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So I've managed to get in a little bit of time with Square Enix's remade, redone, revamped Final Fantasy XIV, appropriately renamed A Realm Reborn to indicate the Phoenix-esque resurrection and rebirth of an MMO that had to die and come back to redeem its name. Unfortunately, not everything reincarnates into something great, even if it comes back better than what it was before.
Square Enix has been on about pestering us for some hands-on time with their reborn prodigal son, aiming to return the MMO to the roots of success and build a strong community that the series was once known for. We finally gave in, noting that a month or so of free access would be enough to give some impressions of the game but warned that an actual review was unlikely.
So I took on the task of being the MMO whipping boy this time around, relegating some free time to trudge through the newbdom and see if the redemption of Final Fantasy XIV was legit or if it was just fluff for the hype machine.
I can honestly say that heading into the game the entire presentation was as sexy as you would expect from a traditional Final Fantasy game. The indubitable prelude made famous by composer Nobuo Uematsu welcomes new and old players alike at the start screen, and the “Final Fantasy” logo looms long and high over the brief options menu below. My very, very, very first impression of the game was that “This feels like Final Fantasy”.
Now just a brief note: I'm old-school and I love old-school Final Fantasy. I've never played Final Fantasy XI and my favorite in the entire series is still Final Fantasy VI. I lost a lot of interest in the series by the time Final Fantasy VIII rolled around and I was less than thrilled with everything between X and XIII, although I will admit that XII wasn't too bad. With all that said, I wasn't heading into Final Fantasy XIV a complete noob to the series.
There were a few things I was expecting though: The graphics should be great. The create-a-character should be noteworthy. The atmosphere should suit the quality of a pay-to-play, subscription based MMO.
The only thing the game nailed well, based on my first impression, was the last part... the atmosphere.
The create-a-character looks good but it's awfully barebones to be sub-based... while there are male and females for five species, the options are just so very, very thin. If you were expecting something on the line of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Age of Conan, Perfect World International or Aion you're fresh out of luck. The only impressive character customization feature are the hair options. Everything else is standard pick-from-a-handful of options... stuff you would usually find in a free-to-play Korean MMO.
On the flip-side, once I got into the game's world I didn't find any clones, so technically that means that the create-a-character at least did its job. If there's one thing I hate in MMOs it's clones.
After a 10 minute intro or so to the area of Eorzea I spawned into, it was time to do the proverbial newb-quests. I always hate newb-quests – you all know what I'm talking about, the quest where you meet with the town's resident hub NPC and then that NPC makes you run all around town and talk to all the other important shop/crafting/combat NPCs? Yeah, I hate it.
One thing I did notice while breezing through the bore-inducing fetch quests was that the city at least felt big and alive. It still seemed very theme-parky but at least it seemed like the city at least was big enough to house all the people running around, something that many other MMOs don't quite pull off very well.
The atmosphere felt Final Fantasy enough (or at least, the kind of Final Fantasy presented in XII and XIII-2). Looking around the environment and at some of the details seemed cool just until I realized that the graphics felt... dated.
I'm not much of a graphics whore, but again – for it to be a subscription-based MMO – I just kept expecting... more. In fact, if you check out the screenshot comparison between RaiderZ, a free-to-play MMO, and Final Fantasy XIV you can see that graphically they aren't too far apart.
Anyway, I do have to at least admit that the game controls rather well with a controller. Playing it on PC or console is easy enough thanks to a very intuitive setup that makes it easy to interact, fight, navigate and even carry out auxiliary commands such as emotes or gestures.
Speaking of combat... the fighting is pretty standard-fare of what you would expect from an MMO. It's semi-turn based and has a standard cooldown on skills, so you basically cycle through skills to attack and perform special abilities. I mean, it's literally standard-fare MMO stuff – if you're okay with the old World of Warcraft combat system then it's all good. If you were expecting something along the lines of TERA, Age of Conan, Warframe, RaiderZ or Monster Hunter Online, you're looking in the wrong place.
Sadly, my first impressions of the game can't be summed up as something positive. I'm still only a few hours into the game and I haven't explored enough or done any quests beyond fetching and farming, so it's hard to say right now if the game will pick it up and live up to being a reborn masterpiece or just another cash-in on the flailing subscription-based MMO model.
Hopefully the mid-game picks it up because right now it's hard to say – based on my early impressions – that this theme-park MMO is worth playing more than some of the other more prominent MMOs out there (especially the free-to-play ones) that at least attempt something new or innovative, such as Dragon Nest, Dragon Saga, TERA, RaiderZ or Continent of the 9th Seal.
You can learn more about Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn by visiting the official website.
FInal Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn: Level 10 Impressions.