Final Fantasy XIV has had a very turbulent past, with its first incarnation being so critically panned that its entire development team was pulled and the game rebuilt from the ground up. While this was a huge gamble on Square Enix’s part to invest so much time and money into resurrecting the title, I can say without reservation that their efforts have paid off. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a great game.
Graphics and Audio
Graphically, XIV maintains the pedigree associated with the Final Fantasy franchise, with stunning vistas, beautiful effects, and amazing designs for playable and non-playable characters alike. All attacks, be them physical or magical, are unique and instantly recognizable, so you needn’t worry about excessive recycling of animations as is common with other MMOs.
For those aural fans, XIV is likewise an amazing treat, with each area and battlefield having music that ranks high among other Final Fantasy titles. Some areas, such as Costa del Sol, do have some less appealing, perhaps even grating, themes, but in general the music is quite amazing. A number of in-game cutscenes include voice acting, which ranges from extremely good to simply tolerant, and a number of “central hub” areas include the sounds of crowded conversations to enhance the ambiance. This is a game where the volume definitely needs to stay on for the best experience!
Character customization is quite nice, with five races available to choose from, two distinct “sub-cultures” per race, and both male and female options for each. Customization options are standard fare for MMOs, with hair and eye color, body size and shape, and voice tone being among a few of the options that players can tweak. However, for a current generation game, I feel that the options available weren’t quite as robust as they could have been, with only a handful of voices, eye shapes, and hair patterns available. Sure, the wide range of colors do help, but it’s very common to see the same hair style on several characters that you come across, NPC or otherwise.
Obviously the most important part of any game is the gameplay, and fortunately XIV doesn’t falter. Like many other modern MMOs, the majority of content comes in the form of dungeon raids, with experience points and equipment as the primary rewards. These dungeons start out fairly easy, and ramp up in difficulty at a steady, but not too excessive, rate, with new dungeons becoming available every couple levels to allow for some stat and gear progression before being forced to tackle them.
Leveling your first job ends up being very easy, with a series of quests available in many regions that offer large chunks of experience as a reward. However, any additional jobs you choose to level become more of a chore, as those quests are available only once, and then you’re effectively cut out of a large percentage of potential experience.
Square Enix wisely gave players several options for when they hit level 50, which is the current level cap. Because XIV allows for players to level up multiple jobs on the same character, unlike most contemporaries that just allow for one class and that’s it, you can take time from end game dungeons to go level a new job or work on the many crafting and gathering classes available. Essentially, it’s very hard to have absolutely nothing to do in game.
Though it follows the standards of other MMOs extensively, the unique Square Enix flair and attention to detail keeps it from feeling overly redundant. There are some issues with job leveling and some of the aesthetics that aren’t as appealing as I’d like them to be, but in general it’s an extremely fun game, well worth the subscription fee!