Updated Mon, Sep 09, 2013 by Xerin
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’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.
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.
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.