Over the past decade that Square Enix has been around there hasn’t been a single flop in their flagship franchise as big as their initial release of Final Fantasy XIV. Taking much heat from critics and fans alike, the game was eventually forced to have its own plug pulled and Square Enix had to start development over again. Now, almost three years later, the end result is Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
I got my digital PS3 copy to play from Square Enix the weekend before the game’s release, and the pre-release experience was mostly smooth sailing for me. There was some maintenance downtime but nothing truly bothersome. However, as the game’s launch came, servers became full and the experience was much different from what I’d gotten used to. The process of logging in soon became a matter of ether getting a waiting time to be let into a server or encountering errors—or just flat out being told that there was simply no room for you, and to please try again later.
However, past the initial bumps that will no doubt be ironed out down the line, is a very fun game.
The first thing the player is greeted by is a really pretty cut scene going over the background information of the game’s world, Hydaelyn, the and the horrible catastrophe that struck it and ushered in a new era. Once the scene plays out you’re whisked away to the character creation screen, and oh boy—here was my greatest weakness. Some people can create their characters pretty easily. Me, though, I could spend days just making the precise character I want.
But that’s okay, because the character creation engine in A Realm Reborn is fun. There are a multitude of races to choose from: the Hyur, or human-like race; Elezen, or elf-like race; Lalafell or cutesy-little-guy race; Roegadyn, or big-scary-guy race; and Miqo’te, or much-needed cat-people race. I wasn’t sure what to go with at first, and my gut reaction was to compare all their stats to find the best race for what I wanted to do. To be honest, however, that approach bored me. Instead, I ultimately just dove in blind and picked my race not based off stats but off appearance.
I ended up picking a Lalafell since they reminded me of my preferred Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles race: the Lilties. Even with my race out of the way, I still had plenty of choices to make, though: hair, eyes, face, height—pretty much all the typical character creation tools were here. You could pick your birthdate—mine was the 28th Sun of the Sixth Astral Moon (mostly picked since the date matches my real birthday); your deity, mine being Halone, mover of glaciers and goddess of war (she sounded like a swell gal); and then there was the final big choice to make, which was my starting class. Going off my Lilties reasoning, I picked Lancer and now I was set. After choosing my World (Server), I was finally ready for what A Realm Reborn was going to show me.
As the game began, I found myself in some strange space with a floating crystal that towered over me. “Think. Feel,” a voice called out to me. However, it was soon silenced and I awoke in a carriage making its way to the village of Gridania, in the Eorzea region of Hydaelyn. Eorzea is the main region of the world that A Realm Reborn is set in. It was at this point that I realized that all the talks of a great calamity, the character creation, reading about all the deities, completing quests for my guild, and most importantly this introduction carriage ride, all reminded me a lot of western role playing games, especially The Elder Scrolls, many of which start off with you sitting in some form of transportation, be it boat or wagon at the very start of the game as well.
Hydaelyn is still very much a Final Fantasy world, though, and it is full of Chocobos, Airships, Crystals, the Heroes of Light, Dragoons and all the other classic FF jobs, and even good old Bahamut. That said, the feel of Hydaelyn is still noticeably different from recent more science fiction focused Final Fantasies. A Realm Reborn is perhaps more in line with a high-fantasy focus like some of the classic titles of the franchise.
After joining my guild, experiencing my first battle, and moving the story along, I began to feel a sense of disconnect from A Realm Reborn.
The story aspect of the game doesn’t line perfectly up with the very nature of the game. The narration talks about you—the new traveler whose tale has yet to be written—and you go on story missions where characters always remark how special you are. The story emphasizes you, the individual. In an almost Dragon Quest IX-like approach, everything is centered on you—but while you play the game, the streets, and all the fields and dungeons are overcrowded with other players, all just like you. “Special.” And that armor you obtained through the story mode as a reward? A bunch of them all have that, too.
This is where my conflicting feelings toward A Realm Reborn stemmed from. The game simultaneously makes you feel both special and run-of-the-mill at the same time.
To me, this was off-putting at first, the conflicting nature of the individual versus the massive amounts of other players out there even managed to take me out of the story at some points. However, after progressing farther though the game, I realized that I would not want to separate one from the other. Playing with others in this world, and experiencing a story of my own were both things I enjoyed. I began to find them a nice change of pace from one another and found that the world gained a great deal of personality from all the other players. Eorzea is a place where you will never be alone, and where you can always find a comrade. That feels nice.
So, with all the information about the world out of the way, you may be wondering about that crystal calling out to me, or maybe about my progression through the Lancer Guild, and the story that came along with that? Or maybe you’re more curious about combat, and want to know what these FATEs are as well? Look forward to more coverage soon, where we go over all that and more, including a certain tale about a fellow named Foulques.
Food for thought:
1. Typing on the PS3 has been hard without a keyboard peripheral.
2. Though I am playing on a PS3 the experience is still very much a computer-like one. You even move around a mouse on the log-in screen; and yes there is a log-in screen just like a computer program, whenever you boot the game up.
3. Last Tuesday was the worst day for me; it had the longest waiting periods to log-in and the most errors, and full servers. Tuesday also happened to be the day the game came out at retail.