Due to popular demand, and because my friend was kind enough to set me up with a 30 day free trial, I’ve finally sunken my teeth into the bitter fruit known as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. I’ll say this: I’ve never been a huge Final Fantasy fan, even though I love RPG’s, Final Fantasy’s never been a huge part of my childhood. Not because it’s not fun, but simply because I’ve never had the chance to play many of the games. Besides Final Fantasy IX, Square Enix’s highly touted MMO is one of the only games I’ve played under the popular franchise’s name. So without further ado, let’s get into the meat and potatoes.
Overall, the game’s storyline is pretty clear once you get going in the main quest line, which is pretty difficult considering the game’s grindy, errand-running approach to their quest system, most people will likely default to ignoring the quest dialogue and cutscenes to simple turn in their quests and advance to the next objective. Basically, you’re a newcomer to the realm of Eorzea, an adventurer seeking money, glory, or whatever it is you’re after. You’re given several, non-game-altering decisions to further customize your game for some immersion and character background. A nice touch, if you’re into that sort of deal. Your character fights and runs small errands to gain the trust of your fellow townspeople, but you discover you’re falling victim to strange spells of fainting, and hallucinations. Before long, you’re discovered by an organization of sorts that come to be known as “The Scions of the Seventh Dawn”, who explain that you are the possessor of a power called “The Echo”, an ability held by few that allow you to pose a serious threat to powerful beings known as Primals. Primals threaten the balance of the world, by gaining power from their followers. The more followers the Primal has, the stronger it becomes and the more danger it poses. The objective of the story seems to revolve around defeating each Primal to restore balance to the world, and achieve true peace.
Overall, I have to give the story a fairly high mark in itself, it only suffers due to the fact that I haven’t personally beaten the main scenario, as I left my character at a mere level 33 out of 50. This will be explained later.
Have I ever told you that I HATE point-and-click auto-attack games? If not, you know now. Final Fantasy XIV is one of those games where you lock onto a target, and spam the same skills over and over while a fairly slow auto attack deals mediocre damage to your target. The game’s idea of “comboing” is linking certain skills in succession to deal more damage, and feels stiff and clunky, especially with most of your main skills having a global cooldown. This appears to be remedied later on, with the addition of skills that aren’t affected by the main global cooldown, but most of these additional skills have a long cooldown of a minute or more, in some cases.
One of the winning points, however, is the ability to be… well, whatever it is you want. FFXIV has many classes to pick from, and you have the choice to be one, or two, or five, or all of them! It’s recommended that you level cap your first choice when you make your character before attempting to raise a second class, but at level 30, you have the chance to advance a class to something called a Job. Lancer, the class I started with, can become a Dragoon at level 30 if you have a level 30 Lancer, and a level 15 Marauder. This gives you a slight stat boost, and access to more skills and gear later on. If you decide to play the game seriously, you can end up with a character with multiple level 50 jobs on it, or even deciding to level 50 all of them on one character is entirely possible.
Gameplay gets a painful 5/10 due to it’s boring and repetitive combat system, the high point being the multi-class system allowing you to spice up your bland Gameplay.
The World: 9/10
FFXIV is an open-world MMO, with some instance dungeons included. The open world is absolutely massive, and you can find yourself getting a little lost fairly easily, if not for the comprehensive map and compass, plus the ability to teleport instantly to any primary location you’ve been to, allowing you to traverse entire continents instantly with a bit of Gil. Otherwise, wandering around in the game can be fairly fun, but due to the sheer size of the maps and the distance between major cities with save points, it can be a bit of a drag getting to undiscovered areas… and turning in quests. More on this later.
The world gets a very positive 9/10, even if it is a bit lengthy walking from place to place, the ability to teleport to previously discovered key locations makes travel a breeze, and with high graphics settings, the view is quite nice.
Character Creation: 6.5/10
Wow, a decimal score. Weird? Not really. Anyway, character creation… *Sigh* Where do I begin with this? You’re given a choice between five fairly bland races.
- Hyur: A default humanoid race. Abundant, easy to adapt to new locations.
Elezen: A tall, lanky elf-like race. One of the rarer races to find in the playerbase.
Miqo’te: A race with animal ears and tails. HIGHLY popular in the fanbase, for obvious reasons.
Roegadyn: Giants, basically. Huge muscles, tall stature.
Lalafell: Small, child-like race. One of the more unique races, honestly, and the one I happened to pick.
I honestly expected much better of a Final Fantasy game, often known for their outlandish creativity when it comes to their characters. You’re basically given basic MMO-like race choices with fancy names. The most unique of the races, in my opinion, are the Lalafell and Roegadyn, they offer the better customization options and don’t look like something you find in every other MMO ever made. Hyur, Elezen, and Miqo’te are shamefully basic in their design and background.
The saving grace for character creation is the class system. Yes, as I mentioned before, you have a LOT to pick from, and you don’t have to pick just one. The options are as follows:
- Lancer: A heavily armored spear user, close-range, high single-hit burst damage. DpS class.
Gladiator: A heavily armored sword and shield user, close range, low damage, high defense. Tank class.
Pugilist: Lightly armored and nimble hand-to-hand combatant. Very close range, low cooldown, high combo ability. DpS class.
Marauder: Heavily armored, slow, axe wielder. Slow swings, high damage and AoE attacks. Tank class.
Archer: Medium armored, fast long-range attacker. Very long range, generates low aggro, some AoE. DpS class.
Arcanist: Cloth armor, summons creatures to aid in combat. Long range magic user with support skills. Healer class, but can advance to a DpS.
Thoumaturge: Cloth armor, deals heavy magic damage from a distance. Long range burst damage magic. DpS class.
Conjurer: Cloth armor, highly support-oriented class. Long range heals and buffs, inflicts enemy debuffs. Healer class.
Then things start getting more complicated with the Job system:
- Dragoon: Upgrade from Lancer. Requires level 30 Lancer and 15 Marauder.
Paladin: Upgrade from Gladiator. Requires level 30 Gladiator and 15 Conjurer.
Monk: Upgrade from Pugilist. Requires level 30 Puglisit and 15 Lancer.
Warrior: Upgrade from Marauder. Requires level 30 Marauder and 15 Gladiator.
Bard: Upgrade from Archer. Requires level 30 Archer and Pugilist.
Scholar: One of Arcanist’s upgrades. Requires level 30 Arcanist and 15 Conjurer. Becomes support Healer class.
Summoner: One of Arcanist’s upgrades. Requires level 30 Arcanist and 15 Thaumaturge. Becomes summoning DpS.
White Mage: Upgrade from Conjurer. Requires level 30 Conjurer and 15 Arcanist.
Black Mage: Upgrade from Thoumaturge. Requires level 30 Thoumaturge and 15 Archer.
Yeah. Like I said, lots to pick from, and you can eventually become ALL of these. At once. On one character. Crazy, right?
Character Creation gets a 6.5/10 due to the lazy, un-innovative design for the races. I couldn’t give it a lower score because I am very impressed with the class and job system.
The only thing I hate more than point-and-click auto attack MMO’s, are pay to play subscriptions, and unfortunately, FFXIV is both. 30 dollars to buy an activation code for the PC version, which includes a 30 day trail run, and from there, 20 dollars per month to retain service. This is a huge downside to what would otherwise be a completely fine game to own and play regularly. I cannot warrant paying this kind of coin for an auto attack MMO.
Subscription makes the game take a huge score hit at 3/10. I simply cannot recommend paying this much money for a game like this. I seriously hope that Square Enix either lowers their prices, or makes the game free to play in the future.
Graphics: 9/10 (PC version)
I’ll keep this section pretty simple. The graphics on the PC are really good on high settings, it really accentuates the open world theme of the game. I really like being able to just idle around and look at things in-game. However, the game isn’t just on the PC, it’s also available on the PS3 and PS4, and the former of the two… really suffers in the graphics department, looking more on the medium default graphics settings. The PS4 version looks much better, to my knowledge.
Something that REALLY makes me happy is the wonderful addition of a day/night cycle, and randomized weather events that change up the scenery, and adds an epic twist to your general questing and adventuring. Transitioning from day to night, or seeing the sky get slightly darker with clouds rolling in, eventually leading to rain or even a sudden thunderstorm is a really quality aspect of the game, and definitely adds to it’s overall charm.
Graphics gets a 9/10, ignoring the PS3 and PS4 versions due to lack of personal experience with them. The open-world really benefits from the day/night cycle and weather events, it adds a sense of depth to the experience and definitely makes playing that much more interesting.
Quests and Dungeons: 4/10
This will get it’s own section because it’s something I was extremely disappointed and frustrated with during my free trial. The game, to an extent, has a linear story quest line that, along the way, will cause you to unlock dungeons that are required to advance the story and proceed to level. The default means of doing dungeons as a newcomer is applying for a party finder and joining a queue. As a DPS character, this can range from frustratingly lengthy to almost impossible amounts of waiting time for a party to fill up. Due to the amount of DPS classes in the game, a typical party, consisting of 4 characters, must include a healer, a tank, and two DPS. There are only 2 tank and 2 healer classes, but a grand total of 5 DPS classes. This results in an uneven distribution of party positions, an abundance of DPS and a low healer and tank count means that DPS classes are in for a LONG wait.
What can you do while waiting, you ask? Well… nothing, really. Quests give a very paltry amount of experience for the effort required to complete them, and grinding monsters is even less rewarding. The fastest way to level up is do complete dungeons, and advance the story to unlock the next dungeon. Leveling up was an extremely slow business for me, having been given 30 days to play, I only ended up at level 33 due to this glaringly flawed design in the game’s mechanics. At level 32, I waited up to 2 hours waiting for a dungeon party to fill up. That is absolutely ridiculous.
This isn’t even mentioning how long these quests take to complete. Most quests are multi-part quests, for instance, kill 3 of some monster, talk to X NPC, deliver item to Y NPC, go back to X NPC, turn in quest at Y NPC. Taking all of this effort to turn in a quest for a very small portion of your exp bar is extremely disheartening and very VERY boring.
Quests and Dungeons gets a very low 4/10 from me. If you’re not a healer or a tank, this game is going to be very rough on you unless you have friends in high places who don’t mind helping you level. The only reason it’s not even lower is because dungeons do give a lot of exp and that does help a bit, but it’s useless if you can’t get a party in the first place.
Overall Thoughts and Final Rating:
As a whole, Final Fantasy XIV is a successful game in it’s niche. To the people who can devote the time and money into the game will be completely satisfied, but a lot of the limitations and game structure can be a huge deterrent to newcomers who weren’t shown into the game by friends. While the Gameplay is boring alone, in a party where cooperation is key, it can become engaging and fun, but if you’re not playing in a party like I was most of the time, then the game seems very stale and generic.
The game gets a final score of 6/10. The bland Gameplay and long dungeon wait times are huge downsides that really prevent me from having fun with the game, but the graphics, scenery, and roleplay value of the game are, in fact, huge pros for me. But in the end, a game that prevents you from playing properly and punishes your class choices is not the game for me, and I probably won’t be renewing my subscription.
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