Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - Preview

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Release Date: 12/07/2013

Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn Preview for PlayStation 3 and PC at GAME

Square Enix has a long-running history of success with the Final Fantasy franchise. The company released its first Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, Final Fantasy XI, back in 2003. It was a genre-defining title that has stood the test of time and is still played by roughly 300,000 people today. It is one of the few games in existence to allow cross-platform functionality, with people on the PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 (via backward compatibility), and Xbox 360 all able to play together on the same servers.

In September 2010, Square Enix released the original version of Final Fantasy XIV. Fans of Final Fantasy XI were eager to get their hands on the new title, but vast changes in the gameplay system, and a number of arguably ill-conceived system mechanics and technical difficulties caused the game to have a rough lifecycle. To remedy the situation, Square Enix decided to take the game back to the drawing board, with a new lead in charge of development. The result is Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

The new title has been in alpha and beta testing for several months now, with a retail release on PC and PlayStation 3 scheduled for August 27.

Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn Preview for PlayStation 3 and PC at GAME

A Realm Reborn

The ending cinematic for the original Final Fantasy, which also serves as the opening cinematic for A Real Reborn, quite literally depicts the world being destroyed at the hands of Bahamut, then reborn again several years later. It's a fitting introduction to the new game, as it feels like everything that was wrong with the original has been addressed and improved upon.

People who played Final Fantasy XI may recall that the game was not very forgiving. It had a steep learning curve and was not easy for beginners to grasp. While the original version of Final Fantasy XIV aimed to change that, it was still not ideal for new players. A Realm Reborn borrows a bit from World of Warcraft and creates a game that is very easy for casual and hardcore players to get into.

After an in-depth character customization that allows players to alter almost every aspect of their virtual avatar, you're greeted with a cinematic battle that shows off your character's stylish, endgame artifact armor. It's a great introduction that lets players see what their hard work will result in. After the brief cinematic and a short journey into town, you'll need to complete a few quick quests that help to teach the basics of the game.

Questing in A Realm Reborn is extremely straightforward. NPCs with various icons over their heads represent available quests. Speak with them to initiate the quest, then pull up a map and journal to see exactly where you need to go and what to do. Quests earn experience points, and useful items or gil (in-game currency) as rewards.

The design focus on A Realm Reborn was to ensure that the first 15-20 levels were easy enough for players to get into, but not so simple that they would turn off experienced players. The development team at Square Enix has done a great job creating an enjoyable early start to the MMO.

Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn Preview for PlayStation 3 and PC at GAME

Choose Your Weapon

One of the more unique aspects of A Realm Reborn is the ability to play any job or class on a single character. In games such as World of Warcraft, if you wish to change class, you need to create a new character. In A Realm Reborn, once you complete a quest at level 10 (which can be reached in an hour or two of play) all you need to do is obtain a new weapon for the class you wish to play as, and you'll change to that class.

For example, if you start the game as a Gladiator, you'll have a short sword in hand. Complete the level 10 quest, then head over to the Weaver's Guild to get a needle (free of charge) and you'll instantly change to a level 1 Weaver. Switch back to the short sword and you character will return to a level 10 Gladiator.

Final Fantasy XI allowed for similar job switching, however you could only change jobs in specific locations. In A Realm Reborn, you can change class almost anywhere with the ease of changing weapons. There are five disciples of war (gladiator, pugilist, marauder, lancer, and archer), three disciples of magic (conjurer, thaumaturge, and arcanist), eight disciples of hand (carpenter, blacksmith, armorer, goldsmith, leatherworker, weaver, alchemist, and culinarian), and three disciples of the land (miner, botanist, and fisher). You can play all of these classes, as well as advanced job extensions (available at level 30) on a single character.

Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn Preview for PlayStation 3 and PC at GAME

The Next Generation

When A Realm Reborn releases in August, it will be available for the PC and PlayStation 3. However, Square Enix also has plans to release a PlayStation 4 version of the game in 2014. As previously stated, all three versions of the game will be able to play together.

If you're concerned about how an MMO plays on a console, fear not, Square Enix has you covered. While the game supports a keyboard and mouse on all three platforms, you can also play with a controller or gamepad. The new cross bar control system allows for quick and easy access via a controller. Simply hold down the R2 or L2 trigger to pull up a menu system that allows access to spells and abilities via any of the action buttons (X, Triangle, Circle, or Square), or directional inputs (up, down, left, or right). This system allows intuitive access to 16 different functions with ease.

In fact, the control functionality is so good that many PC players opt to use a controller instead of a keyboard and mouse. Of course, you'll still need a keyboard to communicate easily with other players, but even that is optional.

The only significant difference between the PC and PlayStation 3 version of the game is the resolution. On a PC you can reach much higher resolutions compared to the PS3. If you haven't played the PC version, you probably won't notice this difference. If you have experience on the PC, you may feel that the PS3 user interface is a little cramped due to the lower resolution, but it's still very functional. Loading time between zones is also slightly longer on the PS3 version, but it's not a significant difference in most cases.

The eventual PlayStation 4 version should offer resolutions similar to the PC version, but most people who have played the beta can't wait until next year to get their hands on the game. Luckily, if you purchase the PC or PS3 versions in August, you can pull up your character on the PS4 version by entering your login credentials. It's as simple as that.

If you enjoyed the challenge of Final Fantasy XI, you'll get that during higher levels and endgame activities. If you like the ease of access offered by games like World of Warcraft, that's also available at lower levels. The questing system allows for quick, daily activities if you don't have a lot of time, and there are dungeon raids that require a bit more time as you reach higher levels. When it comes down to it, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn offers something for everyone.

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