The flip side of such complexity leaves us with a game that may be a little impenetrable for newcomers, thanks to a confusing user interface and poorly implemented map markers. The situation isn’t always much better for experienced MMO players either. Unfortunately for them, A Realm Reborn smuggles in many negative genre tropes which revel in repetition or needlessly sluggish progression.
Still, you don’t always have to look far in order to find something worthy of your attention. Metaphorical digging for gold is definitely required if you wish to get the most out of this Final Fantasy, but a surprisingly layered character creation process (allowing you to choose vocals to suit every emotion, for instance) provides a crosssection of what’s brilliant about A Realm Reborn: attention to detail. Feeling more alive than other MMOs, local adventures build an illusion of community as apposed to a nation comprised of faceless non-player characters.
It’s characterful in every way that counts, too. With thoroughly Japanese sensibilities providing a break from Western fantasy tropes, bizarre creatures and dreamlike environments make this a world worth visiting. An overreliance on text-based dialogue is disappointing, yet the writing itself is incredibly distinct (if occasionally bloated). Besides A Realm Reborn’s unhealthy passion for info-dumping, those who enjoy losing themselves in their fiction have a lot to soak up here.
It’s a shame that the rest can be so old-fashioned. Combat keeps things simple with traditional FFXIV Gil hotbars – not to mention awkward targeting – whilst the frequent necessity of returning to quest givers seems archaic. There may be hints of modern advances to be found (namely FATES, a version of Guild Wars 2’s ever-changing Dynamic Events), yet this is like stepping back in time for the most part. Why can’t we revive players without a specific spell, for example?
When thrown in with a near comical level of exposition, some utterly pointless starter quests, and far too many tutorials to take in, A Realm Reborn can be too much effort at times. Read: rather than getting right into the epic journeys you no doubt paid for, you’ll actually be delivering vegetables or hitting squirrels over the head for the first few hours. Go team.
At least that initial grind is made more bearable with the presence of friends every step of the way. Because PlayStation 3 and PC players share servers you can party up with others no matter what they’re gaming on. The latter version will look far better doing it, of course (and my console edition had frame rate problems despite a connection it labelled as ‘excellent’), but both offer the makings of a great co-op experience. Until you realise that 25% of the player-population runs about in their underwear, that is. No, I’m not joking.
Bizarre clothing aside, it’s worth asking yourself how long you want to spend in A Realm Reborn before taking the plunge. If you’re not willing to invest time in working out how all of its systems fit together or grinding for better missions this Final Fantasy probably isn’t worth the £8 it costs each month to keep going. If you prefer the long haul, on the other hand? This looks to be the kind of world that’ll reward your investment, and then some.