At long last, I've made my triumphant return to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. So what made me stop playing in the first place? What got me back into the game? How easy was it to pick up where I left off? What did I name my chocobo? The answers to these earth-shattering questions follow.
Earlier this year, as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn made its way to the PlayStation 4, I had the opportunity to give the game a review run. As I said at the time, it's very difficult to review an MMO, as a lot of the genre's gears don't start to fully turn until you've sunk an ungodly number of hours into a given title. Even if certain systems are being introduced earlier on in the campaign, some would argue that an MMO doesn't take full form until you reach the post game.
My original plan was to continue reviewing FFXIV as I progressed through the game, giving readers an idea of how the game evolves over time. That, unfortunately, is not how things worked out. I'm a firm believer that, for the most part, you can either play an MMO or you can play all of those other games you have an interest in. My problem is that my interests are too varied and, after devoting a couple dozen hours to FFXIV and reaching level 20 or so, it became harder and harder to dedicate my few gaming hours per night to the title when more games I had an eye on were being released.
It also didn't help that I was finally starting to feel the grind. Perhaps it's silly to expect an MMO to keep surprising me, or perhaps break completely from well-worn ground, but I had my fingers crossed that FFXIV would manage it. By the time I reached the lower 20's, however, I realized that the constant stream of fetch quests, monster murder marathons and the like wasn't going to stop anytime soon. Quests had me talking to random villagers and traveling all over the map for no discernible purpose other than to take up more time and chip away at my slowly growing coin purse through teleportation fees. Yes, I realize that this is 100 percent the norm for MMOs, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't hope for something a bit more creative from time to time.
Other than the fact that A Realm Reborn sticks to snugly to safe ground, it's hard to fault the game. There are loads of systems in place and they all work wonderfully. The game looks great, controls well, and the story is interesting enough to keep me reading the flavor text. At a certain point, though, I just stopped caring and simply moved on to other games.
But no matter what my complaints may be, there's no denying that A Realm Reborn offered a little something-something that I apparently still craved. Usually, when I abandon a game, it's for good. I honestly can't think of the last game I poured a lot of time into, didn't complete, and then managed to come back months later to dive back in. The only other MMO I ever really sunk time into was The Lord of the Rings Online and, once I left that game a couple of years ago, I never returned. Keep in mind that I really enjoyed LOTRO and feel that FFXIV could learn more than a few things from that particular title. But, for whatever the reason, a couple of weeks ago I found myself randomly booting up A Realm Reborn and diving back in.
On of the aspects keeping me from returning was fear that I simply would be too lost. I figured I'd have forgotten the controls, what my abilities do, where I was going, what I was doing, the works. Color me surprised, then, when I found myself cruising around in less than 30 minutes as if I had never left the game. FFXIV is a very streamlined experience and your UI/control options aren't all that involved. All I had to do was take a look at my character's gear, peruse my inventory, check my last mission text and destination and I was up and running. I targeted a handful of puny critters to make sure I still remembered how combat worked, and then I was playing the game as if I had never left.
The bad news is that those textbook missions and events still haven't changed, but I think my break from the game has dulled a bit of the tedium I was experiencing a few months ago. Otherwise, I find that I'm enjoying the discovery of new and utterly beautiful locations, and I'm utilizing the game's social features more regularly to chat and stay connected with my fellow players.
Now that I've reached level 30, my hope is that the game will take a big turn that will hold my interest for a bit longer. In FFXIV, you need to have your first class to level 30 and your secondary class to level 15 in order to earn your job, AKA your Super Saiyan form. I've got one more mission as a thaumaturge (fire/ice/lightning spells) before I plan on dipping into my secondary class, the archer. That alone should help keep things interesting, as an archer's abilities and play style are pretty different compared to what I've grown used to. Your secondary class levels more quickly than your original, so it shouldn't be long before I get my archer up to 15 and can finally begin work to become a proper black mage. From there, I'm hoping that new abilities and combat options will make the grind from level 30 to 50, and then into the post game, more interesting.
The good news is that I no longer fear putting FFXIV down for a spell. When I first started playing the game, I was worried that I would never return to my adventure if I stopped, which kept me grinding until the point of insanity. Seeing how easy it is to pick up where I left off, though, I'm comfortable in the fact that I'll be able to jump back in again after the current grind starts to stutter my enjoyment. For now, though, I'm back on the road to becoming a black mage and I'm once again enjoying the process.
Oh, and I named my chocobo “Nugget,” of course.