Back in the day, when I played single-player games, most of them were RPGs. My first RPG was Final Fantasy IV (or Final Fantasy II in the U.S.). I fell in love with it instantly and followed the series all the way into the Playstation 2 era.
When Final Fantasy XI was announced, I was completely psyched about it. Final Fantasy XI was to be an MMORPG — a massively multiplayer online RPG. The co-op lover in me squealed — playing an RPG with hundreds of people all over the world? Sign me up!
I tried out FFXI with my girlfriend at the time around the summer of 2006. It was fun but it required a lot of time to get anything done. At the time, doing content alone was extremely difficult. Even if you had a friend, you could only do so much until you needed a party. A party consisted of several other people that you had to find around your same level. Finding them was always a pain because you had to make sure you had all the required jobs and the same levels. Once you made a party you would grind hours and hours killing the same enemies. Despite having a great community, I grew frustrated and bored of the process and quit around the fall. I had a little love affair with World of Warcraft for a couple of years after that but eventually I got tired of that as well and went back into a lull, thinking my MMO days were done.
Eight years later, my friend invited me to play Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. I was initially interested in the original version until I heard it was a giant mess and no one recommended it. A Realm Reborn was Square-Enix’s response to the disaster by completely revamping the entire game. Remembering my salad days with Final Fantasy XI, I decided to give it a whirl.
And I’m glad I did.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Real Reborn has been one of the best experiences with a game. It was the game that I wanted Final Fantasy XI to be, a vast world set in the Final Fantasy universe that was easy to get into without much effort. Things such as the music, graphics, story, references to old games and the community all make this game a must-play if you are a fan of FF.
The game itself plays like most modern MMOs. If you’ve played World of Warcraft or any game like it, it shouldn’t take too long to get used to it. For the MMO beginner, basically you choose a race, pick a class, go on quests, run dungeons with other people as you slowly learn more skills and abilities. As the game progresses, the difficulty will as well as you learn more about how to play your job. One of my favorite things though is that you can simply use one character to level up all the jobs. Almost every other MMO forces you to make another character as once pick your job, you are stuck with it. FFXIV:A Realm Reborn actually encourages you to try out other classes as you can actually take some abilities from one job and be able to use it with others. If you don’t like fighting, crafting and gathering jobs are also available. While I have never gone into it too much, it seems like a complex system that can be quite the time sink if that’s what floats your boat.
Music has always been one of the highlights for the Final Fantasy series. Thanks to Nobuo Uematsu, the music from various games have been played in orchestral halls. In this iteration of the game though, Masayoshi Soken has been in charge of the music. Being a stubborn guy, I was extremely skeptical if Soken could pull of the same magic Uematsu did.
My feelings of doubt quickly went away as soon as I started the game. The music in FFXIV is fantastic; there are so many themes that have found my way into my music playlist. Field music gives you that sense of adventure and traveling the world while boss songs reflect on the huge enemy that you’re party is encountering. Special mention goes to Primal battles. For the unaware, a primal is the name of the creature you could summon in various FF games. Anyways, each primal seems to have a different musical theme to it so it never feels the same. From the soothing singing when fighting Ramuh, the silly chanting during your fight with King Mog, to the hectic heavy metal music of Titan, they are all extremely catchy and well made. Here are a few of my favs:
So whether you are fighting a giant monster or traveling the world on your chocobo, Soken does an excellent job of immersing you in the world of A Realm Reborn.
Graphically, the game is gorgeous, even if you have a low-end computer. It’s rather amusing — in real life I love taking photos of the sunset/sunrise. I find myself doing the same thing in this game as the effects of the sun make it just too beautiful not to.
Also being able to see thousand of stars during the night is a great feeling. Apart from the sky (that I may be obsessed with), the terrain is just as pretty. From the nature-filled forests of Black Shroud to the lifeless, cold winterlands of Coerthas, I still find myself admiring the environment one year later into this game.
I was also very surprised at how plot-driven the story of FFXIV is compared to some MMOs. While some MMO games do have a story, I never felt a need to care about it too much. From the get go, FFXIV makes it feel like you are accomplishing something in your quest to keep peace in the world of Eorzea. The main story is filled with cutscenes, something I was not used to in this type of game. Sure, the quests are general MMO fodder (kill X amount of enemies, go to this area, fetch these items for so and so) but at least there’s a decent story behind the whole thing. Even after you “beat” the game, the story continues to expand with every patch so the world is always changing. One thing that I do find annoying (that I hope they change in further releases) is that towards the end of the main scenario, you will be led to two final dungeons that are very cutscene-heavy. While I thought it was a nice idea to implement the story into the dungeons, people who have cleared the game already will be trying their best to steamroll through the content with or without you. You may find yourself just watching cutscenes non-stop as the rest of your party clears the dungeon without your help, which could lead to an anti-climatic end to your journey.
Now, this game wouldn’t be a Final Fantasy game without having that Final Fantasy feel to it, right? A Realm Reborn has that covered with you in spades. If you have ever played just about any Final Fantasy game, odds are you will see it referenced in some way in this game. While the game itself takes place in its own universe, various aspects from a lot of the previous games make their way into this one, one way or another.
For example, the job system is a system seen it a lot of the previous games and the classes you can play (such as black mage, white mage, warrior, etc) are classes you have seen before in the past. The limit break feature that was first introduced in Final Fantasy VII is implemented into your party — each role has their own version of a limit break. The Magitek Armor seen in Final Fantasy VI is an available mount to ride on and gunblades from Final Fantasy VIII are carried by the main antagonist in the game. When you clear a dungeon/big battle, the classic victory fanfare will play. The Crystal Tower from Final Fantasy III is a huge dungeon where you and 23 other people can make their way through. The list goes on and on with each game update — the next couple of patches will feature the Golden Saucer, everyone’s favorite playground in Final Fantasy VII will make its grand opening (this Tuesday)! While you might be afraid that this might actually take away from the game since it’s just borrowing from a lot of the other games, it’s quite the opposite. Final Fantasy XIV manages to be its own game while having little callbacks from the previous games. It’s like a giant gift for longtime fans of the series, one that I continue to enjoy with each new addition.
Finally, the community is what keeps me going in this game. Final Fantasy XI was known for having a very friendly community and Final Fantasy XIV continues that tradition. Most people are usually happy to help and very polite when you party together. Sure, there are your douchebags once in awhile but the amount of them is so minimal in this game that it’s astonishing. If you happen to die out in the field, odds are if you ask for some help, a pack of white mages or scholars will come running to get you back on your feet. Remember that same friend that invited me to this game? Eventually he got bored and quit, leaving me all alone in my server. However, I eventually made a lot of new friends and now I’m in a small but close Free Company (think of a guild) that does various activities together ranging from helping people to just randomly running dungeons while chit-chatting. It’s a very relaxing atmosphere that I wish other multiplayer games could have.
Like any other MMO, there’s so much to do in FFXIV: A Realm Reborn that it can keep you busy for ages. Over one year later and I’m still busy running around doing various things while having fun with my friends. Square-Enix and producer Naoki Yoshida has done a great job with keeping the game fresh with updating it every few months. In spring of this year, the first expansion, Heavensward, will be coming out with even more stuff to do.
Whelp, it looks like I’m back on the MMO train. But if it’s going to be anything like what I have been doing over the past year, I don’t mind one bit.
Note: Most pictures in this article are from yours truly throughout the past year.