Convenience
MMOs are, by their very nature, labyrinthine. It’s easy to get bogged down by a million subsystems or get lost in an overwhelmingly large world. However, I never feel out of sorts in A Realm Reborn. Every time you log in, the game conveniently gives you a list of recommended quests based on your level and proximity. Also, the main story slowly and thoughtfully introduces you to all of A Realm Reborn’s tricks, so you’re never overloaded with information. It’s paced well. Traveling around Eorzea is also made easy thanks to the cleverly named Aethernet, which teleports you around the world for a small fee. If you don’t feel like spending that much money, you can always rent a Chocobo for an even cheaper price.

But it was really a lot of the smaller touches that impressed me. For example, you gain a bonus to experience gained for a new class based on the difference between it and your highest leveled one, which makes the task of fighting low-level mobs feel like less of chore. I also love how the inventory works. Right from the beginning, your capacity is massive. I rarely had to waste time selling unwanted items, which is usually a time-consuming necessity when visiting any town in other MMOs. That’s largely because you won’t find any trash loot (items that are only good for selling to vendors), and the few items you do get from killing enemies automatically go into your inventory. You don’t have to right-click on every corpse you create.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Above: Taking on a boss with three other adventurers.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

It feels like Final Fantasy
It’s hard to define what exactly makes a game feel like a Final Fantasy. Even in its own series, entries vary greatly. I mean, someone unfamiliar with the franchise would probably have a hard time making a connection between Final Fantasy XIII’s futuristic setting and Final Fantasy VI’s steampunk-inspired take on fantasy. But there are multiple common threads that tie every game together, and I don’t just mean the Moogles, Chocobos, and people named Cid (though A Realm Reborn does have all of that). It’s more of a feeling. It’s in the way characters talk, how everything sounds, and the tone of the world itself. And in all these ways, A Realm Reborn truly does feel like a Final Fantasy.

The music bears special mention. This is one of the best MMO sountracks I’ve ever heard. Not only have I enjoyed great renditions of classic Final Fantasy music, like the main theme or the Chocobo song, but I’m having a hard time keeping some of the more melodic pieces outside my head. I especially love the theme for Ul’Dah, which actually comes two ways: a soaring, triumphant fanfare that plays during the day and a softer, haunting piano melody that you only hear at night. Oh, and nothing sounds better than that classic Final Fantasy victory diddy when you gain a new level.

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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Above: The pirate-themed city of Limsa Lominsa.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

What You Won’t Like

It still feels a bit familiar
I think I’ve established that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a great MMO. Still, it does sometimes feel like “another” MMO. If you’ve played World of Warcraft or any of its many imitators, then you know what to expect from the gameplay. You’re clicking buttons on a hotbar to cast spells and abilities. Now, some cool touches do help make A Realm Reborn’s action interesting. The Thaumaturge has to juggle between two buffs using fire and ice spells in order to keep his mana from depleting, and a lot of the melee classes utilize combos that greatly increase damage when done in the right order. Still, if you’re looking for something totally different when it comes to the way we play MMOs, you won’t find it here.

The PlayStation 3 version
I spent most of my time with A Realm Reborn’s PC version, but I also played it on the PlayStation 3. Now, I’m impressed that an MMO this complex can work on a console at all, but I would never prefer to play it that way. Using a controller is great for moving your character around, but navigating through the multitude of menus quickly becomes taxing. Selecting enemies with the D-pad is also an imprecise pain, and I found myself dead more than once simply because I had a hard time targeting the monster that was attacking me.

But my biggest problem is the graphical downgrade. The PS3 version just doesn’t look nearly as nice as the game does on a decent PC. Models look jagged and animations for anything more than a few yards away from you are incredibly jerky.

Conclusion

I’m never thought I would be this enthusiastic about an MMO again, but I’m in love with A Realm Reborn. Its beautiful world always offers something fun and interesting to do. Sure, it’s not “the next big thing” for the genre, but A Realm Reborn shines with a hundred smart ideas and small touches. Final Fantasy fans in particular will love adventuring in the gorgeous world of Eorzea.

I never played the original Final Fantasy XIV, so I can’t really say how this stacks against it. But regardless of how truly bad it was, I’m more concerned with how excellent A Realm Reborn is now.

Score: 90/100

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is out now for PC and the PlayStation 3. The publisher provided GamesBeat with copies of both versions for the purposes of this review.

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