Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Impressions – Risen From Ashes

The subtitle for Final Fantasy XIV‘s re-release, A Realm Reborn, is incredibly apt.

Final Fantasy XIV’s original launch was plagued by an astounding number of issues, from technical to balance-related, and the game ended up crashing headfirst into the dirt. Square Enix, rather than letting all that work go to waste, set out to completely overhaul the game and rebrand it. The result is Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and while it’s a very traditional-minded MMO, it’s also the prettiest and most flexible of its kind since Final Fantasy 11.

A Realm Reborn starts off with the world undergoing a cataclysm that reshapes civilizations and landscapes. In the aftermath, various countries and cultures band around crystals, hoping to use them to bring about an era of peace and prosperity. However, nothing is clear about how this goal will be accomplished, and various political figures and adventurers have signed on to try to bring order back to the world. Of course, there are also wars and banditry and hostile wildlife all disrupting the natural order, giving those on the lookout for coins or quests something to do with their lives.

When said in game, it sounds complex, but it boils down to simple adventurism. In a way, it’s a metaphor for Final Fantasy XIV itself: Everything seems complex and interwoven, but that’s more a function of its presentation than actual complexity. Final Fantasy XIV is actually a fairly simple game, and that’s where its strength lies.

Once you’ve made your adventurer and set out to make your fortune, you are introduced to the world of A Realm Reborn through detailed cutscenes. These cinematics often include dialogue choices, so you aren’t just watching something that is completely static. Unfortunately, this also means that a good portion of the early game cutscenes and dialogues are totally unskippable. If you’ve made an alt, you have no options to start ahead; you have to sit through everything, even if you’ve already seen it before. Thankfully, there’s almost no reason to make an alt except to play as a different race.

This is because A Realm Reborn uses a “job” system, much like Final Fantasy V or XI. After you reach level 10 in your starting class, you are given the option to switch between classes at guilds and learn the abilities of that class. Tired of being a Pugilist? Try your hand at being an Archer or a Mage instead. Each class plays a little bit differently — the Pugilist is more of a rogue-type character, for example, while the Lancer has more of a tanking role — so you can indulge various playstyles on a single character. However, your main plot is influenced by the class you chose at character creation, and you’ll always be stronger with your starter class.

This flexibility also extends to the crafting professions. There are no arbitrary restrictions on how much you can learn here; make everything you want to make, in whatever professions you want to learn. However, it’s always smart to specialize in professions one at a time, as attempting to power level every profession at once is incredibly painful. Find what you like and stick to it before branching out. After all, you’ll be better in combat with the gear you want if you stick to a single profession and max it out first.