Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn (PS4 review)

ffxiv-arr-box-artWhat has become of the MMO in 2014? What do we expect to see, hear, and experience when we pay for a game monthly? Well, we’ve finally seen a smooth transition from the PC space into the console market with Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn. Considering that just about every major MMO has and will have launch issues for the first week or so, FFXIV has been magnificent, aside from a few cadences. I’ll also do my best to block out the terrible memories of the original FFXIV release. No promises.

Finally an MMO with a storyline that keeps me interested.

While I will say that Square Enix was a tad lazy in their voice-overs for cinematics, these cutscenes are exactly what you would expect from a Final Fantasy franchise game. While only some of the scenes are voiced over, I didn’t really mind reading text since they were all animated beautifully. All of the quests in ARR are well written and more than just click-through material. You’ll discover a plethora of adventures and lore throughout every zone in the game.

Let’s clear a few things up before going further. For those who are unaware, Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn takes place five years in the future of version 1, following the unleashing of meteor and the devastation it wrought, which can be witnessed in the End of an Era trailer. These events heralded the advent of the Seventh Umbral Era and the destruction and reshaping of the world we knew in FFXIV version 1 (thank god). Without giving away any spoilers, I can say that if you’re looking for a Final Fantasy adventure with plenty of great writing and interesting adventure, you won’t be disappointed.

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Glorious, beautiful Eorzea in 1080p is simply jaw-dropping.

FF14GFX_ThumbSquare Enix made a great decision originally to tone down the graphics for this re-release, but really amped it up to take advantage of the hardware provided by the PS4. Unlike the PS3 version, FFIV:ARR’s beauty can be experienced the way it was truly meant, coming extremely close to that of high-end PCs. I lost count with how many time I’ve just sat in town and admired every detail put into everything from merchants to high end armor sets on different players.

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Boss battles have been the hallmark of visuals in this title, with beautifully animated abilities and phase transitions. Speaking of abilities, class spell visuals have also been significantly improved over the PS3 version as well, adding a depth of gameplay we have yet to see on any console for the MMO genre. Using ability combinations doesn’t only feel satisfying but makes for some stunning screenshots that may or may not get your party slaughtered while you’re trying to find the best angles. The PS4’s Share feature also makes this one of my favorite activities in the game.

Classes and Crafting feel somewhat different for a target based MMO.

One of the best features in FFIX:ARR is the class switch system attributed to weapons. Instead of leveling up multiple characters, you can simply switch weapons to change your “Job”. With secondary class abilities in addition to your weapons, this makes for some unique combinations that separate players from cookie-cutter builds that we would see in any other MMO. This doesn’t although mean that there isn’t a method to optimize for a specific role in this world, and group mechanics still follow the holy trinity of Tank-Damage-Healer.

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Leveling up a crafting profession in FFIX:ARR can feel somewhat tedious, and sadly doesn’t provide gear that is even nearly equivalent to what you would find in end-game dungeons or raids. Aside from lackluster rewards, crafting still feels similar to actual combat, leveling up quite similarly to other “Jobs”.  I found myself to be less than impressed with this system as it doesn’t really provide anything new to the genre.

FFIX:ARR doesn’t really bring anything new to the genre when it comes to combat or leveling.

Still using the original targeting system introduced in Everquest and perfected in WoW, Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn hasn’t really taken any real steps to change this well oiled machine. Taking full advantage of the controller’s button layout, I have to say that it’s hands down the first MMO to really transition this system correctly. With the ability to fully customize your button layout on the PS4, in addition to making use of the track-pad, Square Enix has made it easy to setup your controls in the way you want to use them.

FFXIV_ARR_battle_interfaceOriginally in the PC and PS3 version, I found that leveling up with “Fates”, which are more or less player events that were originally introduced in Warhammer online, Rift, and then perfected in Guild Wars 2, was much more efficient than questing or running dungeons. Square has since then toned down the experience and rewards gained from these to provide real options for players looking to quickly reach end-game. While I didn’t spend too much time raiding, from what I’ve seen, no unique mechanics have really been added, and most fights are still just a DPS race with multiple phases.

What truly defines an amazing MMO is what it brings to the genre.

While Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn doesn’t make up for its past failure in ingenuity, it does show us that a quality MMO is indeed possible for consoles. This, in itself is an accomplishment worth of praise and admiration. Taking the best from past MMOs is a tradition that will likely never be relinquished, as these features are what really define this genre that I’ve been in love with since my first character in Star Wars: Galaxies.

Albert Einstein once said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Without changing what we believe to be acceptable as an MMORPG, we won’t see any major changes in this genre. Although Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn is perhaps the best excuse any developer has ever released for a faulty past title, its rebirth is still clouded by mechanics and tradition passed down from generations hell bent on collecting “20/20” Boar Tusks.

3.5/5 Atoms

NR 3_5 Atoms - B-

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Adam "Kharakov" Kharatian
Adam "Kharakov" Kharatian 397 posts

Adam "kharakov" Kharat is part nerd, part geek, and full awesome. With deadly writing skills and the sleeping habits of a jackrabbit, late night gaming sessions are all but mandatory.