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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a game baptised by fire. After the extremely poor reception to Final Fantasy XIV in 2010, Square Enix made the brave, and risky, decision to demolish the original game and build it from the ground up. Three years later and A Realm Reborn is finally here, attempting to right the wrongs of its predecessor. 

Because of the sheer scale and variety of MMOs, it’s almost impossible to provide an informed, in-depth opinion of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn within a week of playing. Therefore, instead of a traditional review, I will be posting a regular diary review each Sunday for the next few weeks. In each entry, I will share my experiences, as well as what I find does and doesn’t work with the game.

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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is undeniably beautiful.

This is my first Final Fantasy MMO experience. Therefore, I went into this game with no knowledge of the original Final Fantasy XIV, other than the fact that most people seemed to despise it. However, I did find the whole backstory of how A Realm Reborn came into fruition fascinating, in particular how Square Enix wove what happened into the lore of the game itself.

Final Fantasy XIV was a failure on almost every front. Upon realising this, most developers would either make the game free-to-play in a last ditch attempt to salvage some profit, or just move on entirely. Instead, Square Enix decided to throw a moon at the world, which then unleashed the demon-like Bahamut, to destroy the game world. Here’s the excellent CG movie that documents what happened in the final hours of Final Fantasy XIV:

A Realm Reborn is set five years after the apocalyptic event, known in-game as the ‘Calamity’. Eorzea, the region devastated by the Calamity, is rebuilding itself much in the same way Square Enix has rebuilt Final Fantasy XIV itelf.

After a few days of waiting for the servers to be sorted (things seem stable now), I created my character. I decided to go with a male Roegadyn, because they’re the largest and therefore best. While he looks more suited to a warrior type role, I went for the healer class.

My alter-ego, Veloci Raptom.

My alter-ego, Veloci Raptom.

The main reasoning for this was that I’d have to wait less time to get into dungeon groups, plus it’s possible to level any of the classes in the game all on one character anyway (though it would take a while).

I began in a foresty region called Gridania. The first thing that struck me was how great everything looks. This is by far the best-looking MMO I’ve experienced, and it stands up visually to the other, single-player titles in the Final Fantasy series. Everything seems very highly polished, and it certainly has that Final Fantasy ‘feel’ to it.

I was looking forward to seeing how Square Enix had managed to integrate a good narrative into an MMO. There hasn’t been a single MMO that I’ve genuinely been absorbed into the story in the same way I have in some single-player titles.

Unfortunately, I was greeted by boring quest after boring quest. Just a couple of hours in, I felt a bit burnt-out by the game’s repetitive fetch and carry quests.

Already I was getting a bit fed up of it all, though it was made bearable by the incredible soundtrack, headed by composer Masayoshi Soken. The music is so absorbing and consistently brilliant, that I ended up turning down the other sounds in the game. Even if you have no interest in playing this game, I’d strongly recommend giving the soundtrack a listen, it’s an incredible achievement.

Regardless of the quality in graphics and sound, I was beginning to dread the next few weeks where I’d have to play the game in order to do this diary review. I’d not encountered anything beyond the usual grindy quest formula and stupidly easy combat. However, this all changed.

The creature designs are great.

The creature designs are great.

As soon as I hit level 10, it was as if the game had decided to stop being shit, and become a good game. The story kicked in, and it’s been great so far. One of the key complaints against MMOs is that you never feel like a special chosen one; everyone is just another schmuck. However, Realm Reborn does a fantastic job at making you feel central to the story. Already I’m emotionally attached to some key characters in the plot, and the game has given me a good idea of what is happening in the grand scheme of things. The world of Hydaelyn already feels like a real place, with its own interesting history and politics.

As soon as I hit level 10, it was as if the game had decided to stop being shit.

Incredibly, I’ve managed to get from level 10 to 20 using entirely main story quests. No ‘fetch and carry’ or ‘kill x of x’ required! Group content has also kicked in, and it’s very generous. I’ve already completed three dungeons, and they do a great job of introducing mechanics while still providing a challenge. Interestingly, the dungeons are mandatory for progressing in the main story. Because of this, I was always aware of why me and my party were there, what was at stake and who we were fighting. I wanted to beat the end bosses because they were villains I wanted to defeat, not just to grind out XP and gear.

I’ve also faced my first Primal, big god-like beings that are plaguing Eorzea. It proved to be a surprisingly epic battle for level 20, and even saw my party getting wiped the first time. Real teamwork is required in these fights, and it was a thrill keeping my party alive with my healing skills. Defeating the Primal was immensely rewarding in itself, and there were no feelings of disappointment after not gaining any loot from the fight.

So far, my time in Eorzea has been great. After a tedious initial few hours, the game has really opened up and become a world that I feel invested in. There’s a great deal I haven’t discussed yet, such as the combat, but I’ll cover stuff like that next Sunday. What has really impressed me so far is that Realm Reborn is a ‘proper’ Final Fantasy game, with a fleshed out world, likeable characters and charming style. Above all, I’m continuing to play the game not just to hit max level, or get the coolest gear, but because I want to be a part of the story of Eorzea.

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