I haven’t touched a Final Fantasy game in a little while. Well, one that isn’t a sequel based on a mistake (looking at you Final Fantasy 13 1-3). Why did I just jump into this game? To play with friend of course. Seeing my friends play it did make it look fun, but looks can be deceiving.
FF14: A Realm Reborn is a redesigned version of the original. FF14’s first release was said to be terrible. It wasn’t worth playing based on player reaction and Square quickly went back to the drawing board to redesign FF14 to make the game more fun and fixed many of the problems that plagued the game. They came up with FF14: A Realm Reborn. How does this new redesigned game fair? Let's find out!
When you boot up the game, you are given a very nice story cinematic that shows a dragon destroying the world and then being sealed away by a mage. Five years later, the continent of Eorzea is in peace and much of the land has been restored. Behind the scenes the evil Garlean Empire plans to reignite an ancient war. If that wasn’t problematic enough, there are monster tribes who are trying to summon their demon deities to take over the world. You as an adventurer must stop all this from escalating into a repeat of five years ago. The initial story is interesting, but your actual participation in it all is pretty dull.
After making a character (with the nice character creation offered) and choosing your class, you’ll start off in one of three cities. The initial quests are a little different, but they all converge into the main story eventually. Most quests consists of fetching items, talking to Non-Player Characters (NPCs), and dancing in front of them with emotes. Some quests do have voice acted cutscenes to explain the story, which is nice for a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO), but most of the main characters look average and their personalities are flat. You may actually forget what's actually going on in the story. From what I’ve experienced, some of the important characters, such as royalty, are of the race of baby elf people (the Lalafell). Seeing a two foot baby in armor commanding everyone was cute at first, but when they were shown having major roles, I was unable to take the story seriously.
The beginning quests are dragged out to the point of torture. If you’re patient though, you’ll be able to go into dungeons at about level 13. Dungeons are designed with teams in mind. It’s actually fun going around with friends killing monsters. The best part being that each person must play their role. A healer and tank are both necessary for a smooth run. Dungeons can be accessed through a queuing system where players (or a team) can instantly teleport and do a dungeon quest. This alleviates the issue of finding a party to finish a dungeon quest a player can't solo. Dungeons do have mini bosses and big bosses in them, but they’re mostly just push overs in terms of challenge.
The gameplay is where I had the most issues. First of all, the interface is a complicated and tedious mess. The mini compass map is useless and the bigger map, though better, had issues as well. Teleporting crystals have different names for teleport locations, making it a very confusing and annoying method of travel. Teleport Crystals aren't tagged to let you know you either missed or got it either. You WILL find yourself editing the interface in some way to your liking. You’ll have to in order to see your screen and fix your controls! Once you’ve tackled the interface, you’re off to actually do things. I played the PC version and used a PS2 modeled controller for the PC. I found it a little more comfortable than using a keyboard, but it wasn’t an easy solution.
In order to fight, you must face the enemy, press X (or A on the Xbox controller), to select the enemy. Press X again to initiate attack mode, then hold either L2 or R2 (Triggers for 360 controller) to bring up your combat menu to attack monsters. If you want to lock on, you have to press in L3. Not holding those triggers and pressing one of the face buttons will result in your character exiting combat mode, allowing the enemy to get some free hits in.
The combat system is your typical World of Warcraft set up with cool down skills. Dodging is dependent on your status and there are attack ranges. Archers and mages can shoot from afar and some enemies can’t reach them right away. There is manual dodging, but it’s only needed when the enemy performs an area of effect attack where either a cone, rectangle, or circle appears on the ground and you must move out of that area to avoid getting hit. The combat system is nothing new and will get boring if you’re the type of gamer that prefers a more active battle system.
If you don't want to do much fighting, you can always go for creating items to either sell or use. There are several crafting classes; such as alchemists to create potions, the culinary class to make buff inducing food for players, and weaver to create cloth armor. Many players who want the best equipment for their class rely on these crafting classes for items and equipment and it isn't bad if you're looking to do something aside from fighting.
Gaining experience to become stronger is made easier through doing the many quests and instances scattered about the regions. Although fighting is mostly what you'll be doing (depending on the class you're opting for), quest give a lot of experience to help with the grind to the next level. Some of the non-fighting quests include gathering items, talking to NPCs, or using a certain emotion in front of them.
The best attributes of this game are its graphics and art style, along with its soundtrack. The graphics are superb and the characters look nice and pretty. The monsters look vicious and distinct. The cities and landscapes are very nice too. The character animations are pretty cool too. The game soundtrack consists of amazing orchestrated tunes along with some throw back remixed songs that were influenced from past FF games. Also for an MMORPG, I haven’t run into any glitches either, which is good.
There are a few things that grind my gears about this game. The battle system is the main thing that made my experience with FF14 a drag to play. I’ve played a ton of World of Warcraft clones and to be thrown into another game with the same type of battle system gives me a sense of déjà vu ( that been there, done that feeling). I’ve gotten used to games like Phantasy Star Online/Universe, Mabinogi, Vindictus, Tera: Rising, and Dark Souls. Those games have an active battle system where players use their reflexes to manually dodge and attack. I feel more engaged in the game when fighting monsters in those games because I actually have to put effort into dodging and attacking. FF14’s battle system is very stats based. Thankfully, there is a level sync system that downgrades characters to a certain level so they don't completely over power enemies and quests. The real challenge of the game doesn't actually come about until you're near the level cap, around level 45 to 50.
“Play it like a Final Fantasy game! Don’t expect an action combat system in a Final Fantasy Game!”
Final Fantasy’s combat system has always changed from game to game, getting closer to being an action RPG rather than sticking to a turn based one. FF13’s combat system, particularly 13-2, had a unique fast paced combat system that kept battles interesting. Even FF15 is opting for an action combat system this time around. FF14 on the other hand borrows heavily from World of Warcraft. It may look like Final Fantasy, but plays a lot like World of Warcraft. If you’ve played several PC MMOs over the years, such as World of Warcraft and Perfect World, you too may get bored of this game fairly quickly.
Another thing that bugs me is that it’s a pay to play game. It’s $30 for the PC version of the game and about $13 to $15 a month (you do get the first month free). The only reason I see this game being a slightly reasonable purchase is to play with friends that don’t have a good PC, but have either a PS3 or PS4. The biggest selling point of this game is probably because it’s one of the few cross-play MMOs on the PS3 and PS4. That means that people on the PS3 and PS4 can play with people on PC. This is an amazing feat for Square-Enix to do and I applaud their decision to make the game this way (although they've done this before with FF11). Playing with friends did make the game a little more fun.
Other than that, this game is definitely not worth your money or time (in my opinion). If you have a good PC, stick to playing the many free to play games available out there. Many modern free to play games offer much better battle systems and game play experiences than FF14. Just do a little research before downloading the game.
FF14 isn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just boring and average at best. Aside from its graphics and soundtrack, FF14 offers nothing amazing to push this genre forward. If you have a good PC, you can get a far better experience from one of the many free to play online games out there.