Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Review

I must begin this review with an immediate confession – I have never really played a Final Fantasy game before in depth or to completion. I recently started a game on Final Fantasy XIII simply because I think Lightning is incredibly hot (call it a nerd crush, whatever). I tried to play Final Fantasy XI, but I just couldn’t really get into it despite some good friends that played it. Those same friends are now on Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and I’ve decided to give the franchise another go as a way of staying in touch, since I recently moved across the country.

When it comes to Massively-Multiplayer-Online (MMO) games, I started with Phantasy Star Online during the days of the Sega Dreamcast, then I became much more of a World of Warcraft player. I have been away from World of Warcraft for years now though and the idea of returning sickens me with all the crap they’ve destroyed it with recently, in my opinion. I tried DC Universe Online with my PS3 and it’s alright, fun, but nothing special. I have been anxious to play Marvel Heroes, but I lack a decent PC and I’ll be jumping on Elder Scrolls Online on the PS4 once it releases. I do like having an MMO in my life, so for now, I think I have found a good fit with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

Final Fantasy XIV originally released in 2010, but the title unfortunately flopped back then and it was not something many people were interested in playing due to a long list of complaints. The game underwent a project for rebirth, hence the subtitle, “A Realm Reborn” and was later re-released late August 2013 with much, much more success. If you were a player of the original, hopefully I can get you to come back and if you haven’t played it at all, maybe someone in my shoes that never really picked up a Final Fantasy game, hopefully I can get you to try it out!

The story for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn begins with the original, in which the Garlean Empire invades the once-peaceful realm of Eorzea. The Empire’s 8th Imperial Legion Legatus (Nael van Darnus), a total psychopath intent on destroying all that he deems as being impure, devises a plan to summon Dalamud (a lesser moon) to wipe out all life on Eorzea. While the forces of the Grand Companies (3 separate governments of Eorzea) were able to combine their forces and put an end to Nael’s life, Dalamud was still on its path of trajectory, endangering the realm.

In a mad dash to save their home, they turn to an ingenious scholar named Louisoix who intends to call upon the power of the Twelve, a group of guardians, to help stop the threat brought on by Dalamud. When the lesser moon enters the realm’s atmosphere, it is revealed to be a prison for Bahmut, a powerful elder primal. Bahmut brings destruction all over Eorzea but not before Louisoix is able to use the last of his strength to summon the power of the Twelve to teleport what’s left of Eorzea’s survivors (including the player) into a future that is safe enough to rebuild their land.

Fast forward five years later, and here we are, starting out with our created character in a reborn realm. With time having passed, both old and new adventurers return, the memories somewhat of a blur now from the journey. Most of the plotline for A Realm Reborn revolves around piecing together the events of the past, from the release of Bahmut to the present time and reconstructing Eorzea; which brings them to face the beastmen tribes (who are releasing their primal gods upon the land), the Garlean Empire who still seeks to take control, and the Ascians, a group that not much is known of.

If you understood that, or even cared, kudos to you! In all honesty, I don’t play an MMO for the story. I understand they need one, but I find myself more drawn to them for the social aspects and gameplay which is what I get to talk about now!

First things first – character creation, one of my favourite things ever for an RPG. The amount of detail that goes into creating a character (assuming that you don’t randomize it), can take you up to an hour, maybe longer, depending on how indecisive and/or detailed you are. There are five races to choose from (for now) and those are Hyur (Humans), Elezen (Elves), Lalafell (Gnomes), Miqo’te (Cats), and Roegadyn (Reptiles). Now don’t quote me on the (alternate race name) as it isn’t official, it’s just how I see them, personally. From the selection of your chosen race, you proceed to the rest of the customization (which I won’t list all, as I included a photo) ranging from the normal attributes you’d expect (height, hair, eye, etc) to bust size, tail style (for the Miqo’te, my favorite), face paint, and tattoos. You can even change your character’s voice, which is something I’ve not seen in an MMO.

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Next up is the user interface (PS3) which is very simple and adaptable to each player’s individual likes. You can customize hotbars, macros, change the button configuration… all kinds of stuff. If you think the controls are bogus, there’s something wrong with that picture because you can make the controls whatever you want. The game map and marketplace (economy) take some getting used to, but they are really self-explanatory. I say they take getting used to, simply because they aren’t set up like the previous MMO titles I have played. I have always been more of a console gamer than a PC gamer, so I am very glad that the controls are simple and feel very comfortable being entered in via a controller rather than a keyboard.

Character progression will be broken up to several parts as it’s a lot of information to cover. Granted, I am not trying to make this review your end-all-know-all to the game, but I do want to give you an idea of what to expect so you don’t feel like a total noob upon entering the world. Progression can be broken up into 4 parts, which I will tackle as 3 topics – Disciple of War (1) or Magic (2), and then Disciple of the Hand (3) or Land (4). Disciples of War and Magic begin the game as a “class”, then at level 30, can be expanded upon into a “job”. If you can understand that, it will be way less confusing to you. Leveling a job, will also level that class simultaneously, though you don’t have to level a job at all, you can stick with the basic class all the way to level 50 (current level cap).

One cool thing I want to mention before I go into the breakdown of the Disciples is that one character can do it all! This is a huge, convenient change for me compared to what I am used to playing World of Warcraft, needing different characters to try different classes. I remember trying to keep all eight or nine of my characters organized… SUCH a pain. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn gives each character a huge inventory space, along with an “Armory Chest” that gives each slot of armor (including weapon) the ability to hold up to 25 different pieces. This was a big selling point for me. In-game, you can even gain additional space once you’ve progressed in the main story. Now let me show you the breakdown of the War and Magic classes and jobs with a small description.

War Classes:

  • Gladiator (GLA) expands to Paladin (PLD), Tank (group protection)
  • Pugilist (PGL) expands to Monk (MNK), Melee DPS (close damage dealer)
  • Marauder (MRD) expands to Warrior (WAR), Tank (group protection)
  • Lancer (LNC) expands to Dragoon (DRG), Melee DPS (close damage dealer)
  • Archer (ARC) expands to Bard (BRD), Ranged DPS (far damage dealer)

Magic Classes:

  • Conjurer (CNJ) expands to White Mage (WHM), Healer (life support)
  • Thaumaturge (THM) expands to Black Mage (BLM), Ranged DPS (far, area of effect)
  • Arcanist (ACN) expands to two different classes:
  1. Scholar (SCH), Healer (life support)
  2. Summoner (SMN), Ranged DPS (far damage dealer)

On a side note, the Arcanist (and its expansions) is the only type of class/job that can utilize the functions of “pet” support. Think of a pet as a sidekick.

Disciple of the Land are basically your standard gathering professions and consist of the Fisher (FSH), Miner (MIN), and Botanist (BTN). Disciple of the Hand is more on the profession-crafting side of the coin and that breakdown is as follows:

  • Culinarian (CUL), Food
  • Armorer (ARM), Heavy Armor
  • Blacksmith (BSM), Weapons
  • Goldsmith (GSM), Jewelery
  • Weaver (WVR), Cloth Armor
  • Leatherworker (LTW), Light Armor
  • Alchemist (ALC), Potions
  • Carpenter (CRP), Woodworking

It may seem like a lot to learn, however I’m giving you the most basic fundamentals to understand where you are and where you want to end up. When you start your first character, upon achieving level 10, you are granted to ability to try a different class. The recommendation I am given, is to stick to one class/job until you complete the main story as it will carry you all the way to level 50, then feel free to branch out and gain the experience bonus for the level differential between your main (first choice) and newly chosen (second choice) class or job. Some specific classes have to be a certain level in order to unlock a potential job you are interested in leveling.

Once you are around level 20 in the main story, you will gain the ability to ride a mount for faster traveling. The first mount you get is called a Chocobo (which basically looks like an ostrich), however there are other mounts in the game that you can obtain via various methods. My favorite mount, a Coeurl (looks like a cross between a tiger and an eagle), can be obtained by either buying or upgrading to the collector’s edition. If you buy the regular version, you can always choose later to do a digital upgrade for $20. The game itself is $40 at standard retail price for the normal version. The collector’s edition does include many more goodies, but the rewards vary between buying the collector’s edition in a store and purchasing a digital download; ie, the extra physical things (art books, security key, etc) come with the physical and the digital version (online upgrade) only comes with the in-game items that go to each and every character you make.

Next up is my favorite part of playing an MMO – the social element! You have your standing /say, /shout, /yell, and /tell for basic chatting and I know if Final Fantasy XI, a Linkshell, was like your clan (my term, from World of Warcraft is guild) and you could join several of them, however only one linkshell I believe could be active at any given point in time. In Final Fantasy XIV, you join a Free Company for your guild, and you can have up to eight linkshells, which in this game, basically serve as chat rooms.

Coming together for dungeons and end-game raids has never been easier. If you are part of a Free Company, or have several different linkshells, I am sure you could find a group among your fellow circle, however if not, you can queue up for a 4-man (light) or 8-man (heavy) party via the “Duty-Finder” that I believe searches for and brings together the roles (tank, healer, dps) across different servers within a specified group (listed and organized via the Data Center).

I also really enjoy the diversity of levelling a character. There are so many different ways that you can do it! You have the main story, which as I said already carries you to level 50, these real-time events called FATEs, each individual class is given a hunting log of monsters to seek out and eliminate, and there are a ton of side-quests. As with any other MMO, participating in dungeons is always a quick and easy way to not only gain experience for levelling, but also to learn and understand your role in groups.

Before I go into cost and closure, I want to go into what I think are the negatives to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. For one, I personally found it hard to follow the story because it kind of bounces around and there are a lot of characters that go into it and sometimes it’s just hard to keep track. This isn’t really a big issue for me, because as stated, I rarely get into these for the story. There is such a vast amount of information to learn to truly understand the game, which can be somewhat overwhelming to the non-hardcore player, or just someone who may not have much time to play. It’s not really a game that you can just pick up and run with and expect to fully grasp within your first hour or so of play. The last complaint could be for end-game content, as the game did just recently re-release, there aren’t that many options as one might expect. Once more, not really a big issue because there are lots of classes and jobs that you have available to level and the developers are already aware of and planning to expand the end-game content. To me, none of these are very major but that is because I have patience and a will to learn a game to be able to master it – I am always doing research in my spare time to be a better player in a specific role, learning random things I can about MMOs that I play and just overall dedicating a part of my time to being the best I can be. Don’t get me wrong though, I keep things in moderation with work, play, and relationships which a lot of hardcore gamers do not know how to do. You still have to have a life outside of your digital life!

The cost of the game is about average. If you were a player of the original, you could have a “Legacy” account, which is $USD 9.99/month and allows you 8 characters per world, up to a maximum of 40 total. A basic account is $USD 12.99/month and allows you one character per world, up to a maximum of 8. The last level is $USD 14.99/month and has the same character restrictions as a Legacy account. These rates are fairly standard; however you can only have a Legacy account if you played the original version of Final Fantasy XIV. Don’t even think about paying for your first 30 days though because once you buy the game, you can start it up completely and play for the trial period before you are even asked for any payment information.

In closing, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a well-polished re-release of a once-failed title. I easily recommend this game to anyone that enjoys MMOs, anyone that is sick of the immaturity and disrespect found when playing World of Warcraft (I’m not saying it doesn’t happen here, but it is far, far, FAR less frequent), and just anyone that wants to maybe try out something that they haven’t before, or come back to a world they once-thought was lost.

See you on Eorzea!

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