Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – ReviewFinal Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – Review
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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – Review

It was the beta that could break or make Final Fantasy.

Or at least, that was the opinion of myself and several others. It came as a huge surprise – and shock to many – the first time we saw Final Fantasy XIV. It was plagued with frequent bugs, lag and numerous other issues when it originally launched on September 30, 2010. Square Enix practically admitted “the Final Fantasy brand has been greatly damaged”.

“We’ll continue with our reform work, which basically amounts to fully redoing the game, and hope to revive the FFXIV that should have been released,” CEO Yoichi Wasa said at the time.

Many took their thoughts online and even compared it to the previous MMO, Final Fantasy XI. It was a bleak time in the company’s new failure and some fans were uncertain if the game could be redone.

Fast forward almost two years later and you have Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. It would be quite swift to point and laugh at the new title. However, if you’re one of the lucky ones that managed to make it onto the beta like myself, then maybe you’d be eating your own words.

Thanks to a tip-off from my good friend and co-staffer Marcus, I was able to sneak into the beta and finally get a glimpse at the next big title in the franchise.

An hour or two later after downloading the beta and its updates (pro tip: get them done as soon as you can!), I entered the realm and thrust into the character creation. This is the second Final Fantasy MMO in the series and I’m in unfamiliar territory. I can’t personally vouch for Final Fantasy XI myself, but the reaction was positive. Even Square Enix president Yoichi Wada said in June 2012 that the game had become the most profitable Final Fantasy title in the series.

An honourable mention has to go to the beautiful instrumental playing while you’re downloading the updates on the main beta screen. In fact, the whole soundtrack is beautiful, as you come to learn when you play through the game.

Once you’ve managed to get through the long wait – depending on how fast your connection is! – we finally come to character creation. Oh yes, it’s all up to you from this point!

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With so much riding on this MMO, I found myself intrigued by the character creation process. I remember being here for a good twenty minutes or so, trying to decide what I wanted when I had no idea beforehand! Some of you may find yourself dumbstruck, too. There’s a lot of detail to go into your character and it may be overwhelming at first.

Race and gender obviously come for starters. There are a total of five different races. Each one has a male and female option (unlike the Viera in Final Fantasy XII!). Here’s a full breakdown:

  • Hyur: They’re essentially the humans of the game. You can choose from two types: Midlanders, who reside in lower elevations and Highlanders, who live in mountainous areas.
  • Elezen: Or elves, if you want to put it them that way. There are two different kinds of Elezen. One are the Shader Elezen, also known as the Duskwights, who live in caves. On the other hand, the Wildwood Elezen, live in the forests.
  • Lalafell: The shortest race, the Lalafell are a race from the seas south of Eorzea. The race is divided into two: the Plainsfolk, which live in thatched-roof homes and have great, hearing, and the Dunesfolk who live in the desert and herd animals.
  • Miquo’te: This catlike race (like the Hyur) isn’t actually native to Eorzea. Split into two separate race cultures, the Seekers of the Sun worship the goddess of the sun and are active during the day; the Keepers of the Moon worship the goddess of the moon and acre active during the night.
  • Roegadyn: And finally, we have the giants. Separated into two types, the Sea Wolves who are fishermen/women and the Lohengarde, whose body and mind are tempered by the unforgiving heat of the volcanic regions they dwell in. This race can be as tall as up to a staggering seven feet and five inches (three inches for girls)!

Upon selecting race and gender (good luck, you’re spoilt for choice!), time for other options. I personally didn’t want to go for something too complicated and went for a female Hyur midlander. Next, you must select his or her height, skin colour, hairstyle, hair colour, face, jaw … you’re getting the big picture here, right? Every little aspect of character customisation is available here, making it really easy to make your character stand out from the others.

Yes, and that even includes the voice!

Once that was over and done with, we’re presented with background details. From what I could see, choosing a birthdate didn’t seem to have any direct impact on your character’s stats. However, your patron deity gives you a few elemental points. I chose a fire goddess. I can’t remember for the life of me what she was called because there were so many options; I was initially lost in what to choose!

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Now for the part that depends on your survival.

Well, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Choosing your class is important, but it’s not exactly life or death, right? Or at least it’s not for you directly. But it is for your character!

In the Disciplines of War are the following: Gladiator, Pugilist, Marauder, Lancer and Archer. This discipline is primarily made for standard combat. I chose a Gladiator, personally.

For the Disciplines of Magic are Conjurer, Thaumaturge and Arcanist. These are obviously magic-based for combat, with one being designed for a healing/support kind of build.

The final part of your character creation sees you choosing a name. For reasons I still can’t explain, I chose the name Velaria Dragonsoul. You could obviously choose something like Cid Highwind or Zidane Tribal, but you could also try to be original. This game will obviously see a lot of characters with these names and more. Once I decided my name, I chose the Cerberus server and jumped right into the game.

Even though this is an MMO we’re looking at here, there is a story element hidden away in some of the missions. Depending on your class, you may find your character starting in one of three locations: Ul’dah, Gridania or Limsa Lominsa. Because I chose the Gladiator class, I found myself in the sunny city of Ul’dah. My opening scene revolved around being an illegal immigrant on the back of a wagon and chatting with a black dude with a ridiculously light blonde beard, only to be pulled up by customs and then let go because of … monsters?

So my version of the opening scene may be slightly exaggerated. But it’s an almost accurate representation. Besides, who was ever a rule abider in Final Fantasy?

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Even though that’s just a teaser of what’s to come, I immediately found this bustling city to be captivating. You’re advised to join the Adventurer’s Guild. Why, what a splendid idea! Didn’t the guy in the opening scene think you were an adventurer? Oh, stop it.

I’ll skip the boring details if I must. So you speak to a guide, who tells you some useful information, and directs you to the Quicksand. The Quicksand is a pub that houses the Adventurer’s Guild. You’re obliged to join there first before doing anything else. From completing the first few quests, the world of Eorzea is your oyster. Depending on your class, you can join your appropriate guild in that respect. For instance, I joined the Gladiator’s Guild and embarked on a series of quests.

As a beta, the game is highly enjoyable. Although I could only reach up to level 20 in phase two, three and the open beta, I loved stepping into Eorzea each time. Especially during the open beta, the game took over my weekend! The world is beautiful, you can get lost in it.

Unfortunately, what let me down that time also was the errors. Yes, bugs and errors. The ones we love to avoid. As soon as the gates flooded open for everyone to try out the game (those who’d accessed the last phases were granted access a day earlier), the errors 3102 and 90000 invaded, and all hope was lost. It was amazing to see that 3102 was fixed swiftly, but no word ever came from 90000, an error which I’d fallen victim to at around level 15. The error ensured I couldn’t progress with certain missions. I couldn’t accept friend and party requests, nor could I send them.

It’s a frustrating process and I do hope Square Enix buckle down to tackle these problems when the game goes in a few days’ time.

But apart from that, a massively enjoyable game – and this, remember, is coming from someone who doesn’t really take the time to delve into MMOs.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn goes live worldwide on August 27, 2013. More information on pricing/subscriptions and preordering can be found on the official FFXIV: ARR website – http://www.finalfantasyxiv.com.