I tend to prefer story-driven games with stunning, seamless visuals. The user interface should be clean and simple. Combat mechanics should be fun and interesting. And a little bit of a sandbox feel, with crafting, player housing and an active community, goes a long way towards making a game more engaging. When I downloaded Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, it pushed all of my buttons on the first night. Now, after several months of play, I firmly believe that Reborn is the best MMO available right now. Here are 13 reasons why.
Available on console
Reborn successfully bridges the gap between PC and console gaming. It can be played on PS3, PS4 and PC. The user interface and controls are intuitive for both styles. The game looks perfect and runs flawlessly on any system (you don’t even need an updated PC, if that’s the route you want to go). Another nice facet of this is that all of the players are mixed together. There aren’t exclusive servers, so you can play with friends who only have a PC or PlayStation console.
I have been playing MMOs for a long time. I spent four or five years in a love-hate relationship with World of Warcraft. I played Star Wars: Galaxies, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Archeage, TERA, Lord of the Rings Online, DC Universe Online and probably half a dozen other MMOs. None of them comes close to touching Reborn in terms of graphics.
Landscapes are beautiful, combat spells and abilities look gorgeous, and the fantasy creatures are rendered perfectly. The level of detail is staggering. Characters (or their mounts) cause splashes in water, and even leave wet footprints behind them as they leave. Gear and clothing look great, again produced with high levels of detail. Even jewelry is visible.
The story of Reborn is as immersive as most top-tier RPGs, no small accomplishment for an MMO. The tale follows your up-and-coming adventurer as he or she arrives in Eorzea and is forced into the center of a nation-wide conflict. Set a few years after a cataclysmic event, the events of Reborn require players to follow in the footsteps of the legendary “Warriors of Light” and defeat the growing threats of the bestial primals, as well as the second rise of the Garlean Empire.
In addition to the main campaign, each class has an associated quest available every five levels. These missions help to immerse the player even further in the world, as you progress in your chosen fields. Main story events, class quests, dungeon intros, and lots of other events have cinematic cut-scenes, usually featuring your character and the NPCs crucial to your missions. The scenes add yet another layer of engagement, and can even be re-watched later.
Reborn is unadulterated fun. Its adventures are epic and grandiose, with enough realism to anchor a player and enough whimsy to let him float away again. One moment, your character could be battling pirates to prevent human trafficking. And the next, you find yourself surrounded by skinny, smiling rabbits who want nothing more than to eat rocks and dance.
All-in-one class system
No more “alts”. No more grinding dailies for reputation on several characters. No more endless loops of the same quests. Do it once… and move on. Reborn allows players to experience every scrap of content on one play-through, making the MMO tradition of raising multiple “alts” obsolete. All you have to do to switch classes is change your weapons. You can save your gear sets to make the change simple and quick, and you can even use abilities from other classes that you’ve leveled up. The action MMO Skyforge has a similar system, and I expect the trend to show up in more games in the near future.
Combat is essentially standard for MMOs: Casters are immobile glass cannons, melee DPS generally attack from behind, and tanks still taunt, pull, and kite. The interesting and unique element of combat in FFXIV is the introduction of cross-class skills. Characters can bring over certain spells from any class that they have leveled, allowing players to correct deficiencies or boost damage or survivability.
The introduction of cross-class skills makes for some interesting and unique combinations. For example, I had a healing spell and critical strike boost from the pugilist class on my rogue to boost survivability and DPS. At level 30, my rogue could transform into a ninja, one of several advanced classes (known in the game as jobs). The multi-class system adds an extra layer of depth to character development, though the benefits of cross-class skills are largely mitigated in later group content. Characters in jobs are restricted to skills from two pre-selected classes.
Intricate player housing
Despite the growing competition for fun player housing in online games, Reborn still shines. Free companies (guilds) and individuals can buy lots and build houses, which players fill with furniture that they have bought, crafted, or looted. Some elements of the house can provide beneficial perks: NPC vendors, chocobo stables, gardens for cooking ingredients, and tools to boost crafting effectiveness, for example. Others are purely visual. After all, who doesn’t want a giant dragon couch in their living room?
Square Enix has built in several methods of leveling your other classes, even after completing the main storyline. Each combat class gets an experience boost based off of the character’s highest class (if you have a level 50 white mage, other classes will get a 50% experience bonus).
Frequent class quests keep players invested in their character’s story. Players gain extra experience for unlocking entries in their hunting, gathering and crafting logs. Also, regular timed events in the world, similar to those in Rift or Guild Wars 2, keep players busy in between quests. And the game has its fair share of bounties and repeatable quests.
Another fun element of combat in Reborn is the companion system. Players are eligible for a quest to train their chocobo mounts in combat at level 30. Chocobos earn experience by assisting their masters in combat, and can be trained to focus on tanking, healing, or dealing damage (or taught a few skills from all three specialties). Chocobos match the player’s level, so you can still use them even if you’re starting on a new class at level one.
This feature allows players to queue for any group content, up to their current level requirement. Players are scaled down to an appropriate level and their moves are restricted to those they could perform at that level. The level sync also works for fates, the spawning event battles. This feature is really handy when playing with lower level friends or free company members, as you don’t have to have/create a new character just to help somebody out in a dungeon.
Square Enix has implemented an excellent crafting system in Reborn. Most of the gear you see can be crafted, and the progression along any crafting or gathering path is rewarding and has substantial depth. The system invites a player-driven economy and perpetuates an environment for meaningful crafting and social reliance. Viable late-game crafting translates to less grinding for currency in order to get competitive gear.
Much like the combat classes, each gathering and crafting class has specific quests every five levels which mark milestones in your character’s progression along that chosen path. Watch your novice armorer become a master under the sharp tutelage of your NPC guildmates!
Reborn also features aesthetic gear changes through its crafting system. Players use crafting skills and materials to apply “glamours” to their gear, allowing their characters to look stylish even while using the stats of a variety of gear pieces. WoW has a similar feature, but doesn’t employ the crafting system. Instead, players just pay NPCs to change their look, reducing the overall appeal. Also, you can’t look exactly like Cloud Strife in WoW.
In Reborn, players can access the Golden Saucer (from Final Fantasy VII) to compete in arcade games, chocobo racing, lottery drawings, and an addictively delightful trading card game (Triple Triad from Final Fantasy VIII) to get unique mounts and armor pieces.
If Square Enix found a way to work Blitzball from Final Fantasy X into Reborn, I wouldn’t be doing anything else for months. But when the only change I want to make to an MMO is to add in a mini-game from 14 years earlier in the series, I think that means the game is pretty good. And I’m an awful person for not being content with a colossal new Final Fantasy adventure.
In addition to mini-games, Reborn features seasonal and holiday events. NPCs host beach parties and festivals, rewarding players with exclusive gear, pets, and titles. Right now, of course, All Saints’ Wake is about to reign supreme, complete with vanity outfits, chocobo armor, and maybe even a minion or mount.
No junk items
Every single item you pick up is usable, whether its gear, crafting materials or consumables. You don’t have to clog your bag space with random junk until you can get to a vendor. Another nice inventory management feature of FFXIV is your character’s built-in bags. You get 80 inventory slots, two storage slots and a free company bank. You don’t have to craft or buy bags to get a decent amount of space.
Reborn has everything else you’d want in an MMO: mounts, competitive PvP, achievements, titles, tons of gear, all wrapped into a beautiful package. The Heavensward expansion, which released in June, introduced three new advanced classes, flying mounts, huge new areas, a higher level cap and more of the epic storyline.
Reborn is a shining example of how an MMO should play, look and feel. And don’t forget, this is a Final Fantasy title! As a long-time fan, I can say without a doubt that Reborn more than lives up to the sterling reputation of the series. With the HD remaster of Final Fantasy X/X-2, the announcement of a remake for Final Fantasy VII, the expansion for Reborn, and all the coverage on Final Fantasy XV, it has been an exciting year for Final Fantasy fans.
You can try Reborn out for free. Then you can pay $20 for the full game and a month of game time, because now you’re hooked. The $15 a month after that will be worth every dime, nickel and penny. Don’t waste any more time. Drop whatever game you’re currently settling for and go for the real thing. Check out the free trial on the PlayStation Store or click here for PC. The fantasy is final.