Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (beta)

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (beta)

Final-Fantasy-XIV-A-Realm-RebornYesterday marked the first day of the open beta for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – Square Enix’s second attempt at an MMORPG since the infamous FFXI. After trying the earlier closed beta in July, I tried not to return to Eorzea for a second time. Not because I didn’t enjoy. Quite the opposite, actually. It consumed two days of my life and I didn’t want to spoil the first few hours of gameplay for myself when the game drops through my letterbox a week on Tuesday. However, this didn’t go according to plan.

I was sucked in to the biggest free-for-all I could image. My first-hand experience of MMORPGs is limited, so it was a little more overwhelming than what I had seen of the closed  beta, with more than 120,000 concurrent connects reported by Square Enix – adding two more servers to accommodate. Overall, this resulted in 44 servers worldwide, all pretty much full to the brim.

Like I said, the experience was overwhelming – but in a good way. The character customisation included things I would never have considered (tattoos, tail length/size, and the option of long hair, which is rare in games like this). It’s a great preview into the aesthetics of the game, which has always been one of the Final Fantasy franchises strengths, as of late. I had high expectations, and the visuals exceeded them from the get-go. The design of your home town, your starting armour, even weaponry have a wonderful detail. As you progress along there is nothing repetitive, and everything–even spacious areas in the field that are generally not known for contrast–has its own flair and impressive detail. This does tend to slow down transitions between field/town and similar, but not by much, and the wait is very much worth it.

ffxiv-open-landscapeAlthough the visuals were of a fantastic standard, that wasn’t the reason why I invested nearly ten hours this weekend playing this game. The gameplay had me hooked. From a beginner standpoint, it was simplistic in such a way that it gave you more time to immerse yourself in the world, the structure, and all the basic concepts. So, when I found myself getting to grips with things (quite quickly) I felt I was ready to tackle the advanced things straight away. There is a sheer amount of things to do to the extent that, amidst all the independent quests, the cutscenes, class-specific storylines and the superbly sprawling maps I didn’t think I could keep up. Thankfully the simple navigation meant I could review and make sense of everything I had taken on at a later time.

Uldah_ARR_03One thing that did make me hesitate were apparently non-negotiable group missions – quests that require you to join a team of fighters. I’m fairly certain that none of my friends will be playing with me. I am aware that this is one of the core aspects of an MMORPG, but searching for a suitable team and organising tactics is something that will bother me. For simplicities sake more than anything else, I have discovered that I am essentially a solo player. But the game does have a Duty Finder to help seek viable team-mates, which I hope will ease the transition.

And here we move onto the combat system. Personally, I found it to be quite fluid and evenly balanced. There are cool-down times on attacks and skills, but all this did was allow time for tactics, movement, and using items. I suppose it depends on your experience with other Final Fantasy games. There are no bad surprises, so if you’ve had no objections in the past this won’t cause any problems.

eb03872618232e7183b0504f0b4c593eThere is also plenty of room for character development, class organisation, and customising equipment – so intricate that I couldn’t even begin to investigate this weekend. You could easily dedicate your whole time in Eorzea to just being a crafter without having to partake in any action at all.

This beta had me looking forward to the actual game more than ever, and I feel that I needed to play it just so I could gets hands-on experience with the basics that might actually help me enjoy the full game even more. There was a time where the phrase ‘month online subscription’ would turn me straight off this type of game, but it has charmed me. I’m impressed at how Square Enix has succeeded in turning this game around, and I look forward to fully experiencing it on the 27th – and the undoubtedly large chunk of my life that it will consume.