Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn “Phase 2” ReviewMay 4, 2013
If the tests are any indication, Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn may surprise you.
Final Fantasy 14 has made significant strides towards redemption since its initial launch. For some, the changes have improved their experience. For others…not so much. I say this because, to an almost unparalleled extent, the game’s relaunch as Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn has become a hugely polarizing issue both in and outside of its community and fan-base, one I’ve touched on in a past article already. I would, however, recommend that the game is given a chance. Whether you’ve played Final Fantasy 14 before or not, give it a go come launch. If the tests are any indication, the game may surprise you.
Admittedly, I was not a fan of the game in its original incarnation. If anything, I was a fan of hating on it. It was boring, monotonous, slow and unrewarding and I pounced on any opportunity I had to tell people so. I refused even to call it a ‘game’, a title denoting ‘fun’ of some kind I’d sooner apply to prison labor before suggesting it could be found in the original FF14. Imagine my surprise when I got to play the Reborn beta, and found myself enjoying the experience! Despite some issues along the way, the game has started to shape up into something resembling…well, a video game, rather than whatever it was before.
For starters, the game performs far better than ever before. While strides in this area were being made prior to the Reborn betas, the game never quite found the balance between graphics and optimization. As of Phase 2, Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn is still hands down the most beautiful MMO out there, but without causing my rig to scream bloody murder. No overheating, no crashing, and no real lag outside of public events. Even in the case of the latter, the lag is manageable, dropping me down to about 35-45fps from my normal 60+. This is a huge step forward, especially considering how many people are on screen at once, fighting rapidly spawning troves of monsters; all of them spamming rather beautiful spells and skill effects.
The gameplay is far better, though portions of it remain a bit of a grey area for me. One of Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn’s gameplay improvements is faster combat. One of the major concerns in its prior incarnation were the difficulty of monsters; even one was enough to take you out, and they all took quite a lot of time and effort to kill. Now, enemies are balanced far closer to the standard in MMOs. They’re still enough of a challenge that one must remain aware of their surroundings and avoid aggroing extra mobs, or be prepared to bring a friend with you. Further, players can adjust the difficulty of their guild leve quests, allowing for stronger or weaker monsters catered specifically to them, with fitting rewards in either direction.
The game has a proper balance of solo and group content now, with much of the outside world being dedicated to solo quests and leves, yet spotted with areas better tackled by small groups of people and passerbys. Dungeons are introduced at level 15, and retain much of the original version’s difficulty, requiring a balanced group that’s on their toes and well-coordinated. Consequently, these dungeons provide the highest XP, gold and gear rewards as incentive to participate heavily in group content, without penalizing those who want to (or can only afford the time to) play solo on the main world map.
Here’s the concern, though. While the overall picture is turning out to be brighter than ever, the developers have fallen on some unfortunate MMO tropes while reincarnating their baby. In general, FF14 has become the dreaded “Quest Grind”, where you simply move from one “Kill x” quest to another up to level cap. There are some great little cinematics and interesting storyline beats to help break this up, but over many levels and many different job classes, tedium will quickly take its toll. Whether you’re questing, doing leves or hunting for achievements, it all boils down to killing a specific amount of a specific monster, nonstop, forever.
That said, I’m not going to weigh too unfavorably on this quite yet. For all intents and purposes, this is a brand new game. Over time, likely post launch, we’ll hopefully see new ways of leveling through additional content to help break up the monotony. However, that’s a pretty sizeable ‘if’ factor, and one that weighs on its long-term appeal.
While dungeons kept gameplay fresh initially, I personally wouldn’t be satisfied by these systems alone for weeks, let alone months or years to come. New, creative gameplay elements are vital to separate an MMO from its competition and keep it feeling unique enough to remain worthwhile, particularly when they go the route of P2P monthly fees. As it currently stands, Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn’s gameplay is enjoyable, but not unique enough for me to pay a monthly fee. I could just as easily get the same experience or better from existing MMOs that are free and/or already house characters I’ve worked hard on.
There’s still much more to come, however! Phase 3 will be here before long, opening up far more of the game and hopefully some interesting new gameplay devices that have been hinted at in the past. While I’ve found the world of Eorzea pleasant enough to visit, there’s nothing yet that has enticed me to stay. Perhaps, given some more time in the oven, that too will change. Those interested in participating in the beta can sign up here.