Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn (PlayStation 4) Review

By Az Elias 20.05.2014 3

Review for Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn on PlayStation 4

It takes some guts for a company to admit it messed up. It takes even bigger guts to rebuild an entire failed project from scratch, in the hope of restoring the faith of the fans, even if it means heavy losses. That is exactly what Square Enix did with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, though, and it just so happened that it paid off in more ways than one, with the revamped MMORPG proving to be very successful financially, since its PC and PS3 launches last year. Now, it is time for PlayStation 4 owners to step into the grand lands of Eorzea, too.

For this Final Fantasy fan that simply never ventured into the MMO genre at all, there was always this feeling that the online entries into the series weren't as appealing as any other mainline game. Having now put considerable time into both the beta and final PS4 release of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, however, the conversion has been completed, and it is easy to see just why this genre is so popular; it is incredibly addictive.

Approaching A Realm Reborn as a complete MMORPG newbie, it is remarkable to see that this game has a stronger essence of Final Fantasy than anything else that has come out in the series for many years. The beauty of the franchise is that it can take all sorts of directions, but the medieval fantasy setting used in A Realm Reborn evokes the feelings of those classic NES and SNES titles, taking it into the realms of one of the most believable Final Fantasy worlds to date.

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From the grand city of Ul'dah, which has a strong Final Fantasy XII Rabanastre impression about it, to the homely, beautiful forests of Gridania, to the swashbuckling ports of Limsa Lominsa, the city-states of Eorzea, and all of the towns and other areas contained within, are bustling with life. The fact that hundreds of other players are running around, going about their own adventures, works in favour of creating a convincing, real world, where NPCs can't quite pull off the same job.

Impressive draw distances, ever-changing weather, day and night cycles, and huge open worlds to explore - vitally designed with a minimal amount of loading - all go hand-in-hand to really draw players in. Eorzea feels like a second home in many ways; it is inviting, and it is hard to step away.

Importantly, players are eased into this MMO in a considerate and welcoming manner. The type of character created at the beginning determines which of the three states the game begins in, and it is in this new home that players will learn the mechanics of the game, journeying in and around the city, taking part in small fetch quests to get used to where certain areas and people of interest are, and a few hunts to practice the battle system and the chosen weapon of choice.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn on PlayStation 4

A big complaint with the original Final Fantasy XIV was that it pretty much plonked players into the game with a lack of direction, not really giving any indication as to what to do or where to go. Whilst that may have been fine to some, to the unfamiliar it was overwhelming. A Realm Reborn goes to great lengths to really make this as user- and newbie-friendly as possible, locking down certain features of the menu until they become available through natural progression, to really ensure each new aspect is given time to be understood, and a clear course is presented so as to advance with the story.

For the vast majority of newcomers to the online side of Final Fantasy, it is the story that will be of the utmost importance out of all of the features presented in A Realm Reborn. Crucially, it is delivered at a good pace for the most part, with side-quests filling in the gaps to keep the required character level topped up to allow the story to proceed. A lot of the quests will be fetching and hunting, so that definitely needs to be gotten used to, but the core of the plot revolves around familiar crystal territory, and the threat of both the Primals being summoned by the different beast tribes of the realm, and of the technologically-advanced Garlean Empire, which has been suspiciously quiet since the fall of the moon. This is a story far away from the extravagance of recent games, delivering a mature angle comparable to that of Final Fantasy XII and other FF games of the medieval ilk. The lore of the world is incredibly impressive and detailed, with a high quality English translation that is delivered in an 'olde' English style, further setting the Middle Age fantasy tone.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn on PlayStation 4

Cleverly, the closure of the original Final Fantasy XIV has been turned into a plot element for A Realm Reborn, by destroying the original world and using that as a basis for the new story, where it has been five years since that calamitous event. It takes a while to get going, but with each new Primal fight, the story opens up that little bit more, although it has to be said that it isn't until very late on that the meat of the story presents itself. It also becomes a grind fest at roughly the late level 30s onwards, where some replaying of instances is necessary to gain enough EXP to be the required levels for story quests.

In the meantime, there is plenty to be going on with, with all of the side quests, dungeons, trials and events to participate in, player versus player battles, jobs to master, items to craft, fish to catch, and so much more. The endgame adds a ton of additional content on top of this, featuring harder and new dungeons with difficult bosses, requiring multiple parties to participate. The main story is merely a portion of what A Realm Reborn has to offer. From that newbie standpoint, it is difficult to say just whether A Realm Reborn really does a lot different from other MMOs that have come and gone, or are still going. What can most assuredly be said, though, is that there is no lack of things to do, and there is no lack of fun to be had.

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Tackling all of this with friends and in parties is where so much of that fun lies. It is the community that makes an MMO enjoyable, and even after just a short time spent playing in Eorzea, there are friendly faces everywhere to help guide others along. Taking part in the dungeons and other various trials initially requires a party of four (rising to more in later events), whether it is formed of random players all searching for a group at the same time, or a readymade party of friends that plan to tackle the duty together. It can be a long wait for damage per second (DPS) players that search for the required tanks and healers, and that can grow extremely tiresome. Switching on the options of joining sessions already in progress and being open to joining Japanese, German and French speaking players can help to reduce the wait, but it is possible to go off and do some other questing whilst the game searches for players.

More often than not, though, experienced players will use the chat box to make sure newcomers know what they are to do, and how to tackle certain bosses, and the like. As with any MMO, there will be impatient ones that sadly drop out, and whether on purpose or not, anyone dropping out after over an hour of playing through a dungeon can be a huge frustration for those that then cannot complete it unless a new member turns up. Such aspects are part and parcel of an MMO, but when everyone cooperates in a friendly manner, there is nothing more fulfilling than successfully working as a team to get through a dungeon and slaying the end boss.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn on PlayStation 4

A big question floating over the head of many potential PS4 buyers, is how well A Realm Reborn controls using the DualShock 4. Surprisingly well, actually, is the answer. It may be no match for a traditional keyboard and mouse setup for PC gamers, but all things considered, the PS4 controller is used to very good effect, providing a comfortable experience for those that wish to use a pad. Lots of shortcuts for attacks and items can be assigned and flicked through with just a couple of button presses, and the Touch Pad acts as a nifty replacement for a mouse cursor, should it be required at all. There is no doubt that the controls can be a fiddly affair to begin with, but after some continued use, it is evident that the transfer from keyboard to controller has been pulled off very well. Keyboard and mouse fans should worry not, though, as it is entirely possible to hook the peripherals up to a PS4 to play the old-fashioned way. Heck, there is even PS Vita remote play, making the portable device the perfect companion for lounging around to do some mining, crafting or fishing.

Equally delightful is the fact that the entire HUD can be customised to each individual's liking, where just about everything that displays around the sides of the screen can be turned on or off, and moved to any position to better suit their preference. All sorts of measures have been put in place in order to make the game as accessible and user-friendly as possible.

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If a total foreigner to the MMORPG genre, but a fan of Final Fantasy, and really interested in trying out A Realm Reborn, there are some things that need to be drilled home. Firstly, this is a vastly different game to any previous title in the series. The mechanics, the battle system, the MMO lingo, the need to repeat dungeons for the grind, the way in which certain characters have very specific roles when working as a team, the continued added content…all of this is hugely unlike past FF games, and it will take time and dedication to become accustomed to it. The other key requirement is free time. To invest in an MMO is, more often than not, a long term commitment. Once hooked, that's it: there's no escape.

For anyone who doesn't like MMOs as it is, A Realm Reborn is unlikely to change minds, but with a free month's trial period with every purchase of the game, it is very much worth trying out, as it can be picked up rather cheaply. Curious Final Fantasy fans should definitely consider it, and then put as much time as they can into those 30 days. It certainly has the power to convert any sceptical non-MMO players.

Just two-and-a-half years of development, then, and producer and director Naoki Yoshida has performed the miraculous in completely turning this one-time disaster of an MMO on its head. He may have his hands tied and remain dedicated to putting out solid and packed updates to A Realm Reborn for the foreseeable future, but the Eorzean gods know he deserves a shot at a stand-alone offline Final Fantasy title someday.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

An online MMO this may be, but do not write this off as a Final Fantasy title that isn't worth the time, because it does the name incredible justice, bringing together a heap of fan service and one of the most inviting and believable medieval fantasy worlds in the series. Utterly addictive and packed to the brim with what is currently months' worth of content - with years' more of it guaranteed in regular updates - Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn absolutely deserves taking that leap for both MMO and Final Fantasy fans alike. Just be prepared for something very different if not coming from an MMO background, and to say goodbye to whatever free time there once was.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

If you enjoyed this, it might be worth tracking down a cheap version of FFXI with all the extras bundled in together. I've only heard good things about that...

Sadly, I don't think I'd be able to commit time to something like this, which is a shame from the sound of things!

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Did think about getting FFXI not long ago, but the subscription fees and time that needs to go into these MMOs made me not go ahead. Maybe one day I'll reconsider. But definitely think I'll be jumping back into FFXIV at some point in the future. I've been converted. Some of the future updates sound awesome.

I've still got FFXI sat just to the right of where I'm sitting typing this, next to my copy of Crystal Chronicles on GC. Sadly, I didn't make best use of the free online time...and then decided to not bother with it at all. I do that with FAR too many games, sadly.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

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