Early impressions - Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Last week Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was on sale on the PlayStation Store, and it was a title my son and I were both very interested in. I have played a handful of MMO games over the years, with World of Warcraft getting the lion's share of my time. My son enjoys just about anything online, whether it is the competitive modes to a first person shooter, or games like APB or Maple Story on the computer.

Aside from the sale, what finally tipped my hand completely was the announcement that all PlayStation 3 owners of the game would get it upgraded to PlayStation 4 for free.

So the first thing of note - wow this took a long time to download, install, then upgrade with the launcher once it was installed. Probably in total, I spent about three hours or so with that entire process, thankfully doing most of it while I slept that first night.

Like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn relies on a subscription model. The first month is part of your purchase, but after those thirty days are up, you need to decide if you:

a) want to keep paying to play and

b) if you do - which plan to choose (30, 90 or 180 day increments). As you would expect, bigger increments means a savings overall of a few bucks here and there

I do plan to keep the subscription up, at least for six months, so that is what I plan to sign up for. I am also ridiculously interested in The Elder Scrolls Online, so it will be interesting to see how these two compare when that game comes out.

In the meantime, I rolled up a warrior class - Marauder. I almost always take one of these, and I came up with the creative, inspired name of Chalgyr (this dates back to the name of my warrior on a MUD from about fifteen years ago. Just in case anyone was curious why I use that handle and how long I have had it). I plopped my character onto the Leviathan North American server and went about playing out the game's early events.

A few things stood out to me right away. The first was that there seemed to be a lack of actual voice acting. I have gotten so used to fully voiced RPG games that it struck me as almost strange when the first real sequence of events was punctuated with sound effects and the as-always beautiful Square music, but no voice acting. There are later parts in the game that have it, but for whatever reason that just stood out to me initially.

The other thing was how long it takes to 'get into the action'. Now, I have not played World of Warcraft in several years now, though it felt like in both that game and Guild Wars 2, I was thrown into the fray pretty quickly. Here there is a good deal more dialog and story first, which is not at all a bad thing, just once again not what I had initially expected.

Continuing the theme of 'something new in my MMO' was the use of a controller instead of a keyboard. I would not want to type out long messages by any means, but once I got the hang of the control scheme, I found that the controller worked really well. Not having played this title on the PC, it is hard to say if it is appreciably better or worse than using a mouse and keyboard. Part of me thinks that the keyboard for text entry and the mouse for selecting things in the environment would be better, but overall movement with the controller feels good as well.

Lots of 'kill ten of critter x' and a few 'fetch quests' littered my early goings, but the FATE events - world events triggered by players that usually culminate in lots of critters and a boss fight - helped to keep things feeling a bit fresh. They feel very similar to the world events found in Guild Wars 2, where your level of participation impacts the quality of your reward in the end. Instanced quests - ones meant for just you and you alone and are usually tied to the primary storyline - are also a nice touch.

One thing I do not miss from World of Warcraft - running back to my corpse. That is an old MUD convention I am glad to see gone (in fact back when I started Kingdoms of the Lost over a decade ago, it was one of the first changes I made to the game as well). Dying still hurts your equipment, which costs coin to keep in good repair, but it is not so punitive as to discourage exploration.

I am excited to see how it looks on the PlayStation 4, because on the PlayStation 3 Final Fantasy looks really good, and as I mentioned above - the music is also excellent. I was gone most of the weekend at various events, but that gave my son a chance to play. He has rolled up two characters on my account (just on a different server) and has one to level nineteen. My own is level fifteen so far. I plan to write up a full review on the game - but probably not until it releases on PlayStation 4. This will give me a chance play the game thoroughly and then review it when it is 'new' to that platform.

Have you had a chance to play it? If so what did you think? Or are you holding out for Elder Scrolls Online, or in general do you just avoid MMO games?

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