When Final Fantasy XIV released, it met very underwhelmed audiences. Subscriber base quickly plummeted, and years of development time suddenly seemed like they were going to go waste. Square Enix‘s plan was to talk to the community, find out what the problems were, and fix them in the form of a huge game update.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is that long awaited update, and it brings to the table so very much, it could probably be called a new game entirely.
After a long wait to download, finally I was able to launch Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and of course, as expected of most RPGs, I was presented with the Character Creation screen. The options here are extensive, everything from iris size, to the length of your tail (if you have one) and size of your breasts (if you have those) is here. I went with my weird cat-woman type of person, naming her Felicia Breens. During character creation, you can select different backdrops and make your character do an odd pose, if you’re so inclined. Straight away the graphics looks quite lovely, although of course it can’t quite match the splendor available on a powerful PC.
Stepping into the game, I find myself riding the back of a wagon with a merchant. It only takes a minute for some guards to stop the wagon and attempt to arrest my new merchant friend for carrying “illegal herbs”. That’s when I can’t help but notice a slight framerate drop occasionally, but this is a beta, so I’m going to try and put framerate issues and minor bugs to the back of my mind; judgment can be reserved for launch.
Travelling with my merchant friend Brendt to Ul’dah, I discover that the town is apparently run by Sultana in name, but the Syndicate is actually running things behind the scenes. I don’t know why people would think a raisin holds any power anyway. Typical of playing a JRPG for the first time, the game throws terms and names that a player can barely recollect or pronounce at that point, let alone understand… Nonetheless, I’m intrigued.
After arriving in Ul’dah, I’m immediately urged into joining the Quicksand guild; they insist I can’t go anywhere until I join. From a distance, the city looked bleak and unattractive, but up close it’s actually quite beautiful. Momodi, the owner of Quicksand tells me that everything in Ul’dah is for sale if you have the gil. I tried, but there was no option to buy the chair Momodi was sitting on. I felt lied to.
The first hour of the game required grappling with using a console game controller with an MMO’s UI, whilst running about Ul’dah doing random fetch quests. Take this here, deliver this there, go get me some of that… The NPCs in FFXIV unfortunately have similar problems to the NPCs in almost every other MMO. Finally the quests take me back outside the walls of Ul’dah, where plenty of low-level mobs are waiting for me.
The battle system of a PC MMO has translated surprisingly well onto the console, with battle commands being issued with the face buttons and directional pad. There are different sets of commands that can be changed with R1, each set having all eight face buttons used for two different actions, meaning you have 16 actions available to you at any one time. To anyone new to MMO titles, this may be overwhelming, but it can be organized quickly and easily into a set you use in towns, a set you use in battles, etc.
When it comes to audio, the game performs as well as any Final Fantasy game. We can find some classic remixes, including everyone’s favorite victory fanfare, and some brand new tunes that make FFXIV’s soundtrack just as good, if not better, than many RPGs. And of course, menu and battle sound effects are all more than acceptable; one area where some may be disappointed is the lack of any voice acting, but to fully voice act an entire MMO is a tall order, so it is understandable.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is clearly a game built first and foremost for PC. Playing with a PS3 controller is difficult, and definitely a learning experience, but having said that, FFXIV is still a fun game, difficult controls or no. Clearly a PC version would be preferable to the PS3 whenever possible, but if you’re a big Final Fantasy fan, or you just really want to try the game and don’t have a compatible PC, then this is definitely the best solution.
All in all, it was an enjoyable experience. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn doesn’t have any major innovations to bring to the genre, but nonetheless it clearly shows an improvement over the first release, and I believe that fans of the franchise should be rather pleased at the offering. But you can tell us yourselves just below - did you try A Realm Reborn PS3 Beta? If you did, was it enough to convince you to invest in it?