Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has done what I thought would be impossible. I have bought a subscription based MMORPG. All hail the king of the MMORPGs.
So, why would I shell out the purchase price of a game, then a subscription fee on top of it? Well, it took some convincing from a couple friends and many coworkers. The combat is actually fun. There are world events where you just run up to a boss with whatever other players are in the area and wail away on it as a big group. Dungeons are quite reasonable in length. You can have all of the classes in the game on a single character, and when you switch classes, you keep your mount, waypoints, and similar types of progress, so there’s no beginning of the game grind to get back all the features you’re used to. A story like you’ve come to expect from the Final Fantasy series. Oh, and the trailer below might have pushed me over the edge after hearing about all of that other awesome stuff.
I have to say I think this is how some people must have felt when they first played World of Warcraft. That said, MMORPGs have come a long way since then, and this game feels like the culmination of all of those changes and then some. Imagine all the features you might want in an online RPG, and this game probably comes close. For many, it’s right there, and I know for some I’ve talked to, it easily surpasses them.
The first thing you’ll probably notice is this game looks amazing. On my wimpy system, I started out on pretty minimal settings, and even then it looked good. After tweaking some things and switching it over to maximum, it looks amazing. As you’re noticing how amazing the game looks, you’ll also notice the game is quite firmly placed in the world of Final Fantasy. This is multiplayer Final Fantasy, not Final Fantasy shoehorned into another game entirely.
This brings me to my next point. FFXIV has a real, honest to God story. It’s not cobbled together from a bunch of quests like in many MMOs. It’s a full, coherent narrative about your journey through Eorzea. Naturally, the story is told through quests, but this feels much like the progression of other Final Fantasy games, where you play for awhile, then hit a scripted scene or cutscene, then continue playing. It flows together, and there’s a sense of purpose to what you are doing in game. And I promise, what I have played so far is suitably strong, and it looks like it is growing toward an awesome finale.
The combat, on the other hand, is decidedly not Final Fantasy, but it is fun and works well for this game. When you first start, it may appear you’re about to get the standard MMO combat system. Blech! Fortunately, that is not the case. So far, every new skill I have learned has had a unique use. Every class I’ve played has its own special mechanic, such as the Arcanist’s summon, the Thaumaturge’s switch between Astral Fire and Umbral Ice to trade off between massive damage and recharging mana respectively, or the Pugilist’s stances that form different types of combos. On top of this, although enemy’s basic attacks still auto hit you, their special attacks charge up just like yours, and while they are charging you have a chance to run out of the area of effect, denoted by a template on the ground showing the attack coverage. This adds a lot of depth to the combat, as you can actually dodge enemy attacks if you play well, and this can mean the difference between life and death in many battles.
You can also play the game with mouse and keyboard or a controller. I suspect many people will prefer the mouse and keyboard, as it is pretty standard issue for MMORPGs. However, if you plug in a controller, you will see that Square Enix has done a masterful job making sure players using a controller have access to the full breadth of skills their keyboard wielding counterparts have in an easy and intuitive manner. The one thing that is a little difficult with a controller is targeting, but even that works well most of the time once you get used to it. Still, I suspect a mouse would be easier, but not so much that I’m willing to give up the comfort of sitting back with a controller.
As for what there is to do in the game, well, there’s plenty, and I’m only level 25, halfway to the level cap of 50, on a single class. Fates and Trials are what I find the most fun. Fates are group events that randomly spawn in the overworld maps, and people just walk into them and join the fray. Sometimes this is against one large enemy, while others will be against a group of smaller, but more powerful than normal, enemies. Trials are 4 person battles against the Primals, major boss monsters that you may recognize as summons from previous Final Fantasy games, but that serve more as tribal gods in this game.
Moving on from that, you also have dungeons. Like most MMORPGs, if you want to dps, you’ll probably have a wait to get in. If you’re a healer or tank, enjoy your easy ride into whatever party you like. Unlike many MMOs I’ve played, the dungeons can be completed relatively quickly. They’re more 15-30 minute affairs, as opposed to 30-60 minute endurance runs. For me, this is important, since I don’t like to commit too much time at once to one specific thing in a game. Others may care less about this, or even prefer the longer runs, but I’m a fan of the shorter dungeon.
As alluded to earlier, you can also have multiple classes on a single character. In fact, you can have all of the classes. This is awesome for many reasons. First, any gear you find, even gear that binds to your character, can be used across all of your classes. When you switch classes, you keep your progress, such as waypoints and your mount. You also get access to selected skills from your other classes, with the ability to select more skills granted by leveling your current class higher, while the skills available to use are determined by the levels achieved in your other classes. Finally, to switch classes, it’s as easy as switching your weapon outside of combat. Well, once you’ve unlocked the class, which you can do once your first class hits level 10. In short, everything is easier to manage on a single character.
So I’ve only had the game about a week. But as I’m sure you can tell reading this, I’ve been enjoying this game a lot. It has everything a great video game needs. If this were released as a single player game with tweaks made to difficulty on the party battles, I would enjoy playing it. Unlike so many MMORPGs I’ve played, this game doesn’t use multiplayer as a crutch. This game is great on it’s own merits, and the multiplayer is there as a feature, not just to prop up an otherwise mediocre game.