Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is the “sequel” to the 2010 MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV that aims to improve and expand past the sloppy mechanics and interface of its predecessor. With refurbished graphics, a new storyline, a remodeled interface and a slew of revamped and new systems, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn succeeds in correcting the mistakes of its past as well as adding a new tier of interesting and satisfying online multiplayer experiences. As a beta tester of both Version 1.0 and A Realm Reborn, I have to say that the direction Square Enix has taken this game has finally resulted in the stellar MMORPG fantasy we had hoped for.
(To clarify, I have taken the rampant server failures and multiple Early Access and Launch problems into account. This review is based on the in-game experience and production value. While I do find Square Enix’s lack of foresight and preparation into the surge of members disconcerting, I am sure these problems are only momentary and will not persist throughout the game’s life cycle. Thank you.)
Aesthetics (Story, Graphics, Sound)
Where Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn really shines is with its graphics. Comparing the plastic-like visuals from Version 1.0 to A Realm Reborn, there is a clear-cut upgrade in the clarity and definition of the models and the setting. Everything, from the lush, green trees of Gridania’s forests to the blue-skied harbor town of Limsa Lominsa, is rendered to a level that far surpasses the graphical quality expected in an MMORPG. The world feels alive and vibrant with smooth textures and detailed set pieces coupled with a seamless weather changing system and day-and-night cycle. It’s clear that the graphics upgrade was a huge part in A Realm Reborn’s early planning as the game impresses with its marvelous visuals.
However, with such a high rendering capability in a game with thousands upon thousands of moving pieces, there are some technical problems. Playing on the PS3 version, frame rate drops are not entirely uncommon, especially in instances, FATES and major towns. I did not encounter the frame rate drop as much on the PC version but it is a problem with the PS3. Also on the PS3 version, NPC’s and other PC’s will take longer to appear, up to about 10-20 seconds. While these technical problems are not gamebreaking, it shows the high price to pay for above par graphics in a MMORPG.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn tackles story in an MMORPG in an interesting way. Set 5 years after the events of Final Fantasy XIV, the PC’s progress the story by going from main quest to main quest — pretty typical in an MMORPG. Yet these main quests will often land you in cleverly written dialogue and in-game cinematics that run smoothly. Sometimes, these cinematics may even come fully voiced which I thought was a great touch to upping the production value and making the story feel more immersive. With that being said, the plot itself is a fairly interesting tale of “save the world from destruction”, but pretty average when compared to the other games in the series as well as other MMORPGs.
Thirdly on the topic of aesthetics, the soundtrack of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is superb. Nobuo Uematsu and Masayoshi Soken tap into the classical scores and moving orchestral pieces that just screams Final Fantasy. Each song fits perfectly with its in-game situation, never sounding too out-of-place or distracting; some pieces strike a lighthearted flair as your run around town while others are upbeat and fierce as you prepare for battle. If you listen to a few of the tracks, you can definitely hear the inspiration drawn from classic Final Fantasy pieces — a refreshing call-back to fans from the experimental music of recent Final Fantasy games. The music really adds to the experience instead of just being there superfluous in the background.
Gameplay (Combat, Systems, Mechanics)
The biggest and most important change in the mechanics of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn are found in the user interface and combat system. The UI of Version 1.0 was a confusing, stifling mess that was mostly unusable and needlessly complicated. Additionally, it hindered a battle system that was already broken and lackluster. For Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, they’ve addressed these two major problems by providing a slick, streamlined user interface that works fantastically on keyboard and, most impressively, gamepad. Now players have a multitude of shortcuts and quick keys that allow them to quickly access multiple menus with a few simple button presses. This philosophy of simplicity spills over into the combat side as well as the battle system has been streamlined too. Fighting in A Realm Reborn is wholly more satisfying than it’s Version 1.0 counterpart as I still find myself enjoying battle rather than becoming bored in a few hours as I did with Version 1.0. These two revamped system breathe new life into Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and provide an enjoyable and fulfilling experience.
Another great improvement that makes Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn shine is the cast of new features and new systems. Firstly, the game introduces one new class and two new jobs into the world of Eorzea: the Arcanist, the Summoner and the Scholar. Based on the summoning classes of previous Final Fantasies, these roles specialize in calling forth primals, spirits that dwell in Eorzea, to assist them and their party in battle. It’s a great addition to the roster of playable classes and fun, new feature for Final Fantasy XIV.
Furthermore, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn also comes equipped with a variety of new systems such as the FATE system, Achievements, Hunting Logs and the Duty Finder. Each of these structures is aimed at providing rewards that encourage friendly, group play and going above-and-beyond the minimum experience. For example, the FATE system is a mechanic that spawns random enemies, objectives or a boss in a certain location. Players from the surrounding area can simply just enter the FATE zone and join others in helping to complete the arduous challenge. Depending on your individual performance and the group’s performance, you are awarded a handsome amount of EXP as well as a bonus. It is a simple yet ingenious feature that succeeds in promoting inter-player connection through an epic, battle set piece. The other systems to work very well towards this feeling as well and make Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn an unending source of fun and adventure.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is an extremely fun, polished MMORPG that exceeds the expectations set by Version 1.0 immensely. With a multitude of new and reworked systems and features alongside a smooth, visually stunning world, A Realm Reborn sets the benchmark for what the MMORPG can accomplish in terms of graphics and gameplay. The game illustrates that, despite the tumultuous mess that was Version 1.0, Square Enix has made a truly impressive MMORPG experience. Although there are a few technical problems, within the game itself and on Square Enix’s side, it is a game I wholeheartedly recommend not only to fans of Final Fantasy, but to anyone who enjoys a good MMORPG.
Written and edited by Tim Atwood
Chief Editor at The Pixel Pen Review