Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn phase 3 beta impressions, level 9, PS3 version

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Final Fantasy 14 is a game that launched in 2010, yet here we are, about to see it launch again. Being an MMO from Square-Enix, and more importantly that it is a main Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy 14 has gained quite the notoriety. It received a Metacritic average review score of 49/100, which definitely has to be one of the lowest scores that Square-Enix has ever had the displeasure to get. Game Trailers called the original release a “broken incomplete mess.” I didn’t bother playing the original game, but I did take some time out to get a taste of what the newly revamped Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn had to offer.

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One thing that immediately jumped out to me regarding this game is that there is a bigger emphasis on telling a story directly to individual players. Most of the stories of MMOs that I’ve seen take place in the regular world of the MMO. A Realm Reborn, on the other hand, sort of takes you out of the world to allow you to see a cutscene that only you can see (not sure if there are co-op story cutscenes). The benefit of this is that the scene is controlled–you won’t see any Lalafell’s (the game’s tiny people race) jumping around in the background. Via this method, I felt like there was more of an emphasis on me being the protagonist, despite the hundreds or more other players in the game.

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While the graphics of the world aren’t the best that I’ve seen on PS3, they are generally good. It’s understandable that they wouldn’t be of the same quality as Final Fantasy XIII, for example, because A Realm Reborn has to allow for hundreds of players and half as many monsters in areas that can be quite large. During my time I saw rain effects, and a fairly dense forest of fully featured trees, a farm, small villages, camps, rivers, and waterfalls. On the other hand, the character models are really good; essentially what you would expect from a console Final Fantasy game.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t pleased with the quests that I was given. From the start, this game is almost nothing but a string of fetch quests and kill-this-type-of-monster fetch-quests. Whether it was killing a monster because they’re dangerous, or because they drop some certain item, the result was the same.

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In a game like World of Warcraft, the world is expansive. When I walk through a forest, there are many times when I won’t even run into other players because the forests are so large. When I happen upon a monster, I happen upon a monster. I am discovering and exploring the world. In A Realm Reborn (thus far), I felt like it was the antithesis of that feeling.

Many quests will require you to kill a specific amount of a certain type of monster. There is so little exploration to these quests that it just feels ridiculous. The monsters are all bunched into a specific area that makes it really feel like you’re shooting fish in a barrel (Hmmmm, should I kill that one, that one, or that one?). It would be nice to feel like the monsters are acting like they would in a normal environment, and just roaming around; rather than just waiting with their group, ready for the slaughter.

This lack of exploration spills over into the general exploration of the world too. The forests that I saw were indeed large, but they were also very open; open to the point that I could see huge portions of it at one time. I’m hoping that once I get past what I assume is the noob area, I will find areas that feel like I’m really exploring; areas that offer surprises at every turn, rather than being dull because I can already see where I’ll be going for the next 2-4 hours of gameplay.

Learning the controls takes some time, but once you get them down, they work well on the PS3 controller. As far as I saw, players are able to map a total of 64 actions (including emotes, battle actions, and other hotkeys). Holding R1 and pressing directions on either the d-pad or the face buttons accessed one set of 8 hotkeys. It’s fully customizable, and I found it very useful when switching between battling and having fun with all of the emotes. All in all, they did an admirable job of bringing MMO gameplay to the controller (although there do seem to be parts that require a mouse).

One other thing that worried me a bit is that the combat seems really simple. As an archer, I started with a standard attack, and two special attacks. One was a heavy shot, and the other was a little more rapid fire. Later on, I also got a poison shot. All three of these types of shots shared the same cool down. So if I used one, all of them went into cool down mode (about 2.3s). With a game like WoW, which people already think is somewhat simple, in which you can rapidly activate all sorts of attacks, it makes me wonder just how satisfying this game’s combat is going to be. Will the later areas require precise decisions? I certainly hope so, because as of right now, the combat isn’t interesting, and it would take the rest of the game being really interesting to keep me playing.

Events that occur in the game aren’t all that interesting either. “Fates” will show up on your map, showing you that an event is occurring in a certain area. After arriving, you will usually find that some type of monster is repeatedly spawning out of thin air, and it’s the players’ job to destroy them all. I would much prefer random events that people happen upon. For example, maybe there are carts that move about the game world, and every now and then they get attacked by bandits, and your job is to stop them. Going to a specific spot to fight a monster whose level I can see on the map is convenient, but it makes for extremely boring gameplay.

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Despite the lackluster quests and simple combat, I still had an okay time with Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn. I was only able to play up to level 9, so it’s safe to say that more time is needed to make a proper judgement call on the overall flow of the game. It’s very possible that the earlier parts of the game are purposely simple because there is a lot that newcomers have to take in. If possible, I will be playing more of the game to see if perhaps the game can impress me like I want it to. Check back next week as I play as much of the game as is possible and give a second impression of this newly reborn Final Fantasy.

Ryan Southard

Ryan Southard is a video game enthusiast, dissecting games down to their tiniest details. Whether it’s new or it’s old, as long as it’s awesome, he’ll play it. Follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Southard

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