Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

91PA6DLPjHL._SL1500_

 The original version of Final Fantasy XIV was taken offline on November 10, 2012.  Fans would have to wait until August of 2013 to get their hands on the new version of the game. The stakes were high. MMOs had failed before. But never had the company behind the game promised to completely remake and relaunch the title, all while keeping player data intact. To be honest, even I had doubts that SE would be able to pull it off.  They were promising the moon with this new version of Final Fantasy XIV. But as months went by, it slowly began to look like they just might be able to make good on their promise.

Eventually, the beta for Final Fantasy XIV 2.0 (now called A Realm Reborn) was available to play. Legacy players were able to take the first peek…. and it was glorious. From what little we were able to glimpse during the beta test, it seemed like SE was able to achieve their goal.

Upon the general release of A Realm Reborn, the interest in the game had reached an unexpected high. The servers were full of both old veterans and new curious players. The reviews for the game were shining and positive. SE had done the unthinkable. They are saved the sinking ship that was FFXIV and set it out to sail with the very best of the competition.

ffxiv_08162013_072527

This version of the game, starts five years after the events that took place in Final Fantasy XIV 1.0. For legacy players, the story goes like this: During the climax of the final battle against the Empire, just as the terrible dragon Bahamut erupted from inside the red moon of Dalamud, the legacy players were teleported away from the impending destruction. They were sent through time to five years in the future. They find themselves in an Eorzea that has been radically changed, but one that has mostly recovered the Calamity of that day. The threat of the Empire still looms on the horizon, but now there are newer, more mysterious threats as well. This is the world in which both legacy and new players find themselves.

All of the original 1.x races and classes are available in A Realm Reborn. In fact, this time around players could even create female versions of Hyur Highlanders and Roegadyn. Male versions of the popular Miqo’te race are now also playable. Also new in this version is a new starting class: Arcanist. This can later evolve into one of two jobs: Summoner and Scholar.

As a returning player, I got to experience the original 2.0 story just a bit differently than new players. Some of my introductory cutscenes and dialogue were slightly different. I retained my levels, skills, and most of my items from 1.0. So several things that normally needed to be “unlocked” during the course of the main scenario were already available to me. I learned pretty quickly, that I’d be wasting experience points by playing through all the new content with my max level Dragoon. So, I switched to a class I never bothered to level in 1.0 and enjoyed the content from the ground up until I got my feet wet.  I founded a Free Company (guild) with several players that I knew from 1.0. Together, we plowed through the main scenario content together.

A Realm Reborn was a very different beast than the original FFXIV. Everything about the game seemed more polished and refined. Many of the unique features of FFXIV were still intact; the job system, levequests,  behest (now known as guildhests). But there were aspects from other popular MMOs brought in as well. The handling of sidequests was now much more like other MMO games. Instanced dungeons and an endgame raid was added, along with a “dutyfinder” to help reduce wait times while searching for players to team up with. There was a new “FATE” system (dynamic open world battles). The market system was revamped. The list goes on and on.  Personally, I found the new direction of the game to be everything I had hoped for.

10623532_1475115009422821_3980578982404067293_o

As time went on, SE continued to consider player feedback and adjust/add new features. Each new major patch continued to expand the game greatly. New dungeons and raids were added. New boss battles, quests, storyline, even a new class/job combo was added to the game for free. A PVP system was put in place, player-owned housing was added as was a casino-style game area. In my opinion, SE had gone above and beyond to create a great game that would appeal to players of all types. Of course, among the game community, there’s always a vocal minority of players full of nonconstructive criticism (especially when it comes to the housing feature). But overall, I found most of the players to be satisfied and content with this new version of Final Fantasy XIV.

SE seems to have adopted a three-month content cycle. This means that approximately every three months there is a new patch that includes, along with the usual fixes and adjustments, new game content. All of the added features above (PVP, Casino, Rogue/Ninja, etc) were added during these content patches.

If I have one complaint about the game, it is not with the game itself but with a small chunk of the playerbase. Really, I guess in a small way, I can blame this on SE. But it’s not REALLY their fault.  You see, until the release of A Realm Reborn, both of SE’s MMOs had non-regional servers. US, European, and Asian players all shared the gameworlds. To me, this was a positive experience. I enjoyed playing with people from Japan or Australia. Generally speaking, Japanese gamers tend to play more my style: Slow and a calculated. They are not in a hurry and there is no real “race to the finish”. Whereas, a sizable chunk of US MMO players are often immature and in a rush. For the release of A Realm Reborn, SE decided to make regional servers (for the purpose of performance). Now, there was nothing stopping me from playing on a Japanese server. But since 95% of all English speaking players would choose a US-based server, communication would definitely be an issue. So the point of my contention is this: I was now pretty much forced to play only with other US players. This should not be an issue. Seriously. But I have a really hard time dealing with belligerence. Due to the popularity of the game, a whole new demographic of players had appeared. I began to see traits creeping into FFXIV, from other games that I had always managed to avoid: elitism, stat parsers, immature/mindless public chat. Seeing this in the game that I had come to love was disappointing to me. But, I guess it was a bit of a necessary evil. In truth, these days, you’re going get that kind of thing in any MMO. I make liberal use of the blacklist feature and move on.

Overall, A Realm Reborn managed to deliver on every level, at least for me. It didn’t manage to capture that “magic” that I found with my time in FFXI. But it comes close. If you ask me today, “what’s a good MMO to play?” My first answer will be: Final Fantasy XIV.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is available on –  PC,  PS3 and PS4

10582782_1475113706089618_1762676714652605203_o

FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Final Fantasy XIV: 1.X

final-fantasy-xiv-walkthrough-box-artwork-5B1-5D

Having been an avid fan of Square Enix’s first MMO; Final Fantasy XI, I remember the excitement that everyone in the community felt when the announcement was made for Final Fantasy XIV. The next generation massive multiplayer Final Fantasy title. Having long been rumored, SE finally confirmed it’s existence and upcoming release. To say I was excited, was an understatement.

Lorewise, the game takes place in a land known as Eorzea. Eorzea is the home to four major nation-states (three of which can be starting areas for new players). On the outskirts of Eorzea lies the Garlemald Empire. In terms of the game’s story, the Empire has slowly been conquering neighboring realms, and fear hangs heavy that they will soon push their invasion into Eorzea itself. This certainly seemed like an interesting set up. It was a world I was excited to learn and explore.

FFXIV was built using the Crystal Tools engine, the game engine that powered Final Fantasy XIII, so graphically it was going to be leaps and bounds above FFXI. Also, the developers promised that XIV would be more casual-friendly and less grindy. Yet, the game would cater to XI players, in that the in-game races available during character creation would favor those previously seen in XI. (This way, a player could “re-create” the look of their old XI character if they chose to do so.) The races of FFXIV, while similar to FFXI, have different names. These are as follows:

Hyur – A human-like race.  (Essentially the Hume of FFXI)

Elezen – A tall, elvish like race  (similar to the Elvaan of FFXI)

Roegadyn – A stout, but hardy race – Playable as male only (similar to the Galka from FFXI)

Miqo’te – A catlike humanoid – Playable as female only (similar to the Mithra of FFXI)

Lalafell – A short, cute humanoid race (Similar to the Taru Taru of FFXI)

The game was slated for release on the PC. A PS3 version would be coming shortly after release. XIV would feature a new system for character progression, a new class system that allows players to change character class on the fly, a new quest system, a new imaginative form of crafting, a seamless world, etc. It seems that SE was finally starting to listen to their fans…. except, not really.

When Final Fantasy XIV was first released, it became obvious very quickly that there was a problem. First of all, at release day, there was a shockingly little amount of content. In the entire game, there was only a handful of main scenario quests and a small number of class-related quests. The new “Levequest” system touted by SE as being one of the cornerstones of the game was clunky and restrictive. With players only able to take on a small number of quests per day. As a result it was largely ignored. Players resorted to the old time-tested method to grinding to gain experience points. Only to find that SE had quietly implemented a experience point throttle to slow down players who were leveling their characters too quickly.

FFXIV_1331576639

Other complaints included concerns about the combat system, as well as the overall world design and server stability. Players also complained in droves about lag in the UI and a convoluted/overly-difficult player market system. As the weeks went on, the situation only got worse. It was so bad, that SE actually asked the media to please refrain for posting reviews of the game until they could roll-out the first big post-release patch.  Sadly, this patch did little to address the majority of player concerns.

The playerbase fell dramatically in the weeks immediately following release, with most players not renewing their subscriptions at the end of the free-30 days. I have to admit, even though I love Final Fantasy games with a passion. FFXIV was shaping up to be a total mess. As a concession, Square Enix apologized profusely and suspended charging subscription fees while they worked on addressing play concerns. But as more weeks came and went, no relief was seen.

Eventually, a major announcement was made. SE had essentially fired the original producer and replaced him with a new face, Naoki Yoshida. A man, that the community would come to affectionately call “Yoshi P”. The first thing that Yoshi P did, was take as the players to participate in a number polls and questionnaires. I participated and I remember seeing questions like “Would it be acceptable to radically change the core battle system for the game?”. When you start talking about doing things like replacing entire core-game mechanics, you know things are about to get interesting.

50204

Yoshi- P

When it was all said and done, Yoshi P did one of the ballsiest things I have ever seen in the gaming industry. This man, who was hired to FIX a broken game, went before his superiors and told them: “Your game is so broken, it cannot be repaired. If you want me to fix this mess, you will have to provide me with the budget and resources to rebuild it from the ground up.”  This statement, uttered in any American game company would have immediately signaled the death and write off of the title as a whole. But perhaps, due to cultural differences and Japanese pride, SE agreed. Thus began the road to Final Fantasy XIV 2.0.

The announcement was made to the public, that the entire game was going to be scrapped and recreated using a completely new game engine. What normally takes nearly 10 years in research and development would be escalated and delivered within a mere two years. In the meantime, a special team would continue to work on improving the existing game as best they could: fixing what could be fixed and adding content to keep players busy. To fund this, the subscription for the game would be returning. But players willing to pay during this time, would be privy to exclusive once-in-a-lifetime content as well as a perpetual discount on the game’s subscription. It was also announced that the PS3 version of the game would be placed on hold until after the release of Final Fantasy 2.0.

FFXIV_1331394497

In the game’s world, this translates to what is known as the Seventh Umbral Era. Essentially, the redesign of the game would be rolled into the lore of the gameworld itself. Starting with the next patch after the announcement, a small red star appeared in the sky. Patch after patch, as time went by this star grew bigger and bigger. Over time it became obvious what was happening: A meteor was coming… and it was going to cause havoc in the world of Final Fantasy XIV.

Some of the biggest changes to occur during this time were core redesigns to the character progression system. The “character rank” leveling system was removed and now character progression would be measured on a per-class basis. The very core mechanics of the battle system were overhauled and drastically improved. A new “job system” was added that brought many of the classic Final Fantasy-themed jobs to the game. Until now, the character classes in FFXIV used obscure, unfamiliar names, and as a result, just seemed very un-Final Fantasy like. Also, a new “Grand Company” system was added to game that both served as a segue into the new lore as well as a portal to launching some of the newer dungeon and boss-battle content. Things were actually starting to come together quite nicely. In fact, I daresay I became quite satisfied with the game during it’s final few months.

Eventually, the time came when the original version of Final Fantasy XIV would need to go offline for several months while the team prepared the release of the now fabled Final Fantasy XIV 2.0.   – Character data would be preserved and would carry over to this new world. So now players only had to wait. Would SE be able to pull off the impossible and revive a game that had largely failed in the eyes of the public? Time would tell.

In the weeks before the servers were turned off. Players were treated to amazing content. Swarms of monsters were invading towns, Imperial airships would be seen patrolling the skies. The weather in the game world changed, bringing constant lightning storms… Then on the final night, players were instructed to journey to a remote area of the gameworld known as Mor Dhona to engage the Imperials in a massive ground battle. Once the clock counted down and Final Fantasy XIV 1.x was taken offline, players were provided with a YouTube link to view the final cutscene for the game. From the bright red star of Dalamud, emerged the legendary dragon Bahamut. Who’s megaflare attacked caused what would later be known as The Calamity.

Despite it’s rocky start and terrible reputation, these events ended up making Final Fantasy XIV 1.x a truly fantastic and memorable experience for me. In someways, I almost miss it from time to time.

FFXIV_1347515684

FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Hub Post: Final Fantasy XIV

rap_se_wrap_mech.indd

Finally, we are brought to the most recent entry in the numbered Final Fantasy series: Final Fantasy XIV. This is the second MMO in the series and one filled with both controversy and success. I’ve been an avid player of this game since it’s release and  I’ve written a little bit about this game before, so for those interested, you can read my initial thoughts here: “A Look Back: Original Release”   –  “A Realm Reborn Beta Test”  – “The Rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV” — But, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the game in the posts to come. Just like with my FFXI hub, this post will serve as a Table of Contents for any future posts regarding Final Fantasy XIV and it’s expansions.

FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

A Look Back: Final Fantasy XIV (Original Release)

final-fantasy-xiv-walkthrough-box-artwork-5B1-5D

I’m going to really shake things up with something straight out of left field. As you might have surmised, I tend to review games in order because I enjoy watching franchises mature, etc. This time, due to an interesting set of circumstances, I’m going to break form and discuss the latest entry in the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy XIV.

Now this is not a review, but more like a discussion. I’m doing this for two reasons. First, FFXIV is an online title. Thus, it is a never-ending game. If I waited until the game was “finished”, under normal circumstances, I’d be waiting forever. However, in this case, the game did end (at least temporarily). Second, since the game has ended, this allows the perfect opportunity to look back on it.

If you’ve been following this blog a while, you’ll know that I’m a HUGE fan of both the Final Fantasy series as a whole, but especially the online games. In fact, the first real MMO that I put any time into was Final Fantasy XI. I spent several years playing that game and I had many wonderful experiences with it. Needless to say, when Final Fantasy XIV was announced, I was more than excited.

XIV holds an interesting place in the world of online games. It was one of the biggest failures in MMO history. The game was released way before it was ready and its reputation suffered greatly as a result. The game was plagued by everything from lack of content, to a laggy and unresponsive user interface. In fact, the game was so poorly received, that Square Enix suspended the monthly billing for the game for close to a year.

final-fantasy-xiv_03

During that time, most of the original development team was fired and a new producer took over the helm. Upon completing his assessment, he deemed that in order to make the game successful, it would need to be completely re-designed from the ground up. At which time, SE began the unheard of task of both fixing and supporting the current game, while rewriting a entirely new version.

I’m happy to say that over time, the game did improve. Vastly so. In fact, I found it to be quite enjoyable for the last year or so. To keep players hooked and to help preserve the storyline, SE announced an special in-game event for this transition period. A live story that would carry players over from version 1 to version 2.

Everything finally came to a dramatic conclusion on 11/11 with a giant meteor descending from heaven and a great cataclysm. As I write this, FFXIV is currently offline and testing for the alpha version of 2.0 is underway. Expected to be released sometime next year, loyal followers such as myself eagerly await to see what is in store for us…

tumblr_m8tl8pr1Ht1qgtbp2o1_1280

As I mentioned on this site before, I have kept an in-character blog of my time in FFXIV. For those reader interested in what they may have missed during the original release, I urge to check it out: