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Steven J. Mepham

A couple of months ago, I wrote about joining the beta test for Square Enix‘s new MMO: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. In the subsequent months it has been launched and I find myself a demi-veteran of the game. I say demi, mainly because work and university commitments get in the way of play time.  So how do I find the game?  Well now, putting the long established Final Fantasy Fan boy aside, I can still wholeheartedly say it is an amazing game. I could list them monotonously, but that would be a crime against the game and more importantly myself. What I will say though, is that Square Enix have really considered what they were about with one, yes, you can say it is a revamp of the MMO they cancelled a year or so ago because as they said, it didn’t quite stack up to their standards. I never played it, so can’t really comment on it.  The thing is though, how does FFXIV: ARR stack up against other MMO?

FFXIVThis is where objectivity takes a nose dive for oblivion and the resident fan boy comes out – but then we all have our vices: mine just is good games, with good stories and if there is one thing the Final Fantasy canon offers, it’s a good story. The graphics are excellent as well. The thing with FFXIV: ARR is that it goes beyond story. If we look at World of Warcraft, it has an amazing breadth of story and Lore behind it. Unfortunately, Blizzard seem to be caught up in function rather than content. While there is a correlation between the quests and the story, it is a tenuous link at best often made worse by the outdated text from zones that have not been updated once their expansion finished. To be fair to Blizzard they have brought entrenched quests in with the cataclysm expansion, but still there is no immersing into the story itself. Whereas with FFXIV: ARR this is not the case. Square have taken your handcrafted playable Character and dropped them in the middle of a story, which unfurls slowly inching you on bit by bit. Even your Class levels have an individual story to tell, most of which serve to teach you how to play you class and reveal important and deadly new spells and abilities alongside the usual Level Grind and to top it all off there if you get bored with one class that’s fine, get your primary to level 10 and then try another so there’s no more multi alts just totry out a new class.

Yes, it is the versatility of the game that makes it strength, the story is crafted around the vast optional nature to bring you a game that caters to you, no matter what your play style. They have even thought of added features such as Level Sync, to allow you to go to those lower level dungeons to farm loot and complete those sets.  That’s another little detail they have thought of. The dungeon bosses do not carry loot, instead the loot is inside chests. A nice variance from the strange outcome of getting a nice robe from slaying a dragon…

Now I have always been a magic caster player, don’t know why but when I try the melee types I die often and swiftly. Which is unfortunate when you’re supposed to be the tank… The strange thing about FFXIV: ARR is that your class evolves when you reach thirty, if you train a subclass. These jobs are always offshoots from the main. So your Thaumaturge becomes a black mage, your Arcanist becomes a Summoner or Scholar.51ba794c_Final-Fantasy_XIV_Realm_Reborn_Summoner_Scholar_Arcanist_01 The choice is based on your level 30 and a level 15 subgroup. It’s a nice trick, as it allows you to aim for something and makes that illustrious Final Fantasy archetype achievable but only with effort. I opted for the Summoner, as their play style suits my temperament and boy was it a hard fight to get the job. Still I would like to gather the other classes and test their worth.

I suppose the thing with FFXIV: ARR is that there is always something to do, and it is always interesting to a point. Fighting the Godlike Primals’ is a fun, but exhausting endeavor and therein lies one of the fundamental secrets. From level 15 you are challenged not only by target and kill, but by tactics, where in wow, you can pretty much button bash until your raid. In FFXIV: ARR you have no choice but to learn the tactics to win. In Satasha Seagrot, the first dungeon Instance, the final boss is joined by alts that swiftly overwhelm you if you don’t know to stop them. The solution is relatively simple, but it keeps you on your toes and makes you think, what’s coming next? And it only gets worse as the game progresses. In the Copperbell Mines we have a boss that can only be killed if you blow it up by a bomb that happen to spawn randomly. When you fight titan you are on the top of a crag that slowly gets smaller as the edge gets blasted away, not to mention Titans lovely attack that if it hits sends you hurtling off the edge and to death or his habit of turning your comrades into a rock. Most often your damage dealers, just as his heart spawns, an item you HAVE to kill in a set time, else he’ll use an attack that is instant death. This is a level 30-ish challenge and it’s harrowing. I can only dread what’s coming later on. Yes, Square Enix have ensured that the target and hit mentality has nothing to do with its game. Tactics and team work are an absolute must, or you end up dead.  It is this that makes it a superior game, and is, one of the reasons I imagine that World of Warcraft is dwindling form its crumbling edifice of supreme MMO.


A video of the Navel:  the fight against Titan: The Lord of the Crags

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Steven Mepham

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