Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a game that basically snuck up on me. I mean, I knew it was coming, and I had friends who were raving about it a few months ago. But as someone who never played a Final Fantasy MMO, my gut instinct told me that it would be a heavy grind-fest that wouldn’t appeal to me. I have to say though, that I’m really glad that I decided to pick up this title. It is filling a need that I didn’t realize I had — I want to be lost in a whole new world again. I was a disbeliever, but boy have I seen the light.
Not everything is perfect, and I want to start with the bad before going into the good.
The server login issues are absolutely atrocious. I’d say it’s probably right up there in the list of Worst MMO Launches of All Time, and that’s not a banner I hand out frivolously. First of all, right now, the majority (all?) of North American servers are locked to anyone creating new characters. This means that if I want to play with friends who were a day late to buy the game, they can’t join my server. If we wanted to go reroll new characters on another server, I couldn’t play on anything but EU or JP. To make matters worse, if I wanted to make a new character on the server I am currently playing on, I cannot. Even if I were to delete my character, I’d just lose my spot on that server and wouldn’t be able to make a new character. And new servers aren’t coming up until NEXT WEEK. That is just plain unacceptable to me. How on earth am I supposed to recruit friends and evangelize the game to other people if I’m trapped on the only NA server available to me and friends can’t make characters in their own region? Gah, it’s just so bad.
But that’s not all. All the servers are also FULL, which means that when I try to log in with my little Lalafell (shown above) on Sargatanas, I get “This world is full, please try again later” errors. Not a server queue — that’s technology that’s just TOO modern. The solution is to mash Numpad-0 over and over again until the game lets me in.
That’s not all. There is no idle timeout, so players are literally clogging the servers because they don’t want to log out and lose their spot. I’m guilty of this as well, because I don’t have time to be mashing a keyboard for 20 minutes straight trying to get past the login. Cities are full of people just idling around AFK. I just don’t understand why Square Enix hasn’t learned anything from previous MMO launches, both theirs and all the countless other launches they could have learned from.
Okay, so with that out of the way, you’re probably wondering why I’d even keep playing this game with this kind of feedback? There is something seriously magical that I feel while playing it, that I honestly haven’t felt since vanilla WoW or even EQ1. I am having troubles putting actual words to my sentiment, but I’ll try to highlight some of the things I really enjoy.
The first is that there are so many options. I’d hesitate on using the word ‘sandbox’, but once you reach level 10 the entire world is yours to explore. Want to solo quest? That’s totally possible with hundreds of available quests that aren’t seeming to ever end. There are FATEs, which are basically like rifts. There are Guildleves, which are daily quests limited to 3 per 12 hours that stack up to 100. There is the Hunting Log which gives you XP for killing particular mobs. There are dungeons and PvP. There is a Duty Finder that always gives you level-appropriate things to do. The crafting and gathering are both robust separate classes that can be leveled independently of your main adventuring class, like EQ2. I don’t think anyone is going to run out of things to do.
The class system is also really neat. Once you get to level 10, you can start leveling up different classes by switching to their class-appropriate weapon. This eliminates the need for alts, because with enough time you can literally have one character gets to max level in every class. There is also a job system that allows you to level up a couple different classes and use the abilities from them to create ‘hybrid’ classes of sorts. It’s all very complicated to explain but pretty easy to understand once you get in the game.
The armor varieties seem really wide so far. I’m level 11, and I’ve gotten several upgrades that dramatically change my appearance. Just from looking at the outfits that other people are wearing, I can tell that between the armor models and dye options make for a huge variety of appearance looks. I’ve seen people making some pretty awesome looking outfits (and some pretty hilarious ones too).
The world is pretty beautiful. I’m hesitant to say this, but it’s very reminiscent of Vanguard in terms of the art style. It’s more colorful than Vanguard though, but not in an unrealistic sort of way. There is a ton of attention to detail that makes the world really exciting to explore. The creatures are interesting looking, the world is unique and quirky yet gorgeous.
I’m playing with a gamepad/controller, which is an entirely new experience for me. I’ve never played any console MMO or used a gamepad with a PC MMO before, so this is a huge change. It took some getting used to, but now I absolutely love it. Aside from having difficulties with targetting mobs, I love being able to sit back and get extra comfy while playing. I’m to the point now where I don’t want to ever go back to having to use a mouse & keyboard! That’s how natural it starts to feel. It also gives it that familiar true Final Fantasy feel.
The stories are interesting and the cutscenes really draw attention to them. The characters are witty and fun and I find myself not wanting to skip any text whatsoever so that I don’t miss any of the story in my main quest. That’s pretty powerful.
Combat is nice. It’s basically standard hotbar combat, but it’s been slowed down which actually makes it feel pretty tactical rather than button-mashy. Abilities don’t come flooding at you like candy, so each one feels special and important and critical. I like that.
There are a ton of fast travel options such as returning home, ferrying, using teleports, sprinting, mounts. Nothing feels inconvenient to me in this game, which is a nice change from some other MMOs.
Basically, Square Enix didn’t do anything drastically different with FFXIV. If you’re entrenched in WoW and still enjoying it, there is no reason to leave and play unless you’re a big FF fan. But if you’re looking for a new MMO to explore that takes a ton of the best features and quality of life from successful games, and puts it in a really unique and storied IP, definitely try FFXIV. But not until they sort out their server madness….whenever the heck THAT is. Few more screenies below!