Back in January of 2013, it was perhaps only Rhythm Encounter co-host Derek Heemsbergen who registered any interest in Square Enix's seemingly ill-fated attempt to bring the dismal disaster that was Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 back from the Farplane. But after several curiously entertaining beta periods, an RPGFan on-stage victory versus the fiery primal Ifrit at E3 2013, and hundreds of lost hours of productivity amongst a half dozen of our editors, it is clear that A Realm Reborn has grabbed hold of our collective attentions and, even months after release, still refuses to let go.
A Realm Reborn doesn't re-invent the MMORPG wheel — instead, it aims to meld the high production values and iconography of the venerable Final Fantasy series with a game clearly designed by people who know the genre. What results is one of the most entertaining, expansive, and memorable Final Fantasy entries to date — more than one RPGFan editor has said, "This is my favorite Final Fantasy in several iterations," and after clocking so many enjoyable hours in the lush foothills and dank dungeons of Eorzea, it's easy to see why. Cactaurs, chocobos, classic summon spirits, black mages, monks, Magitek armor, Cids, and more await the intrepid would-be hero, and with one massive content patch already delivered, it's clear that Square Enix is in this one for the long haul.
Don't let the monthly subscription deter you: A Realm Reborn is a fantastic experience that represents everything you remember loving about Final Fantasy as a wee lad or lass, and with much of the staff still regularly dining in Eorzea, it's a clear choice for RPGFan's Game of the Year 2013.
(And if you pick up the game, join us on Hyperion! We're nice.)
Recent installments in the beloved Zelda franchise have suffered under the weight of predictability. For many players, the experience has become rote, but here is a game that is entirely fresh even while being a sequel to A Link to the Past (a 21 year-old game) makes it immediately familiar. A Link Between Worlds is not chained to nostalgia or formula; instead it uses the foundations of a great game as a starting point for something truly inspired. Freed from the shackles of lock-and-key design, Hyrule and Lorule are worlds to be explored at your own pace and in your own way. Better yet, it allows for creative dungeon and weapon design, constantly giving the player something new to overcome and encouraging creativity in player solutions.
Every aspect of A Link Between Worlds is high-quality: great use of 3D, graceful combat, a world full of secrets and a soundtrack that never gets old. Altogether, the experience is like a Triforce of engagement — making the player feel smart, daring and powerful. A Link Between Worlds is so good it needs to be played to be believed.