THE NEW BEGINNING
After the negative criticism of Final Fantasy XIV, Square Enix made a brave decision not all developers would have done. They admitted the flaws of the game and decided to re-develop it from the scratch by creating a brand new engine, composing new music and making big changes to the user interface and battle system. This way they wanted to bring a great and promised Final Fantasy MMO game for the fans and try to fix the brand damage. Storywise, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn takes place in the land of Eorzea, five years after the events of Final Fantasy XIV.
And finally, after many delays of PlayStation 3 version, we got our hands on the beta version of the game. I was very excited to see if Square Enix could fulfill their promises and how does it feel to play my very first MMO game – What’s the best, it is a Final Fantasy! Let’s get started and dive into the lively world of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn!
The game starts by creating your own character. In beta, they let you choose between five different races: Hyur, Elezen, Lalafell, Miqo’te and Roegadyn. Every race has its own clans which make little changes to your character’s appearance. I ended up choosing a human-cat-looking and tail-owning race, Miqo’te (female) with lancer class. Other classes available were gladiator, pugilist, marauder, archer, conjurer and thaumaturge. The finished version will have even more different classes such as newly-announced scholar.
There are many various ways to tune up your character to look more unique such as choosing the right hairstyle, height, lips, eyes, colors and voice acting, for example. The first disappointment with the character creation I faced was the lack of different kinds of hairstyles and when trying to match the colors of eyes and hair. Like Nomura recently said in an interview, hair makes characters look more unique and personal – That’s exactly how I feel as well.
With the basic clothes, I would have wanted more customization options because at the beginning everyone basically looked the same. However, by continuing the journey new clothes and equipment will be unlocked from the stores and received as a reward from quests. Your gender, race and class also affect your choice of gear because not everything can be used by everyone.
Eventually, I looked like a fashion road kill with my red sorceress hat, blue gloves, beige shirt, black boots and red skirt. This is why I would like to see players being given a chance to change colors of their equipment and clothes in the final game. It’s hard to look like a stylish and fabulous hero and slay monsters at same time, isn’t it?
EXPLORING THE WORLD AND COMPLETING QUESTS
I’m going to the adventure!
After solving my fashion crisis, I finally got a chance to dive in the world of Eorzea. The story of the beta starts in a wagon that is on its way to your starting village. While traveling, you chat with a man about being an adventurer and what do you want from your journey. Money? Power? Glory? Suddenly a group of Moogles appear to play trumpets and welcome you in the game in this hilarious cutscene. You are being told that you’re only one who can see these little guys who turned out to be quite naughty little fellas. They stole that poor man’s beer! Or was it wine? To younger readers, it was water. Magic water.
As I chose the class of lancer, I ended up to the village of Gridania. Near the village was a great big forest where killer squirrels, lady bugs and trees were living. At first, you meet the leaders of the town and do little tutorial tasks to get familiar with traveling mechanics, shopping and basic controls. Other missions include things such as luring monsters out from their nests and slaying them, item collecting, finding people, delivering items and cheering up others.
On your way to complete your main quests you get a chance to do side quests as well. By completing quests you earn gils, XP, items and unlock more quests, as you gain the respect of local villagers. To accept more challenging story missions, you may need to reach higher levels and upgrade your gear. There are also special FATE quests which are located to random areas for a short time. These missions might be quite challenging but the rewards are worth it.
During those few hours that I got to play the game, I didn’t have time to travel to other cities because I was too enthusiastically completing fun missions and slaying bigger and smaller monsters with my friends. For those who wanted travel to/visit other places, game provides many different ways to do it: On feet, rent a chocobo or even buy tickets to the airship! Once you get to new areas and remember to activate teleports, you can easily fast travel to places you have already visited.
Like I mentioned earlier your class also defines your starting town. This is somewhat dull because every town has a guild for every class and it also separates friends who have chosen different classes and they need to travel a lot to reunite. It works storywise but I hoped to start the game in the same town with my friends.
Bring it on!….Run! RUN! RUUUUNN!
As usual in Final fantasy experience, the battle system plays a big part alongside the story. In Final Fantasy XIV, battles happen in real time but aren’t as fast and action oriental as in Final Fantasy XIII -saga. It still manages to provide very entertaining, cinematic and epic experience.
In the beginning, you have only one basic attack and more are attacks, abilities and skills are unlocked by leveling up the character. Each ability can be used once and need be recharged (recharging takes from second to minutes) before you can use them again. By combining right attacks, hitting the right part of the enemy and using (de)buffs, you can create even more powerful combos and deal a great amount of damage. Some attacks even demand stealth skills from the player! These little elements make the gameplay experience even more strategical.
The chain system plays a big part when it comes to leveling up. By getting higher chain level, more XP will be received. It will only be available for a certain time and to keep and grow the chain level up you need to slay enemies alone or together with others.
Similar to FINAL FANTASY XIII, the enemies will be visible in the area but won’t attack you unless you do the start. This also makes the forest seem nicely lively when traveling through it. Other feature very similar to Thirteen is that you will gain your hp back soon after fights. If you get killed after taking over a way too big challenge, you will be restored back to the place you have set home location. This also happened to me when I hit a giant and angry tree “by accident.” (After planting kawaii baby trees at my work for two weeks I wanted my revenge!) Thanks to my helpful friends, I eventually got my respectful revenge and now the evil killer tree is gone.
After fighting and facing different kinds of challenges not only you will get damaged but your gear as well. This is why you need to join repairing guilds and learn to use materials to fix your gear. If they deal too much damage, their protecting and attacking abilities will deteriorate and in the end they will break apart and be lost forever. Beginners don’t need to worry about it until they reach level 10. You can always go and bring them to store where a helpful person will repair them for your gils.
The battle system had some flaws like choosing enemies because you need scroll through all characters on the view and it might get a bit frustrating, especially in challenging battles when you’re in trouble and can’t find the right enemy. Another not so common a flaw was the frame rate issue in bigger battles where lots of content is on the screen at the same time.
There is a great feature in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn that will likely please gamers who have friends playing on PC or PlayStation. The cross-play feature means PC and PlayStation players are allowed to play together on the same servers. Basically, if your friend has PC version and you got the PS3 one, you can still play together! Pretty cool and useful!
When playing multiplayers, the communicating is very essential when trying to take down the bigger monsters, for example. The game provides you a chance to communicate through a chatbox which can be party only or public. In the beta, many people were using it to ask help and others tried to help them as best as they could. Really useful if you’re having little problems like missing items. Still, because of the slowness of chatting I moved Skype chat with my friend.
I’m a bit disappointed that the game won’t support in-game voice chat which I have noticed to be very important when playing multiplayers with friends. I would have loved this feature and I really hope it will be added to the game at some point. For now, you need to use Skype or other similar program which supports voice chatting to be in contact with your friends.
You can add 200 people in your friendlist from both PC and PS3 versions. Moogle Mail Service deliveries your letters where you can add equipment or gils your friends might need. As a very generous man, I actually sent love letters with 1 gil included in them as a surprise for my friends. They never answered back.
Another way to communicate is with emotions. They are little animations your character is performing to others. Actually, there was a really funny quest where you needed to cheer up a sad girl by surprising her with random emotions! While others were hunting monsters I tried to cheer up them as well but none of them were impressed. (RUDE!)
The soul yearns for honor, and the flesh the hereafter -Answers
A Realm Reborn continues carrying on a great and high quality soundtrack that has become a standard for Final Fantasy series. I really fell in love with my town, Gridania’s theme song. (see the video above) It fits well to the mood and environment of the area. It also contains melodies which remind me of the new beginning and hope. The few tracks I heard such as battle theme, were overally great and I’m really looking forward to hear the full soundtrack of the game. By the way! FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn will have a brand new soundtrack which is mainly composed by Masayoshi Soken.
MMO games need much RAM to work because the world and areas are large and there will be lots of other players and content on the screen at the same time. Due to low RAM of PlayStation 3, Square Enix needed to do compromises to make the game playable on it. And the limitations have their costs. At first the game didn’t look as graphically impressive as you could expect a Final Fantasy title to look like. But it’s quickly forgotten because of the lively environment and great art direction. If you want to play the game with better graphics, why not to pick up the PC version since you can still play it with your PlayStation friends. There will be a PS4 version coming out in 2014!
The user interface was logical and worked just fine. I was glad that it worked smoothly and didn’t have any sort of lag. During my test session, the game froze only once when using a teleport to travel from place to another.
After playing the beta and writing this preview, I’m very pleased to say that “the re-release reboot sequel” of Final Fantasy XIV will be more hit than miss. It doesn’t feel any less Final Fantasy than other titles from the series. The gameplay is really fun and entertaining, especially for a team worker like me who loves multiplayer experiences.
I really hope they will be adding even more customization choices to hairstyles and beginning clothes that all the newcomers wouldn’t look like clones of each other. The biggest flaw of the game, though, is the missing in-game voice chat feature which is quite essential to me with multiplayer games.
I would also like to see FFXIV:ARR team to develop an app for tablets and mobile devices that you could use for chatting with your friends, following your characters progress, changing equipment and sending friend requests, for example.
Altogether, the setting of the game seems interesting enough to make me want to play it more and more, slay stronger and bigger monsters, examine the world and rule it as the Queen Fabulous. It’s great to see that A Realm Reborn is on its way to claim the promises of delivering an entertaining true Final Fantasy multiplayer experience. I’m looking forward to giving my final judgement after the game is out this fall!