Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn (PC) Review

By Ian Soltes 28.12.2017

Review for Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn on PC

No one expected anything great of Final Fantasy XIV. After its dismal beta and "launch," it looked closer to Final Fantasy XIV: A Franchise Destroyed than anything else. Something amazing happened, though. Something that almost never happens within the game industry. The developers admitted they messed up and started over. The result? A game reborn that is worthy of praise.

The above may not sound impressive or important to deciding the quality of the game. After all, the developer messing up, admitting it, then trying to repair it doesn't suddenly change world maps or alter how strong or weak the game is in comparison to others, right? Well… Yes. Kind of. This admission of wrongdoing and failure resulted in a core change to the underlying philosophy of how Final Fantasy XIV was made that reverberates through its current design regardless of how married or divorced from its launch it is - or, in simpler terms, "they learned from their mistakes and it shows."

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn takes place in the world of Eorzea in which a massive war was waged between the Eorzean Alliance and the invading Garlean Empire that ended with the Empire releasing Bahumut from his prison in the moon to destroy the land, tearing it asunder, causing both sides to retreat and enter into a ceasefire. However this does not, in any way, mean peace has come. Beast tribes gnaw away at the three nations, eager to summon up their own primal beings, while various other threats stir and, from beyond their wall, the Garlean Empire waits with baited breath for an opening. However, the Warrior of Light has returned and the tide of the war can finally be tilted!

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn on PC

Right off the bat, there is a lot to Final Fantasy XIV that simply cannot be touched upon in a review or article without turning it into a mighty behemoth. There is a lot of content and detail to the game - and it shows. At the start, the player is allowed to choose from one of several different jobs, which later transform into the iconic Final Fantasy classes, such as Paladin and White Mage. However, whereas in other MMOs picking a class at the start would lock a character into that class, that isn't the case here. A short ways in, the player will become capable of switching their class around freely to whichever one they desire. This is highly unusual for an MMO and allows the player to, if they feel that they just aren't working with a specific class, just switch out to another without penalty or having to make a new character.

Combat itself follows a fairly standard format for MMOs, but, unusually, manages to capture both the feeling of a turn-based battle due to a more methodical approach to skills, and an amazing feeling of struggle and effort against the various bosses. Especially since FFXIV, in addition to featuring the standard dungeons, also features "trials," which are massive battles against a single boss such as Ifrit. This setup allows for some intense sections that don't have a prior dungeon to frustrate the player and is free to be inventive.

Visually, A Realm Reborn is quite impressive, as well, and, while it likely won't tax anyone's computer, it does showcase exactly why graphical power is meaningless without something interesting to show. From the gentle seaside of La Noscea to the massive forests of the Black Shroud, there is very little in the game that doesn't look visually impressive while, at the same time, not being overly demanding in any way.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn on PC

In an unusual case, mentioning the sound and audio track is a must! Why? Because all of the game's music is lovely and matches well with the world for an experience that simply isn't found in other MMOs. When fighting Shiva in the middle of the beautifully frozen lands while dodging barrages of icicles and snow golems, after reaching the point where she casts Diamond Dust, suddenly the soft and almost rhythmic snowfall-like music switches to the fast-paced, loud, and brutal lyrics of Oblivion. A simply wonderful experience.

Even stuff normally considered filler in other games, such as crafting, is surprisingly involved and engaging. Instead of simply clicking "craft Cubed3 review," there is actual work and effort involved. Firstly, a bar must be raised up to max in a certain number of tries. Sounds simple, right? That is until the chance for high quality arises, which can lead to trying to strike a balance. Then there is the item's current state to factor in. Not to mention ensuring that ingredients of the proper quality are used. Crafting isn't a little diversion or even a mini-game, but a full-on legitimate class in and of itself worthy of respect to the combat classes.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn on PC

To top it off, there is no concern about trying to play with a friend and out-levelling them or being low-levelled and attempting to scrape together a group for a specific dungeon. The game will perform a level sync for dungeons and the like, as it scales the player down to that level to play with others. For older players, this means that there will always be plenty of varied dungeons to run as opposed to two or three endgame ones, while, conversely, newer players will never be struggling to find groups and can be easily carried on the backs of their stronger brethren should trouble arise.

However, the cherry atop everything is a surprising one. While other MMOs might opt for PvP, difficult raids, and so forth, the best thing about Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is the story. One would be forgiven for thinking that the story would be little more than filler garbage, meant to shuttle the players between zones and explaining who the person in need of a pummelling is. This is not so with FFXIV. In its place is a wonderful story on par with any single-player title and surpassing many. Over the various patches, plenty of new story bits have been added in, with well-developed characters and intrigue, and it is very well explained throughout.

This is not to say that the game is perfect by a longshot, however. Like a shade, the design flaws of the original still loom over its shoulder. A good example would be the retainer system. Instead of simply putting things onto a market board, a player must first give the items to a retainer to sell on the market, with a maximum of 20 at a time being a prime example. There are some systems that seem to spin their wheels or be dead ends, overly-tuned content, and similar stuff scattered throughout. It's not a perfect game, but it's still wonderful.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

The reasoning for such high praise of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn should be obvious. At the end of the day, the simple fact is that Square Enix actually put in effort and care and managed to craft something that truly is Final Fantasy through and through. It would have been so easy to declare this game a lost cause or just do the minimal amount of work to make it viable, but, instead, the developers dedicated themselves to turning this MMO on its head - and they succeeded.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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

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