Review: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

FInal Fantasy XIV - Article - EN

The launch of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has been hands down one of the most important events of this year in the MMORPG Market; whether you actually like it or hate it; there are no doubts that the game probably represents the biggest production and the biggest name to be released so far in 2013. We already talked about the controversial history of this title and its launch in our Op-ed article some time ago and now, with the game having some months under its belt, we thought it was about time to tell you our personal impressions about this new online incarnation of one of the most famous franchises in the whole gaming universe.

We are enthusiastic fans of the Final Fantasy saga, (or at least we were, until FFXII and the following games ruined the whole thing in our eyes) and we approached FFXIV: ARR genuinely hoping to find at least one bit of the incredible atmosphere, the charismatic characters and the moving soundtracks that we learned to love in the offline titles, so this review will dig into the game with both the points of view of the Final Fantasy fan and the MMORPG player who doesn't care about the game being a FF title and just wants a good MMORPG.

The first thing that we want you to notice is that, in open contrast with the modern trends, the game is a Pay-to-play MMORPG which has to be purchased (we guess the base version should be around 30€ right now), comes with a "free" month and after that asks you for the regular monthly subscription, nothing more or less than every other p2p MMORPG around. While this may sounds strange, it's actually true that few things say "Who cares about the others? We firmly believe that our game is THAT good and it's totally worth the price." better than a p2p business model in a time like this. For now the numbers are strongly supporting Square Enix's choice, but it's still early to make a definitive judgment.

Upon entering the game and spending the first one or two hours playing, you quickly realize that the game presents a very traditional old school theme park structure while offering its personal approach to the most classic and appreciated MMORPG features and some unique element as well. As in almost every theme park around, if you have played any other recent MMORPG it will be a piece of cake to get used to FFXIV:ARR controls and systems; you have your starting classes, your quests, your action bars, your levels, your pets and your mounts. Usual stuff, right? But then, what makes FFXIV: ARR stand out? Well, the most basic thing is that, speaking about features and systems, everything in the game is extremely polished. Everything works fine and every feature is well designed in order to be perfectly integrated with everything else; in our entire experience within the game we never encountered a bug or something which made us thought (“think”) it could have been done better. This is the whole point of the game: it doesn't try to innovate the genre or offer something revolutionary and new; it just wants to offer you the best and most complete theme park experience ever. But let's take a look at what FFXIV: ARR does differently:

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The game features a very flexible class system which lets you switch between different classes or jobs just by changing your equipped weapon. You start with one of the base classes (Archer, Gladiator, Lancer, Marauder, Pugilist, Arcanist, Conjurer, Thaumaturge), but starting from level 10 you can talk with the master of any other class and unlock it, obtaining a new class-related story-driven quest chain. As you level up different classes you can unlock Jobs, a sort of advanced version of certain classes which requires you to have the class they are based on at least at level 30 and a secondary class at level 15; for example in order to become a Bard you need to level up your Archer class up to lv. 30 and your Pugilist class up to lv.15. Jobs will share the level with the class they are based on, so if you level your Bard you will be increasing your Archer levels as well. The interesting thing is that unlocking new skills for a class makes that skill available for a number of other classes, so for example it would be a good idea to unlock the Pugilist's healing spell "second wind" and equip it on a Marauder or a Lancer to compensate their lack of an effective healing spell at low levels.


The crafting in FFXIV: ARR is serious business as well; compared to the majority of other MMORPGs, gathering and crafting classes in this game are real classes, with levels, unlockable skills, equipment and more. You can actually play the whole game as a crafter without touching any "combat class", just by producing your goods and trading with other players. And the possibility to change class at will lets you level different crafting or gathering classes as well (this time you can switch between classes by equipping different tools instead of weapons, helping you to obtain ingredients and tools without interacting with other players. The crafting system itself is deep and rewarding, with smart but not too complex mechanics which revolve around a balance of quality, durability and different materials.

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You have several options at your disposal when it comes to leveling up your character. There are the usual quests, main scenario quests, FATE events, guildleves, hunting logs and dungeons. While the normal quests are exactly what years of themepark MMORPGs fed you with, we have to admit that many of them are well written and offer a distinct Final Fantasy flavor which reminds us of the secondary stories of the old FF games. Just to take some examples, there is this quest where you meet a girl and his party of adventurers, who blames her for the recent death of one of their members. You help her and after that, she thanks you and tells you that she's going back to her home village to start her training once more. Going on with your quests and leveling up you'll eventually arrive to a little town where you can find this girl again, and she tells you that she is helping new rookie adventurers to start their journeys. In another quest you will help the love story between a kind-hearted bandit and a scared young girl in a village. A lot of these quests feature animated scenes, nice dialogues and truly contribute to making you feel that the world is alive.

The FATE events are more or less the Square Enix version of Guild Wars 2's dynamic events: public events which happen here and there around the world and to which anyone can participate; they involve killing a boss, repelling a monsters invasion and similar tasks, rewarding you with XP and Gil, the main in game currency. The main scenario quests represent the game's main storyline and it comes in a pure Final Fantasy style, with interesting story, several charismatic characters, sudden plot twists and a good amount of animated cut scenes, some of them also featuring voice-overs. Guildleves are repeatable quests mainly used by players along with Fates to level up secondary classes once they run out of quests. The hunting logs are lists of monsters to hunt around the world, organized in ranks, which are different for each class and represents a nice way to level up quicker while questing. The dungeons are the classic instances; players will form groups of 4 players (8 for some end-game advanced dungeons) and adventure through them with a classic holy-trinity based gameplay, fighting monsters, finding treasure chests, solving puzzles and avoiding traps. Surprisingly, albeit being easy, even the first dungeons, that have the main purpose of helping the new players to get used to the MMORPGs mechanics and roles, are quite interesting and feature a very good design and atmosphere. These instances start to get a bit more challenging around lv. 30, with the endgame content that represents the real deal.

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The combat system is the same wow-style tab-target combat that many of you should know by heart. The only exceptions being the presence of a global skill cooldown of 2 seconds and some avoidable monster attacks which will show you the targeted area of effect on the ground before the actual attack starts, giving you the time to move away (exactly like in GW2 or like Wildstar's telegraph system). While the global cooldown might seem strange and will make you feel like the combat is a little slow during the first levels, once you start to unlock more skills, equip skills from other classes and have actual rotations to follow and adapt, you will consider it a given. Moreover, at higher levels, during the high-pressure hard fights it will give you a little more time to think about before making your next move, making the fights a lot more strategic and less button smashing. Add all this to the necessity to avoid the enemy AOE skills and you have a very rewarding fast-paced tactical combat system.


The world of Eorzea is probably the real star of the whole game. It's one of the most charming and polite worlds that we’ve ever seen in all these years of MMORPGs and it truly feel alive. Every area has its very own atmosphere and colors, the towns are filled with characters, the environments full of details, the weather effects are amazing, and it's a pleasure to just wander around to admire the spectacular landscapes and cities that the designers at Square Enix managed to create. It has been a long time since the last time we stopped to watch a virtual dusk while playing an MMORPG, but in FFXIV: ARR we did it again, and it was beautiful.

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Graphics-wise, Square Enix's new creature is hands down the best MMORPG around at the moment. We can't think of any other MMORPG which could even try to compete with it. The characters, which are designed with the classic Final Fantasy style, are full of details,  their animations and facial expressions during emotes are wonderful, and clothes and armors look THAT good and realistic, thanks to a masterful use of shaders and very good 3D models. As we already said the world is amazing as well. The light and shadow effects will make your jaw drop, especially when exploring a forest, with the sunlight filtering through the foliage. Moreover, the graphic engine is almost perfectly optimized, and even if the game is demanding in terms of technical requirements, it is possible to make it run decently even on average machines. Top notch stuff here, guys, Square Enix deserves a prize.

Sounds are a delicate subject in MMORPGs. It's quite rare that an MMORPG manages to offer sounds and music good enough to be considered an important feature, and often they just feature mediocre soundtracks which push players to turn them off and just listen to their favorite music while playing. However this is not the case with FFXIV: ARR; after all it is an FF game, isn't it? Without lingering too much on regular sounds, we will just say that the game keeps the high quality here as well, with nice battle sounds and nice touches of class, such as crowd voices and noises in cities, which really help with immersion. However what we want you to focus on is the spectacular soundtrack offered by the game, which stands up against the old-school offline chapters of the saga, and actually proposes new versions of the most loved tracks from the offline games! If you have never played an FF game before, you will have the chance to discover some masterpieces from the history of videogames music, and if you are a fan of the saga, you will be surprised to see how well your favorite tracks have been blended with the general atmosphere of this new online chapter.

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This final paragraph is mainly aimed to all the Final Fantasy fans, from Final Fantasy fans. We'll keep this simple: If you have ever dreamed to play an old-school Final Fantasy game online with your friends, don't hesitate and buy FFXIV:ARR. Square Enix managed to bring online all the magic and the atmosphere of the old games, while setting up new graphics and sounds standards for the genre. Every single step in the game world will be a nostalgia attack for you, and even new elements will have that familiar style and flavor that you learned to love by playing the offline Final Fantasy games. Your heart will skip a beat when you see a little "flower girl" with her basket, or when you level up and hear the victory fanfare, or when you jump on a chocobo for the first time and the legendary chocobo theme kicks in. And these are just a couple of countless examples that we could make and that will probably hit you like a truck.


Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is one of the most polished and complete MMORPGs we've ever seen. It probably features the best graphics and sounds we've ever seen in a MMORPG, and probably will stay on the top spot for a while. It offers a VERY classic themepark structure without trying to innovate or revolutionize the genre, so if you don't like themeparks and you are not a Final Fantasy fan you could actually be disappointed. However, if you are a fan of the saga, or if you are looking for a very good and complete themepark MMORPG which can offer you a truly immersive and amazing virtual world to explore and a lot of challenges to take, the game is definitely worth the price.

  • The good: Amazing graphics and sounds | It's a Final Fantasy game | Beautiful and immersive world

  • The bad: It can feel a bit grindy when leveling up new classes without quests.

  • Graphics: 8

  • Gameplay: 8

  • Sounds: 9

  • Overall: 8.5

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