I think I missed out big time by owning an Xbox 360 instead of a PS3. It meant that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn completely passed me by, but then on the plus side I never got to suffer through what was generally regarded as a really bad MMO – the original Final Fantasy XIV (Version 1) released in 2010 and was nuked in an extinction event by its own creators. A Realm Reborn (Version 2) has been out since last year on the PS3 and I didn’t pay much heed to it, as I wasn’t looking for an MMO at the time, nor was my mind made up over which next generation console I was going to end up with.
I went with a PS4 for many reasons, mainly because I was tired of 10 years of Xbox franchises and wanted new IPs, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn still wasn’t even on my radar and wasn’t a factor. But then I tried the beta out and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. I’ve just completed the most fun-packed 4 days of my MMO gaming life in the Phase 2 PS4 Beta, and simply had to share my thoughts.
Is Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn The Best MMO Ever?
There’s simply no way I’m qualified to answer that, as I haven’t experienced end-game. But what I can say is that my journey towards a level 20 Gladiator, a level 20 Miner and a level 6 Weaver during the last few days has been one of the best journeys so far, and for me it’s not the end-game, it’s about the journey there that counts.
My main class storyline has introduced me to Magitek, hinted at secret societies, given me customisable Retainer NPCs to store/sell my goodies (there’s also a micro-transaction system to rent a few more if you find that two Retainers aren’t enough), shown me housing, discussed concepts like Limit Breaks, Combos, Dungeon Mechanics, the threat of Primals, the constant threat of the Garlean Empire, allowed me to become Sultana Nanamo Ul Namo’s favourite Adventurer in Ul’Dah and tantalised me with even more things to come, like forming a Free Company and working alongside the three Grand Companies of Eorzea.
My career as a Miner even got interesting, getting to meet some of the higher ups in the Amajina & Sons Mineral Concern and probably most exciting of all being told that I have a role to play in the Materia system. I ran out of time on my Weaver but even that craft started to lead me a merry dance of possible intrigue when I looked at all the possible things I could make.
The icing on the cake is that all classes, jobs, gathering professions and crafting professions can be learned with just the one character, no restrictions, and all you need to do to switch class is switch weapon. Wolf in the way of your mining node? No problem, just equip a sword instead, then switch back to your pickaxe when you’ve removed the obstacle.
Considering how there’s so much to do, and so many different ways to do it, potentially FFXIV looks to be the pick of the bunch, though I have to give a nod to Guild Wars 2 for offering exploration puzzles as a new diversion in the genre, but then I can’t play Guild Wars 2 on my PS4. FFXIV is miles ahead of the rest when it comes to delivering a big storyline which keeps you motivated to push on. So yes, so far so good, ‘Best MMO Ever’ is still an option. ‘Worst voice-acting ever’ is also up for grabs, there are times when I’m glad that some scenes have the good old speech bubbles instead. I guess nothing is perfect.
What Do I Get For £29.99?
I pre-ordered direct from Square Enix the minute the Phase 2 Beta ended, which also entailed cancelling my earlier pre-order from another supplier, but thankfully that wasn’t a problem. This gives me early access which starts on 11th April but aside from that nothing is really clear. I’m guessing it’s a digital copy and I’ve got my credit card ready just in case it doesn’t include 30 free days, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t. After that, £8.99 per month lets me have 8 characters per server and a maximum of 40 characters, but I think just the one character will be enough, thank you.
When I consider that I’ll probably put more hours into FFXIV in its first week than I have my entire PS4 collection to date, that seems like great value to me, and if it doesn’t continue to draw my attention after a few months I’ve still got my eye on Destiny.
The Great ‘To Do’ List
Like all good MMOs that give you that ‘What shall I do today?’ feeling as soon as you log in, my ‘to do’ list for FFXIV is quite extensive. I’m planning to:
Buy my own house, complete with garden.
Try out all classes to see how my preferred one works best with them.
Build up other crafts and gathering skills to see just how self-sufficient it gets.
Explore the storyline to see where it goes.
Tweak the practically limitless options to set up the game just how I want it, including being able to number groups of mobs for party members, switch hotbars more sensibly, adjust the hud and so on.
Set up remote play on the Vita for crafting/gathering.
Do every single quest there is.
Start working for the Immortal Flames Grand Company in Ul’Dah.
Map out the realm on pieces of A4 paper with personal notes on mining/gathering and other points of interest (yes, I’m a geek).
Join a Free Company (Guild).
Run my favourite dungeons over and over for gear (I normally hate dungeons/raiding and pick up groups, but FFXIV does all of these really well, plus I’m usually a tank so no problem finding parties).
That’s just off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure this is just the tip of the iceberg though.
And This Is Why I Love It
I’m biased, I’ve always been a lover of all things Final Fantasy, and MMO is my favourite genre. I remember Final Fantasy XI Online being ruthlessly hard compared to any other MMORPG, notoriously difficult to lone wolf and practically impossible to work out what to do next without looking it up outside of the game. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, whilst offering so much more to do, is a zillion times more user-friendly, what with automated party finding, online help systems, logs that track progress, improved map systems, and even a ‘Here’s What You Can Do Today If You Want To’ pop up window each time you log in listing all available quests and things to do in your area.
Those improvements, coupled with staggering depth and beautiful 1080p visuals (there’s even a setting that allows you to knock it down to 720p if you want to pretend you’re playing on an Xbox One) rekindled my love for the MMO genre when I was least expecting it. And of course there’s a huge amount of fan service within the game itself, around every corner there’s a nod to games of old from the franchise.
For me, April 11th can’t come soon enough.