Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn Review
A lot of gamers will hate Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn.
In many ways it’s as archaic as they come, and the humble MMO as a genre is more erratic than ever. The game is changing, but Final Fantasy 14 instead sticks to the tried-and-tested formula.
But then that level up tune kicks in and it’s impossible to ignore the rose-tinted beauty on the glory days of Final Fantasy.
That’s the weird awkwardness that Final Fantasy 14 finds itself in; it is simultaneously old and new.
Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn – The Old
We’ll start with criticisms to get them out of the way, especially since you’ll notice them almost immediately.
It’s impossible to overlook the MMO template Final Fantasy 14 has adopted; needless to say if you’re sick of killing 10 boar for meat or slaying 6 orcs in a certain area, you likely won’t enjoy FF14’s questing system.
Just swap boar for Cactuar and orcs for Sahagin.
It’ll become a bit of a plodding grind for those who want to level up the traditional way, and a detriment to what could have been an otherwise intriguing – if albeit guided – MMORPG.
The presentation doesn’t help much, either. As more and more MMOs are focusing on storytelling and NPC interaction, Final Fantasy 14 feels bizarrely old school in its mostly text-led conversations.
All this is especially confusing when you consider that this is a Final Fantasy game, meaning even those who are purely interested in the game for nothing but their love of the brand will be almost instantly put off to find less of the element that the series has long been known for.
But this is an MMO, and should be judged as such.
Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn – The New
Where Final Fantasy 14 does get things right is in its approach to combat. We played the MMO on both PC and PS3, and it’ll be a surprise to hear that we ended up favouring the PS3 version.
Sure it doesn’t look especially attractive on the PS3, but Square Enix has done a commendable job of bringing an otherwise impenetrable genre over onto the controller.
Combat is interesting, too, with most classes playing with an osmosis of abilities, of sorts. There’s a balance between dealing damage, crippling enemies and ensuring your own safety or prowess to cycle through.
As an example, our initial character was a Thaumaturge, a spellcaster in control of fire, wind, ice, all that kind of thing.
Here he needed to balance Umbral Ice and Umbral Fire buffs, which improves mana regeneration and spell damage respectively, resulting in a surprisingly well-thought out system that favours pace and strategy.
The other classes follow similar mechanics, ensuring that the right abilities are used at the right time.
Best of all, this is all easily mapped to your controller. Though you may have multiple abilities, there is no barrier to accessing them – providing you manage the slots correctly.
Pressing any of the top buttons (R1, R2, L1, L2) and any of the face buttons will activate the specified hotkey slot, giving you access to 16 abilities in total – and that’s before you start creating new tabs of abilities.
It’s simple but effective, and isn’t quite as complex as it might sound. It’s refreshing to be able to enjoy the incessant grind of an MMO from the comfort of our sofa, and not hunched over a keyboard.
What About The Multiplayer?
Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn does a lot to make multiplayer as simple as it can be.
Sure there are issues with unblockable gold farmers selling their ill-gotten wares on the trade channel, but for the most part there’s a sort of casual community to Final Fantasy 14.
Take, for example, the Guildleves – a fancy term for group quests. These aren’t tied into the story or forced upon you as part of a chain, and instead are acquired from the delegated Guildleve master.
Sounds arbitrary, perhaps, but it means it is optional and won’t intrude on those hoping to solo the majority of the story content.
You’ll simple join a queue, select your role and wait, the server matching you up with similar chaps while you’re off busy killing Malboro or whatever it is your Hunting Log has you culling.
The rewards are worthwhile, too, since a successful guildleve – as in every member staying alive and completing the job quickly – will provide grand bonuses that will help skip a lot of the tedium of solo grinding quests.
FATEs offer a spin on Defiance’s open world boss battles too and, instead, provide a difficult challenge to tackle within your area – usually there’s as many as three or four on any particular map – that reward you with XP and Gil based on your effort in the fight.
The tasks aren’t particular surprising – kill one big guy or a bunch of smaller ones, usually – but they’re tough enough that you won’t survive alone.
These beacons appear on the map, however, so even if you’re the first to arrive you likely won’t be the only one that turns up.
Dungeons themselves don’t offer anything especially new – at least for the genre – but they’re certainly pleasantly designed and provide a healthy amount of difficulty to force your group to stick together.
Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn Review
Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn is a strange one, and difficult to pinpoint to a number at the end of some words. It really comes down to what you’re expecting from the game.
While those of you likely to play the game will have done so already, no doubt, there’s still reason for those tempted to seek out a copy.
In many ways it’s reminiscent of Final Fantasy 12, what with a large expansive world to explore and various Hunting Logs to tick off.
It does suffer under the same issue of repetition that so many MMOs still seem to struggle with, and for that reason it can’t really be forgiven – at this point, most will be sick to their back teeth of fetch quests in MMORPGs.
But there’s still a lot of the appeal that makes a Final Fantasy game compelling: the glorious locations, the brilliant music, Moogles. It’s enough to make you want to put up with the genre staples.
There’s plenty of endgame content to chip into too, and characters can play as multiple classes and even advanced Jobs. Let’s not forget the epic later-level beasts to slay either – there’s no denying FF14 can be heaps of fun for those willing to forgive the common problems of the genre.
Versions tested: PS3 & PC