Originally released in 2010, Final Fantasy XIV (FFXIV) received widespread negative criticisms. Subsequently, Square Enix decided to do a complete overhaul of the game, and the result is FFXIV: A Realm Reborn (geddit?).
An MMORPG, FFXIV:ARR is set in the world of Hydaelyn, in a different time period from the original game. You start off in one of three major cities, which vary depending on your chosen class. Ul’dah is basically an Arabic-esque trading centre, Gridania is a city set in the heart of a forest, and Limsa Lominsa is something a bit more traditional fantasy, with pretty, white stone towers and the like near the ocean.
FFXIV:ARR is a pretty problematic game. Because the game hasn’t got Asian servers (Japan notwithstanding), Singapore players have to use an EU PSN account and an EU Square Enix account. That’s not too bad, since they’re not too difficult to create, but achievement hunters might be bothered.
Once that’s done, getting in is swimmingly easy. Or it should have been, anyway. Firstly, there’s 2.5 gigs worth of update to install.
From start to end, I think it took me a bit more than an hour.
Once that’s done, you’re taken to the lobby to create your character. Finally! There are five races to pick from – human, elf, dwarf, giant and cat-people (different names, of course, but that’s the gist of it), and each race has about two backgrounds to pick from. That’s not too bad, but I’ve yet to see if there’s any significant difference in choosing different races/backgrounds.
Character creation also goes into a bit of specifics like the colour of your lips and whether you have odd eye colours. You can also pick your voice from a fairly extensive list, although I’m not sure what’s the point of that (have not heard my character speak yet). Following that, you pick a combat class for your character, and those are split between disciples of war and disciples of magic. Pretty standard MMORPG fare so far. One great thing about this game though, is that just by switching weapons you also switch classes (although you also go back to level 1), so you don’t have to worry too much about which class you’re starting out as, since you can switch once you’re at level 10.
And lastly, deciding which server to pick for your character. Whatever server is fine, I think. They’re all filled up anyway.
Which kind of brings me to my next point – the servers are seriously crowded. Sometimes you end up waiting for about fifteen minutes to get in, and that’s not too bad. Sometimes the world list doesn’t even load, so you just hang about crying in wait, especially during EU peak hours. This either demonstrates the extreme popularity of the game, or the inability of Square Enix to keep up with it. Probably a combination of both.
Once you actually get in though, the game begins to paint out its setting for you, and there’s a pretty long cut-scene here. Couple of minutes of this guy talking to you, an almost attack, and you’ve reached the city.
Okay but before that, I’m offended by the font size of their text box. It’s bloody damn small. It’s probably a PS3 issue, since you’re typically a lot closer to your monitors if you’re on the PC, but half the time I can’t read the text on the screen, so I’ve got to scoot closer, and mind you, I have 20/20 eye sight and I use a wide-screen telly. So that’s pretty frustrating.
On top of that, conversations get pretty wordy, so over time, it can become quite an aggravating issue.
Get past that though, and you’re in for a treat. The cities are massive and charming for a little stroll. Graphics-wise, on the PS3, it’s not that grand or anything boast-worthy, but PC players probably have it much better.
When you’re actually playing the game, you can’t help but think, ‘Ah, yeah, this is definitely a Final Fantasy game.’ Even for me, someone who has only played one FF game, the game is just strikingly FF-esque. You’ll get it when you see it. The little elements of steampunk, the character designs, the music, the mood of the entire game itself all contribute to that, and that’s a good thing.
The game also keeps you plenty busy, with quest after quest ready, and progress is more linear than messy, an improvement from the original FFXIV. There’s also this thing called “Fates”, which are basically random combat events that occur while you’re wandering outside, kind of like Rift’s, uh, “rifts”. Fates are great, because they just pop up wherever and you get a healthy heap of exp and gils off from them, even if you’re only assisting kills, so that’s really helpful when you’re in the lower levels. There’s also no need to worry about kill-steals – if you get first hit on a monster you basically claim it, so dibs on the full amount of exp/gils from slaying it. Everyone else gets a portion of exp/gils relative to their contribution.
Combat is all right, thus far, even though it feels like a load of button spamming. I’ve been switching between playing thaumaturge and lancer so far (EU and JP servers respectively), and it’s more or less the same. Grinding is typically not necessary, since they’ve got a nice hoard of things to do to collect exp and gil.
If you were expecting to solo through the whole game, you’d be in for a disappointment. Around level 15 is a main story-line quest that requires you to team up with some other people for a dungeon raid, and depending on your role, it may or may not be easy to get in. I waited around for about 20 minutes to no avail, but I’ve heard healer players getting spots almost immediately via the duty finder. DPS players typically have a harder time waiting in queue, since there’s way too many of them. I suppose one could also holler around trying to get people to team up with them, but it’s not really for me. On the other hand, if you’re playing MMORPGs for their MMO purposes, then it’s probably no big deal.
Despite all its issues, I find myself quite enjoying the game. The combination of the splendid sceneries and decent combat makes it pretty fun to get through, even though it proves to be fairly frustrating at times. And yet, while enjoyable, FFXIV:ARR doesn’t do much to stand out from other MMORPGs. Perhaps its prowess as a game remains to be seen, but thus far, its main saving grace is the fact that through and through, it’s entirely a Final Fantasy game. Whether it’s worth the time, effort and money, however, would probably depend on the individual player.
As of the latest patch and updates to the game, queues to get in are much better and waiting times for using the duty finder have been cut down due to changes to the system. While it has been dissappointing for many players during the initial week of launch, this is somewhat expected as most if not all MMORPGs go through the same issues. While it is no excuse for a big company such as Square Enix, the willingness to admit they need to beef up the servers plus the complimentry 7 more days of game time deserves a thumbs up.
With this in consideration, the team has decided to moderate the score to reflect the current state of the game.
Ratings: 4 out of 5 stars
While this doesn’t mean we forgive Square Enix totally as sudden emergency maintenance still do happen and its frustrating especially when in a dungeon facing the final boss, we do hope that Square Enix and the Final Fantasy XIV team will continue to refine and optimise the game to live up to the Final Fantasy name.
By Chua YuXuan
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