Final Fantasy XIV:ARR First Impressions

As the realm of Final Fantasy XIV rises up from the ashes, join Corey Jenkins as he shares his adventures of the newly revived land of Eorzea

Dating back to Final Fantasy I, II, VI, VII, VIII, IX and some of the more recent titles, Final Fantasy has always held a special place in my heart. With its great stories, tactical combat and mystical environments; it was like a series that could never be tainted. Then came Final Fantasy XIV.

Square-Enix’s first attempt at Final Fantasy XIV was a game shrouded in infamy due to the issues it launched with and continued to retain throughout its brief life-span. Copied environments, frustrating combat systems, a laggy server-bound menu UI and gorgeous un-optimized graphics that nearly shattered any low end PC that attempted to install the game. While only the most dedicated fans stuck around, the majority of the player base ended up leaving to find other games or go back to the earlier more successful installment, which was Final Fantasy XI.

While Final Fantasy XIV did manage to keep enough players on board for the game to function, Square-Enix knew that they needed to do better. Thus, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was created. When this new title was announced most assumed it would be an expansion of some sort to the original. It was quickly confirmed that A Realm Reborn would be a complete remake of the original title—a game that would, with the help of its new Game Director Naoki Yoshida, rise from its own ashes and be reborn in to something greater. That was the hope anyway; however, in order for this to happen the original had to be taken offline.

To the dedicated fans who decided to stick around, I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been to be told “you won’t be able to play our game for at least half a year, if not longer, while we fix our mistakes.” While I’m sure most of the players who were still logging in every day had mixed feelings about not being able to play their game while it was remade into something better; leave it up to a Final Fantasy game to actually tie-in its own destruction to the main story. With a cool event and an epic final CG trailer that would leave even non-Final Fantasy fans with chills and a grin on their faces, people still playing the game and even those who weren’t, wanted to believe it could be remade into the Final Fantasy they once knew and loved.


As many of you know (and after hopefully watching that epic trailer for yourself) Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is currently in closed beta. After having a chance to jump in at the start of Beta Phase 3 myself, I’m here to bring you my first impressions of A Realm Reborn. Keep in mind that this game is still in Beta and as we all know MMORPGs are vast creatures that need a lot of play time for a proper full length review, but even though I only managed to get to get a little past level 15, there is still a lot of information to pass on, so let’s dive in!

Beginning The Final Journey...Again!

Upon logging in to Final Fantasy XIV again after these many months I was immediately greeted with a sleek, responsive, character creation UI and the subtle chimes of the Final Fantasy hymn that we’ve all come to recognize. Already I was met with a breath of fresh air and the Final Fantasy vibe; while having been busy with many other titles, I had gone many months without experiencing. It was like a welcome mat had been laid out for me.

Compared to most games, character customization in XIV is pretty much what we’ve grown accustomed to in today’s MMO market. However, one thing XIV gets right with this process is offering you a healthy number of unique customization choices, without getting too heavy on the sliders. Things such as your race, body size, body type, face color, hair color, scars, eyes, eye color and even your characters combat voice were all available to customize within the anime-centric style that players have come to associate the series with.


After the basics were out of the way, I was then asked to choose my character’s birthday as well as what deity I would be born under. While these choices didn’t seem to have an effect on the main story, as far as I could tell, it’s possible that they get taken into account later in the game. Once my birthday and deity were chosen I was ready to pick a starting class. I chose the Pugilist, the agile fast-hitting grappler.

Class selection in Final Fantasy works a bit differently compared to most MMOs on the market right now. Upon reaching level 10 and completing the initial class quest—more on that later—you will be able to switch between any of the 19 classes freely, simply by changing out your weapon. On top of that, each combat class has at least 1 advanced class option available to it, referred to as a “Job”. Crafting professions in Final Fantasy are also considered classes as well and are included in the 19 available classes I mentioned earlier. Keep an eye out for an in-depth crafting article by our own Michael Branham.

Upon completion of my character I was greeted with a series of somewhat lengthy cutscenes which are prevalent in the Final Fantasy series, but may take new comers by surprise. Final Fantasy—even in MMO form—has a lot of story to be told, and it’s not afraid to throw it in your face early on. With that being said, I’m actually someone who enjoys vast amounts of story-telling and lore in every game I play and am probably one of the few who takes the time to read all of the quest text. If that’s not your thing though, they do allow you to skip through all of the dialogue.


Once the story-telling was done and the stage had been set for some mysterious arch-nemesis figure to confront me along my journey, I was dropped off at the city gates of Ul’dah, one of the possible starting cities that players get introduced to early on. Character movement on the keyboard was the standard WASD, however, the newly added “spacebar to jump feature” made everything feel a lot less restrictive and natural compared to the original version. The big thing that stood out to me, however, was how smooth the game felt and how it ran. If I could come up with a clever metaphor to compare how silk feels on the skin and how that tied in to my frame rate I would, but for now all I can say is that it was a huge leap from the original version. While my gaming rig is closer to the high-end spectrum, I’d even heard from other players that most low end machines were performing surprisingly well.

I’m not sure what Black Mage Square-Enix hired on to the programming team, but this definitely felt miles ahead of the original. I have heard, however, that PS3 users aren’t blessed with the same frame rate as their PC counterparts.

Hopefully this is something that will be addressed before launch, but for now if you’re deciding between console and PC, PC is definitely the way to go for the smoothest experience. After spending the first few minutes of my re-entry to XIV jumping around amazed at how smooth it was (not to mention how amazing everything looked) I finally remembered that I had a game to play, so I proceeded to venture toward my first quest.

 

The Rebirth of Traditional Questing>>


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Thank you!
# Jun 19 2013 at 9:11 AM Rating: Decent
3 posts
Thank you and Michael so much for these awesome previews! I've been on the fence about this game for awhile and these write ups are extremely helpful.

One of my primary concerns about the game was whether or not it was solo friendly? Any by that I mean compared to say WoW or Rift, etc. I played FFXI for over a year after it came out and really did enjoy it, but I couldn't always devote the time to finding a full party to go hunt mobs and I had the worst luck with static parties. Since questing seems very prevalent now in FFXIV I would assume the game is more solo friendly but would love to hear your opinion on it!
Thank you!
# Jun 19 2013 at 12:50 PM Rating: Decent
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18 posts
Thanks! I'm glad that we could provide you with some useful information about the game, it really was a pretty enjoyable experience. As far as it being solo friendly, I found it very much so at least in those early levels. Mainly with how the questing seemed to work and the fact that it was very similar to WoW, Swtor, Rift etc. The addition of the FATE system was also pretty solo friendly as well. If you've never played Guild Wars, then think how the rift events in Rift worked; events you could pretty much join in on whenever you were near, but could then go back to solo questing as soon as they were complete without really even needing to form an official party.

The group oriented guildhestes seemed completely optional missions as far as I could tell and just gave additional gold and exp, but weren't connected to the main story in anyway. So if you prefer soloing I don't think you would need to feel pressured in doing them. One thing I will say though in regards to that is that they do provide a lot of exp. which I think helped me stay on track as far as the leveling curve went. But I did skip a few of the first couple side-quests( and there are a lot) so that might have been why. If you find yourself needing some additional exp though the solo guildleve quests and the FATEs give a ton also.

Again this is only my experience up until a little past level 15, so I'm not entirely sure how it will change( if at all) at the higher levels, but if I'm able to get there and see what it's like then I'll probably do a follow up piece aimed more at the high level/endgame experience. I hope this helps though and thanks for reading our stuff. :)
Nice...
# Jun 18 2013 at 3:01 PM Rating: Decent
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119 posts
Very good writeup, and a nice read. Really enjoyed it.
Nice...
# Jun 18 2013 at 8:00 PM Rating: Decent
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18 posts
Thanks! Glad you liked it.
My Take
# Jun 18 2013 at 12:52 PM Rating: Decent
4 posts
The article was very informative. I'd have to say though; as a Pugilist myself, I don't see the battle system being any different, other than the Limit Break system. I am definitely looking forward to the FATE system (I enjoyed Guild War 2's "FATE" system but the game wasn't any near as refined as FF), Limit Break, and of course the new contents; plus, we have a JUMP now!

As someone who played FFXI religiously, I actually enjoyed the original FFXIV, sans the painstakingly slow UI and lack of Content & AH, so ARR looks quite amazing to me!
My Take
# Jun 18 2013 at 8:04 PM Rating: Decent
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Yeah, I don't seeing people who played in 1.0 or even in FF11 really seeing a huge difference in the way the combat works. Mainly just those who have never played either.
My Take
# Jun 18 2013 at 1:20 PM Rating: Decent
3 posts
I guess it is similar, but the Pugilist plays totally different from 1.0. Gated skills that are only activated by other weaponskills is quite different to me. A lot different from Lancer too
Fantastic first impression, and a huge improvement!
# Jun 18 2013 at 11:29 AM Rating: Decent
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38 posts
Really good writeup, you covered just about everything of concern in the main gameplay, and for the crafting and stuff that you didn't cover, Michael will cover. Very thorough first impression of the game.
Fantastic first impression, and a huge improvement!
# Jun 18 2013 at 8:06 PM Rating: Decent
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18 posts
Thanks man, glad you enjoyed it!
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