On August 27th, 2013, we saw the re-release of Final Fantasy XIV as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn on both the PlayStation 3 and PC. And if you’ve ever had the chance to put the PS3 and PC versions of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn side-by-side you’ll notice that the PC version looks significantly prettier – it has better lighting, better field of view, more NPCs and players are shown – if we’re honest the PS3 version didn’t really hold a candle to its Windows counterpart. While it was an impressive feat unto itself that Square Enix was able to get such a cutting edge game to run on eight year old hardware, the PlayStation 3 really didn’t do the game justice.
Fast-forward to November 2013, where the world saw the PlayStation 4 get into the hands of eager gamers. Based on AMDs Jaguar cores and made specially for Sony’s next-gen console – it begged the question: what would Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn be like on the new hardware?
According to Director/Producer Naoki Yoshida the PlayStation 4 was the console hardware destined to run FFXIV: ARR. Better field-of-view, lighting, water effects – it was a complete package that proved to deliver a gaming experience on par with PC platforms to those who prefer a couch and a controller. Yoshida-san can be seen talking about the PS4 and its advantages in the video below, which further showed his confidence in the look and feel of the game on Sony’s next-gen console.
There was some sense that the PlayStation 4 version of the game would be above and beyond what was released on the PlayStation 3. To prove it, we were invited to try it ourselves.
Gamer Escape and other media outlets were invited to Sony’s Headquarters in San Mateo, California for a hands on demo of the PlayStation 4 version of the game. After a short presentation by Yoshida-san, we were all ushered into a room with stations that had both a PlayStation 4 and a PlayStation Vita set up. We each sat down at a station, and the folks from Square Enix plopped a Dualshock 4 in our hands and said “Go!”
We were given a pre-made character decked out with full Allagan gear and maxed on every class. We were logged in at Mor Dhona and I could immediately see the improvements that this version has over the PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation 4 version shows more characters on screen and has a better draw distance which provides a huge difference in terms of visual fidelity. While it doesn’t really compare to the highest settings on the PC version, I would say it certainly compares to the default settings for a standard desktop PC.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to really test the limits of these improvements with, say, a Behemoth fight since we were on a test server with only eight other players. The best thing I could do was head over to the nearest F.A.T.E. The game ran smooth at 1080p and didn’t appear to go below 30 FPS. In fact, I found that most of the time, the game was running at 60 FPS, which was a welcome surprise.
As a PC player myself, I couldn’t really see a difference in the graphics between my set up at home and the PlayStation 4 version- and that’s a very good thing for those out there that can’t afford a high end gaming machine and and/or prefer to game on consoles.
Controls and Gameplay
As you can probably guess, the FFXIV team went all out on this console version, incorporating every feature on the Dualshock 4. That includes the touchpad and the share button. The touchpad controls a mouse cursor that can be clicked with a soft double tap. Pressing the touchpad down serves as the same purpose as Select on the PS3 version. Full mouse functionality is included with the PS4 version, so you can use the Dualshock 4 touchpad as a mouse to click and drag UI elements around, use abilities, and target your Black Mage Limit Break or Flaming Arrow. While not incredibly useful, it does have its place. Moving your UI around without a keyboard or mouse is a boon for those who don’t have the extra hardware for their console.
The PS4 also allows for a full USB or Bluetooth keyboard and traditional mouse compatibility. So if the mouse and keyboard are your weapons of choice, you have that option on the PS4. While you can’t setup custom configurations with a gaming keyboard or mouse, it will let you change key bindings within the game to the typical QWERTY keys. You can completely forgo the controller or you can also use both the controller and keyboard – the controller to play the game and the keyboard for direct input to chat. The mouse functions as it would on a PC as well but don’t expect your Razer Naga to work on the PS4. If its an input device that would require some fancy driver software on the PC, you more than likely won’t be able to use any of that hardware’s special features on the PlayStation 4.
Loading times also seemed improved while moving between areas. Whether this is due to the PlayStation 4 hardware itself or the location’s internet speed is up in the air.
We also had a chance to try a few new features. As I mentioned earlier, drag and drop for certain UI elements is now part of the console version of the game, and thanks to the touchpad and mouse compatibility, so are the many additional horizontal and vertical hotbars. In the build we played, we saw the previously announced mount roulette action, which can be assigned to a hotbar to summon a mount you own at random. We also saw “movement markers” which lets groups mark a location on the ground (with the marker hovering above the ground) as opposed to a target. You are able to use three unique markers with an option to clear all of them when you don’t need them anymore.
PlayStation 4 and the Share Button
The share functionality of the PlayStation 4 is fully compatible with Final Fantasy XIV. This means you’ll be able to capture and share screenshots and video as well and stream your gameplay.
PlayStation Vita Remote Play
We also got a chance to try out the Vita remote play, and suffice it to say it works pretty well. The UI scales well, and the Square Enix team went out of their way to customize the controls to better suit Sony’s handheld.
The biggest difference when playing with the Vita lies in the triggers, bumpers and L3 and R3. The shoulder buttons take the role of L2 and R2 for the crossbar to access abilities, and you tap on the quadrants of the back touch pad for L1, R1, L3, and R3. There is a UI indicator that tells you which one you are tapping, so all in all it works pretty well. I did find it a bit too tedious to use since I switch between cross bars frequently and I would often hit the area of the touch pad for R3 on the Vita when I meant R1, so I personally wouldn’t really use it for any more than crafting and F.A.T.E.s. The UI translates fairly well to the Vita, although it maintains its aspect ratio so things can seem a bit small. However it keeps a fairly high res level of detail over remote play without really affecting the frame-rate and smoothness of play, making it seem like it ran natively on the Vita. Its a nice feature if you already own a Vita along with a PlayStation 4.
Impressions So Far
All in all, it was a largely positive experience. The PlayStation 4 version of Final Fantasy XIV is the definitive version for consoles. Anyone looking for playing an MMO from the comfort of their couch should definitely be looking forward to the game’s launch on April 14th.
If you already have a PS4, the first beta will be open to everyone and starts up on February 22nd. You can check out the trailer below.
The great news for PlayStation 3 owners of Final Fantasy XIV looking to upgrade to the next-gen console is that they will receive a free upgrade when the game launches on the PlayStation 4.