Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
A Realm Reborn is stupid. It's a ridiculous combination of traditional MMO conventions and new ideas. It's one of those things that was built by people with their heads in the clouds, with the lofty goal of trying to take the best of the genre and cram it all into one game. Not only that, but they had to do it under the pressure of not only a short development time, but the end result had to be so good that it trampled the failed 1.0 version of the game. It's something that is rarely attempted, and, to my knowledge, has never succeeded.
Yet, here we are, with a game that defied all my expectations, and has kept me up until 3am more often than I can count. It's by far my favorite MMORPG, and, in fact, one of my favorite Final Fantasy titles. The amount of content, the world design, the stunning music, and overall level of polish that's present in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is nothing short of exceptional.
And we haven't even played 2.1 yet.
It is really, really hard to keep coming up with different ways to praise FFXIV: A Realm Reborn. Not to be a hipster about it, but I honestly had a feeling that this complete overhaul was going to make the game into something great, although I never imagined that my expectations would be so thoroughly surpassed. FFXIV: ARR has emerged a luminescent butterfly from its dull crystalline chrysalis, a beautiful example of how passion and talent can transform a project on the brink of ruin into something incredible. I cannot remember the last time I was so immersed in a game world. Eorzea's extraordinarily beautiful soundscape and visual design are utterly captivating, and Yoshi-P's respect for Final Fantasy's legacy means that every piece of content is carefully designed to evoke nostalgia while being unique and engaging in its own right. Despite FFXIV: ARR still being in its infancy, I've already had more fun playing it than any game this year, and being able to adventure alongside my friends has made it one of the most satisfying multiplayer experiences I've ever had. Eorzea's future is positively radiant.
A better World of Warcraft than World of Warcraft. If you've got the hours, prepare to get sucked down the rabbit hole. It may not be particularly innovative, but everything it borrows, it borrows beautifully. The prohibitive amount of time required, in keeping with successful MMORPG tradition, combined with the fact that I'm a surly old man, keeps this from Editor's Choice quality for me. A part of me really wishes it challenged some of the problems that have been with MMORPG design since Ultima Online. But innovation is not a requirement for excellence, and innovation would have been a very difficult pitch coming off the launch of the original FFXIV. The devs have done remarkable work here. Ten years ago I would have been just as obsessed with this as my colleagues. Heck, for a couple of weeks there, I almost was.
Unfortunately, a large majority of MMORPGs never capture my attention to the fullest for the entirety of their respective lifespans. I'll get bored, over it, irritated, distracted — it doesn't matter, it will inevitably happen. I don't know how Yoshi-P and team did it, but I have an untold amount of respect for them for accomplishing it. The team behind A Realm Reborn made me WANT to keep playing, not dreading the wait and slogging through content until I reached "the good stuff." There are a select few MMORPGs that I can place amongst my personal favorites; A Realm Reborn will be at the top of that list for years to come. It could be because of the seamless feel to everything, the flow from one area to another, the friendships I've established along the way, or the musical score that accompanies every single moment of these events. Yoshi-P and team have successfully removed all doubt and exorcised the demons behind its original release, leaving most players completely forgetting about that disaster. It shows. The symbolism of having A Realm Reborn start in the ashes of a "great calamity" parallels what everyone involved with the development of this fantastic game must've been going through. There is so much love put into this game that it can't help but bring a smile to my face when I think about how far they've come. The release of A Realm Reborn shouldn't be hailed as just a great game; it should be looked at as one of the greatest comeback stories in gaming history.
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