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Well, it's a little later than usual but it's here nonetheless: Impressions from the great vault of level 20. I can honestly say that unlike the previous impressions, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn actually managed to pick it up just after the level 15 mark.
While I was sorely becoming entrenched in the boredom of the typical MMO grind, something glorious happened: I finished my main job quest. Every 10 levels completed within a job, players are able to branch out and explore something a little more exotic, a little more new, a little more distinct. I took the opportunity to dabble in the physically challenging work of a miner, aced some rocks with a pickaxe and then decided to branch out even more and eventually become a pugilist.
I did like that in A Realm Reborn your character can keep growing and evolving with new class skills and jobs. In DarkEden you could multi-class simultaneously, but as you leveled up in one class you lost skills in another class. It's cool in Final Fantasy XIV that you keep your skills as you level up and you can even cross-use them to help strengthen another aspect of your character.
So what changes so much between level 10 and level 20 that I might share a modicum of praise in this particular impressions piece as opposed to the last two? Well, a lot of it has to do with the fact that the monotony is broken up.
My main complaints about Final Fantasy XIV were entirely centered around the game's tried and rehashed mechanics. And even though I found myself enjoying the mish-mash of different abilities cross-bred into other classes – although it should be worth noting that the animations of the moves themselves don't actually appear in your arsenal but more-so the effects of the skill – the combat was still too samey for my tastes. Plain and simple: If you're tired of target-tabs and cool-down skill spamming, you're not going to like Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, regardless of how high in level you get.
What you may enjoy about the game, however, is the amount of content available. Graphics and combat aside (as I feel I've spent too much time on them already) the crafting and supplier jobs are very similar to Allods Online and Goonzu Online, insofar that each crafting or supplying job is a bit of a mini-game, enabling players to do more than just point, click and retrieve (or craft).
Now, the crafting/supplying isn't necessarily deep. The mini-games are simple but require something more than an arbitrary metric of success or failure, which is how it is in most MMOs. Instead, players will get to choose from various options that expand and grow with their level, making crafting/supplying more diverse and expansive the higher in level you get.
Again, I didn't find any of this stuff so deep all on its own that I would say that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn really pushes the genre forward or offers something strikingly deep, however, I do appreciate that Square's goal with A Realm Reborn seems to center around jamming in as much content as humanly possible. I can't say that it makes Final Fantasy XIV a good game so much as it makes it a content-rich game in the later levels.
There are things like Guildhests that players can use to find special events associated with their class or profession, ranging from fetch quests to timed grinds, but again, it's all still kept within the basic framework of been there, done that. Basically, if you don't feel like finding people for designated quest raids, you can do various Guildhests scattered throughout the game world, whenever they're available.
Also, I have to note: for as long as I played there was only one time I interacted with another human being. To be an MMO there was hardly any multiplayer involved... in fact, other than being tossed in with a PUG for a quick instanced Guildhests grind, there were never any other times where interacting with another player occurred... at all.
As a rule of thumb, an MMO should at least encourage some form of community, whether it's altruistic or antagonistic, but something. I did way more interacting with people in Mortal Online back when it originally launched and I absolutely hated that game.
Ultimately, for me, there was nothing in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn that would make me fall in love with the good. However, as I engaged myself more and more into the content, I could readily see how some people could make a habit out of playing A Realm Reborn as their main game. What the game lacks in unique content, it makes up for it with an abundance of content.
I should note, though, there were a few things I did enjoy about the design of Final Fantasy XIV. First up, I need to reiterate that there were no clones for as far as I played. This is extremely significant because it's very rare that in the early goings of an MMO to find a lot of fresh faces. Most MMOs are littered with clones but they were nowhere to be found, so massive hand for Square on that front.
Next up, despite my lack of intrigue in the overall graphics quality, I did like the character designs. I thought there was a very deep sense of characterization brought out in the way each character was designed, which was one of the few saving graces of the game's story engagement.
Finally... the music. Oh wow, what can I say? To be honest, I wasn't fully aware of who the composer was at first but the music captivated me and kept me playing well into the night. I kept thinking about how fitting and thematic the tunes were... and then I found out that my man Nobuo Uematsu was the music director. No surprise there.
Anyone who plays beyond level 20 and still enjoys the game, good on you. If you're already enamored with non-targeting MMOs, there's nothing in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn that will bring you back to the standstill click-fest inherent with this style of MMO. If you have money to burn on a monthly basis, you love Final Fantasy, you aren't good with twitch-skills and you like a ton of content even if it's not necessarily original content, then you might find yourself enjoying A Realm Reborn for a time.
You can learn more about the game by paying a visit to the Official website.