Feature | Beyond the Cube Preview: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

The tale of Final Fantasy XIV was not a happy one. As with many of Square’s console projects last generation, it met with less than universal acclaim. In fact, it was roasted from one end of the Internet to another – laughed at and derided. Farmed out to a Chinese MMO factory, it was of such poor quality that Yoichi Wada, Square Enix’s President, was forced to apologise to fans (twice), promising to personally oversee redevelopment of the project from the ground up. Cubed3 had the chance to try out the Beta version for this special Beyond the Cube hands-on preview before its final release on 27th August in the US.

ffxiv1 Feature | Beyond the Cube Preview: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC/PS3)
Starting from the ground-up is indeed what Square Enix has done for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – for the most part at least – pouring hundreds of millions into the effort. The game’s engine has been remade. The game’s content has been redone. The game’s mechanics have been retooled. The game’s UI is…well, actually, the UI isn’t completely remade. It still retains the look and layout of the original, though it is easier to navigate now. Hopes were high going into this one, even at this third phase of the beta testing on PC.

A Different Class
Character and area progression have also been overhauled, making it a little more enjoyable with a branching secondary ‘then’ elite class system. That is a case of, a player might start out as a diminutive healer and then switch to learning the ways of a gladiator. Once sufficient levels are gained in both of these base classes, a quest to become a holy Paladin, sheathed in both the power of light and of steel, can be undertaken.

ffxiv2 Feature | Beyond the Cube Preview: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Getting there has been made more interesting as well. New types of quests have been added. There’s the FATE (Full Active Time Events) system – open world battles that take place at various places and times. These events allow numerous people in the area, who may have been off on their own quests at the time, to join together to accomplish some unique task. These require the defeat of waves of enemies by anyone in the vicinity. It’s a nice system and lends some life to the world of quest grinding.

A New Outlook…A Better Prospect?
The landscape of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has been torn apart and reformed as well. One of the chief complaints about the original game was its tedious, lacklustre world design. Square Enix put a lot of work into making sure the areas in A Realm Reborn are visually and geographically unique – no lifeless overworld here; the land is teeming with twists and turns, plus plenty of monsters.

ffxiv3 Feature | Beyond the Cube Preview: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Therefore, if readers are asking themselves, “Is it really different?” then the answer is an undeniable, “Yes.” However, is it fun?

Well, that’s a different question. For all the changes in Final Fantasy XIV, it still plays a lot like a standard Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. That is, from “go kill 10 Tribbles” quests to “go collect 10 Tribble guts” quests, from the very long introductory segments to the way monsters just sort of waddle around in circles or stand still waiting to be killed, from the laborious quest dialogue to the dry and very standard combat skill system, there’s nothing exactly groundbreaking here.

Maybe that’s not what Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn needs to be, though. Certainly, it’s a well put together piece of software. It doesn’t crash, it runs quickly, and it looks nice. Textures are pleasing, monster designs can be quite interesting, as can the landscapes, vistas and towns; combat, while not revolutionary, is quick and responsive – many boxes ticked.

ffxiv4 Feature | Beyond the Cube Preview: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Beyond the Cube’s Initial Thoughts
Maybe all that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn really needs to be is one of three things:

1.) A very high profile, public addressing of a significant mis-step done by one of the Industry’s largest and most accomplished development and publishing labels;
2.) A competent product that is faithful to the Final Fantasy brand, with Moogles, Chocobos, Curas and Ultimas;
3.) An MMO.

If any one of these three criteria apply, for instance a hardcore Final Fantasy fan or an MMO addict who absolutely must play every new MMO, then Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is going to scratch that itch…and maybe that’s all that one can ask for.