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This Should Have Been A Single-Player Game
In correlation with the “Pro” of the game having a compelling story about rebirth, sustenance and continental cohesion, I absolutely abhorred how these aspects had to be downplayed to fit an MMO structure. I also find that this game just should not have been an MMO. This game is everything I wish Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 had been and it captures a feeling of nostalgia from the old games while also moving the JRPG genre forward. Yoshida did a fantastic job working with the team to craft this beautifully designed and aesthetically rich world, but given that it's an MMO it feels as if the full potential of the class system, the storyline and the secondary characters couldn't fully be realized due to the restrictions of the game being an MMO. In essence, the persistence of sameness for everyone prevents any sort of actual changes from taking place to the game world at large, so there's no secondary overworld effects or large scale ruin you'll encounter, etc., that can happen in single-player RPGs. That's not to mention that with a decent-enough lead (male or female) and all the supporting characters from the sub and main story lines, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn could have been a knockout single-player RPG. But alas, Square felt the need to tell more of Lightning's story instead.
This here was another big problem that ties in with the contra above. The game's focus on being atmospheric is great, the character designs are amazing, but this just isn't an MMO. There are a lot of random Companies (guilds) who will send players random invites. There are also forced dungeon-runs that will team you up with other players from any of the game's servers. Apart from the forced dungeon-runs and the random invites from guilds, you aren't going to be interacting with players all that much. There's no real benefit to joining small field parties partaking in instances called “Fates”, where you can earn extra experience and coin by completing timed objects within a limited space; most people will run in, complete the objective and run out; it's not like there's any bonus for participating in groups or teaming up with other players either. A game that's supposed to be an MMO with hardly any multiplayer interaction seems like an oxymoron, and definitely supports my belief that it could have been better off as a single-player experience.
While I like the art design and atmosphere, the graphics in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn still leave a lot to be desired. It's rather obvious that the PS3 was the lead platform here and that many of the shaders and graphical designs were tailored around Sony's system capabilities. This design decision held back a lot of the game's graphical potential, especially compared to other games utilizing advanced DX10 and DX11 features. At the same time this also hurts the game compared to other PC MMOs like Blade & Soul, TERA, Age of Conan, APB, CrimeCraft and Bless, all of which were or are pushing boundaries in the graphics department one way or another. For most PS3-centric gamers the graphics probably look grand, but coming from typical PC games that push the limits so much further, it's like stepping backwards in time by about half-a-decade. Still, the sub-par textures and passable resolution are good enough if you aren't too much of a graphics whore. Again, the atmospheric use of the assets outweigh the quality of the assets; the team definitely made the most out of the dated PS3's limitations, even though it still negatively impacted the way the PC version looks.
I've written extensively about the combat in this game and how much I didn't like it. While I grew accustomed to its design later on in the game, it's one of those things where it's absolutely loathe-worthy until you're pushing past level 30 if you have several other classes up to level 20 to share skills with, and you'll be at least level 35 or 40 to find the combat well paced and quick-moving if you're only leveling a single class. Otherwise, it's a lot of the same-old, same-old you've been playing since Everquest. Yes, there are telegraphed enemy attacks that you can dodge and use to your advantage and it does add a bit of versatility and strategy to boss fights, but it's still that gosh-awful reliance on the clickety-click spam-fest associated with the Holy Trinity-style of MMO combat play. Anyone tired of skill stacking with such a restrictive approach to play mechanics will be put off with a large portion of the game's combat systems. There's no other way around this, but if you can stomach classic clickfests then maybe you can find enjoyment in the combat from start to finish. After being introduced to non-targeting MMOs I just can't go back to enjoying the click-spam of traditional target-based MMOs.
If you want to learn more about Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn feel free to pay a visit to the game's official website.
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