The original Final Fantasy XIV was a game with some issues, to say the least. The game was simply riddled with bugs, making it an incomplete and stressful experience for some, and an unplayable mess for many. Square-Enix realized this, and they did everything they could to push out bug fixes and updates, but it seemed to be too little, too late. Without a strong launch, the game simply couldn’t compete with the other MMO giants.
The old version of FF XIV suffered from the ambition to have a cross-platform MMO uniting both the PS3 and the PC. The Xbox was out, due to Microsoft’s draconian networking policies, but even two platforms proved to be one too many. The PS3 suffered from a poor control scheme, a mouse-and-keyboard game ported poorly to the console.
Square-Enix went into FF XIV with the intention of listening to fan feedback and adapting their game. They knew they would have to make changes. None of them realized the sheer scope of the bugs in the game, however, and it severely hampered their ability to do anything beyond scrambling to fix it up. Still, they were not content to let the game linger in a long, slow death. Instead, they started work on an all new Final Fantasy XIV, a second life for the MMO. That’s A Realm Reborn, and it truly is a whole new world.
If you were to ask a dedicated FF XIV player what’s new with A Realm Reborn, the short answer would be everything. The game has been changed from the ground up. It runs on an entirely new graphics engine, updating the look of the game for modern times. Every area has been revamped and rebuilt, with new layouts for all of the old locations in game. They’re still basically the same, mostly. You’ll find many familiar NPCs wandering around towns they’re used to living in, but what’s old is new again. Everything feels bright and brilliant. With a world as large as that of FF XIV, this was a huge undertaking, and the effort put into it shows.
One of the biggest concerns about the old Final Fantasy XIV was a feeling of emptiness. The game was huge and wide open, full of quests and content, but there was no direction. Once you got out of tutorial land, you were left to your own devices, and that left you with a feeling of nothing to do. A Realm Reborn addresses this facet of the problem and makes sure you always have a goal. You may be following the plot quests from area to area, or you may simply be running deliveries and picking up sidequests as you go. Either way, you’re always doing something, and there’s always something more to do.
Staying in Character
Many new players for A Realm Reborn are returning players who quit early in the FF XIV cycle. Square-Enix wanted to address these players by allowing them a bit more customization for their characters. Everyone with an existing FF XIV character is given the ability to change anything about them. Name, race, gender, class — it’s all variable. Part of this is due to the new graphics engine, and part is due to the addition of genders that previously didn’t exist for certain races.
The problem lies with their location. As part of A Realm Reborn, servers were merged and renamed. People applied for world transfers, but many missed the deadline. Many returning players may find their data stored on a Japanese server, with no easy way to transfer to one of the North American servers.
Not Without Issues
The launch for A Realm Reborn was not the road of sunshine and flowers Square-Enix hoped it would be. The massive influx of new and returning players caused quite a bit of overload on the existing servers. They implemented a login restriction to handle it, but that meant quite a few players found their time spent at the login screen rather than in game.
Couple that with the lengthy unskippable cutscenes that play each time you create a new character and you can see why some players had frustrating times with the fist day or two with the reborn realm.
Is A Realm Reborn truly worth the hype? The game is beautiful, certainly. The customization and the new controls are all welcome additions. The expanded and revamped world is a pleasure to explore, even for a returning veteran. There’s plenty to do — and redo, since some progress was reset — and the combat is fun.
On the other hand, launch issues and a handful of remaining bugs keep the game true to its FF XIV roots. Thankfully, the game is much smoother than the previous iteration, and Square-Enix still promises to listen and implement fan suggestions. There’s hope for A Realm Reborn, and it’s worth checking out.