As fans of the genre already know, the massively multiplayer online (MMO) game “Final Fantasy XIV” has already lived and died. It was rolled out in 2010 as a broken shell of an MMO, so rife with bugs, glitches, and other annoyances that it was quickly laughed out of existence. Square Enix didn’t even begin charging the monthly fee until more than a year after its release, and its servers were closed down less than a year after that.
It was easy to be skeptical about a new version, even as the people in charge were promising improvements and playability far beyond its deceased predecessor. “Final Fantasy XIV” was as large-scale a failure as there has ever been in the world of MMOs. Why would a reboot be worth their time?
Somehow, some way, “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn” (PS3; $59.99 + subscription fee; rated T) doesn’t disappoint.
As soon as you fire up the game, before you even log in, the music starts. It’s the “Crystal Theme,” the loveliest and most recognizable of the “Final Fantasy” leitmotifs.
What is immediately impressive is the game’s new and comprehensive interface in its PlayStation 3 incarnation. Button combinations are intuitive and impressively laid out on the screen, and it’s clear at any given moment just which “hotkey” button combination is being pressed. There are a lot of moving parts to an MMO, and “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn” manages all of them without buckling under the weight.
A whole new world
The true eye-opener of the game, however, is the world in which it exists. Having played through much of the beta in the wooded land of Gridani, and the retail release through the reformed pirate town of Limsa Lominsa, it’s obvious that much care went into giving each location its own feel and identity. Regardless of the location, though, there’s a sort of necessary camaraderie that stems from the recovery from some great “calamity,” as the many citizens call it. The welcoming attitude of the townsfolk actually helps mitigate the drudgery of early-game MMO tasking. You’ll more happily go to fetch a trinket for someone who really seems to appreciate it, after all.
Outside of town, the enemies are well-designed, and the occasional “FATE” (that’s a “Full Active Time Event”), which pools any adventurers in the area to work together toward defeating a common set of enemies, is a good first step for those unfamiliar with the teamwork necessary in an MMO. The fast-travel teleportation options are extremely welcome, and the process of combining your favorite pieces of armor for the best possible combination of fashion and protection is pleasingly intricate.
So far, the worst of the strikes against “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn” has been an inability to play. The first week of the game’s release was a near-impossible game of “Can you get connected?” The lack of a queue system – or any indication of whether servers were full – was a major problem, one that made sitting down to play an impossibly frustrating experience. A major software update seems to have rectified those issues for the time being, though, and a connection is now the norm rather than the exception.
As it is now, “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn” comes off as a polished, professional, and addictive MMORPG. The price feels steep in a world that is increasingly moving toward free-to-play, but the experience is a beautiful one with the production values we’ve come to expect from the “Final Fantasy” name.
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