Review: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Gameplay

Remember when you gingerly opened up that Final Fantasy XIV box with anticipation? Maybe you downloaded it digitally and couldn't wait for that huge install to finish. Regardless, I am willing to bet the game didn't live up to half of your hype and anticipation. Fear no more, A Realm Reborn is upon us. I was extremely excited for the inital release of FFXIV a few years back. I remember being in awe at the benchmark graphics and the potential of having a AAA title turned into a solid MMORPG. Well, time came and time passed and the game was largely forgotten. Luckily and wisely, Square Enix and FFXIV team has resurrected the title with amazing results. First off, besides a character introduction that cannot be skipped, you are introduced into your main city and character class quite nicely. You are shoved into a huge city or village, depending on which class you choose. I tried out several different classes but me, loving to burn and free the *%(! out of stuff, I settled on a Thaumaturge in the desert city of Ul'dah. If you'd like to jump in quickly and just start slaying beasts, this game is not for you. The world is massive. Cities are bursting at the seams with shops, vendors, crafting guilds, tons of quests and multiple levels. After being a bit overwhelmed with the massive yet gorgeously rendered city, I was off to kill some.. ladybugs.

At first, the battle system and questing seems very "grindy" and to be honest, a bit boring. Not to worry though because as soon as you start opening up new skills and fighting tougher creatures, there is plenty of excitement to be had. I think that is one of the strongest points aobut A Realm Reborn, the fact that when you think you've seen or done it all, you are surprised and treated with either a huge creature battle, new crafting activities or some cool new feature. This is a polished gem from top to bottom, from your first, quite laughable ladybug quest up to slaying the big baddies themselves. I won't ruin the story or settings but let's just say that this game lives up to the big epics in the Final Fantasy series. Whether it's levemete quests, duty finders, dungeon running, you will not be bored in this game. There is so much to do and see, it's absolutely overwhelming. Think "If I had to chose one game to be stuck with on desert island.. with power.. and a computer", this is that type of game. Luckily, it's not just filler content but a fully realized world with multiple classes, crafting levels and gear to sift through and create. This is the cream of the crop when it comes to MMORPGs and a full redemption from the extremely disappointed original FFXIV. Rejoice fans, this is the game you've been waiting for.

This pretty much sums up A Realm Reborn perfectly: A little fairy princess sitting on huge dude's shoulders. Luckily, most of the game represents the big dude.

Graphics and Sound

The original title was known for it's amazing graphics which required a beast of a machine but it definitely did impress. A perfect example of graphics don't matter when the game sucks, luckily, A Realm Reborn is chock full of not only good gameplay, but stellar and enchanting graphics. Maxed out on our beastly gaming rig, we opted with SMAA anti aliasing instead of the built in FXAA that blurred the image somewhat. Our screenshots (check out the 1080p gallery below), were originally rendered at 2560x1440. From the very beginning of the opening scenes, you are treated with delicious graphics from high res and well animated character models to vast deserts, seas and forests. While some textures in clothing is extremely low resolution, that is a minor niggle in a huge world of gorgeous sunsets, starlit nights, violent thunderstorms and dark caverns that crawl with mist. The spell effects are of particular note as in classic Final Fantasy style, they are extremely flashy and impressive. Not only that, some of the in game rendered cutscenes are absolutely stunning and gorgeous to behold. No matter where you are in the game, you are treated with real time lighting effects and silky animation. This is a huge score for Square Enix and we gobbled up every pixel.

I'd stand in this room, just to listen to the incredible music.. err, I mean, I rushed out to crush some skulls!

If you think the graphics look nice, you need to check out the audio portion of this stunner. Immediately at the main menu, you are treated with the classic tune of the Final Fantasy overture from many of the games in the past. It gives you geekchills. Never to fear as the musical score is definitely the highlight of the games sonic area that never really disappoints. Some of the tunes around the city of Ul'dah were absolute classic ranging from soaring and pounding orchestral drum sets to quiet, haunting and subtle piano arrangements. This is a soundtrack that must be heard to be believed; it's that good. Not only is it fitting to the world, it makes what would otherwise be mind numbing.. *cough* weaving *cough*, enjoyable, it gives some character and backdrop to the world of Eorzea. Not only is the musical portion of the game delicious but the sound effects range from excellent to heart pounding. Everything has a definite Final Fantasy feel to it and sounds wonderful in 5.1 surround. Crank it, crank it good and crank it loud! The biggest letdown is the fact that only a small portion of the game is accompanied by voice actors. While the staggering amount of text would have been difficult to voice, it sure sounds empty a lot of the time. Thank goodness for the music filling in that void but it is something work mentioning. Either way, this is an amazingly solid chunk of sound for your ears.

Don't follow the light! I can't help it.. it's so purty!

Fun

This game is a monumental production and huge improvement over the beginning. While I went in skeptical, I came out a huge believer. While it's very to difficult to summarize and assign a score to a game that really is not "finished" or you can't fully explore and do everything, I can say that A Realm Reborn is one of the most polished and complete MMORPGs, ever. Despite a rocky launch with the login servers and realms, Square Enix has largely ironed out those issues and the game is for the most part, solid and stable. You can tell they love this game and want it to be succesful. You can see and feel the quality in all the systems from crafting to combat. I can't wait to see what the team does next but let me just say, if you love MMORPGs, you'll gobble up this game. If you love Final Fantasy at all, you should dive in. If you love both, let's just say that this is your opus, your Mona Lisa; this is the title you've been waiting for. If you want to be overwhelmed with quality systems, quests and activities, you will be very pleased. Despite a few annoyances in design, this is gaming at it's finest and you should at least give it a whirl. Heck, you might even find yourself trotting around on chocobos for months to come..

Final Verdict: 

Whether you crave nonstop questing, crafting, dungeon running or just exploring, there's always something to do and see in A Realm Reborn. A masterful touch is present everywhere in this huge world and shouldn't be missed.

4.5/5 Stars -- Digital Hippos Highly Recommended