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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Beta Impressions

24 Apr 2013

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Beta Impressions

In two short years, Director/Producer Naoki Yoshida has created a world from the ground up, completely rebuilding the title that disappointed Final Fantasy fans around the world. I’ve been among those that have been exploring select areas of the new Eorzea in the beta test and so far I’ve been very impressed with what Square Enix has accomplished in such a short amount of time, especially considering the original development time of Final Fantasy XIV leading up to its first launch back in 2010.

Read on to hear my thoughts about Phase 1 and 2 of Beta testing for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Please keep in mind that everything below is from phase 1 and 2 of the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn beta test. As it is a beta, it’s possible that some things may change in the final release.

I was more than excited to jump into the new world that has been teased to us since its announcement back in 2011.

As I progressed through the first few starting quests, numerous tutorial windows popped up to aid me. Already the game was feeling more user friendly than its predecessor. As I progressed, I attuned myself to the Aetheryte in what’s now known as Old Gridania. From there I began to explore both sections of the city-state to tackle the quests that were available to beginners. The city is full of NPCs asking players to accomplish simple tasks in order to get them familiar with various elements of the game.

After tackling everything I could in town, I ventured out into the Black Shroud where I continued questing by slaying certain creatures of the forest. As I further explored the area, I couldn’t stop looking at the various lighting effects that were shining down on the environment. This is definitely a very pretty game, and the lighting effects are some of the best I’ve seen in recent memory. While some areas like the city-states have only seen minor adjustments to them, everything else has been completely redone. The Black Shroud is brand new, while also retaining tiny parts of familiarity in the form of a few landmarks such as Amberscale Rock. As Yoshida has said before, the goal with these new areas was to have a certain number of visual interests in each zone. He has most definitely kept that promise. Each zone has many eye catching locales and varies enough to make you want to explore to see the sights instead of to simply unlocking sections of your map.

I can still remember playing Final Fantasy XIV when they added in the various settlements such as Buscarron’s Fold or Red Rooster Stead. In version 1.xx, these were usually a single small building with a few lawn ornaments and it’s odd to think back to that update and think about how big of a deal and how cool it was to have those added. In A Realm Reborn however, these settlements are much more flushed out, adding additional buildings and NPCs to liven up the area. The same is true of the Hamlets, which have been expanded into a more believable community of various NPCs. Some of these locations also have one of the new Full Active Time Events (F.A.T.E.). Buscarron’s Fold (now Buscarron’s Druthers) has a tavern which on occasion plays host to some unruly customers who drink a little more than they should and start fights with other patrons. The F.A.T.E essentially has you beat up a drunkard so that he’ll stop bothering customers.

In each zone, there are around fifteen F.A.T.E.S. Currently they can be categorized into a few different types such as: collecting items, defeating enemies, defending an area and NMs. The NM ones are neat because they sometimes involve some of the Notorious Monsters from the original game such as Sirocco and Alux. There are no longer open world NM’s that players will have to camp. There are also other forms of F.A.T.E. that we haven’t seen yet.

The battle system has been changed in Final Fantasy XIV for what feels like third or fourth time now since the first alpha test a few years ago. The battle system is faster paced now, allowing players to take down enemies faster than they could in the original version. A player’s TP will be filled upon initiating combat, allowing them to unload weaponskills onto the enemy. Many have said that it looks like a copy right out of other MMO’s on the market, however, the inclusion of combos and Limit Breaks (which aren’t in the beta yet) are sure to add a bit of excitement to the system.  Another note is the Global Cool Down or GCD, which makes it so there are a few seconds between each ability use. This can be reduced by certain gear which will increase skill speed, and after gaining more levels and unlocking new abilities, the GCD becomes less noticeable.

Currently in testing there are three different Raids available for players to undertake. First is the Tam-Tara Deepcroft at level 15 which sends players underground to fight through waves of of enemies including undead soldiers, imps, demons (which share the design of those from Final Fantasy XI), an Iron Giant mid-boss and at the end, a Soulflayer. The Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak are still around after the cataclysm, although have now become filled with even more diremites than before. Old players will find this particular raid new enough to be interesting, while old enough to be familiar. Lastly we have Haukke Manor at level 30 which puts players in large manor located in the Black Shroud.  Players will proceed through the halls, and basement of the manor, leading up to a final confrontation with a succubus. If you need to take a break while raiding in the manor, you can always take a few minutes and sit on some of the couches.

Leves have also seen adjustments. Instead of being purely Aetheryte based, leaves can now be started from anywhere. When opening up your journal, you’ll be able to see the area of the map where your leves will take place. You can start them from outside these marked locations, or while you’re in them. It’s entirely up to you! After the completion of a leve, you’ll have a window pop up asking if you’d like to return to the NPC that issued the leve.

Those that have played any MMO’s in the past few years are going to feel right at home with A Realm Reborn’s new user interface, which now includes an area of the screen for a quest tracker, making it easier than ever to see which quests you’re currently undertaking. Also changed is the inventory system. Previously players would simply have a long list showing which items they had on their person. In A Realm Reborn, inventory has moved over to a bag system. While I was reluctant about this initially, I’ve been growing more used to it. Instead of a long list (while sorted), item is automatically sorted into different bags (or tabs if you open up your inventory screen) so you can easily find gear or crafting materials. Another inventory element included with the UI lies with a collection of small dots located in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. These dots show all of the space you have in your bags in addition to displaying the types of items you’re currently carrying and their condition if its a weapon or piece of armor. This can make it very easy to tell when you need to get repairs for your equipment- See a bunch of red dots? Better hit up the next repair NPC you find!

With phase 2, Square Enix introduced the new user interface for gamepad users (and those on the PS3). We’ve already seen this method in a previously released video. From my time with it, the gamepad interface feels well done. It can take some getting used to, as can all new controls, but I feel that players that use this full time will be able to keep up, if not surpass keyboard and mouse users in their response times.

Phase 3 of the beta test is on the horizon and with it, the lift of the NDA will flood the world with information about this re-imagined Eorzea. We here at Gamer Escape cannot wait until the community can compile all of the lore, dungeons, quests and other aspects of the game into what is sure to be one of the best resources around for A Realm Reborn!

Make sure to catch our live Q and A episode of Aetheryte Radio tonight at 9:00 PM EST on our twitch channel where you can ask us your questions regarding beta!