It was around a month ago that I finally gave into my curiosity and picked up Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn for the PC. I started out with the free trial (which can be found here) just to get my feet wet, but quickly purchased the game even before (about 13 days before) the trial ran out. This title left a huge impression on me that I can only attribute to my first days in World of Warcraft. Which is exactly the reason I can comfortably say that A Realm Reborn is the best MMORPG that I've played in recent years.
There's a years old argument that if you've played an MMORPG, you've played them all; and while I agree with that statement regarding many MMOs as of late - nothing could be further from the truth when speaking about A Realm Reborn. The story-elements, gameplay, the social aspects of the game, and the recently announced Expansion make this title a contender for one of the best MMORPGs ever developed; and with the recent decline of titles like World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars 2, FFXIV: A Realm Reborn stands as a stalwart beacon of what MMORPGs can become.
[tabs tab1="Story" tab2="Gameplay" tab3="Social Elements" tab4="Heavensward"]
The story of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn takes place in the fictional world of Hydaelyn, a planet filled with multiple environments and climates covering three large continents. The continent on which the game takes place is called Eorzea. Eorzea is made home by the twelve guardian deities and of course, a host of races that you can play as!
- Elezen - The true native sons and daughters of Eorzea, the Elezen are the "elfish" race of A Realm Reborn. Tall and slender, they've been on Eorzea since the very beginning, and due to that knowledge the Elezen have a great sense of Honor and Pride about their heritage.
- Roegadyn - Descended from a maritime people that roamed the northern seas, the Roegadyn are easily identified by their massive, muscular frames and piercing eyes. They are often seen as barbaric, but they can embody infallible loyalty and intense compassion. Most famous warriors are descendant to the Roegadyn.
- Hyur - The "human" race of the game. They are characterized by average builds, and short rounded ears. This race champions causes of personal freedom and liberty across Eorzea.
- Lalafell - Short in stature and Rotund in shape, the Lalafell look typically like children no matter their age, and for someone that isn't a Lalafell, guessing is hardly accurate. The Dunesfolk clan of Lalafell are responsible for the founding of the city of Ul'Dah - a Burgeoning Mercantile-based city.
- Miqo'te - CAT PEOPLE! The Miqo'te are easily distinguished by their large, projecting ears and restless, feline tails. You will see a lot of these being played in game. This race is highly territorial by instinct, and many males lead extremely solitary lifestyles.
During the events of Final Fantasy XIV, the Garlean Empire (Bad Guys) use a combination of both magic and technology (typically called: Magitek - isn't that clever?) to summon Hydaelyn's second moon Dalamud. A Majora's Mask incident occurs and the moon begins to fall towards Eorzea. The Forces of Eorzea and the Garlean empire clash at the expected site of Dalamud's fall. But before the moon reaches the surface of the planet, it breaks up in the sky and one of the ancient primals, Bahamut, emerges from the debris. Bahamut then begins laying waste to all of Eorzea as the forces of Eorzea attmepts to reseal Bahamut into the moon. When the plan to seal Bahamut away fails, the Archon Louisoix sends the last remnants of the Eorzean army into the future (because time travel is cool) along with the player characters, with him staying behind to seemingly face certain death. This is where your story begins, and the events of FFXIV(The previous version that got scrapped and replaced with A Realm Reborn) ends. Take up arms adventurer, and help Eorzea towards a brighter future; and In doing so, may you come to understand the past.
The gameplay for A Realm Reborn isn't necessarily revolutionary; But who says it has to be? I've spent hours upon hours of time on this title so far, and so far haven’t found a reason to regret my decision to play it; and it’s most likely that I never will.
The way that A Realm Reborn utilizes it's class system is different than your average MMO. It stays true to the Final Fantasy vibe, allowing characters to learn every class and job, but only have one active job at a time. For instance: I started the game as a Lancer, but my guild pressured me into trying one of the two tank classes, because they needed one for late game content. So, I switched over to Marauder which stuck me back at level one. The best part about this though, is that your classes gain a boost to exp gain depending on the highest level among your classes.This allows you to enjoy leveling another class without the pain of grinding through quests or fates mindlessly just to get to level 10. Another good thing is that you never have to visit your class guild to change your job. All you really need to do is change your weapon (Because each class only uses one type of weapon) and you automatically switch. Don't get your hopes up though, You can't solo dungeons by changing classes in battle - you can only switch classes outside of combat and the skills are on a two minute cool-down after the switch.
Crafting works the same way. To start crafting you need to only change over to your set of tools and the crafting menu opens. This means you can't be wandering around outside in the woods though, because you might get attacked by Yarzons. Yarzons won't die when attacked with an Apothecary's Tools. Though crafting is a whole lot more in-depth I plan on covering it more in future articles. The main difference between other kinds of crafting in MMOs is that FFXIV's crafting system allows you to raise the quality of items during the crafting process. Be careful though, if you try too much the item could lose all of it's durability and you could fail the craft.
Leveling is an absolute blast in A Realm Reborn. Quests are literally everywhere, and are numerous enough that there are enough to fully level two battlecraft classes to level-cap. Though you might assume that quests are the main source of that precious EXP for leveling up - you would assume wrong. There are MANY ways to gain the experience you need to gain levels, and smite baddies. Here are just a few ways to earn that experience:
- LeveQuests: Levequests are timed, repeatable, scenarios that can be done in specific areas and are often categorized by level. Their difficulty can be changed as well in order to receive extra bonuses. Not recommended for leveling Battlecraft classes, as you have a limited number of leves you can complete at one time. This being said, I recommend either leveling crafting or gathering jobs in this way.
- Fates: FFXIV takes a play out of Guild Wars 2's book and adds events to the maps you are in. From time to time you'll see a blue circle pop up on your map. If you head into that circle you'll be included in a public event (such as slaughtering the local wildlife) that will grant you experience and other goodies based on your contribution to the completion of the event. These are the battlecraft class lifeblood. If you're a DPS class, these will be your best friend while queuing for dungeons.
- Dungeons - A Slew of them. After unlocking your dungeons through your story quest at level 15, they become a great way to grind out experience and get some decent gear as you progress through the game. Parties are set up in typical Final Fantasy fashion - One tank, Two Damage Dealers, and One healer. Another category of Dungeons are Trials, which can be completed by any four roles (Not recommended to do these without a healer of some sort.) Here's some video showing you a bit of gameplay of a party running through one of the various dungeons to give you a taste of what's to come.
There are a slew of the different social elements that I could cover in FFXIV: A Realm Reborn; but here are just a few to give you a taste:
As a majority, the folks of FFXIV: A Realm Reborn are a very hospitable and kind lot. I've never ran into someone trying to rush me along in a dungeon (In all actuality, I've had them ask me to slow down), and if a question is asked in map chat or Free company chat, it's answered almost immediately. When you are standing around in one of the major cities or hubs, you'll often run into two complete strangers having a conversation (and you might get roped into it as well!). Outside of the game you can find a good handful of artists working on stories and drawings based on the game, and tons of discussion on many different sites on the internet. Plus, with over one million active subscribers, you should be able to find some people to talk and raid with!
Free companies are very akin to how "guilds" operate. Most Free Companies are founded in order to focus mostly on Endgame or leveling content; but there are a few RP Free Companies and Social FCs depending on which server you choose to call home. Free Companies can also buy different versions of player housing meant specifically for the company as a whole. These houses can be used as crafting hubs, or even used for social gatherings. The house can be furnished and decorated by the members of the Free Company (provided they have permissions) and if you're level 50, and have 300,000 spare gil lying around, you can even purchase your own room within the FC House.
Link shells act as a permanent party function. Each Linkshell group has a specific channel that you can join if you have the channel name and info. These different Linkshell channels have different functions; many are used to coordinate Fate grinding groups, and others are used for constructing groups for end-game content.
(Looking for a Free Company full of cool people to help you get started? Look for the Editor's Free Company: Spadille(ACES),on the server Brynhildr)
Heavensward: The next chapter in A Realm Reborn
On June 23rd, A Realm Reborn will get it's first expansion, aptly titled Heavensward, as it takes us into the skies above Eorzea. Heavensward, will take you into the Holy see of Ishgard, and will expand further on the Dragonsong War, the bloody conflict between the Dravnanians, and the Ishagardians; and many other key plot points. Heavensward will add three new brand new classes to the game as well. These classes are as follows:
- Dark Knight - The new tank class. Utilizing both greatswords and Dark Magicks, the Dark Knight protects his allies and destroys his enemies.
- Machinist - The new damage class. Guns, guns, guns! The Machinst will utilize various firearms loaded with attachments and will command turrets in battle to do damage to their foes.
- Astrologian - Astrologians tap into the power of the stars to use powerful healing magicks to heal their allies, and use constellation-based divination cards to apply different support buffs to the party.
Heavensward will take us further into the lands of Eorzea as well. We'll be adventuring deeper west into the Coerthas Highlands, and we'll also take to the skies to visit both Ishgard and Dravania throughout the course of the expansion. We'll also be given a whole slew of new beast-race tribes to slaughter and conquer too!
New shiny things are always a reason for hype, even if you aren't a play of the game. Because, if an expansion comes along, it typically changes a few things with the main game to give it a whole new experience when leveling your first toon. So now is as good a time as any to pick up FFXIV: A Realm Reborn.
With the coming of Heavensward, Mac users will also get a chance to experience the world of Hydaelyn, because A Realm Reborn is getting a mac release the same day as the expansion releases.
Heavensward is available for pre-order here.