Final Fantasy XIV first launched in 2010 for the PC, and though there were initial plans for a PlayStation 3 port, the game flopped due to a myriad of issues, causing a lot of distrust among fans. In 2013, new producer Naoki Yoshida and a new team revamped one of Square’s biggest disappointments into one of Square’s biggest triumphs. A Realm Reborn was released for both PS3 and PC, sporting improved gameplay, narrative, and systems. It’s this version of the game that has now found its way to PS4, complete with spruced up visuals and various other additions. Though the game costs $15 per month after a fresh purchase’s free 30 days, the amount of gameplay currently available (and soon to be added in each major patch) will keep you entertained for a very long time. Frankly, MMO fans probably won’t need to play anything else–on PS4, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is just that good.
Controls and Settings
One of the most impressive features about the PS3 version was its cross-platform play with PC users. However, with the PS4 version out, cross-play exists between all three version. On a systems level, A Realm Reborn has all the main features of the PS3 version plus a few surprises, including Remote Play with PS Vita (bringing total platforms to 4!) and mouse emulation using the touchpad. This is a pretty nifty feature for on-the-fly HUD access and adjustments, but you can also equip yourself with a keyboard and mouse to emulate PC play. A Realm Reborn plays exceptionally well using a controller, with easy access to abilities and menus, and feels very natural using the DualShock 4. Cycling through HUD elements by pressing the touchpad is annoying and a bit of a stretch compared to hitting Select on PS3, but everything else is perfect.
A Realm Reborn also allows you to completely customise your HUD, changing options like the size and location of the quest log and just about every HUD element you like. I do recommend doing this for late-game dungeons, especially the 24-man raids, as the game can look quite cluttered with the standard layout. You can also change the size of the chat box–I found the default font size to be too small. The potential personalization of your experience is refreshing for a console game, and you could spend hours tweaking things to match your preference perfectly.
A Realm Reborn also offers a myriad of targeting options, like disabling the ability to select people that are not in your party, or even disabling the ability to select players altogether. Though these may seem like useless features, they can be quite good for certain classes that won’t need to select other players–for example, if you’re playing a DPS class like Pugilist or Lancer.
Graphically, the game is a huge step up from the PlayStation 3 version, with so much extra detail, clarity, and vibrant color added for your viewing pleasure. It also runs at a full 1080p, though even this is a choice, as you can choose between 1080p (Full HD) and 720p (Normal HD) in the menu. If you deselect Full HD, you will find the HUD is pretty large, but for some TVs, this might be the best option. Again, this is all based on your preference; I play in Full HD and it looks stunning. To sweeten the deal, A Realm Reborn on PS4 keeps a fairly stable 60 fps, though it can dip during hectic situations like raids and FATEs. The amount of characters onscreen has also made a huge jump compared to its PS3 counterpart, with up to 200 characters on screen available in the next-generation release, making some FATEs look incredible. Finally, A Realm Reborn on PS4 loads a lot faster then its predecessor and the amount of lag I was getting from playing on a NA server also seems to have lessened, though the latter could be from server upgrades over time.
But for me, one of the best features with the PS4 release is the ability to play the game on your PS Vita via Remote Play. This allows you to experience the game no matter where you are, which makes an already addictive MMO even harder to put down. For example, you can log in while you’re getting ready to go to bed and do some mining or fishing before you head to sleep. Though you can also tackle dungeons or quest content, I found communicating on PS Vita quite frustrating–your best bet is probably with PS Vita’s Party app and a group of friends. With practice, it’s possible to pull off quick communication using the on-screen keyboard and controls. Though I do recommend changing one option if you do play on PS Vita: swap the function of R2/R1 and L2/L1. As you won’t be switching hotbars often, having it on the back touchpad is a lot easier, freeing up the trigger for your combat moves. However, the game will save this control scheme separately, so you can play with the standard controls on your PS4 when you’re using the DualShock 4 controller again.
One of my favorite parts of Final Fantasy XIV is character creation. A Realm Reborn has a robust selection of choices for your character, with the basic races being quite unique in and of themselves, from the tall and powerful Roegadyn to the small and jolly Lalafell. You also get to choose a sub race; for example, making a Lalafell from either the Dunesfolk–which are used to living in the desert–or the Plainsfolk, who are skilled farmers. Though these choices don’t add much to the character, they do open unique looks for each sub-race, with each race sporting two sub-races. The game also boasts a comprehensive character editor, allowing you to change your hair colour, add highlights, adjust your height–everything important can be tweaked with some variety. You can even modify the tail of your Mi’qote (a race of cat-like creatures), and once you have gone through the main choices, you get to give them a birthday and assign a god. Though this does affect stats, the amount is so small that it won’t hurt you at all if you pick an unconventional deity for your class. Furthermore, a recent patch ensures you can modify your character’s hairstyle from your inn once you have finished a certain questline.
Pleasingly, the game’s classes are quite varied, from Pugilist, who uses speed and back attacks to pummel targets down, to the Arcanist, who utilizes a summoned carbuncle to support the party and deal damage, to the mighty, heavily-armed Gladiator. Each class is also a lot more balanced than they were at launch back in August 2013, with Square taking community feedback to refine already polished combat roles. Eventually, you can upgrade from your chosen Class to a Job, which opens a new storyline and a set of highly specialized abilities. The aforementioned Pugilist becomes a Monk, for example, while the Arcanist is a unique class that can become both Summoner and Scholar depending on your playstyle. In addition, you are not restricted to any class forever; once you have completed the class storyline up through level 10, you can visit any other guild to unlock the full breadth of classes, swappable by merely changing your equipped weapon. Plus, while you start that new class at Level 1, you do not lose the levels on your other classes and Jobs, and as soon as you have one Job to level 50, all future classes gain a small experience points bonus.
One note about character creation: you can freely select any server from any region to play on, but thanks to the game’s popularity, a great deal of servers are closed to new character creation at certain times of day. Perseverance is the key–come back at an off-peak time (usually, between 3 am and 7 am in that server’s time zone) for the best chance at getting in.
I won’t go into a huge amount of detail on A Realm Reborn’s well-told story, as I do recommend reading our PS3 review by Timothy Nunes. Needless to say, the PS4 release is identical in this respect, aside from the improved visual fidelity in the cutscenes. One bonus is if you previously purchased the PS3 version, you can transfer your license, allowing you to download the PS4 version for free in exchange for relinquishing your ability to play on PS3–a nice gesture from the developers, to say the least. Lastly, if you previously purchased the Collector’s Edition of either Final Fantasy XIV v1.0 or A Realm Reborn, you will get the two new DLC items that are in the PS4 Collector’s Edition for free.
Though our previous review did not cover much on A Realm Reborn’s endgame content, there have been a lot of changes in this area since launch, with new hard mode dungeons and extreme mode Primal fights. Alongside lots of new story quests and changes that minimize grinding, these have extended the post-game significantly, with each patch adding major new challenges and more content for players tired of the same dungeons and raids. The Challenge Log, which was added to the game post-launch and resets every week, gives you bonus exp for doing a certain amount of dungeons or guildleves, helping you level alternate classes much faster and offering bonus gil, besides. Once per day, you can also register for the Duty Roulette, which gives sizable bonus rewards of experience points, gil, and (for level 50 characters) end-game tomes for raid-level gear. You subject yourself to somewhat random matchmaking–mostly designed to get high-level players out of their end-game comfort zone–in exchange for these sizable bonuses, and with several different roulettes available, you can earn multiple bonuses per day.
The new extreme-mode fights and endgame raiding in the Binding Coil (and Second Coil) of Bahamut will push the hardcore player, though recent patches have made it easier for players to get the gear they need to join their min-maxing friends. Elsewhere, the Crystal Tower is a brilliant 24-man raid aimed at casual players, helping them get used to working through raid mechanics as a team and unlocking gear to ease your entrance to Bahamut’s Binding Coil. New level 50s will probably do this raid quite a few times, as you’ll get endgame tomes and armour drops with every run–thankfully, Square Enix plans to expand the Crystal Tower with newly accessible areas in update 2.3. Alongside treasure maps and daily reputation quests assisting the various beast tribes of Eorzea, there’s more to do after you finish the main story than ever, and the progression to the game’s hardest challenges is much less of a grind than the genre is known for.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn on PS4 is better balanced and more fun than the already excellent PS3 version was at launch. Graphical splendor, framerate improvements, and the comfort of DualShock 4 push it to the next level–PS4 is arguably the very best place to experience Square’s powerhouse MMO. New features help new players catch up with experienced veterans while concurrently giving the veteran players something to push toward. Overall, A Realm Reborn comes close to being a perfect mix of hardcore and casual role-playing, and comes highly recommended as a result.