"The future is looking bright for A Realm Reborn; all the right steps have been taken to ensure that this MMO is here to stay for the long run."
Because of the nature of writing about endgame content, potential players (and those who are playing but have not experienced it) should be wary!
I am absolutely astonished by the amount of progress A Realm Reborn has made since its announcement oh so many moons ago. It's been said a million times that the first incarnation of this fantastic entry into the iconic Final Fantasy series was abysmal. Players were betrayed, resentful and, well, you know the rest. Through hard work and an unprecedented amount of attention paid to the players, however, A Realm Reborn is easily one of the most beautiful games in the genre and could be considered one of the most aesthetically pleasing ones of this generation. Unfortunately, some of us are nearing the end, even if it is a temporary one.
With endgame looming, there's an increased concentration of teamwork and job dynamic. Should one be lucky enough to have a core group of friends, or even an established party within a Linkshell or Free Company, players will find the ending events of A Realm Reborn the best in the entire game. I'm lucky enough to have a blend of both, thus making the endgame experience that much more enjoyable. There are woes to be had though, as highlighted in "Tales of the Emerald Shield Book III:" DPS classes who haven't been fortunate enough to find a good Free Company are still burdened with long wait times using the Duty Finder, amongst the usual pains of playing with random players.
While the level cap is currently set at 50, there is a myriad of content to be enjoyed all throughout the later levels. Once reaching level 30 (and assuming you've met the prerequisites), players can finally acquire and use their "jobs." These are nothing new to the Final Fantasy series, but within the confines of A Realm Reborn they are "promoted" versions of the player's main classes. The Marauder and Gladiator classes stand steadfast as the tank-style jobs Warrior and Paladin. Lancers, Archers and Pugilists poke/shoot/punch baddies as the Dragoon, Bard and Monk. Thaumaturges and Conjurers sling spells as the Black Mage and White Mage, respectively. The only exception to this standard is the Arcanist, which allows players to choose and play as both the Summoner and the Scholar jobs — experience is shared between both jobs. Role responsibility, skill management, and cooperation in the late game are essential to the success of every party. The fact that these jobs are acquired so late in the game is a blessing and a curse to some players. Some will find the idea of reworking tactics and adjusting to new ones a little distressing. Because jobs are more specific versions of the root classes, abilities taken from other classes are limited. Over the course of the game, players will find these changes mostly beneficial. Within a team, in whatever circumstance, I generally found that having an established role allows for easier execution. Once players know what they should be doing, they find that accomplishing everything goes much more smoothly.
It's a curse every MMORPG faces: no matter the production values or how enjoyable you find your character or the world, players will face a mid- to endgame slog that can turn even the most stubborn players away. I can happily say that A Realm Reborn successfully steers clear of this crippling downfall. You might not believe me upon first entering Coerthas, the mountainous, frozen, castle-laden highlands and the second to last area in the core game. Thankfully, when quest lines start to open it becomes clear that the developers wanted to avoid that endgame grind. This is to say nothing of the story, unrelenting in keeping the player constantly involved. This is one of my favorite story segments in the entire game. The area is ripe with FATEs as well, which grant players a little reprieve from running quests and leves with simple escort missions to three-part boss battles. As players have at this point in time already fought Ifrit and Titan, the last primal on the list is Garuda. This boss battle doesn't disappoint and makes players painfully aware that all things that have been done thus far have just been a "warm up." It's a rude awakening to players unused to working in synch with others. This area is also home to three different dungeons. One is part of the story, and the other two are for higher level players (mid-late 40's). Once players have completed their tenure in the Coerthas Central Highlands, or are simply ready to move on, the last zone in the game is ready to be tackled.
Mor Dhona is the player's first taste of true endgame content, challenging players from their early-mid 40's all the way to 50. The story related quests will certainly keep players invested, but there are not a lot of miscellaneous quests in the area — the real joy comes from hitting the level cap and then exploring all the endgame dungeons. As the story is well into its 12th hour, it becomes one non-stop rollercoaster ride. All game we've been battling (at some points unknowingly) against the Garlean empire and A Realm Reborn's main antagonist Gaius Van Baelsar. Beginning at level 49, players finally start to take out each of Gaius' lieutenants (known as Tribunes), starting with Rhitahtn Sas Arvina in Cape Westwind. This fight is the first glimpse of brutal boss-play as he is unrelenting and ruthless, challenging players to coordinate their skills should they want to survive. When players finally defeat him (and reach level 50) the game's final events are laid out. The final story dungeon, The Praetorium, is far and away my favorite part of the story for everything from the music to the boss fights. Without giving too much away, I can say that the final stream of bosses takes everything you've learned up to that point and forces you to cooperate like never before. Once the final battle is won, however, it's time to gear up and get back at it!
Mor Dhona (Revenant's Toll specifically) is considered the player hub for all endgame content. The player's shout chat box is littered with requests for party members, group requests, trades, free company advertisements, and requests for help with an assortment of content. Unfortunately, as previously discussed, successful bouts with the waiting time on the Duty Finder are few and far between (even for Tanks and Healers). Most of the endgame content is overseen by players who are familiar with it. Players who haven't done the content before will likely face scrutiny for their lack of insight and speed, although I have had luck simply shouting that I'm new and wish to take on whatever dungeon was up next. Players will also experience resistance when not being "properly geared" to run dungeons, not to say that some of the dungeons indeed require good or even the best equipment. It's the sad catch 22 of endgame gear grinding: one needs to run dungeons to get gear, but cannot run dungeons because oftentimes players don't want to run dungeons with those who are "ill-equipped" to do such. There's certainly a multitude of content, and players will find themselves entertained for prolonged periods of time running dungeons or fighting "hard-mode" versions of the primals they fought earlier in the game. Some players will find the ending grind overly repetitive, however, having to run the same dungeon multiple times to gain one piece of gear in order to gain access to the final dungeon of the game — The Binding Coil of Bahamut. But between crafting, working on other classes/jobs, hard-mode battles, dungeons, and grinding for gear there's no shortage of things to do.
The future is looking bright for A Realm Reborn; all the right steps have been taken to ensure that this MMO is here to stay for the long run. Considering Square-Enix' track record with support when it comes to XIV's predecessor Final Fantasy XI, I doubt players will have much to worry about in terms of content. There's a huge assortment of classes and jobs for A Realm Reborn to dip into and the ending events of the game allude to bigger and better things to come. A Realm Reborn shows absolutely no signs of slowing down, with patch 2.1 being released soon. The patch will be adding PvP, a new 24-person dungeon known as the "Crystal Tower," and a housing system, which I know my fellow Emerald Shield members are surely looking forward to! I am beside myself with eagerness to see happens next in A Realm Reborn, and I'll be there every step of the way.