Last weekend, I was invited to join the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Beta. Sadly, I was unable to spend more than a couple of hours with it. But that was enough time to glean a decent amount of details; details that improve this over the games abysmal and dreadful original 2010 release. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Beta has seen various improvements to the combat system, user interface, and most importantly, gameplay. Joining a party is no longer a hassle and is nearly effortless. There are a laundry list of improvements that really flesh out Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Beta and convey the original vision of the game.
Graphically, this is easily one of the best looking MMO’s ever, much like when Final Fantasy XI was released. The art team put plenty of work into the highly detailed landscapes and textures. Running through a forest evokes a sense of wonder and claustrophobia as you’re surrounded by marsh and trees. It’s alive with creatures, too. Cities bustle with activity. Gridania, the city in which I began my adventure, blended into its natural surroundings; huge trees nest buildings, and grass runs along the roads. It’s quite a sight to behold.
Character models are impressive, as are the armors they sport. During the character creation process, you can adjust numerous details — much more than what you could in Final Fantasy XI. Everything from jawlines to hairlines can be adjusted to your liking. Character creation also lets you glimpse classes and high-level armor, all armor sets have eloquent details. The Bard’s armor for example is a beautiful cloth suit that is both bright and fashionable.
The battle system has been revamped, and distance now matters more than ever. As an archer, I gained a advantage over melee enemies. I attacked them while they travelled to engage me, which ended most battles before they truly began. Abilities are now mapped to the number keys, so you no longer have to set up attack macros. While grinding experience chains is easier to perform than before, you no longer have to spend 10 minutes in battle and 15 minutes healing like in Final Fantasy XI or the original Final Fantasy XIV. Now you can chain enemies at any level and no longer have to rest in between battles. Also, you automatically regenerate health and mana the second you leave combat. Traveling has been made easier, too. You can still ride Final Fantasy‘s trademark Chocobos, but there’s a new sprint ability that helps you get from place to place in timely manner.
The quests system has also been improved; gone are the days of wandering around wasting precious time searching for a random NPC. You now have a quest marker on your mini-map that you can easily follow — it points you in the direction of your objective(s). During monster killing quests, you have a counter which keeps track and your map points you to the monsters vicinity. Hardcore players are probably groaning in disappointment, but they shouldn’t. This casualization has been made in order to breeze players through leveling and involve them in the more important things like the story quests and high level content. Enemy encounters are by no means a breeze and do require a bit of skill. I’ve heard from high level players that there’s an in-depth crafting system that requires time and patience, so if you love the grind, you’ll still find it in the game.
Much like Guild Wars 2 and other recent MMOs, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Beta has included a real-time events that throw players into huge battles at any given time. As I fought off Fungar, a prompt appeared and introduced Fate events. The Fate System is a random real-time event against NPC enemies. The first Fate event had fellow adventurers and I fight off a stronger breed of Fungar which were higher level than the normal and far more deadlier. At the end of the huge battle, I was treated to a few items for participating. It was a good change of pace that changes the flow of adventuring and keeps things fresh. From what I was told, it seems like every area will have these battles randomly mixed in with different item drops depending on the difficulty.
Sadly, my time with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Beta ended as briefly as it began, but the improvements were instantly noticeable — I was left itching for more play time. The game would be more accessible if it were free-to-play, but Square is sticking to its subscription based model which will cost players $14.99 per month. As other MMO’s continue to go free to play it’s quite interesting to see Square not budge as it might cost them some players. Another Beta will start before the game’s release so expect another hands-on impression before our huge review.