Friday, 10 January 2014

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC) - Guest Post

I don't generally play multiplayer games for Super Adventures, as I just don't feel like they're a good fit for the site. But Jihaus here plays what he damn well pleases and today he's taking on the latest MMO to steal a numbered slot in the Final Fantasy line: Final Fantasy 14: Online 2: A Realm Reborn.

Final Fantasy 14 A Realm Reborn logo
Ray was hitting a bunch of Final Fantasy games recently and I figured it'd be a good time to jump back into Final Fantasy XIV. I'm relatively familiar with the game from the short time I played the beta earlier this year but this time I have a chance to start over with it and really analyze it.

This will be the first MMORPG post of Super Adventures in Gaming so some may be wondering how this is going to work, being that MMORPGs are long, drawn out affairs in which it takes a lot longer to do things compared to offline games. The answer to that is, about the same, I'll just be compressing the timeline a bit here so this will seem a lot faster than the game really is.

As a bit of backstory, we're actually playing A Realm Reborn, not the original FFXIV Online released in 2010, which was apparently such a critical flop that Square Enix shut down the servers and redid the game, rereleasing it 3 years later in this newer, improved package. I haven't played the original so I can't compare, but I'd say I'm familiar enough with MMORPG mechanics to give this a fair shake.

Of course you run into the most horrible of MMO roadblocks before getting here: installing the game, and waiting for it to update EVERYTHING, a process I let run overnight as the ETA was in the thousands of minutes at first. Once that was over, I was able to just use the same account I had and proceed.

In typical FF fashion we start off with an amazing FMV laying down some exposition as well as copious amounts of destruction. Any number of shots wouldn't do this justice, so you'd have to see it for yourself (or go here: The narrator explains that this world, Hydaelyn, has various cycles in which civilizations rise and blown to hell, and we're coming out of the most recent one, 5 years after everything blew up.

They finish it off on a more hopeful note, with adventurers riding into the distance heroically while the narrator talks about a new adventurer with promise.

What we actually see in the first half of this video are parts of the end of the original FFXIV: when Square Enix shut down the original game, they capped it off with an awesome FMV in which the good guys and the Empire fight it out until Bahamut comes out and pretty much mega flares the whole planet, blowing everything to hell, which you saw in the shot above this one. In other words, they blew up their previous game and integrated it into part of the lore, using it as the groundwork for this reboot's backstory. I don't know about you, but that's a pretty awesome way to recall a game. As an added bonus, the original FMV plays in the menu if you let it sit idle.

Final Fantasy XIV character creation race selection screen
We get to character creation afterwards, where we start off picking a race. You may note that none of these are familiar races at all but they more or less hit the same fantasy race archetypes: Hyur are humans, Elezen are elf-like, Miqo'te are cat people with animal ears, Roegadyn are huge almost orcish humanoids, and Lalafell are the tiny "cute" ones. After this, you get to pick between 2 tribes or ethnicities which have variations in appearance. In this case I went for Hyur - Highlander.

Final Fantasy XIV character creation screen appearance hairstyle selection
After that we get to this customization screen which is damn huge. I spent like 20 minutes messing around here until I finally decided on something. After that, you pick a birth date and then a patron god which seems to have an effect on what your innate elemental bonuses are. However I don't see enough of a huge variety between the numbers and selections to really know how much this would affect things.

Final Fantasy XIV Character creation screen
We finally get to pick a class. You only see the "hit things" classes here, the disciples of magic include Conjurer, Thaumaturge, and Arcanist, which I believe translate to White Mage, Black Mage, and Summoner. Picking a class also determines your start zone in this case, with some nice concept art giving you a good feel of where you'll be. I went for Marauder which is a class that kills things dead with two-handed axes.

With that, I started.

Now that's a nice piece of artwork. That's Limsa Lominsa, our starting city. Art thus far is one of this games evident strong points, so as a guy who enjoys his scenery porn I'll probably have a blast here.

I end up in a cryptic cutscene scene where I'm floating in space, with a weird voice taking to me. A dude in a black robe which probably identifies him as a bad guy shows up and starts casting something unknown but decidedly nasty looking.

Then my character magically gets some badass armor and an axe and fights back, and the scene ends after some crazy pyrotechnics. I recognize this armor from the concept art as well as the marauder in the opening cinematic which means that this is probably an endgame thing and I probably won't ever be able to wear it.

It turns out it was a dream and I wake up to the significantly less epic sight of this grizzled creeper telling me that he was watching me sleep. He takes a really unusual liking to me and starts giving me a ton of exposition as we walk onto the deck of the ship. We learn that Limsa Lominsa is pretty much a pirate city full of ex pirates who still kinda feel like pirates sometimes, so we're in for quite a trip.

Anyone who's played Final Fantasy XII or the PSP releases of Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre may be either happy or terrified to know that the same wordy speech present in those games is present in extreme force in this game, as you can see above. This looks to be another journey in discovering words in the English language that I didn't know existed.

He asks me why I'm trying to be an adventurer, and because my only concern is to kill the crap out of things with axes I say I'm doing it for power. He mistakenly thinks I mean the power to protect others when it's really the power to murder the crap out of things but I won't bother explaining to him as that would break my vow of mute hero silence.

Some pirates attack but I don't get to see much of it because we all get rushed down to the hold to cower like a bunch of non-murdering NPCs right when they attack. Disappointingly we don't leave until the pirates bugger off so there was no action to be found.

We finally dock and my character leaves the ship and escapes the attentions of the creepy traveler after a series of establishing pans of the city. I should note that getting from the end of character creation to this part took 10 minutes.

I barely take 5 steps before some jerk member of the local security, called the yellowjackets, pulls me aside and profiles the crap out of me and tells me to go get a quest from him, indicated by the exclamation point. I couldn't even walk away without him invisible barrier-yelling at me, so I HAD to go talk to him.

We have a nice shot of the HUD here which in typical MMORPG fashion is full of stuff and by the standards of any other genre would be too damn busy. Thankfully you can move any element of this around if you wish, which comes with the game's options and don't require any mods. The grids of circular dots on the bottom right of my screen are actually visual diagrams of your inventory and equipment slots, and how full they are. Commands in this game are done via hotbar like other MMOs, which have a key binding but can also be clicked on if needed.

Like other games, this one throws tutorial windows at you any time you engage in some new process so anyone with half a brain could learn how to play the game.

I get sent up a lift and into a bar called the Drowning Wench which serves as a central hub for adventurers and/or axe murderers and meet this guy named Baderon who looks suspiciously like the creeper on the ship. Just as he signs me up into the log of adventurers more jerks show up and accuse me of things other than wanton slaughter, crimes I am most definitely innocent of. Baderon, using no shortage of apostrophes, manages to dissuade them with booze and keep the heat off me. Good man.

Through quests sending me from point A to point B, I'm introduced to the game's fast travel system, which are these giant blue crystals. Everyone gets a spell where they can teleport to any of these crystals they've already attuned to, though it costs gold to do so. They have smaller versions of these within this city as well, which allow you to fast travel between major districts.

With that, the game tells me I'm done with the tutorials and I can really run around at will now. There are still plenty of quests on my map though, so I'm gonna grab em first.

Clearly I was in a phased version of the city during the tutorial because holy crap that is a lot of players and I didn't see a single one on the way here! Like a standard MMO capital city, this place looks like an anime convention and people are just doing whatever they want including setting up desks and crafting things in the middle of crowded halls. Surprisingly, I'm not seeing any naked players dancing for money, so that's a plus.

Final Fantasy XIV quest complete level up
I've now filled the right side of my screen with quests and find that pretty much all of them are in the city and require no fighting whatsoever. They are ingenious in that they send you running around parts of the city and in doing so learning where things are and picking up more quests as well as levels along the way. Of course for someone like me who wants to murder things ASAP this could be very tiring, but I wouldn't be playing an MMO if I couldn't tolerate a bit of waiting.


I clear out all the errand quests and am left instead with actual murderin' quests, so I decide to step out into the wilds. The battle system is very straightforward here, I just select an enemy and either right click it to attack or use an ability on it. MP is useless to my character right now and instead I spend TP, which is a resource that regenerates over time. At this low level I hardly have anything that can deplete that whole bar so I'm more or less mowing the lawn right now.

In doing this I rediscovered a very nice anti-frustration feature: no looting corpses. Items automatically end up in your inventory when someone drops one, so you're not wasting all this time bending over and clicking on things every time you kill something and your wildlife genocide continues uninterrupted.

I look around my inventory and character sheet a bit and find another nice anti-frustration measure: equipment slots have their own inventory slots independent of your backpack. I feel this will be REALLY useful later in the game when you start running around with several suits of armor or silly outfits or whatever as typical of late game MMO play. Nothing stops a murder fest faster than an inventory is full message, and it's good to know I won't be seeing that for a while.


I turn in my quests, get a new axe from my marauder quest, and head off to the other gate. Right out the gate I run into a FATE, which are world events that spawn randomly at fixed locations on any zone and any number of players can jump in and do their part. These take the form of things like minibosses or huge hordes of special monsters which is what I'm facing here. Everyone gets a reward based on their contribution, and they show up very frequently so it's a nice alternative source of exp.

I decide to do this one solo because I am not afraid of mere sheep, and then proceed to get mobbed and murdered myself. Luckily I was able to run back out to rejoin the event (without getting killed this time) and reap the rewards. Yay!


I continue my adventures in the plains, doing random errands and murdering things for people while following the main quest, which is surrounded by numerous smaller quests in the same area, keeping things nice and contained. This hulking ex pirate with his pink shirt, named Staelwyrn, is one of these NPCs, and I would ridicule his choice of wardrobe if it weren't for the fact that the last few quest givers gave me pink gloves and a pink eyepatch as rewards to match, as if they were prepared for this. Those jerks.

Thus far this is feeling like other MMOs I've played in that you're going from place to place guided by quests. However, the battle system is so streamlined that it all moves pretty fast, and if anything most of my time is taken up by walking rather than fighting.

Several quests later, a marauder quest at some points sends me outside into my first boss fight, which is against a giant crab surrounded by other giant crabs after a cutscene. It actually looks more chaotic than it really was. I have level ?? NPCs fighting with me and healing me constantly though so I don't really have anything to worry about. It's interesting to note that the boss fight is instanced so there won't be any interference here, for better or worse. Once that's over, I go back to town and get a new axe and new armor, which while nice, is still mismatched.

I guess it should be mentioned here that 'level ??' NPCs are a thing that show up in MMOs. Generally it means 'way damn higher that you'.

The environment looks good, and for added flavor they have these random peaceful level 17 monsters hanging around not really doing any harm. They most definitely establish a nice sense of scale in the environment here and go a long way in feeling like you're in a different world.


Here's a shot of the city from outside of it, for added scenery. You may notice that I've hit level 10 at this point. I wish I could give you a nice montage of fighting and crossing the wilderness and training to the sound of some 80s music but this will have to do for now.

At level 10 I learn about FFXIV's famed armory system, and decided to run back to town and pick up some crafting professions. Here they're treated as actual separate classes with their own levels, skills, and equipment sets. What you see above is me doing the quest to become an armorer.

How does the system work? In a nutshell, think of the job system of past FF games such as FF5 or FFT. In this case there's no fancy ceremony for changing jobs, all you do is literally equip the weapon for that class. Really. Well, after you do the introductory quest that admits you into that class's guild, which is easy anyway. I can be any and EVERY class and profession if I wanted to on the same character, though I would have to level them individually. I think of it more like swapping characters without the hassle of actually swapping characters, which is awesome.

I decide to spend a bunch of time crafting a bunch of things and leveling my armorsmith to 10, which actually took a pretty damn long time, but I got some nice armor out of it. The crafting system has its own hotbar and set of skills and this log on which you can work. As you can see in this shot, leveling up your profession looks like any other level up, except in this case you get exp based on what you produce. You can even spend a little more time making an item once you unlock the necessary skills, which gives you a hefty exp bonus.


Once I exhaust my money buying crafting materials I run back outside and resume murdering things. Pink shirt hulk guy eventually sends me to a story quest to go investigate a cave, only for this cat lady in white to show up. Judging by the fact that she has voice acting in her cutscenes and was in the opening cinematic I'm pegging her as an important story character.

Either way, she does more than enough talking to make up for my mute hero status just as a monster shows up. Seriously, she should instead be referred to as Verbose Conjurer, since she sounds like she's reciting a speech or poem. I was half expecting the monster to just clobber us while I was waiting for her to finish talking. I guess I can't complain too much though, she does have one of those deep sexy British accents.

Evidently this monster wasn't as fond of her voice as I was, so we get into my second boss battle, instanced like the last. With this level ?? sexy British cat-girl playing backup healer I pretty much had nothing to worry about just as before, just axing the hell out of the thing until it fell.

I get thrown into another dream sequence in which I'm floating in space and giant crystals come out and talk to me. It seems I'm being told to rescue them, which leads me to believe that our mute hero here is probably some kind of destined character. That's to be expected of an FF game I suppose, though with this being an MMO, that is A LOT of destined heroes...

I wake up to find the conjurer investigating the poor dead thing we just killed and sending me back to my quest givers with some evidence that pirates are behind it. Pirates... in a pirate country. Go figure. But with a few confused silent gestures my protagonist manages to explain the dream she had, which our cat friend responds to but doesn't reveal anything about. I guess we'll find out more later, but for now, it's back to Staelwyrn and his pink shirted goodness.

So I'm off to do more adventuring again and this is probably a good place to stop.

So what's the overall verdict? I'm still playing the game and still enjoying it, and I'm spending time on it because I'm doing things I'm wanting to do, not because the game is forcing me to jump hoops, so that's always a good thing. During my days of playing World of Warcraft I used to meet a lot of players who didn't care a lick for lore and only cared about loot and what color that loot's name was printed in, and this is probably not the kind of game for those kinds of players. With all of the talkative NPCs, the cutscenes, and the Final Fantasy 12-speak going on, someone who wants to jump right into the action and stay there would probably lose patience with this.

However, even though I'm a carnage-mongering gamer born and raised in the NES age of ridiculous difficulty and nonstop action, I can really appreciate it when a game goes out of its way to beef up its atmosphere and setting, and we have that in droves here. In a sense. the pacing, story, and feel of this game is very similar to FF12, so anyone coming from that would be right at home here. Throw in the anti-frustration measures and the excellent flow and pacing of battle and we have what I feel is a strong MMO here. I'm wanting to go back in there and explore more areas and try other classes and experience more weird uses of English, so that's gotta be good. Sure there aren't as many big flashy things going on and the people talk funny, but the game's got a lot of heart, and plenty to see if you're willing to take it slower and look around.


  1. Can't say I'm even slightly interested in the game, but that's quite a nice article.

  2. Best article about FF XIV, I really wanna play this one =D
    Most of FF fans complain because this one is a mmo. Non FF fans complain because this game is too 'square', too beautiful cinematics and too much story. I liked what I saw about this game, this was the mmo I was looking for ^-^
    But what about the vieras and moogles?? Cant I play as a moogle? t.t

    1. Can't play as those unfortunately since this is its own setting altogether, but the default races provide enough variety to cater to a number of tastes at least.

      I definitely think that part of the problem is that too many people try to make comparisons to things without considering how it works as a whole. There are of course always the controversial comparisons to WoW (a comparison that any other MMO suffers nowadays) where you'll find plenty on both sides of the argument, but really it mostly comes down to mechanics because as you can see the aesthetics and atmosphere are different to something like Warcraft (which I am a huge fan of as well). As far as I'm concerned I don't care if games "steal" each others' mechanics and design as long as they're executing it well and it benefits the game as a whole. In this case I'm glad this game took some pointers from WoW because otherwise we'd have a less efficient more frustrating experience.

    2. No problem, I will be ok playing as a Lalafell!! I remember one of then from Dissidia XD
      Comparisons are unavoidable, but looking at how the game works as a whole is more important. and FF14 is really attractive!
      thanks for the review ^-^


Semi-Random Game Box