Jul 2, 2013

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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Beta Impressions (Phase 3)

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Beta Impressions (Phase 3)

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For the few people that follow me on twitter, or even just know me, I am quite the Final Fantasy fan. With Final Fantasy IX being my top game of all time and Yuna, the female protagonist of Final Fantasy X, being my top character in video games. When I got that e-mail to try out Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, I went crazy. After playing the beta for three weekends I got to say that I was very surprised with how much I enjoyed it.

As a player that hates MMORPG’s almost as much as a cat hates a dog, it really surprised me with just how much fun I had with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Before I begin talking about the game, I would like to point out the following things: sadly, there’s no video to show, as the NDA for video, sound and bugs is still in force. To be on the safe side I will not be talking about the story either. We are however now free to talk about the game as well as show off screenshots. I also tested the PC version on the second weekend, and the PC testing was on a system running a 3GHz I5 Quad Core Processor, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GT 640 Graphics, 1TB Hard Drive and a 128GB SSD.

With all that out of the way, time to begin.

Character Creation

The first step, as with any MMO is creating your character, after sitting through a unskipable cutscene that introduces the story, you will be greeted with the character creation screen. The character creation is pretty deep, even on the PS3 version of the game, you get all the standard stuff, hair, eyes, face type and so on. The awesome part is the small details, tattoos, scars, height, width, when you are choosing a female, there for some odd reason a option to change the breast size. After picking what your character is going to look like, you need to pick a star, this changes your starting stats.

Finally, you pick your class, there were seven classes to chose from, Conjurer, Thaumaturge, Lancer, Gladiator, Marauder, Pugilist and Archer. With so many classes you do not have to worry about there not being a style that fits your needs, the one problem however is, depending on your class, you start in a different city. I was a Thaumaturge named Yuki Nakaki, and a friend of mine was a Conjurer, we started in 2 different city’s, making meeting up to do stuff together impossible.

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Gameplay

Once you get into the game, after finishing a few beginner tutorial/story quests, you are pretty much free to do what you please: fight monsters, do quests, or just explore the beautiful world. Quests will net you a nice amount of EXP and a  feature called FATE also helps you level up. FATE are timed events that are usually in a specific location, these normally involve killing a certain kind of monster, collecting items from a monster and giving it to the FATE leader or killing a big boss monster. Finding a chain of these will grant you nice amounts of EXP quickly.

The quests are pretty similar to most MMOs, and involve one of three things: killing a series of monsters, finding items, or taking an item from person A to B. Another kind of quest called Leve quests (basically daily quests) are unlocked after completing the second series of story quests, there are three kinds of leve quests: Battle, Craft and Trade. I only got to try the Battle kind, these involved killing a number of monsters. Unlike other kind of quests, Leve quests give you extra XP based on how quickly you complete the quest, you also get given a option to raise the level of the quest, this also gives a XP bonus upon completion.

Battles are quite simple in Realm Reborn, you select your target, press the attack button or the spell you want from the hotkey bar, and then rinse and repeat. I was a Thaumaturge a magic class. In fights, you used one of either fire or blizzard, and depending on the one you used, you get one of 2 status effects, Umbral Ice or Astral Fire. In simple terms, the ice ability allows your MP recover much quicker, while the fire one doubled the strength of your fire spells. Sadly, I felt that fights got rather receptive. Fights went like this: fire, fire, fire, fire, switch mode, ice, ice, ice, switch mode, and so on. Adding in a few extra spells, and maybe adding that different monsters get affected by different spells more would have been a great idea.

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Graphics/Performance

The game looks beautiful, at least on PC. The PS3 version, on the other hand, doesn’t look as good. The PS3 version only runs at 30FPS, while the PC version runs at 60FPS. The texture quality is way lower on the PS3 version as well compared to the textures on the PC version, with the game on its highest settings. The lighting is very much different on the PS3 version as well compared to the PC client. I would say the PS3 version is the PC version on the lowest settings running at 30FPS, even then the game suffers from frame rate issues in major city areas. It a shame, really, as this isn’t a case of it being Square Enix’s fault, as they can only get so much out of the PS3 at this point.

While the game looks great on higher end PCs, I’m very happy to say that weaker PCs will be able to run the game without much problem. While I was running this on a brand-new rig that I built, the CPU is two generations old, and my graphics card is a budget card. Yet, I was still getting a very nice 50FPS on 1280X720 with the game on high recommended settings. A bump to 1920X1080 saw it drop to 30FPS, but considering this is the speed the PS3 version runs at, it is still very much playable. I would like to also note that PS3 players can play with PC players, which is great (provided you’re both on the same server of course). I would suggest using a mouse and keyboard for the PS3, though; it’s just much easier.

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If you’re looking for a MMORPG with a classic-era JRPG look, or if you just want to play an online version of a Final Fantasy game, then you should give Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn a try. MMO fans, or even Final Fantasy fans who normally avoid MMOss should at least take a look. I never enjoyed MMOs, but I had a absolute blast with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. The game looks great, plays well, it simple to get into, and most importantly of all, it still feels like a Final Fantasy experience, just with online features, which can be great if you’re struggling with a dungeon or boss. The good news is that the game is getting an open beta during July, so if you’re still not sure, then give the game a try during the two-week phase.

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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn launches on Windows PC and PS3 on 27th of August. The game will require a £7.69/$9.99 subscription fee. If you want a console version with PC graphics, then you’re in luck; Square Enix confirmed during E3 that a PS4 version is planned for next year, too. I will be giving this a try when it launches, will you?

*This preview is based off a beta version of the game. Some feature and problems could be fixed before the official release in August. As with all MMORPGs, a internet connection is required to play, and some frame-rate issues may have been caused by a server/internet issue rather than the hardware or software.