Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Hands-On Preview
"A game reborn."

Having spent an exorbitant amount of time in the Beta for A Realm Reborn, I can safely say I'm no longer worried. Many players who experienced the land of Eorzea in its original form would rather forget than ever be subjected to that kind of torture again — for good reason. The purpose of this article isn't to highlight what XIV (and Square Enix) did wrong the first time, but instead the way it overcame all odds and made it finally feel right. With a release slated for August 27th on Windows and PS3 (three years after the original was released), it invites players to come back and revisit a beautiful, rebuilt world. It's hard to describe the beauty of this game without comparing it to its train-wreck of a predecessor, but A Realm Reborn stands well enough on its own two legs and begs the question — why wasn't it done this way the first time?

Eorzea — In game time, the storyline of A Realm Reborn picks up 5 years after the conclusion of an event known as the "Seventh Umbral Era," during which the elder Primal Bahamut was released upon the world. During character creation, you select a starting class, and your starting area is dependent on this class selection. Archer, Conjurer and Lancer will land you in Gridania, a city protected by great forests. Gladiator, Thaumaturge and Pugilist will have you exploring Ul'dah, a city in the heart of the desert. Lastly, the Marauder and Arcanist classes will place you in Limsa Lominsa, a port city populated by sailors and pirates. Each starting area is unique, and will truly give you a feel for the rest of the world.

Total Character Control — While you will pick your starting class, A Realm Reborn allows complete freedom of character progression. In most other MMOs, when you find your current class boring, or you're just ready for a change, you find yourself forced to start over with a new character altogether. A Realm Reborn (much like its predecessor, Final Fantasy XI) eliminates the need to create a new character. Using a system where your current weapon determines your class, you can change classes once you've fulfilled the requirements for obtaining each one. Although you can only have one main class active at any time, you may use skills from other classes you have earned as well. This allows for deep, intricate combat and progression that will leave no player unsatisfied.

The User Interface and Performance — We don't need to get into how bad the original XIV's user interface was. What does need to be highlighted is how clean the new UI is. The HUD allows for customization of size and location of most elements, while still remaining stable regardless of the layout. It's smooth, fast, and pretty to look at, giving you an inside look at the complexity of the game. Another thing of note is that during my time in the Beta, I couldn't help but notice how polished the game is in light of its approaching August 27th release date. Since most Betas are used for bug testing, glitches, performances tweaks, and server stability tests, as well as giving select players a "first taste" of a game, I was pleasantly surprised that I did not come into contact with virtually any issues. This is extremely promising for the full release, because if the Beta is any indication of the performance of the final product, I have nothing to be worried about.

The Duty Finder — In A Realm Reborn, you will be able to level up in a variety of ways, most of them relatively standard. You will be able to do quests, grind on monsters, and fight in groups — even solo players can make progress, thanks to a "hunting log" that does more than enough to keep them entertained. Most important is the ability to form parties through a new system added in A Realm Reborn called the "Duty Finder". The Duty Finder will place you into small parties from across other worlds (servers), having the participants fill the normal "roles" of an MMORPG — these being Tank, Healer, DPS, Support, etc. After a party is formed, you are thrust into a relatively short (and repeatable) instanced combat scenario, with rewards awaiting you at the end.

The Dirty Details — Despite the trending model of "free to play," A Realm Reborn will sport the "pay to play" model, meaning if you decide to take the plunge, you will have to pay for a subscription. The game is launching at $29.99 USD for the PC (and $39.99 for the PS3), with a few different subscription models to choose from. Players who played and kept their account active for ninety days in "Version 1.0" have access to a discounted rate of $9.99 USD per month, while players who did not will have to pay $14.99 per month.

Final Thoughts — It takes a lot to admit when you've done something wrong, but it takes even more to go the route necessary to correct it. Square Enix and the team behind A Realm Reborn have gone that extra mile to make this newest adventure into one of the best MMORPGs I've ever played. With beautiful landscapes, absolutely amazing music, fast-paced combat, a stable interface, and a myriad of other things that I cannot even begin to name, A Realm Reborn is an easy recommendation for players new and old to the MMORPG — as well as those who waded through it all in Version 1.0.

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