Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn PS4 Review
Last year’s release of A Realm Reborn came as a surprise for me. I personally didn’t think Square-Enix could turn around such a disastrous release as the original Final Fantasy XIV Online. But somehow, the company turned the game around and crafted an enjoyable story with mechanically solid gameplay, lots of content for Final Fantasy fans to love, but also offered rewarding and challenging dungeons for people who adore playing online RPGs and aren’t into Final Fantasy.
The PC version looked beautiful and ran at a fluid 60fps if you had the hardware. The issue in the console space was that the PS3 version didn’t really match what the PC was doing. It was a decent looking title on Sony’s last generation hardware, but the frame rate was never set at a solid 30fps, often dropping in any mob battle, and the graphics certainly took a hit compared to the PC platform to try keep the frame rate up. This issue is no longer the case if you own a PlayStation 4, as Square-Enix has now released the title on this new hardware. If you want to experience A Realm Reborn at its best, then you no longer need to play the PC version, as this PS4 port is just as good. The best thing about this release is that owners of the PS3 version can get this for free on their PS4, even bringing across their characters – a fantastic deal by Square-Enix and one that they should be noted for doing.
The first thing you’ll notice is the improvement in textures, visual draw distance, sharper image quality and faster loading. A Realm Reborn on PS4 runs at 1080p and often keeps a smooth frame rate, although it hardly hits constant 60fps, as the game runs unlocked, but you’ll barely see it drop below 30fps, meaning it’s a much better experience than the subpar 30fps that was always the case in the PS3 release. The PS4 release also allows for many more characters to be on screen at once, making it easier to see where everything is, especially enemies that are dragging themselves towards you to engage in combat. It might not be able to render above 1080p, but that’s really the only huge difference between the PC and PS4 version of the game. This is a great graphical upgrade over last year’s PS3 edition.
There is also the inclusion of Vita Remote Play, a cool feature that allows you to grind some levels while lying in the comfort of your own bed. It felt great using the handheld, and since the game is an MMO, any remote play lag is mostly negated due to the type of game A Realm Reborn is. It only really becomes a problem in the end game, where the hardcore bosses require precise timing to avoid or attack. Text can also be a little hard to read, due to the screen size, but overall, this doesn’t’ feel like a half-assed feature, since the developers went out of their way to use to the touchscreen and back touchpad to interact with the menus.
Speaking of controls, the DualShock 4 is a fine pad to play with. The general controls for combat remain the same; you’re using the shoulder buttons in conjunction with the face buttons and D-Pad to access the shortcut bar. But the biggest improvement over the PS3 game is that touchpad. This feature allows for the game to have a mouse input, as the touchpad controls the arrow on screen for easier access to various menus scattered around the UI, which can now be customised, just like the PC version of the game. You can also use a mouse and keyboard, or even the DualShock 4 with a mouse and keyboard. There’s really no limitations with control schemes in A Realm Reborn.
For newcomers, this is the perfect chance to jump into the world of a console MMO, as A Realm Reborn is a shining example on how the genre can work on that platform. What’s interesting about A Realm Reborn is that the story is actually a continuation of the events that happened in Final Fantasy XIV Online. The conclusion to that game finished with a server (world) ending finale where the continent of Eorzea was ravaged by the Primal Bahamut and the heroes (the player’s character) were frozen in time, basically sending them forward into the future. Five years later, the adventurers reappear, but suffer from amnesia (kind of ironic) and aren’t sure where they came from or how important they are. Their memories slowly begin to reconstruct as they progress through the game, helping rebuild Eorzea after its destruction, while also stopping a new evil that is approaching. It’s the typical fantasy fare, where the good must stop the evil, but in regards to story for the genre, the main plot is interesting enough to keep your attention and make you feel like a hero, which I found isn’t often the case when it comes to an MMO’s plot.
In typical MMO fashion, you start the game with the character creator, which offers up five races that are similar to Final Fantasy XI’s humans, elves, cat people, a race that looks like a group of toddlers, and the giant, muscle creatures known as the Roegadyn. Players will also need to pick from one of eight class types. These are the same as they were previously in Final Fantasy XIV Online, such as the Lancer, Gladiator, Conjurer and Pugilist. These selections determine your basic stats at the start. On top of that, the game wants other details, such as a birthday and which deity you would like to worship, that affect smaller aspects of the story. Depending on what class you pick will determine which of the three major cities you begin the game in. Starting as a Lancer threw me into the forest area of Gridania, while testing out the Arcanist sent me to the coastal marine city of Limsa Lominsa. Apart from having a completely different aesthetic, each city comes with different starting quests that eventual merge into the game’s overall plot.
Making your way through the beginning and hitting level 10 unlocks one of A Realm Reborn’s more open systems, the classes. You initially pick a class at the start, but once hitting the level requirement you’re free to change class at any time by simply equipping the character with a different weapon. The game recommends players to master their original class, but this isn’t forced upon, leaving you free to do as you see fit. Each class can level up to a maximum of 50, which means you could technically spend time levelling up one character to 50 seven times, although most sane people won’t do this.
However, you will want to at least grow another class or two to a competent level, as you can merge their abilities with your key class’ skills. Having a Marauder as a subclass of Lancer allows the casting of a skill to increase defence by 20% for a limited amount of time. While that’s super handy, the real reason why you’ll want to aim to increase other class roles is to eventually unlock the classic Final Fantasy Job system – specialised classes that excel in one given role. Jobs require the primary class to be at least level 30 and the subclass to be at least level 15. Using my own character as an example, my Lancer transformed into a Dragoon after getting the Marauder subclass to 15. Dragoon emphases on single enemy DPS, using leaps and thrusts to deal destructive damage. Of course, given the openness to the system, you can remove an item to revert back to your base class. There are incentives for experimenting with classes, and since it’s all done on the same character, you don’t lose anything for testing the waters. They also make it easy to manage gear between classes, thanks to the added tabs that swap gear sets on the fly.
Combat is very traditional, you click on enemies to automatically attack, while skills are casted from the hot bar as you wish. There’s a global cooldown after a skill, so you can’t just spam your best skills without waiting for them to recharge. Some skills are highlighted after an attack to show that they are a combo, resulting in additional damage. These combos are often the go to skills for most of your fights. Veteran MMO plays won’t have a problem getting into the game, while for newcomers, small instances called Guildhests set up small tutorial-esque events that teach crowd control, targeting and other MMO specifics. It eases you into the game’s gradual rise in difficulty, as each dungeon gets harder and harder, demanding more awareness from you and your party that people must play their roles correctly or succumb to the dreaded death screen time and time again.
Finding a group was never a problem, thanks to the Duty Finder. I approved a quest, and then went on my way doing my own thing until it found enough people to form a party to tackle the task. If someone decides not to join, you’re put back into the queue as the game looks for a replacement. It’s streamlined and very helpful. While not doing major quests, you can take part in FATEs, which are quests with monsters that randomly appear on the map, very similar to what RIFT and Guild Wars 2 does with its active events. There are, of course, multiple crafting options, such as Blacksmith, Alchemist and Carpenter to take up your spare time.
A Realm Reborn doesn’t hide away the fact that it is a Final Fantasy title – there’s fan service galore tucked into every corner of the game. Items and moves are named appropriately. Weapons, units and enemies are familiar, and even the Magitek armour from Final Fantasy VI makes an attendance as the main army’s machine of choice and is even a mount accessible later on in the game. There are lots of homages to past Final Fantasy games littered in this title that I feel I should stop spoiling them. Fans will get a huge kick out of discovering these little tidbits. It seems this title will keep on giving fans of the series updates that relate to the past and present of the franchise.
The biggest one in recent times is patch 2.2, which added lots of new side quests and a few story quests to the game. The story quests aren’t particularly long, but the side-quests have been pumped into the game to extend the end-game by a crazy amount of hours. Some of these quests are made to take you more than a few days to finish, so you won’t be getting through them anytime soon. The people who love hunting down achievements will be happy to know there are loads here, and they offer rewards if you manage to complete a whole set. You’ll most likely spend more of your time doing these rather than the Player vs Player, which is no doubt the weakest element of A Realm Reborn, as it’s just arena fights and nothing more, lacking such awesome concepts as World vs World that was in Guild Wars 2.
The PlayStation 4 version of Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn is exactly what I wanted from the game moving to newer hardware. It’s gained a massive graphical boost, much more stable frame rate and feels like the PC version adapted to the console, but without losing all those additional customisable features that are often removed in transition. On top of that, you have the additional features of Vita Remote Play and the easiness to share pictures, videos or stream on Twitch through the PS4’s social media tools, which ends up making this an amazing alternative to playing it on the PC and easily stomps on the PS3 edition. While Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn does not bring much innovation to the genre, it’s taking aspects from other games and spinning them with a flavour of Final Fantasy. This mixture makes it one of my favourite MMOs of the last couple of years and one that certainly goes into my top three of all time.