Rarely do game developers get a second chance after their brainchild fails to deliver and gamers everywhere run to online forums to proclaim the game’s inevitable downfall. Even more rarely do game companies attempt such a feat. However, Square Enix is attempting just that with its relaunch of the massively multiplayer online roleplaying game, or MMORPG, “Final Fantasy XIV.”
When the game originally launched in September 2010, it was a veritable wreck. A lack of direction, clunky combat and cookie-cutter maps bored players to tears, while a poorly-optimized graphics engine rendered the game unplayable on most PCs. Square Enix heard the cries of their fans, however, and rebuilt the game from the ground up. As a beta tester of the original game, I’m pleased to say they’ve worked wonders.
“Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn,” as with the original, takes place in the world of Eorzea. The continent is home to a host of memorable, unique races, such as the cat-like Miqo’te and the diminutive and adorable Lalafell. “A Realm Reborn” paints this world gorgeously with a style not unfamiliar to Final Fantasy fans; there is a bit of fantastical realism, with a touch of whimsy here and there. The amount of detail put into the setting is breathtaking. Towns feel alive with interesting characters, and forests are vibrant and full of unique flora and fauna. The character models themselves are equally impressive, with fluid animations and painstakingly-detailed clothing and armor. Best of all, these beautiful graphics don’t impact game performance a bit, and the game runs smoothly even on lower-end machines.
While graphics are nice, it’s gameplay that really sells. “A Realm Reborn” doesn’t disappoint here, either. While the game doesn’t reinvent the wheel or revolutionize the genre, it polishes familiar elements and puts them in a unique package, along with adding some new ones. One of the original game’s strengths was the Armory, a system that allowed players to utilize different character classes on the same character simply by switching weapons or tools. “A Realm Reborn” retains this feature and executes it beautifully, allowing players to mix skills from various jobs to create their own build and completely eliminating the need for alternate characters. Quests are standard fare, and anyone familiar with other MMORPGs such as “World of Warcraft” may feel a sense of sameness. However, even with this traditional system, each quest has it’s own unique touch, owing to the intriguing world Square Enix has created. The combat could be considered a bit on the slow-paced side, especially with games like “TERA” and “Guild Wars 2” popularizing action-oriented systems. I found that this slower pace wasn’t necessarily a bad thing and allowed fights to be more tactical. This comes down entirely to personal preference.
Overall, ”A Realm Reborn” is the redo that “Final Fantasy XIV” needed. As a legacy player, I’ve seen the worst of the game, and now I’m pleased to say it’s come a very, very long way. While the game isn’t a genre-changer, it still manages to excite me more than any other MMORPG out right now. It doesn’t have to change the industry. The attention to detail and great execution of familiar modalities, along with new ones, really makes this game shine.