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The Travel Log: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (Part 1) Hands On Preview

Hesitant about FF XIV? Understandable, but you may be surprised....

It's unprecedented for an MMORPG to get a second curtain call, but that's exactly what's happening with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. It's an almost completely rebuilt version of the disastrous original that is going to get a second chance at life next month. After playing a good amount of the Phase 3 beta, I’m ready to believe that the game could right all of the wrongs of its 2010 release.

I only spent about ten hours with the original FF XIV across three different characters, but even then I could see that it was a gorgeous looking game that seemed as if it had been developed in a time bubble where World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, and even Final Fantasy XI had never happened. It was clear that Final Fantasy XIV Prime was missing key game mechanics, and let’s not even start on the copy and paste design for the huge (and quite empty) areas outside of the major cities.

A Realm Reborn not only fixes all of those problems, but addresses many of the niggling issues I had while playing Final Fantasy XI for the past nine years. The character creation is now suitably deep, giving players little chance of running into their clones while out and about. From height to skin tone and a plethora of tattoos and scars, player avatars can be tweaked enough that building a new character could easily keep someone busy for an hour. I recreated my FF XI character, but this time around he resembled the image of him I had in my head as opposed to the generic dark-haired elvaan that I constantly saw running around Vana’diel.

Once you’ve gotten your character just so and picked a starting class you’ll enter into a very scripted (and instanced) opening. This is nothing new to the Final Fantasy MMOs—if anything it was that Square Enix polish in cutscenes that kept people invested in pushing forward. You’ll have a little talk with a traveling merchant who will clue you in to the city you’re about to arrive at. The world has changed a lot since “The Great Catastrophe” (read: the ending of FF XIV Prime), and even the most travel-worn adventurers are playing catch up. It instantly puts players into the world in a way that few MMOs have pulled off in the past.

Final Fantasy XI dropped players in the middle of their starting town, with only one bit of advice: how to trade items to NPCs. Doing this granted the player with a whopping 50 gil, which might buy a single piece of produce for crafting. FF XIV didn’t do much to rectify this, but A Realm Reborn has a proper tutorial that does a great job of educating players about everything that can be done in the new realm of Eorzea. It can get a little hand-holdy initially, as there are a few quests that need to be completed before the game will allow players to venture out in search of experience, riches, and fame. I’ll gladly take some overbearing hand holding, though, especially since I’ve known the opposite of that for years.

For me, it’s really the little touches that make A Realm Reborn a joy to play. Quest givers are easily spotted, not only on the mini map but in person, thanks to a handy “Q” icon above their heads. Yes, this is something that’s been around since World of Warcraft, but I come from an MMORPG where the only way to find quests was to talk to every. Single. NPC. Main story quests are readily identifiable from side quests, and if you’re not quite ready to take on a quest (shown by a red icon), you can at least click on it to find out what you’ll need to be able to tackle it later.

On top of that ease of quest navigation comes the use of the map and the ability to track quests. Final Fantasy XI required players to purchase maps and, in some very frustrating cases, undertake quests to earn them. Not so with A Realm Reborn, which has a dynamic map that fills in as players explore the world. Players can track up to six quests at once (highlighted on the right side of the screen), and the map will highlight areas where certain vital enemies or items can be found.

Quests are still largely of the “kill x and bring me y” design, but I love the fact that most of these quests have guaranteed drops, cutting down on the need to spend two hours fighting rabbits until you get enough skins for whoever wanted them. There’s quite a bit more variety in the questing now, and they flow together nicely, with many quests ending in a new area with no need to trudge all the way back to the quest giver. While in the field you may come across a FATE (Free Action Timed Event). These special quests can be joined by any players, and are available for a set amount of time. You may need to fend off a horde of monsters, kill an NM (Notorious Monsters, basically big baddies), or escort an NPC through dangerous territory. FATE rewards are given based on player participation, and allow one to reap tons of extra gil and experience when out doing other tasks.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks. I haven’t even gotten to the completely overhauled battle system, nor have I discussed the Armory or how much freaking fun it is to farm materials in this game. Look forward to more previews of A Realm Reborn, culminating in a thorough review in the month following the August release. For now, know that I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen so far, and I can’t wait to delve even deeper.


 

Comments

asrealasitgets

07/26/2013 at 12:51 AM

I'm curious to know what the post release content will look like for this game. While quests are plentiful in the early levels, like 1-20 they are really sparse afterwards. I found myself having to queue up for dungeons over and over to get to lv +30. I'm not sure if launch will change this, but if level cap is 50, I wonder how much content can possibly be squeezed in between lvl 30-50. What I played of it was good, but I did feel like the dungeons were a bit too easy, even for beginners. I'm curious to know what your thoughts are about social or group aspect of the game. I didn't really need assistance to get as far as I did and this issue has been burning up community boards everywhere.

Also thanks for featuring this game on your front page!Cool 

Coolsetzer

07/26/2013 at 03:48 PM

Nice preview. My favorite part of Dungeons & Dragons Online was the fact that the quests really were unique, and reading the storylines was refreshing. Hopefully, the full release of this game won't be all about fetching.

Dandichu

07/27/2013 at 10:04 PM

Love it. Love it. *joygasm*

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