The original release of Final Fantasy XIV in 2010 was met with harsh criticism from both players and press. Square Enix themselves conceded that the MMO was a failure and the producer formally made an apology for the state of the game. Over the next three years version 1.0 of Final Fantasy XIV was retooled with new gameplay mechanics, updated graphics engine, improved servers, and a fleshed out story. In the end the game was released as version 2.0, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
I played Final Fantasy XI for several years, and eagerly picked up Final Fantasy XIV when it first launched. While I didn’t despise the game like so many others, it was rather lukewarm and I only played for about five months. Due to my subscription of 1.0, there was no need to purchase 2.0 as it automatically rolled into my account. I was also granted early access to the game three days before the official launch. I’ve chronicled my impressions as a returning player coming into a very different world.
Warrior of Light
A Realm Reborn (2.0) takes place five years after the end of the original Final Fantasy XIV (1.0). Story-wise, the world was under siege from the primal Bahamut and the empire of Garlean. In a last ditch effort to save the heroes from utter destruction, they were transported five years into the future, though with their memories fragmented. New 2.0 players take the role of novice adventures who will hear stories of the “Warriors of Light” that fought five years ago. 1.0 players are instead the actual Warriors of Light, who have certain small advantages and slightly altered stories.
As a Warrior of Light I retained my class levels, abilities, gear, money, mount, and ability to change classes. I however didn’t keep access to various quests, transportation (airship), retainers, or other companions. Despite my higher level I found myself at the same story progression as any other player. I started 2.0 in the higher level 20’s as a Pugilist and soon found myself blitzing through quests without much thought of difficulty or goals. The focus was to get my airship pass as soon as possible and travel to other cities. This required going through a large amount of quests designed from levels 1 through 15.
Eventually I decided to drop my Pugilist gauntlets and take up lower level classes such as Lancer and Archer. If I was going to be doing lower level content, it made sense to be lower level and gain appropriate rewards. Even if you are higher level, 2.0 makes full use of ‘level syncing’ to reduce your current level and bring it closer to one applicable to the story or dungeon you’re undergoing. This meant that I was typically on my toes, even if I went in with higher levels and overpowered gear. What also made things nice was that most quest rewards let you opt out of getting lower level gear in exchange for more money (gil).
Duty Finder and roles
One of the biggest improvements is the implementation of the Duty Finder, Final Fantasy XIV version of a Dungeon Finder. Not only does it include finding full dungeons, but shorter “Guildhest” group quests, hunts, and eventually will allow PvP. The first few of these objectives are available at level 10, but as mentioned before you can enter at higher levels and by synced down. One thing to keep in mind that each class can only queue as a single role, even if they have been gearing themselves as something else. Marauders and Gladiators are assigned tanks; Conjurer as healer; and Lancer, Archer, Pugilist, Arcanist, and Thaumaturge as damagers (DPS or Damage per second). Basic dungeons require one tank, one healer, and two damagers.
As you can imagine this can mean long wait times for damage dealers, while tanks and healers get first dibs. My classes above 10 and ready to use Duty Finder were Pugilist, Lancer, Archer, and Conjurer; three DPS, a healer, and no tanks. Though you only actually need these roles to queue, you can still run around as other classes in the meantime and actively switch classes during a dungeon or guildhest. In some cases many players were switching to melee DPS (Lancer, Pugilist) to tank simpler encounters.
Roles expand slightly at level 30, where each class can upgrade to a job once achieving level 15 with a designated secondary class. For example a 30 Pugilist/15 Lancer can become a Monk, which is a more specialized and less customizable Pugilist. Most of the classes advance to only a single job, which shares its original role. The exception is Arcanist (DPS), which has two jobs in the form of Summoner (DPS) and Scholar (Healer). In the end players will have to wait until level 30 to see more healer options.
Most classes can already heal and defend themselves by assigning additional abilities from other classes. For example my levels of Conjurer allowed me to assign magic such as Cure, Protect, and Raise to my DPS classes. Though the amount of healing was much lower and couldn’t be used as area of effect, it was still very useful in a pinch. Most jobs lack the option of adding in a variety of cross-class abilities, and are restricted to only a select few. The question for players is if it’s better to have the specialized strength of jobs, or the diversity of classes. It’s speculated that classes will be better for soloing, while jobs will shine in groups.
Fate and Levequests
It seems that with so many classes that you’ll be spending a lot of time grinding. Besides the Duty Finder, there are many activities to relieve the monotony of leveling. The first is Fate, timed world quests that sprout out around and allow anyone to take part in. This isn’t really new to MMOs, as games such as Guild Wars 2 and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning implemented them all the time. Fates are very common and quick allowing easy experience and gil without much hassle.
Levequests return in A Realm Reborn. Levequests are short quests designed to be completed solo and can include fights in the field, gathering materials, or crafting in town. An improvement to Levequests is that you can hold up to 100 at once, and are rewarded an extra allowance every few hours. One drawback is that you will fail a Levequest if you happen to disconnect or are transported to an instance, such as using Duty Finder. This can make it risky to initiate a leve when you are queued for something else.
Additionally, the item rewards and assignments are typically geared towards the guilds that are located in the nearby cities. For example in the city of Ul’dah and the surrounding region you’ll likely be given gear for Gladiators, Pugilists, and Thaumaturge; crafting and gathering is typically for Weavers, Alchemists, Goldsmiths, and Miners. This isn’t much of a problem for 2.0 players who might already be those classes. However, as a returning 1.0 user most of those proved worthless and motivated me to continue my hasty pursuit of an airship pass, and guilds in other cities.
The biggest issues during early access were the technical server problems. Even though it was planned to gain a three day head start to older players and those that pre-ordered, it became difficult to even play. During the second day of early access, August 25th, Square Enix decided to limit the amount of players allowed on the NA/EU servers and disable the player queue. Instead of being placed in a waiting list, unfortunate players were given a “1017 error” telling them to log in when space was free. This led many to spam the login screen and attempt to brute force their way in. I was guilty of this and spent more than two hours trying to get in.
Even once inside the game there were still plenty of server errors, including crashes, time outs, and a broken Duty Finder. Many players were cautious, often staying in the same zone to avoid being disconnected and having to repeat the login fiasco again. Others went completely AFK, taking up player space with no form of auto kick to remove the idle. The problem was eventually resolved in the early morning of August 26th, allowing many players to easily get into the NA/EU servers. The JP servers never suffered these problems.
Ready for launch?
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn officially releases on August 27th and the question remains is if Square Enix is ready. The amount of early access players represent only a fraction of the populace, and things could get worse once the floodgates open. It’s good that they’ve managed to work out some kinks now, even if felt like early access players were in a beta stress test.
A Realm Reborn is incredibly fun, compelling, and a great reboot to the lackluster original. Returning players will have certain advantages with gear and levels, but the playing field is rather balanced for with those that are coming in for the first time. If I spent hours just trying to get into the game, there is something alluring or addictive that many others will feel as they explore the new Eorzea. I’ll continue playing Final Fantasy XIV to explore all the nooks that I’ve yet to discover in the short amount of time so far.
Are you enjoying Final Fantasy XIV?