Revisiting the Realm – Thoughts on Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

I didn’t play much of what is now known as “FFXIV 1.0” – the original Final Fantasy XIV. I had bought it on the cheap – maybe £8 – when it was tanking. I didn’t even have a PC that could play it yet. But, as I had plans to make said-PC, I figured I could try it then. The month I built said-PC, the game was no longer F2P and the subs started. The luck! So I logged on for my 30-day trial period sporadically and then stopped once it was done.

I can’t say too much about 1.0 – it looked decent, but left no lasting impression because I barely played. I choose a Miqo’te (girls only at the time), Gladiator, in Gridania. And it was alright, but didn’t hold my attention. I moved on.

As some of will know, FFXIV 1.0 closed, with the announcement that the world was going to be made anew. I thought nothing of it at the time, but applauded the effort. When it came time for 2.0, or Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (long-winded?), to be released, it wasn’t really on my radar. Until a friend played it and said he really enjoyed it. And then I watched ALL of Sword Art Online in about a week or so…and the fantasy MMO itch came a-scratching. Timed ever-so-wonderfully, the commercials came on. I needed it – HAD TO HAVE IT. It was a pain to find – the game was an unexpected success and they had to cease sales so the servers could stabilise with the load. I wasn’t surprised – the same thing happened to Guild Wars 2 in its opening weeks. But I was determined and tracked down a copy. Only then did I find out, previous players from 1.0 got a free upgrade. All that effort! Ah! I’ll spare the details of then getting a copy for my husband as well…But we got there.

So, we’ve taken a trip down memory lane, but what about the game NOW? How is FFXIV:ARR (I don’t care if that’s the real shorthand for it or not – that’s what I like to call it) fairing?

Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 - Gridania

The old FFXIV 1.0…

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - Gridania

…and FFXIV: ARR – ignoring the fact it’s a bit darker. It was night, after all.

First off, the game on the PC looks GORGEOUS. The character models look amazing and the locations are beautiful. There are three city-states and, like in the earlier FFXI, they all have a different flair to them – but for some reason, I love them all so much more than the cities in XI. There’s something about the way they are built and designed that makes them feel grander and more unique. So far, I’m partial to the port-city of Limsa Lominsa – the sea side, the boats, the white stone and the fortress towers. Leading close behind it is Ul’dah – it’s reminiscent of Arabia and ancient Egypt to me, an intricate city of sandstone and a maze of passages. Lastly, Gridania is the forest-town, blending Tolkien’s Rivendell and Hobbitton together somehow. While Gridania falls in third, it is still lovely – I just find the other two locations truly special compared to other games I’ve played, whereas Gridania does somewhat reflect the same woodland kingdom we’ve seen many elves inhabit in the past.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - Limsa Lominsa

Ah, a palace by the sea…Well, more like a fortress.

The gameplay is nice and intuitive. There is a large amount of customisation – place the HUD any way you want and you also have multiple hotbars at your disposal. The starter areas are also helpful and easy to understand, giving you a nice transition into the mechanics while leveling up fairly well. While gameplay is important and I do enjoy it, it’s difficult to describe it – so I would suggest searching Youtube for some gameplay videos, but try not to find the Beta footage. The game HAS been updated since then.

Customisation-whore that I am, the diversity in character creation is nice. I’m particularly pleased to announce the new equality amongst the Miqo’te and Roegayden, which are now sporting BOTH genders in char creation. I love that they don’t feel slapped together either – they look cohesive to their race, like they were there all along.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

I will follow you anyway, Pretty Blonde Man…

And now, some downsides. There’s not many, and they are quite little…”niggles”, but all the same. Keeping in the same vein with the character creation, I quickly noticed a lack of diversity between clans. Each race has two clans to add variety to the race – but I found only the Hyur clans were different from each other. With these two clans, it was impossible to make the same character – however, on other races, it was easy to make a near-identical character under either clan, with the exception of slightly-different skintone and a few clan-specific traits. For instance, it was easy to give my test Wildwood Elezen a Duskwight identical twin with just a few clicks. I understand that it’s a lot of effort to make so many different attributes for characters – but it makes me wonder why they did it with the Hyur and then stopped on everyone else?

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - Wildwood vs Duskwight

This Wildwood (left) and Duskwight (right) have a lot in common! Like their hair! And their eyes! And their faces…Wait a minute.
Just an example of how you can recreate the same character between the clans, except for on Hyur.

Another nuisance I’ve found, and I can’t BELIEVE Square Enix didn’t put a better process in place, is RMT Tells and Spam. Final Fantasy XI was PLAGUED with gold-farmers and pay-for-levellers when I had stopped playing. Shiva server was apparently one of the worst for it. So I would have expected SE to put an easy report system in places to rid us of their ilk. Apparently not. Where most games just let you right-click on the offender in the chat and report them, SE has you submitting long-winded support tickets. Hardly efficient and almost as annoying as the ad itself to put you off submitting the report. They really need to jump on making it easy to report these things. One of my characters has gotten up to 12 of these guys on my Blacklist, so I don’t receive anymore from them – but it’s easy for others to just keep spamming me.

Lastly, the restrictions. Now, I understand that it is a game and there is to be some challenge or something that must be unlocked. But I don’t know if I’ve played a sub-based MMO that had so much RESTRICTED. Some things aren’t so bad, and more annoying than anything, such as the ferries in Limsa Lominsa being blocked for certain locations until specific levels (Aleport at lvl. 15, Costa Del Sol at lvl. 30). Some, on the other hand, are aggravating – such as not being able to sell things on the Market Board (action house) until you finish a quest to get a Retainer (lvl. 17 Main Quest). This means you MUST sell on to regular vendors. But some items that will give you 5 gil to a vendor will actually net you 100+ on the Market! As a low-level player trying to earn money, this is extremely annoying, as you either have to sell your old equipment for peanuts or hold onto all of it until you can sell it at level 17. Related to that, many of the big functions of the game are linked to completing Main Quest storylines. You want an airpass? Main Story quest. You want to use the inns? Main Story quest. Retainer? Main Story quest. Your own Chocobo? Main Story quest! This means that playing alt-characters will get extremely repetitive unless you choose a completely different playstyle, as you will need to do the Main Story again to get all the perks you need in order to be efficient. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting people to play the Main Quest, it’s very limiting because you have no choice – you will play it, or you will struggle.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - The Eighty Sins of Sasamo

Just another example of how pretty the graphics can be, this time in the Thanalan region.

All in all, I’m still having a lot of fun and learning how everything works. For instance, I did my first dungeon run last night with my Arcanist as DPS (by the way, MAIN STORY QUEST – dungeon run was NON-optional to advance the story – it works in reverse, too!) and it was fun. I didn’t think I’d have as much fun with my Arcanist as I am, and I’m eager to get her levelled up so I can snag me that Summoner job. I’m looking forward to the updates as well – 2.1, which is due out before the end of the year, will have Housing! I’m easily amused, shut up.

I think the revamp was a good decision and they have executed it beautifully. Where in some cases, SE is still SE and will not break some of it’s old annoying formulas, they have still created a wonderful world and a fun experience.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - Arcanist

Kikira Kira says “What you say?!”