Hands-On: Final Fantasy A Realm Reborn

Final Fantasy XIV has had its share of up’s and downs, mostly downs, since its release in 2010 forcing Square Enix to admit defeat and rebuild the entire game from scratch. A Realm Reborn is the product of that dedication and while it may not be the next step for MMORPG’s, it won’t make you think to yourself “wow, this is what i’ve been missing from not playing these games earlier.” But what it lacks in anything revolutionary it makes up for with all the little details and touches the team have put into it. This is the game that fans of the series were hoping for several years back and one that can proudly wear the Final Fantasy name.

Most games nowadays go down one of two leveling paths. You either get to completely custom build your character from scratch, or you can have the computer do it for you and have no say other than choosing that characters starting class. A Realm Reborn however does a bit of both. In Final Fantasy XIV, regardless of class and how they should be built, the player gains Attribute Points that you can freely spend in six categories, much like a typical RPG. You get these skill points every even level, starting at lvl 10 and according to a few sources online you can get a total of thirty points to spend how you wish. The six areas to spend your points consist of Strength, Dexterity, Vitality, Intelligence, Mind, and Piety (which increases your MP bar which is good for every class as thats also your stamina meter)

What this system allows, a system Guild Wars 2 originally had but got rid of for “ease of use”, is the option for players to add some extra ownership and customizability to their character. If you want a tank that can crit more than usual, spend your points on Dex and get that extra chance. Want a mage that can take more of a beating at the cost of damage, then go for it. Its your choice and that is always good.

While Final Fantasy centers around picking a single class, that character can then train to become other classes at will, switching your profession is as simple as changing your weapon to that of another. This feature, while interesting and well done, also brings with it its own downside. The class you are playing is restricted to only one weapon style.

If you have played any type of RPG title in the past, you are more than likely used to freely switching weapon types whenever you wish. You have gotten used to a game that sets you up differently depending on what play style you want to try. Its not like that here. If you’re a Marauder in A Realm Reborn, you are stuck wielding a two handed axe. If you’re a Templar you wield a shield and single handed weapon (either a dagger or sword). This limitation is not a deal breaker by any means, but for those that prefer or are accustomed to player flexibility when it comes to your weapon loadouts, this may take awhile to get accustomed to.

Speaking of the Templar profession, every class in A Realm Reborn can become something more than they start off as. This feature allows for a player who has chosen to start out as a Gladiator in the beginning of the game, to become a Templar towards the middle, which comes with its own perks and skills to play with. This particular act of “evolving” your chosen class requires that you have two previous jobs at high enough levels before it can be done, but the constant option of nabbing other class’s and building them up offers the player many choices on how to build up their character.

This act of job switching brings with it another set of perks besides just changing your characters abilities and that is the option of using certain skills in any role. Every class in the game, be it caster or melee, has at least one skill that most of the other roles can take and use in their own line up. If you are a Marauder (like i am) you can pick one of three skills from his abilities to use in another job. Now the skill has to be compatible with that other class, but if it is you can then slot it into their ability bar and have an extra option in combat.

For example I have a Marauder who uses the Gladiator skill Convalescence, which increases healing from spells or skills by 20%. This ability happens to work very well with my Marauder skill Bloodbath, which converts 25% of my attack damage as healing for 15 seconds. Now my character heals at 45% which helps out quite a bit. This is just one example of the class combinations at the players disposal. The Glad class has four skills that I can use on my Marauder but Convalescence just seems to fit my playstyle a bit more than the others.

Now I am not a big fan of nor have I played a previous Final Fantasy title so the classes and races within a Realm Reborn are entirely new to me. Where one may give me a sense of wonder, it might give fans a nice sense of nostalgia and the feeling of coming home. There are plenty of fan favorite creatures running about the game world such as Moogles and Chocobos as well as a pretty remarkable soundtrack, especially for an MMO.

The game is also helped by its great presentation. From its well managed and customizable UI to the gorgeous environments, Final Fantasy is a pleasant visual experience. Detailed character models blend seamlessly with the well done environments and the perfect lighting is the cherry on top. Creature designs are oftentimes more elaborate and exciting than your typical MMO as well.

While the game plays like your typical MMO (combat consists of hitting icons or numbers in your hot bar) and the missions themselves are oftentimes quite basic, it does try to battle the repetitive nature by cutting away some of the grindy nature of quests. Now thats not to say someone won’t ask you to go kill 15 of a specific creature to get their fur, but in most games when they say that you need to kill 50 of those animals to get the 15 furs you need. Not this game! If an NPC asks for 15 furs its 15 animals, no more, no less, than the task is done. I love this simplistic nature of the quests. Having played titles such as Aion where you may spend literally hours hunting creatures for one item, this is a huge deal to me and I love every mission for it.

Now there are some drawbacks to this system, for example you’re not getting the same amount of kill xp while you’re out doing the mission. So you might find yourself lvl 8 and waiting to lvl 10 to get the next big block of available missions. Luckily they remedy this issue with side quests that are repeatable, and they have your hunting log, which depending on what class you are playing as changes up which animals you should be out hunting. Hunt enough of these and you’ll nab some bonus xp and once the whole list is completed you get another reward and additional xp. So there are things in place to help you “move along” and get you to explore new areas and level your character.

A Realm Reborn includes plenty of content and many of the current staples of the MMO genre such as pets, mounts, dungeons, world events, rest xp, story missions complete with cutscenes and deep character customization. The games first content update will also include PVP content and player housing. These larger foundations are coupled nicely with the small pieces of charm that Square have put into the game, such as race specific emotes and the fact that you can sleep in your bed when you log out and then you log back in you get up off your mattress complete with rest xp.

After a hazardous launch several years ago coupled with a complete shutdown, A Realm Reborn had plenty of obstacles to avoid falling flat on its face again. Luckily for Square Enix, the game is another solid entry in the MMO space. What it comes down to is the question of whether or not the game is fun to play, and it is. While its a lot of the same stuff MMO players have come to expect its different enough to keep you in its world, and though it is disappointing you can’t change your weapon per class, it gives you enough options to tweak your class just enough to keep you wanting to see more. Also, A Realm Reborn isn’t simply on the PC, but is a massive MMO also available on the PlayStation 3 and in the future, PlayStation 4 consoles. And the controls for the console counterpart? They are done very nicely. This is an MMO that my brother Chuck, actually plays with his Xbox controller on the PC, a feat he hasn’t been able to do with any other title in the genre.

Game of the year? No
Worth a monthly fee? Maybe
Worth 30 bucks to try it out? Yes
Will I continue to play it? Yes

Is Final Fantasy XIV the next big leap for the massively multiplayer space? No. Will the game go Free to Play sooner rather than later? Probably. But give them the chance to make some of their investment back on this large goal. Square Enix managed to rebuild an entire game from the ground up into what it should have been originally, and that is no small feat.  If you are on a tight budget wait for a Realm Reborn to go on sale and then check it out, but make sure to check it out in a year or so when it may be available to all for free. –Chris

Hands-On Rundown

  • + Graphics and animations
  • + Character Customization
  • + Only need for one Character
  • – Only one weapon type per class
  • – Slow introduction
  • – Mission variety

“Hands-On Impression”

“Good”

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