The Final Fantasy Series is a juggernaut of gaming at this point. A cornerstone of modern JRPGs, plenty jokes have been made about when they’re stop; with Human Revolution (set a couple decades into the future) including a hidden poster with an image of “Final Fantasy 27.” Perhaps this was kind of taken for granted, and in 2010 Square Enix released what they hoped would replace the hugely successful Final Fantasy XI as their MMO title, and what they saw instead was mass disapproval at a rushed launch and an ultimately very difficult to play and broken game. Square-Enix immediately issued mass apologies to the public, and began work on what could replace their mess, worked on it from the ground up, and made what is ultimately, FFXIV as it should have been from the start.
A Realm Reborn features a new game client, new features, updated graphics and much smoother gameplay than what had come before, with plenty left recognizable for those who did in fact play version 1.0. One of the center pieces of the title is its storyline, which has in fact been continued from the hugely climactic events at the end of the final installment of 1.0. Set 5 years after the Calamity, which reshaped much of the land of Eorzea, you start as an adventurer in one of three towns, the seaside Limsa Lominsa, the forest protected Gridania, or the fierce desert city of Ul’Dah. You also have a choice of 5 character races, basically human, elven, big guy, little person, and cat people. They have real names, but that’s what it boils down to.
Your starting city is chosen by which guild you wish to belong to first, essentially, what class you want to be. These include a range of 8 warriors and mages that get grouped into the typical Tank, DPS, and Healer categories for later purposes. However, the great beauty of Realm Reborn is that unlike other MMOs, where you are stuck with a single class, this title allows you to switch between any class outside of combat, after joining the respective guild, simply by equipping a weapon in that class. Later on, more advanced classes, called Jobs, are available to those who have progressed within two classes, such as a level 30 Lancer and a level 15 Marauder making a Dragoon, a more advanced form of both. Basically, with enough effort put in, you can have as many roles on a character as you wish.
Combat is largely skill-based, but nearly all moves have a global cooldown, meaning that combos between moves are encouraged, and battles may be somewhat slower than other MMOs, but not in an especially bad way, allowing for more tactical maneuvering around the battle field to flank or attack an enemy from the rear. Some Cross-class moves can be carried across when changing role, and these help expand the versatility of your character in a combat situation.
The world of Eorzea is absolutely beautiful, with varied environments that each have several weather patterns and day/night forms in them that function on a cycle. Quests are found in the typical “Question Mark above the head form” and also in what are called FATEs in game, which are events that spawn randomly on the map in an area and can be fulfilled by any nearby player. Other activities include having 11 non-battle classes, which are grouped into gatherers and creators, and vary from fishing and mining, to goldsmithing and leatherworking. These are leveled up exactly the same as the main battle classes, and encourage exploration, self sufficiency, and involvement in the games economy.
FFXIV is a subscription based MMO, setting you back roughly R150 a month or so, although what I do is purchase time cards for R250 from certain retailers that give 60 days of access. Also, initial purchase of the game gives 30 days of access, so from that even you would be able to see if you enjoy the game or not. Perhaps being that it is a re-release of a failed game, the standard version in South Africa only costs R250 for the game proper.
With a subscription come certain benefits over a free-to-play model, which include constant trouble checking in game and releases of more and more content to be enjoyed. The main downside of the game at the moment is the server trouble Square-Enix has been experiencing, as too many people are trying to play. As I type this, work is being done to fix this, and I hope they deliver on this promise, but for the most part I have always been able to get in, and have enjoyed a vibrant and fun world filled with hundreds of other humans, which gives a wonderful sense of scale, community, and fun.