips almost caused irreparable damage to one of gaming’s most beloved franchises. In 2010, Square Enix decided to release Final Fantasy XIV, the follow up to the wildly successful Final Fantasy XI. Upon its release, gamers discovered a buggy, slow, and downright boring MMO that felt rushed and incomplete. In order to compensate for these short comings, Square decided to waive the subscription fee while they developed a plan to relaunch FFXIV and most, if not all problems. The result of that turnaround is A Realm Reborn: Final Fantasy XIV. While small bugs and inconsistencies do exist, Square has crafted an MMO that is deep and rewarding, while simultaneously inviting to newcomers to the MMO genre.

Gameplay:
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn picks up five years after the cataclysmic events that nearly destroyed Eorzea at the end of the first game. You play as an adventurer, bound for Eorzea on the promise of adventure, money, and fame. You arrive at your home town and slowly discover a plot that delves deeper into just how the land has changed in those five short years. There are many side quests that delve into ancillary tales, but for the most part, many of the quests seem to follow the generic MMO formula.

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Like most MMO’s, FFXIV tasks the player with choosing a race, gender, and starting class after creating and customizing their initial character. While appearance cannot be changed down the line, the game takes some liberties with the rest of the MMO formula. Rather than permanently locking you in to one character class, every player has the ability to play as any class. These switches are handled through changing the equipped weapon; each class levels on its own, providing for plenty of depth, experimentation, and incentive to experiment. The main classes fall into the typical MMO tropes, so don’t expect a ton of variety and experimentation with roles and powers. In order to survive many of the end game and later game dungeons, this flexible class switching becomes a necessity in order to finish in an efficient manner.

Unlike other MMOs attempted on console, the controls on FFXIV work surprisingly well on console. Cycling between different preset hot functions using the L1 and R1 buttons, and then each attack can be executed by holding L2 or R2 and hitting either a direction on the D-Pad or one of the four face buttons. These combinations of buttons sounds complex at first, but the game gradually acclimates you by adding skills over time.

The traditional Final Fantasy job system ties into FFXIV’s overall class leveling system. As different classes and different combinations of classes reach certain levels, new jobs and abilities are unlocked. Better abilities are gated behind these job restrictions, and the proverbial carrot on a stick mentality of the class design helps motivate and push players to level up and experiment with new abilities. There is a lot of content in this game, more than enough to justify it’s $40 price tag and at least a month or two of subscription. It does become somewhat of a grind having to level up each class, but to those players that thrive on games like this, it’ll more than satisfy.

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The dynamic FATE system adds an interesting wrinkle to the tedious quest and grinding found in most MMOs. As you wander the world, randomly generated events can occur around you, giving extra experience and rewards to players that choose to take part in them. You could be wandering towards one quest, and decide to hop in at any moment. It makes each area of the game feel more populated and more dynamic, while simultaneously funneling players towards specific events. None of these are boss battles of epic proportions, but they’re fun distractions that break up the monotony.

Visuals:
FFXIV is somewhat of a mixed bag in regards to its visuals. On the one hand, many elements from the game seem to be directly taken from or inspired by many classic Final Fantasy tropes: the class outfits, the chocobos, and enemy design. On the other hand, the game has a very generic feeling and world. Endless forests and villages feel bland and uninspired, but structurally, the world and level design caters to the tried and true MMO style gameplay. I was neither impressed nor disgusted by the visuals, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It ran smooth enough on the PS3, though I did notice that it bogged down when action got heavy on the screen. I can’t wait to see what the PS4 version looks like when it’s released.

Audio:
It’s a bit of a disappointment that the opening of the game deceives the player for the experience that’s ahead. The game starts out with a fantastic CG cutscene with some pretty well done dialogue, but I’d wager that a good 90% of the game’s quests and directions are handled completely by text field. While this may seem par for the course in regards to MMO design, it’s a shame that the high production values that are so interconnected with Final Fantasy’s legacy did not make the trek over and make this MMO stand head and shoulders above its competition.

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Online/Multiplayer:
As the game is an MMO, everything in the gameplay area describes the multiplayer experience. The world and server restrictions tend to detract from a smooth online experience while playing with friends, but many of those issues have since been ironed out since launch.

Conclusion:
Overall, I was impressed with my time with FFXIV. Its class system and leveling mechanics are new and fresh enough for fans of the genre, while being opening and welcoming to newcomers. The quest structure and pace makes gameplay immediately satisfying and rewarding, while providing enough content to keep players going for a long time. Square Enix should be commended though for making an interface that takes advantage of a console’s control layout, and it never feels like a hindrance to gameplay. It’s just a shame that so much of the world feels generic and devoid of truly high production values. I’ve kept my subscription going long past my free trial period, and I periodically find myself going back to it. If you’re interested in trying out an MMO for the first time, you could do far worse than FFXIV.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by Square Enix.

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Written by Eric R. Miller

A 21 year old multimedia student who lives, eats, and breathes everything Playstation. Follow me on Google

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