Updated Thu, Feb 21, 2013 by Ethec
Naoki Yoshida, producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV, might well get a second chance to make a first impression. With the poorly received 1.0 release now two years in our past, perhaps enough big budget MMOs have launched, and promptly clunked, to make FFXIV’s total hat-in-hand revamp worth a look. Especially because it isn’t an overtly money grubbing free-to-play conversion.
And taking a second look was indeed our plan as we sat down for a brief interview and some hands-on time with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
Before we dove into the game, Yoshida-san led off with a side-by-side video demonstrating how not only the graphics of the game have changed, but also how movement around the world has improved.
While many areas have retained their names, colors and textures seem brighter and more nuanced, water is now beautifully translucent, once sparse hubs are now more populated, skyboxes now feature more depth and visual niceties (e.g. lens glare when the camera is pointed at the sun), and in general the graphics of the game got the polish they richly deserved. Better yet, Yoshida-san stated that higher spec graphics are accessible with a much lower spec.
Game play has also gone through some top-down changes. And yes, reviewers of years past, players can now jump over fences. Other quality-of-experience enhancements include more vibrant visual effects for abilities, floating combat text, and a much clearer and streamlined UI reminiscent of The Secret World (more on that below).
Aspects of the hybrid class system are retained; players can level any class they like, equip saved sets of equipment from the class, and use a discrete number of skills outside the class that’s currently their primary class. Having an archer or conjurer outside the fight that has Cure and Revive, for example, can be very handy on a dungeon run.
ARR storyline comes in three arcs, and as those familiar with the Shintoist lilt of the series since VII could probably guess, the mysteries of planet Hydaelyn comprise the base storyline of XIV, and will for “years to come”. The planet communicates with players via an entity called Mother Crystal, and players will hear her voice as they adventure.
The second story is one that players will first encounter in the game. Players will join one of the armies from the three free city states to amass against the invading, technologically-advanced Garlean Empire.
Finally, the third story arc will carry specific significance for fans of the Final Fantasy series at large and is based around the idea of summoning primal entities: Leviathan, Ifrit, etc. The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Bahamut takes center stage in later dungeons in ARR.
Other Final Fantasy perennials – moogles, chocobos, along with bosses from previous versions (Gilgamesh was specifically mentioned),- as well as familiar mechanics (group-based limit break abilities like Meteor, for one) will take a prominent place in ARR. It’s clear that SquareEnix is pulling out all the stops to make XIV.
Speaking of chocobos, they won’t just be mounts in ARR, rather they’re also armed combatants that will fight beside players, having their own items and progression. Housing will come at a later date, and at that time Yoshida-san stated that he hopes to introduce raising chocobos.
Yoshida also noted that PvP will occur outside the storyline, and if it has a storyline hook, it’s that the three grand armies are training their soldiers in areas like desert canyon-themed Black Brush area to take on the Garlean empire.