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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Can one of the crappiest MMORPG's turn it around and become one of the greatest?


Story

The story of FFXIV is initially told in the opening cutscene and is continued to be told as the player advances in missions, here's a breakdown of the story with the assistance of Wikipedia:

"Seeking control over the peaceful realm of Eorzea and its abundant crystal resources, the more advanced civilization of the Garlean Empire invades the realm from the north. In retaliation, despite their differences and anatgonisms, the city-states of Eorzea reinstate the Grand Companies—comprehensive centers of command which combine the cities' military and economic assets.
8th Imperial Legion Legatus Nael van Darnus, has his own agenda, insanely bent on purging all he sees as impurities, Nael orchestrated Project Meteor to summon the lesser moon Dalamud and wipe out all life.
 This forces the Grand Companies to put aside deep-rooted differences and consolidate their forces under the banner of the Eorzean Alliance. At the behest of this new confederation, adventurers from across the realm take up arms and march to the floating islands of Rivenroad to defeat Nael after he absorbed Dalamud's power.However, despite the mad imperial's death, Dalamud continues its descent to Eorzea.
In a final bid to save Eorzea, the Grand Companies turn to the Archon Louisoix, an enigmatic scholar hailing from the forgotten city-state of Sharlayan. Louisoix devises a plan to summon the power of the Twelve, Eorzea's pantheon of guardian deities, to banish Dalamud back to the heavens. But for this to succeed, the rite needs to be performed directly beneath the point of Dalamud’s impact: A vast swathe of barren lowlands in central Eorzea known as the Carteneau Flats.
The battle ceases when Dalamud enters the atmosphere while revealed to be a prison created to contain the elder primal, Bahamut. Freed after aeons of imprisonment, Bahamut jump starts the Seventh Umbral Era while unleashing his wrath upon the realm.  
Louisoix attempts the ritual to seal Bahamut in vain. Seeing his death certain in the Primal unleashing his ultimate attack, Louisoix summons the last of his strength to call upon the Twelves' power to send the survivors (including the player) into an ethereal rift, where they will be untouched by the passage of time, until it is once again safe for them to emerge and rebuild their ruined land." 


Gameplay

The gameplay is like most, if not all, MMORPG titles, the player can form parties, join guilds, run dungeons and participate in PvP. Of course, there are various trades the player can perform such as weaving, alchemy, blacksmithing and more, these offer items that might be harder to obtain otherwise and can earn you a nice sum of Gil for rarer items (if sold to players, NPCs offer little to nothing).

The player can freely* switch what class they are, you are not tied to one type. The exception being when you first start, you'll have to reach level 10 and complete your class quests in order to switch, from there you can join a new guild and start working on that class (some skills earned from the previous classes carry over to your new class, but more on that later).

Once you've reached level 10, you can join Guildhests, which are essentially mini dungeons. If you are level 10 in a trade, you can take Guildhests to earn exp and Gil that will help you level faster in said class. Upon completing the required quests, dungeons can also be entered (the first is available at level 15).


Graphics

The graphics look pretty good considering how much of a hiccup the first version went trhough. Although since the game is also on the PC, and therefore made FOR the PC, the PS3 version does tend to suffer a few graphical errors, such as the rare bug of enemies not appearing properly on screen, or party members seemingly disappearing despite them being right in-front of you.

When using the chat feature, characters mouths will move with your text, so this is a minute detail, but one that I find pretty cool non-the-less. Facial expressions are well-done as well, so be sure to try them out when you get the chance to do so.

Original graphics (left) and updated graphics (right)
The game has had a nice over-haul since it originally released some years ago, the new graphics engine shows quite well on many characters and skill effects.


Controls, Voice and Audio

The controls on the console are a tad tough to learn at first, so I'll try to run them down as thoroughly as possible.

The Cross button is your selector, although since you likely won't have a cursor to use (although you can opt for that), you'll need to be looking at the person you want to talk with, although the game is pretty good at figuring out what you're trying to do.

The Triangle button is simply used for jumping, so there's no need to go into depth on that, it is what it is.

The Circle button allows you to deselect your current target and cancel out of various menus. Simple.

The Square button allows for quick access of the map, which will be very handy when doing quests as the location of various monsters, items, etc will be shown on there.

The d-pad is used to cycle through enemies and friendlies, it takes some getting used to in order to 'master' using it.

All of these buttons take on a different role when either of the R2 or L2 bumpers are held, this brings up your hotbar for skills, items, etc that you may have registered to those slots (they also your the d-pad, so in total you'll have 16 available slots, but you can also have more than one hotbar, so cycling through them gives even more options). Confusing? Undoubtedly, however the games tutorial runs you through the basics quite well.

A screenshot, notice the hotbar at the bottom of the screen
As any Final Fantasy fan can hope to expect, the music is well performed, during standard battles, you may recognize the music (it's more reminiscent of the older games on the NES, SNES and such). When riding a Chocobo, as well as other mounts I would assume, you are treated the Chocobo music. Music in town and on the field are quite elegant and, to some degree, soothing and rhythmic.

Voice acting is scarce, the intro and small cutscenes are the only place they really occur at, but they are done well when they are done. The only other time you get to hear voices is from the various grunts that characters make, so don't expect much when it comes to voices.


Other

As I mentioned earlier, you are not restricted to one class and can switch once you've completed your current classes level 10 class quest (you usually get a quest at level 1, level 5, level 10 and so on). The classes you can choose from are many, from fighting classes (such as Gladiator, Pugilist, Arcanist and many more) to trades (such as Weaver, Alchemist, Blacksmith, etc). The latter are, as you may have guessed by the term 'trade' non-combat classes and are used to make armor, potions and other nick-naks that can be used by combat classes. When you start a new class, you revert to level 1 within your new class but retain the level in the previous class, so returning to your previous class will allow you to continue where you left off at.

The game has what are called 'Fates', if you've played Rift, they are like rifts, randomly generated missions where you and other players work to meet a goal, generally killing a certain number of enemies. The more you contribute, the larger your exp and Gil reward will be.

There are also unique chats called 'Linkshells', which can consist of up to 128 players that are not necessarily a guild or friends, but can use the chat feature to chat solely with each other and no one outside of the Shell can read your chat, it's basically a giant party chat.

Most of the negativity that has been generated was during the beta, people would complain that servers were constantly down or laggy, this has since been rectified and almost all of the game works as intended. If you see a review that says otherwise, look at the date, anything prior to Sept 13th is unreliable.

And yes, this is a subscription based game, but you get 30 days free.


Overall

This is a great MMORPG that has a lot to offer and much to do. With free expansions coming, this is a must have for fans of Final Fantasy or MMO's. I know I'll be cancelling my WoW sub so I can enjoy this great game.

9.0/10.0

Pros

+ Great music score
+ Interesting class system
+ Linkshells offer a great way to stay in touch with people you like, but not enough so that you want to add them as friends or join their guild


Cons

- Picking an enemy out of the crowd is sometimes unbearable
- Gold spammers are plentiful
- If you don't have a keyboard, typing is a hassle