Final Fantasy XI was a huge deal when it launched. Massively-multiplayer online games for consoles were a very rare breed at the time, and the Final Fantasy series had never ventured into such territory before. Partially because of the massive love for FFXI, and in part because the second online Final Fantasy game just wasn’t that good, Final Fantasy XIV ended as a massive failure. Square Enix went back to the drawing board and returned with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn a few years later. Amazingly, this relaunch resulted in another excellent Final Fantasy MMORPG.
Although the game launched for PC and PS3 last year, many fans have been waiting to try it on the PlayStation 4. Of course, existing players are able to transfer their characters between the two if they desire. If you are like me, you’ll have no character to transfer between platforms because you’re completely new to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and MMO-ized Final Fantasy titles in general. Because of this, my review is written from a newbie perspective. Keep in mind that not every gamer played FFXI for years on end.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn starts players off by selecting their character’s race, appearance, and class. Then it jumps into a brief series of tutorials to get the mechanics out of the way. Even so, if you leave hints on, they will continue to crop up after hours of gameplay. That’s due to the fact that it’s a seriously dense game.
Everything starts out pretty simple, though. For a while all you have to do is meander around town to find new quests to complete. Quests are split up between types relating to killing monsters, collecting items, or ferrying goods between people. In response, gracious quest givers provide monetary compensation, items, and other good stuff. It’s all pretty standard RPG fare. However, after you start leveling up, the game introduces multiple new types of quests to pursue.
For example, there are quests assigned by guilds which go by the name of Guildleves. These repeatable quests come in a trio of forms: Battlecraft, Fieldcraft, Tradecraft. Each of these appeals to specific classes. There are also things like Levequests that offer copious experience for successful completion of their tasks. As for the standard quests themselves, they fall between story-related and sidequests. Completing story quests progresses the storyline forward while the others are just for leveling up and nabbing rewards.
With a massive deluge of quests always present, you’ll be spending a lot of time meandering the landscape. Once out of a town, you’re ready to fight against a wealth of enemies scattered across Hydaelyn. Monsters are always present on the field and may charge when anyone comes near or require you to strike first. By default, their HP bars and levels are displayed, letting everyone know if they stand a chance or not. Because this is an MMO, depending on quest type, random players may help out during battles.
Fights themselves are surprisingly simple to carry out on a DualShock 4. The default setup of pressing a shoulder button and then direction of the requested skill is fast and simple, although you can use a keyboard and mouse if it’s not to your liking. After targeting an enemy you begin to unleash various attack or support abilities. For those who tank, that means getting up close to a monster and slamming it with tons of powerful specials. Healers and other spellcasting types do best from a safe distance, of course. Outside of particular quests you can usually run away if that ends up being the best option. With that said, dying doesn’t cause much of a hindrance, making it an okay option as well. Battles range from simplistic to complex, with enemies spawning new ones or creating special effects on the battlefield.
You don’t even need to be working on a quest to engage in fights thanks to the prevalence of FATEs across Final Fantasy XIV’s world. FATEs are recurring battles that happen in various places and grant a good deal of experience for their completion. They require players to beat a certain enemy (or enemies) within a contained area in a certain timeframe. What is appealing about FATEs is that they generally draw at least a few players to them at any time. The game feels strangely lonely sometimes until suddenly there are swarms of other users working on a FATE with you.
The weird thing about classes in this game is that they’re not very rigid at all. Players begin with their chosen class but after level 10 can begin testing out new ones. By simply changing your equipped items to those of another class you’ll begin playing as them. Switching classes is nearly like creating a new character. For example, if you switch from a Marauder weapon set to an Arcanist’s, your character will revert to level 1. Effectively, you’re a level 1 Arcanist and can then proceed to level that one up. Levels for each class are saved so that once you equip items of a previously used class your character’s level will return to what it had been before.
This is not the only way that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn grants players freedom with their characters. Also included is the ability to utilize skills across classes. Upon leveling up in increments of five, a slot to place another class’s skill appears. What this means is that you don’t have to actually be a White Mage to utilize their healing abilities and can simply slot it to a Pugilist. However, skills gained after level 34 remain class-specific regardless. Because the current level cap is 50, there are 10 cross skill slots available.
Getting over the game’s terminology proves difficult, but only for a few hours; much sooner if you talk with FFXIV-experienced friends. As this is an MMORPG, you’re highly suggested to do so – and also play together! Because of the way classes work, veteran players likely still have some classes they need to work on. Tagging along with a friend or two is great in most instances, although unfortunately certain quests lock players into solo encounters. Finally, even if you find that your friends are in a different server, there is still a way to play together. Dungeons are cross-server meaning that once you gain access to them you’ll be able to play with anyone.
It’s commendable how well the PS4 version of the game runs. PS3 players will definitely feel slighted if they catch a stream of it in action. As far as I can tell, it looks about as good as the game does on high settings via PC and has a great interface. There’s also a tremendous amount of GUI customization if something’s not quite right. Unfortunately, text is incredibly tiny and for some reason there’s no option to change it (only chat text size). For this reason it isn’t recommended to play on Vita via Remote Play if you’re intending to read anything. Of course, so much of the quest chatter is filler that it is no big loss.
It’s amazing that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn managed to turn a generally detested game into a great one, but this is proof it’s possible. Playing on PS4 is quite the experience as well. Not only does it perform similarly to the PC version, but the developers made sure to create an inviting control scheme for the console audience. This is a game that will take some time to understand, but is definitely worth the investment. Those who already have friends playing have even less reason not to jump in. As far as MMORPGs go, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is at the top of its class.
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4