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- Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Anthony Labella: More so than perhaps any other genre, the MMORPG stresses the importance of a fully realized world in which players lose countless hours completing quests, exploring dungeons, and interacting with other players. The emphasis on setting proves especially vital in the first few hours when one considers that players spend time tackling fetch quests and killing X number of monsters. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn doesn't shy away from the early-hour grind that comes with nearly every MMORPG, but it's the world that leaves the biggest impression.
When I first entered my starting location—the port town of Limsa Lominsa—I was struck by the scope of the large seaside environment. Though initially daunting, I enjoyed learning the ins and outs of the expansive city as I picked up numerous quests and interacted with NPCs. That feeling remained as I went out on the battlefield to complete those quests and discover new locations. It all speaks to the strength of Final Fantasy XIV's art and character design, which helps encompass the creativity behind the entire world. Around every corner is some new visual splendor or interesting locale, which makes for a strong first impression. The Final Fantasy foundation also helps; I grew up on Final Fantasy games, so the appearance of a moogle or chocobo always puts a smile on my face.
But Final Fantasy XIV isn't simply about exploring environments. There are monsters to kill and quests to complete, so the player must first create a character for such tasks. I went with an Elezen arcanist, which parallels mage classes in other MMORPGs. I clicked the random name button a few times, so my character is known as Octavel—maybe he likes singing. I didn't spend too much time changing his appearance, but there are plenty of customization options for the more creative types out there.
Once I was ready to put my spells to the test, I left town to fight ladybugs… ya know, cute early-game enemies. This meant constantly using my ruin spell early on, but eventually I received new abilities after leveling up. I can now poison enemies with bio and I also have a handy energy drain ability which allows me to collect HP/MP while fighting. But my favorite ability by far is the summon spell, which activates my carbuncle pet. He's cute but packs quite a punch, and eventually he feels like a central part of battle for the arcanist class. The relatively brief cooldowns make for fast and active battles, though it's all been quite easy so far. Hopefully enemy encounters gradually become more difficult and/or complex as the hours pile up.
One particular mechanic on the battlefield did stand out, though, and that was the appearance of FATE events. While traversing the landscape, large battles will show up on the map for a set amount of time. Any player can travel to and take part in these battles, which results in rewards based on performance. One time I stumbled across a large group of players fighting evil flowers, so I decided to join in and ended up receiving a gold medal, 1000+ XP, and a little bit of gold for my troubles. The actual battle itself was large, hectic, and quite loud with all of the other arcanists casting spells. It all adds up to a spectacle of sorts, even though sheer numbers often trumps skill in these larger encounters.
The rest of my time with Final Fantasy XIV amounted to a lot of simple quests—as I mentioned before, be ready to collect and kill a lot in the first handful of hours. Nevertheless, I've enjoyed my time with the game so far thanks to the fast-paced battle system and well-realized world. I can't wait to dig deeper into the game and experience some of the more complex elements, such as party interactions, dungeons, and world travel. Be on the lookout for my full review in the next week or two.
Nick Tan: While Anthony LaBella will be taking on the full review, I have been dabbling with the PS3 version of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn casually over the past five days. And, yes, I've experienced the same woes as everyone else attempting to log in during the Early Access period.
On the first day of early access, I had to postpone my session for about six hours, most of which were for mandatory maintenance. Then on the third day, when I had time to log in once more, I spent about twenty minutes pressing the X button, logging in and out once every twenty seconds, just hoping to get on its queue and not to get kicked out to the main menu again. With luck, the server issues will be fixed over the next few weeks, but Square Enix may have had underestimated the amount of renewed interest in this FFXIV reboot.
As of this writing, my character is a Level 14 Roegadyn Pugilist who, as his build and class suggest, deals quick but powerful melee strikes. Though he has a lot of strength and vitality, his lack of heavy armor can make crowd control difficult, but I haven't experienced much trouble dispatching cactaurs, efts, bug swarms, and any other manner of beast in a one-on-one fight. The PS3 controls work surprisingly well with the hotkeys, though it sacrifices some of the speed of flipping through HUDs and for some extra control in combat. Most creatures mind their own business while you travel on foot or on chocobo through the wide open expanse of the landscape, which in my case was the arid plains surrounding the Ul'dah sultanate. Which one of the four worlds you'll begin in will depend on your class.
Since going straight through the story and the side quests can get tiring, as it's very much about "collecting an X amount of stuff" or "killing an X amount of Y beasts," it's great to see a variety of tasks that players can do. There are plenty of different crafting specializations, and switching class is a simple matter of changing weapons. You can sell goods through a retainer, join party-based quests, drop into various random FATE quests, level up far enough to unlock jobs, or choose an alternate account.
I haven't unlocked any of the end-game content of course, which the developers recommend players try at around Level 50, but there are other milestones to conquer: airships at Level 15, Grand Companies at Level 22, and Job quests at Level 35. There's a lot left to discover still, so I'll report back with an addendum to Anthony LaBella's review.