One of the most exciting elements of actively playing an MMORPG is watching its world evolve with each version update. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn’s Eorzea is no exception, and even though the game released a scant seven months ago, it has been permanently altered for the better with the release of Patch 2.1, “A Realm Awoken.” Adventurers who enter this reinvigorated realm can now challenge stronger Primals, take their first steps toward the iconic Crystal Tower, purchase a house for their Grand Company, and much more. For a game so early in its life, the amount of content already present is nothing short of mind-blowing.
Headlining A Realm Awoken is the aforementioned Crystal Tower, an iridescent edifice stretching high into the sky above Mor Dhona. While access to the tower proper has not been unlocked, an alliance of twenty-four adventurers can plunge into The Labyrinth of the Ancients, a maze-like gauntlet of bosses at the tower’s base. This area features some of the most exciting boss battles yet, with retro-inspired musical arrangements from Final Fantasy III to match its visuals. The fights themselves have become old hat to players in the months following A Realm Awoken’s release, but the promise of mid-grade loot and an exciting atmosphere make this dungeon worth challenging even now. Further tiers of the tower are scheduled to be unlocked in later updates, and the developers have dropped hints that a certain Cloud of Darkness may be waiting at the apex. If nothing else, the Labyrinth of the Ancients is a good idea of what to expect in further large-scale raids, and I welcome the increased complexity.
The main storyline also continues in this update. I’ll not spoil anything about the narrative, but the events lead up to a fight with Good King Moggle Mog XII, a Moogle fairy tale brought to (violent) life. Legacy players may remember his ridiculous, Tim Burton-esque theme song, which reappears during this new skirmish. It’s a relatively low-difficulty encounter, which may come as a disappointment to challenge-seekers, but the developers have their bases covered in the form of Extreme Primals. I personally still have nightmares about being thrown out of the arena by the Hard Mode incarnation of Titan, and I’ve yet to try anything beyond Garuda Extreme, but suffice to say that a challenge is absolutely present. Few things are quite as thrilling as besting one of these terrifying beasts in the company of good friends.
A slightly more contentious addition to Eorzea in A Realm Awoken is the housing system. The issue is not that houses are uninteresting — on the contrary, the three residential areas are huge and beautiful. Companies can purchase land on the beaches of Mist, in the misty canyons of The Goblet, or on the verdant hills of the Lavender Beds. The issue lay in the pricing of land. While players are meant to pool their funds and purchase housing as a Company, the cost is exorbitant; even the smallest houses are valued at several million gil. The situation has been alleviated somewhat, to the developers’ credit — prices continue to decay on a daily basis, and the absurd cost of housing on Legacy servers (where small houses started at twenty million gil) has been reduced to match other servers. Once a company can actually afford a house, they are treated to a wide range of customization options, from an assortment of furniture like beds, baths, and battle trophies to an array of exterior accoutrements. In the future, houses will also serve as a base for large-scale crafting, so players will be able to create personal boats, airships, and the like — perhaps the biggest incentive of all to sign a virtual deed. Personally, I’m simply looking forward to a place where I can relax and goof off with my buddies. Now, if only The Emerald Shield could pool enough money to get the mansion we’ve been dreaming about…
Patch 2.1 also brings with it a fully-fledged PvP system in the form of The Wolves’ Den. This new area is a coliseum of sorts, where teams of four players can engage in mortal (k)ombat. A huge number of PvP-specific abilities and equipment exist for players to earn and utilize within the confines of the Den, as well. I haven’t put much time into the system, so I can’t speak to its long-term allure, but I enjoyed the few matches I fought. I suspect I’ll find myself challenging other players more often once I’ve become more comfortable with my own equipment and skill level.
Several other smaller-scale pieces of content added in A Realm Awoken continue to enrich the Eorzean lifestyle. Beast Tribe Quests, which detail the lives of Eorzea’s nonhuman inhabitants, can be undertaken daily and provide small rewards like new minions and mounts. A Treasure Hunt system provides a good way to make some extra cash, a few new dungeons have been added, and a daily Duty Roulette provides a reason to challenge one random trial/dungeon per day by providing worthwhile bonus rewards. It’s easier than ever to form groups using the new Party Finder, too, continuing a welcome trend of quality-of-life improvements that cater to player accessibility.
A Realm Awoken portends great things for the young MMORPG. Director Naoki Yoshida’s creative vision and his staff’s commitment to releasing unique, interesting, and challenging content is consistently impressive. Even now, Patch 2.2, “Through the Maelstrom,” is on the horizon, set to bring with it a bevy of new trials and tribulations. I look forward to each update as much as I anticipate full-fledged game releases — a wonderful feeling that I haven’t experienced with an online game in years. Eorzea may be a blighted realm riddled with false gods, but it’s my blighted realm riddled with false gods, dammit.