Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is the envisioning of the original FFXIV after a less than spectacular launch. In this review we’ll be taking a look at FFXIV: ARR with a fresh perspective and letting go of any stigma or opinions from the original. Additionally, this review does take into considering the server issues that plagued the game at launch, but since they seem to be resolved, we will not be penalizing the game as severely for them.
With that aside, let’s see if FFXIV: ARR is summer’s MMO blockbuster or yet another ship in the sea of mediocre MMO games.
FFXIV: ARR is rated Teen for Language, Mild Blood, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, and Violence.
Gameplay - 82 / 100
FFXIV’s gameplay is fantastic and well-polished, but it’s an iteration of what the industry has already seen. I’m not going to lie when I say that I have a blast while playing FFXIV and quite enjoy every second of casting spells and hitting things furiously with my axe, but it is what we’ve seen before and in copious amounts. This is where the game has its greatest strength and its biggest weakness.
The difficulty in even rating gameplay comes down to this playing the game is fun, but it’s not new. It’s not fresh. There are very few, if any, unique ideas present throughout the series, whether it comes from past Final Fantasy games or from the MMO genre itself. FATEs are ultimately another derivative of public quests, so much so that the icons look almost exactly like those out of Warhammer Online. The game worships the holy trinity and isn’t shy about going as far as locking specific classes into unique roles (pick a class and that’s your role). The class changing ability is sort of different, but we had job changing in FFX, so nothing new here.
I tried as hard as I could to think of something new and different and came to a simple fact: FFXIV : ARR isn’t new, it is polished. It is the same dish we’ve been served countless times, but perfected. Think, if you will, of the finest steak dinner, cooked to perfection, served with a baked potato. While it may be the best steak you’ve ever eaten, it isn’t the first and surely won’t be the last steak that you encounter. With FFXIV: ARR we’re looking at one of the best “WoW clones” to ever exist, but at the end of the day it’s just that.
Don’t let my pessimistic rambling hide the fact that the gameplay is fantastic, just not new. It is satisfying, but not challenging to the mind. There isn’t something to explore and find, there isn’t some new system introduced. It is just what we know and love from an MMO highly polished.
Others may look at the gameplay and go on about how polished it is or perhaps they don’t like it. Me? I love it, I’m just realistic in the sense that we’ve been there and done that, and that is where the score here suffers. If we had this same amount of polish, this same amount of near perfection on the system, but with something different, you’d see a 100 instead of an 80, but 20 points from Gryffindor for the lack of originality.
Oh, and as a footnote, the gameplay is indeed fantastic, as previously mentioned. One of the best takes on the MMO experience I’ve ever seen. Character models are fluid, the quests, while repetitive, are simple and easy to complete providing that instant gratification that we all crave. The story is engrossing enough to provide interest, but is a bit of the standard Final Fantasy “there are bad guys and you’re the good guy and it gets muddled around somewhere.”
The biggest awesome part of the gameplay is that you can login, do something, and advance something by just moving around and having fun. You can level other classes, work on crafting, or do whatever and you move forward. You can do it solo, with friends, or just sit around and chat on your linkshell. It’s all awesome and great stuff.
The only negatives, outside of the lack of originality, are the endgame like many MMOs has been fully fleshed out and comes in patch 1.1.
Graphics - 90 / 100
The entire graphics engine was reworked for A Realm Reborn and let’s just say they did a wonderful job. I would give this game a perfect score if there were a bit more variety in textures and enemies. As it stands, a lot of textures are reused and the enemy selection, while vast, isn’t that great at the end of the day since enemies you fight at lower levels will constantly reappear with a palette swap. The visuals in the game are breathtaking and it is absolutely gorgeous. The only thing that remained from the original FFXIV were the character models, which in themselves were wonderful, but they’ve taken the game to a new level with some of the visuals that you can see.
The cutscenes are a nice touch and actually work really well with the game. They’re not jarring and there isn’t anything to necessarily ruin your immersion like with some MMOs. The details are appropriate and the spell graphics / skill graphics look professionally implemented.
Sound - 100 / 100
A perfect score for the sound because I have nothing negative to say. I would be hard to pressed to come up with something to call Nobuo Uematsu out, one of the industries greatest composers, and the source for the vast majority of the music. FFXIV:ARR has some new songs in it from composers who worked on previous Final Fantasy games like Naoshi Mizuta and then a little lesser known composers like Masayoshi Soken. The soundtrack is beautiful and is such a great homage to the franchise.
For sounds such as skills, spells, and character noises, the game gets a giant thumbs up. At no point did I turn them off and they’ve never bothered me. The voice acting, while not perfect in any way, was appropriate.
Multiplayer - 90 / 100
For multiplayer, I’m giving this a high score. Not perfect, because there are shortcomings, but it does have a dungeon finder (Duty Finder) and it does promote grouping with others, but doesn’t force it beyond having to do dungeons to advance your main story quest. Which is all good stuff to me because I like to see a game focus heavily on creating a community. The FATE system (the public quest like system) is fun and helps bring people together and there is tons of community tools like Linkshells and the Free Companies (guilds). So all in all, it’s great stuff.
Value - 90 / 100
The game is an alright value. There is a subscription fee, but you can pay in tiers. It’s a few dollars cheaper a month if you just want one character slot per server, which is all that you need considering you can be all of the classes, but there is still a subscription fee and a box price. The box prices isn’t that much, just $29.99 at launch and you can get it on discount / on sale for as low as $19.99 from various online retailers, so all in all it isn’t that bad of a value.
There are no microtransaction pushes as of yet and there is no ingame cash store, so that helps a bit.
Lasting Appeal - 90 / 100
The game has a decent lasting appeal to it, we’re going to have to wait and see how patch 1.1 plays out and if the added PvP and other fun stuff will give max level players something to do. This does get high ranking here because you can level all of the classes on one character and get an XP bonus in doing so, making alting a natural part of character advancement. There is also a wealth of crafting classes to be and plenty of things to do. The main story quest will take a casual player a few weeks to chew through and make it to max level, which then sets you up to go and do whatever you want, really. Like I said previously, the game rewards you with advancement for doing pretty much anything. So logging in and messing around is a rewarding experience.
Pros and Cons
- A beautifully crafted world that is vibrant and fun to explore.
- One character does it all, be all of the classes and all of the crafting professions on one character and get bonuses for doing so.
- Tiered subscription levels let you pay for less if you need less.
- Much, much, much better than the original FFXIV.
- It feels like a real Final Fantasy game.
- It feels like a real Final Fantasy game and that might not be some peoples cup of tea.
- The endgame isnt fully fleshed out at launch.
- Server stability issues at launch.
- Does use the subscription model.
- Nothing we havent seen before in an MMO.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is perhaps one of the best MMOs released in a while and I would almost say since Guild Wars 2. It has enthralled me to play through the server stability issues and even as I write this, I’m sitting patiently in the duty finder awaiting my turn at the next dungeon for my story quest. It is fun, exciting, and great. However, I also love World of Warcraft and enjoy the standard MMO model, so this is definitely a game for me.
If you’re looking for an MMO that has all of that MMO goodness then rush out and buy this game right now. It does a fantastic job of emulating WoW and EQ and well, the MMO industry as a whole. That’s not a complaint, it’s a compliment. However, if you’re looking for something new and exciting, something different, then I highly suggest waiting on Everquest Next, because FFXIV is iterative, not innovating.
Overall 92/100 - Outstanding
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