Final Fantasy 14’s original launch was by far one of Square Enix’s most embarrassing moments in recent history. It’s overly complex graphics, uninspired gameplay and shoddy writing forced the developer to take a long hard look in the mirror and reassess their priorities. The Final Fantasy IP has always been noted for their deep gameplay mechanics, epic length and pure value for money. Their previous MMO Final Fantasy 11 is still one of their biggest financial earners so Final Fantasy 14’s poor initial reception meant it was unlikely to carry on bringing home the bacon.
Ultimately it was money but also a sense of deep Japanese honour that made them shut the entire game down and put the scaffolding back up. While the fans waited the programmers drank lots of tea, wolf whistled at the majority of the female NPC’s and rubbed their chins claiming no work could be done citing union regulations to Square Enix. I joke of course, the new team went to work stripping away all but the essential foundations and remade FF14 into a sturdy and competent MMO worthy of the branding.
Essentially if you have played any MMO in the last ten years you’ll know a little bit about the genre. You design a character to act as your Avatar as you explore and quest within a world populated by like-minded individuals. During these quests you can level your character up so that you can progress through the different areas and ultimately reach the end game (usually found in the way of a level cap). That’s an overly simplified explanation but essentially that’s the bare bones with all the flesh ripped off. Luckily though it’s the meat around the frame that’s always the tastiest and FF14 has a lot of muscle to protect it.
The character classes are pretty much the same as most other RPG’s. Wizards, warriors and healers are all ticked off the list and job classes are something that allow you to customise your characters skills to a surprisingly deep level. Adding a job to your character can not only change the way you fight but also allow you become an important part of a team with your own skill set that differs from the rest. Once you have achieved a decent level in a job you can change it just to spice up your catalogue of skills to avoid it becoming dull. Working in groups becomes essential by level 30 as you quest through dungeons and work out the best way to take down massive enemies that, in other MMO’s would be impossible until after you reach the top level. A great team can come together and defeat some high level opponents much earlier than in other MMORPG’s. Questing is sometimes interesting but the majority of side quests tend to be “go here, kill ten of those” challenges or “collect 4 of this”. This is mildly disappointing but MMO’s are what they are.
The world of Eorzea is a rich and diverse world. It’s massive. From beautiful architecture to awe inspiring monuments the place has a large amount of detail not seen in other MMO’s. My only gripe is that Eorzea may be a little too big. Certain areas are so vastly open that it sometimes feels a little barren in places. There were many times I was running about by myself and never saw another real player character near me. To help combat this and remind people that this is a game best played in groups they created real time events like in Guild Wars 2 or Defiance. From time to time events occur that encourage people to rally together in one place and fight against a common enemy. This then rewards you with XP for your contribution to the event. The XP earned by you is decided by how much you actually contributed and is very fair to all involved. It can be chaotic fun at times to see so many people rally together and see the different ways in which people have customised their fighting style. It’s also a good way to scout for potential team mates too.
Joining teams and dungeon questing, like most other titles in this genre, are where the majority of money, XP and items are found. Joining teams is essential if you want to become a true master of your character. Finding friends who play the game is simple enough though especially through the PS4 as you can see who does or doesn’t own the game and who is actually playing at that time. You can always wait outside dungeons for a group to form but this can slow the pace of the game down a lot. Pro actively inviting others to join you is always the best way to get a team forming for certain dungeons and allows you to make a few new online buddies too.
Using a controller is usually a big no-no with MMO’s too but luckily the mapped buttons are well arranged for the PS4. Sadly though the settings are mapped to the Japanese sensibility and it takes a while to adjust to using the circle button to select things rather than the X button (Japanese culture considers the circle to be a lucky symbol so favour it more than the X). Several times by pressing X I was de-selecting things and this became a little annoying as my tiny man brain does not adjust well to change. Type chat is still very difficult though without a keyboard and the onscreen map could be a little better too.
Remote Play on PS4 also allows to take some of the tedium out of the grind by allowing you to play while sitting on the sofa watching TV or casually sitting up in bed. It’s not a substitute for the full controller whilst in raids but for small side quests it could keep you in the game longer than you expected.
Items, potions and loot are spread evenly throughout the game and there’s plenty of variety on offer. From different kinds of shields, weapons, clothing and accessories there’s so much to choose from it’s likely you will never get to see the majority of what the game has. Companion creatures are also great and I’m constantly surprised by the weird and wonderful things other players have following them around. There were several creatures I had never seen before and haven’t seen since. Customisation is on par with the best MMO’s that have been around for a lot longer.
There’s a lot of personality in the game and even though the majority of the cut scenes and conversations are text only it still comes across. Because of the lack of voice acting the music has to convey a lot more drama and achieves this easily. From dark brooding tones to higher more upbeat tempo’s the soundtrack really does make the difference. I defy anyone to go on a Chocobo ride and not be smiling at the end simply because of the cheery, slightly tongue in cheek music. Some of the sound effects while fighting can be a mixed bag. There were several times I found some of the higher pitched strikes to be a little grating. Mostly it’s very effective but just sometimes you find yourself turning down the TV if the battles go on too long and the chaotic high pitched sound effects keep coming. It would be great if they would address this in a further update to make for a larger variety of sound effects while in combat.
Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn is a great MMORPG with a strong Japanese flavour to add a little spice to the mix. It’s not a game changer but encompasses a vast array of content to keep most MMORPG fan’s playing way beyond the end game. The PS4 version is rightfully the best MMO on the console right now and with remote play and ease of access to other friends online it is the benchmark other MMO’s will have to follow.
MLG Rating: 9/10 Format: PlayStation 4 Release Date: 14/04/2014
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of four weeks on a PlayStation 4. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.