Square-Enix’s somewhat archaic and unconventional feature designs, in my opinion, had actually made the original 1.0 release of Final Fantasy XIV one of the most unique and interesting experiences available at the time. Sadly, the critics disagreed. The game did not fare well with the mainstream audience, and it was considered widely to be a failure.
Fast forwarding now to 2013, after three long years of redevelopment with a brand new team, the game has been given a new lease on life with the recent 2.0 relaunch, aka A Realm Reborn.
The game is still very much Final Fantasy XIV at its core, retaining the original graphical and audio assets, as well as elements of the gameplay mechanics. However, great efforts have been put into bringing the game in line with the other existing MMOs on the market, with everything ingame having been streamlined and “modernized” to some degree.
While I am appreciative of their efforts, I find myself feeling somewhat let down by a lot of the changes that 2.0 had brought.
Take the addition of the hundreds of new NPC quests for example. Instead of fleshing out the world and providing players with interesting new content, what we ended up with was a series of generic and forgettable quests, which only serve to lay down linear lines of progression, discouraging exploration, and at the same time giving the game a very closed theme park feel.
Adding to that theme park feel are the new fully open map zones. While the new open map design does give the illusion of a larger, more persistent world, in my opinion it also gave us more generic map zones that are far less interesting to explore. Worth mentioning too is that some of the more interesting areas have now been converted into timed instanced group dungeons, and are sadly no longer accessible by smaller groups, or the odd solitary explorers like myself.
Despite my skepticism, the game is not without its strengths and charms. Most gamers I’m sure would find the franchise’s signature creature designs, with your chocobos, moogles, cactuars and the like, to be a welcoming change from the often overused generic high fantasy bestiary. The iconic Final Fantasy tunes and sounds are excellent as always, and I am happy to report that the unique crafting mini-game transitioned over largely unchanged, as has the excellent multi-class jobs system, which allows players to experience all of the games classes without having to create new characters.
Also, being designed with the subscription payment model in mind, it is sure to please the more traditional gamers, folks like myself who might be looking for a strong character-based non-restrictive gameplay experience – something away from your real-money Cash Shops and Locked Boxes, where you constantly feel like you are being punished simply for not paying extra.
At the end of the day, it pains me to say that A Realm Reborn now plays a lot more like your average generic MMO, with its industry standard hotbar control scheme; the mindless kill-ten-rats NPC quests; simplified one-click gathering; the grindy daily quests; and the focus on its number of generic loot grind dungeons. While the Final Fantasy name is sure to attract fans of the franchise, I remain unconvinced that in the long run, the game as it stands with its traditional theme park gameplay, is enough to appease your average modern gamer – but, as always, only time will tell.
- Subscription based – development focus is on story and gameplay, not on expansive cashshop items.
- Stable client software.
- Optimized UI and more accessible controls.
- Fantastic Final Fantasy music and art designs.
- Engrossing main and job storylines that carries on from 1.0.
- Non-restrictive jobs system that allows players to level up multiple classes with a single character.
- Unique crafting mini-game.
- Intriguing world with strong lore and an unique sense of identity.
- Mount/Combat Companion.
- Generic NPC quests.
- Improved but still clunky gear management.
- One-click materials gathering.
- Some of the more interesting areas have been removed and converted into generic timed group dungeons.
- Removal of Companion NPCs
- Mindless XP grinding FATE parties seems to be a focus of the communities.
- Multiple class job leveling can get repetitive and grindy.
- Questionable long term appeal for casual social players.