Welcome to Part 2 of this Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Review in Part 1 I covered how the game was reformed from the ashes of it's first version, the first impressions going into the game, as well as the complex if not rewarding world, craft and class systems. Now for the second and final part of this leviathan review..
Live free with company
Free Companies make up of the guilds of A Realm Reborn and unlike a certain release 2 years ago they are filled with a ton of features. Outside the standard guild features such as banks, guild ranking and detailed members info, the Free Company has it's own level system, each level unlocks new content and bonuses. Credits earned by doing normal activities can be used to spend on 24 hour buffs between EXP boosts in different professions, stat boosts and even teleport cost reduction leading to incentive in doing set activities together to benefit from these bonuses.
One of the major benefits in the Free Company is housing, currently only accessible this way. The Company picks which Grand Company it wishes to be part of, much like the player does, and their house will be located in the corresponding area. All three of these areas are stunning to be in and each housing lot comes in three sizes, however there is a downside, the cost of just the house itself is insane. When the system was first introduced the prices were set on a server per server basis due to the amount of money and players in the server, for example the smallest house for one server was 8 million Gil. This however dropped in price every 6 hours to attempt to even out the market after 90 days that 8 million cost drops to 3,698,000 Gil which isn't that bad.
The pay off is a wonderful house for your Free Company, the crafting classes are used to create the items for the house and despite using items from all levels these require some high level skills to pull off giving crafting a bit more of a purpose during the later stages of content. Recently with the latest major patch Gardening was introduced providing cooking items for those willing to put the time in tending the gardens, I have yet to experience it myself but players seem to think it's worth while doing.
One nice thing of note is that when you examine a player you can also check their Free Company details this gives you a incite into it plus can be used as a recruitment tool if you are interested in finding out more about them.
If Free Companies aren't for you or you just want to create your own community Link Shells exist, these are group chat lists you can treat like normal chat rooms, you can join multiple shells but can only be active within one at a time. Link Shells are great little tools to keep in contact with like minded people even if they are in different Free Companies to you.
A final important feature to mention is the Auto Translate system, this allows you to use pre-generated text that will come up to another player in their client's set language making chat between different communities straight forward and easy, the system is deep enough for example for me to dungeon with Japanese players most of the time, much like I did back when playing FFXI.
Beyond the End
Once the credits have rolled on the main story arc, yes this game actually has credits, will mark the end of players wanting a classic single player experience, which this game's main arc can be easily treated as, rewarding you with not only the epic Magitek Armour mount but also opens up the game fully as a true MMORPG.
It's hard to class things as 'end game' content as the game still uses a lot of the lower levelled areas and content as part of the end game experience. This is done in the way of Synchronising, when entering FATEs for example if you are over levelled for the content the game locks you from interacting with it unless you click the sync button this will scale you to the recommended level until the end of the FATE, however completing the FATE will still reward you with your correct level of rewards.
Syncing also locks out skills if your class is scaled down below it's unlocked level, this helps the game keep it's challenge and allows content to be experience as intended so things like Dungeoning and instanced content when playing with friends cannot be powered through for speed levelling.
Dungeons aren't just scaled content as the game gives you Hard Mode versions of four existing dungeons and six new dungeons as of patch 2.2. The six normal level 50 dungeons are linked to the continued story arc some accessed directly others requiring an item level to access, they offer their own story arcs, gear and offer somewhat of a challenge. The Hard Mode dungeons are not just a scaled up version of the existing dungeon but offer a different tactics for bosses and mobs if not throw in some completely new ones, making the experience feel different but familiar at the same time.
Primal battles also offer a Hard Mode at level cap, like Hard Mode dungeons they offer their own twists to the normal versions making the already hard battles more complex by adding not just more skills to deal with but more complex versions of current attacks requiring a real focus on what is happening during the fight. Turning up the dial further Extreme Mode was added to the Primals making them a real challenge to beat.
Finally the Duty finder unlocks four types of Duty Roulette systems each offering their own rewards based on the difficulty of each. Low Level Roulette selects a random story level dungeon or Primal battle, Main Scenario selects from the main story event bosses and Guildhests Roulette does exactly what it says. High level Roulette picks from the content you have unlocked post-cap.
These coupled with the Sync system really helps the game as a whole as it allows high level players to be placed in lower story content allowing players trying to progress in the story even if there isn't as many low levels vs capped players.
Raiding at this current moment in time comes in two forms the Crystal Tower which is a 24 man raid remade from FFIII's dungeon, and this is the entry level and the alternate item path from doing the Hard Mode primal battles to access The Binding Coil of Bahamut. The Binding Coil of Bahamut is a multi-tier dungeon consisting of the highest level gear of the game the real hardcore raider will find most of their time spent there.
Item level based on your current gear with the endgame that is basically your progression within the end game content you are required to do certain Primal battles and Dungeons in order, so you cannot skip content to get 'the best gear'. As explained above the Crystal Tower asks as a different item path to the Hard Mode Primal battles, however the Primal battles still require to be beaten once to unlock The Binding Coil of Bahamut.
Much like the story progression locked out content via levelling, I can see this frustrating players wanting to play with their friends if they only want to be 'hardcore' about raiding, I personally don't mind this as it keeps content relevant, but thankfully the developers have said despite all content being a requirement to be cleared as the game progresses with content drop rates in dungeons will change to help players progress faster. This may annoy more hardcore players but overall I think it's a better solution then leave old content in the dust.
FATEs such requiring large amounts of players happen every so often one being a battle with Odin having high levelled characters is a must and even if you do have them attacks can kill the whole group outright, the rewards from these kind of fights offer unique items for players wishing to just show off more then anything.
Parts of end game content I have yet to experience are the Beast Tribe quests in which you take quests via the monster tribes of the game to earn reputation and rewards based around the tribe and Treasure Hunting, a high level gathering class feature in which you find a treasure map and attempt to locate it somewhere in the game, and finally as of 2.2 Retainers, your personal bank holder and player market vendor, can be sent on their own quests to try and find items useful in crafting. This content I've missed for the simple reason of myself not yet finding the NPC required to unlock the content.
One Realm many Platforms
One of A Realm Reborn's strongest assets is it's cross platform play, the question is which platform is best for you, being a mainly PC player when is comes to MMORPGs I avoided the PS3 version for some time, however when I did I found it more accessible then I thought.
The Cross Hotbar system gives players quick access to their skills and menus via a combination of the L2/R2 buttons and any of the directional and face buttons, this system allows for almost as many actions as a PC player which is always a good thing as console gamers when semi-competing in the same play space.
What I did find an issue was the targeting system I found it clunky and not as direct as using a mouse and keyboard, although many I have spoken to have found little issue with this in all aspects of the game. Mouse and keyboard is supported however it is many for text chat and UI/menu use, targeting can be done via the mouse however that is not recommended in many situations.
Overall the PS3 version is very much on par with it's PC counterpart, still very much playable with the controls, and on the technical side unless you hold up both versions next to each other the PS3 can still hold it's own both graphically and with a steady frame rate. However given an option between the two I would still recommend the PC version the PS3 simply because of the ease of controls but only for personal preference.
The PS4 version is improved in this area by basically using the same interface as the PC, both versions have a UI toggle which allows you to switch between the Cross Hot Bar system and the common MMORPG PC UI, so for instance you owned the PC version and wanted to play over the network streaming to your. Mouse and keyboard work as expected, as well as Bluetooth keyboards and mice support, and the DS4 touch pad can be used for mouse control.
The PS4 version also extends into remote play onto the Vita with minimal disruption to gameplay with all the normal expectations of the current remote play systems between Vita and PS4. The only real addition the Vita extension gives is mouse movement via the touch screen, however the normal PS4 controls still work as expected and the PS4's Bluetooth range extends as much as the direct remote play streaming so it can still be played like a small pc screen about the house.
There is a personal issue I have across the systems as a whole, despite the frame rates holding well on all versions there is yet an option to tone down player casting effects so in large fights such as FATEs it leads to a rather messy if not pretty situation where all I could see was the spells being cast not the enemy and just barely it's attacks.
Supporting the Realm
In nine months the game has seen two major releases in patches, where as most games would release a new dungeon or feature in these updates leaving much bigger updates for expansions, the developers of A Realm Reborn take this a set further by doing both. For example 2.1 titled a Realm Awoken added the Crystal Tower raid, Beast Tribe quests, Duty Roulette, one new high level dungeon, two hard mode dungeons, the Extreme Mode fights for the original three Primals, two new boss encounters, the PVP arena, Treasure Hunting and Free Company Housing, this is not including the season events brought over from the original version and the cross over events with Dragon Quest X, Final Fantasy XI and XIII. The level of content given is impressive and continued on with 2.2 with quality of life patches in between them balancing classes and adding needed features like a sort button have been welcome.
The level of detail offered in the patch notes is impressive as well while the developers also hold live streams featuring their new content pre-patch often and working on a three to four month patch cycle they also love to tease upcoming armour designs and possible features such as Chocobo Racing and Breeding as part of the Golden Saucer a kin to Final Fantasy VII's version hopefully coming before the end of the year. Content delivered this openly and at this level is a core reason I have kept interested in the game.
Account management is handled by Mog Station, Square Enix's name for their updated interface of their account management system. It's fair to say it does it's job in keeping the process simple and offers options of credit and debt card and game time card payment options, as well as Square Enix's Crysta, a payment system that was planned for use in multiple software back with the first version. The game time card system is a bit of an oddball in the fact that you can only add game time if your time left is below 120 days (4 months) so the account can only ever have 6 months subscribed to it, if this is a system limitation it's understandable but not an issue either way.
Seeing as this is a multiplatform game Square Enix allow you to add each platform to the account, a purchase of a copy of that platform required but this still adds a months game time to the account as you would if bought for the first time. This allows you to play between a Playstation 3 and PC or Playstation 4 without need to start again, however not all data is transferred over as interface and armour sets are stored locally seeing as the armour sets do change and are quite important in class switching I do hope this changes.
To reward long term subscription to the game Veteran Rewards are offered such as Mounts, Pets and new outfits for your Chocobo, this only builds up for each month you pay to subscribe so you cannot skip months between payments and still get the rewards since you last played. Square Enix are also offering until the end of the year a free upgrade from the Playstation 3 version to Playstation 4, this consumes your PS3 version and will have to be repurchased to play on your system again, however if you own a PS4 with the free upgrade it's unlikely for you to go back.
A Realm Worth Playing?
Coming from the original game A Realm Reborn is a complete turn around, and nine months in the game is very much still worth playing. For those jaded by the decline of the Final Fantasy brand in the last years this game even if played like a standard single player title, you may find yourself adding more game time to continue playing even if you finish the main story arc as it's pretty much the redeeming game to rebirth the IP.
The amount of support Naoki Yoshida and his team give towards the game is a great standard for this current generation of MMORPGs, it's clear Yoshida really cares about this game for example he broke down during the live launch event because he believed he failed the European player base as we had server problems. This is the kind of developer I really can stand behind and trust not to take the game into a direction that is just trying to increase their income, and if the last two major patches mirror the upcoming patches I really can't wait for them.
Of course A Realm Reborn still has issues, like I said the story locked content is an issue however you get used to it, I'm hoping armour sets do get saved server side so cross platforms isn't that much of a hassle and I really really hope Personal Housing doesn't cost maddening amounts of Gil to buy.
Despite issues I would instantly recommend this game to Final Fantasy fans and MMORPG players a like, A Realm Reborn being in it's first year holds it's own between the titans of MMORPG gaming and the current swarm of free to play titles on PC. For both Playstation platforms it's basically a must as it's the best MMORPGs on either platform.
Final Fantasy has been reborn in this game.