We’re back here at Exilic once again to bring you the latest in our ongoing Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Preview series. Along the way, we’ve covered a wide variety of aspects that affect the land of Eorzea including character creation, getting started, battle and the social aspects. Yet, as the closed beta comes to an end and we begin to grow ever closer to the Reborn release date of August 27th, it seems a deeper look into the console version is in order.
MMO players, myself included, will stress the advantages of PC gaming on many different topics. This is especially true in the MMO genre, and although Final Fantasy XI found its niche in the space, it doesn’t mean lightening can struck twice. Or can it?
Does FFXIV: ARR finally have what it takes to push console MMOs to a new level? Let’s dive in at find out as we explore the exclusive PS3 console version.
[ Controls ]
Controls always seem to be a big issue when it comes to a console iteration of a major MMO, or any title in the genre for that matter. I touched on the subject of the PS3 hotkey system back in Preview #3: Ready for Battle but it something worth mentioning again, especially in reference to the PlayStation control scheme.
The hotkey system utilizes both shoulder buttons in a combination with directional pad or face button inputs. While holding the respective R2 or L2 down you are able to launch attacks, heal, teleport and perform a bevy of different commands. The ability to switch between sets of the 28 available commands makes the possibilities seem endless.
Because of their set-up with keyboard inputs, MMOs have always struggled to translate onto the console’s controller, but this time Square Enix may have delivered. The battle system works well, and essentially everything else can be found within the start menu. Although it may not be perfect in every aspect, it translates well enough not to frustrate you in the midst of battle.
[ Chat Interface ]
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn features cross-play between both PC and PlayStation gamers, which makes the need for a robust chat system extremely important. The options for communication are numerous, though they all share one common thread: text based chat.
Linkshells, Parties, Free Companies and a number of others offer private chat windows for communication between members. The community is even decent enough to help those out who simply ask in open chat. While these options are numerous and work well from a PC gamer’s perspective, it isn’t as simple for console gamers.
While the game tries to accommodate for the PS3 player’s lack of keyboard, it seems the most common solution would have been voice based chat. Of, course without this option available, a keyboard still feels like the most natural option.
Unless you opt to hook up a USB keyboard to your PS3 your chat options will be regulated to the onscreen keyboard that appears upon opening the chat window. Of course, if you happen to own the additional PS3 wireless keypad controller attachment you have that option at your disposal as well. Both these options function properly but in true MMO fashion it is evident plugging in a true keyboard is the best and proper solution.
It has been noted that although a USB keyboard may be used for chat functions, a controller will still be required to play through the game itself.
[ Map System ]
Like most of the features within the game, the Map can also be found under the start menu, but is also accessed from the main screen as well. Hitting the select button will shuffle your cursor around from your current quests to the chat system and to the map.
It is actually more efficient to select your current quest and tap the X button a few times to see your current objective on the map. This is where the system seems to lose ground though. It can be rather tough for PS3 users to distinguish where exactly you are in relation to your current quest, unless both you and the quest zone are in the same area of the mini map.
[ Graphics ]
Of, course PC gamers will immediately call for a graphical comparison, and they would be right. FFXIV absolutely looks better on the beloved PC. The great thing for PlayStation gamers is that the game still looks amazing; the beautifully unique surroundings make it easy to swallow the difference.
The PS3’s low RAM in comparison to gaming PCs means that designers had to make more than a handful of sacrifices in regards to the console version. So, while this does take its toll on the graphical side of things, you can still expect the beautifully rendered cut scenes Final Fantasy has always been known for. Of, course if graphics are a major concern, be on the lookout for a PS4 release at an unannounced time in 2014.
[ Wrap Up ]
Any comparison of console and PC MMOs simply can’t avoid the fact that we’re playing in a traditionally a PC-dominated genre. So rather than doing a side-by-side comparison of the two, a more worthy question is whether or not the game at hand can provide a real MMO experience on a home console system.
In many aspects, FFXIV: ARR is the best MMO to ever to land outside of the PC realm. That doesn’t mean, however, that it isn’t without its faults. As August 27th nears, it looks as though Square Enix is poised to take the MMO crown in the console space and do it in convincing fashion.
Before we finish this look at the console version, there are a couple of notes that need to be addressed. While the game has seen a release previously on the PC, August 27th will be the first chance for the PlayStation community to immerse themselves in the beautiful land of Eorzea. At E3 2013, Square Enix also noted that a PS4 version was in the works and would see a release sometime within 2014.
It wouldn’t be a console preview without mentioning the elephant in the room: the Microsoft brand of consoles. Throughout this entire preview, neither Xbox nor the Xbox One have been referenced, and for good reason. They simply won’t give Xboxers the chance to experience FFXIV: A Realm Reborn.
Square Enix themselves have noted that Microsoft’s inability to allow for cross platform play is what prompted their decision not to make a version for Xbox consoles. In the world of MMOs, this cross platform feature is huge. It’s unfortunate that many gamers will miss out simply because Microsoft is unwilling to budge.
The ups and downs of the console MMO market are unpredictable, and as we near the release of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn it’s looking like we may finally see what a real console MMO should be. Will they finally be able to deliver the experience we all have been hoping for? Let us know in the comments below or as always you can shout directly at me on Twitter by clicking there —->Follow @John_Osiecki .
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