There have been quite a few games released this year that have caught my attention. Most of these are games that I have been looking at for a while, but there was one that stood out and that was Final Fantasy 14. Like Final Fantasy 11 this was an MMORPG with everything being played on a games console or a PC, which means that Final Fantasy fans can play on what they find most comfortable. I personally played a console version for the PS3 which Square Enix kindly sent for this review.
It took me quite a while to get a good look at the game as it is one of the biggest open worlds I have ever come across. The best thing that I can compare it to is the world of Skyrim, which by what I saw is a smaller world compared to FF14. There was also so much to watch and learn, not to mention the amount of quests and side quests you do. You could probably spend hundreds of hours completing the quests and fighting creatures. Since this is such a huge game I am going to break everything down into sections just to make sure everything is covered.
In FF14 you can pick from wielding a weapon or using magic, and in each of these choices you can choose a class. There are quite a few classes to choose from and once you have chosen your class you can then pick your race. From there you can then pick what you want them to look like from the available characteristics. This was a familiar way of character customising which made it easier to use, and in addition it wasn’t difficult to use so if you have never played a game like this you wouldn’t have much trouble here. There were limitations on the amount of different permutations you could have, but with the additional ability to adjust each feature slightly it didn’t ruin the customisation experience.
The World aka Map
As I mentioned earlier this open world is one of the biggest I have ever seen. This isn’t due to just the size of the landscape, instead it has a lot to do with the way the world has been laid out. When you start the whole world is undiscovered, and you start off in a town called New Gridania and Old Gridania. Venturing out into the world, at first I spent most of my time in the Central and Northern Shrouds. This was in part to do quests, but also because I couldn’t find anything else no matter how much I tried. Then I stumbled upon something that made me smile. I found a way to the Eastern and western Shrouds. Now the creatures in Central and Northern Shroud were levelled from 1 to level 12, however you ventured out further still the levels went up so they were harder to kill. In the Eastern and Western Shrouds the creatures were levelled from 34 to….. well I do not know what, as I got killed while trying to run away from one.
The creatures in the open world behave differently from other Final Fantasy games as not all of the monsters attack you as soon as you walk over to them. Only a few notice you and start attacking you straight away, while the others just do nothing. This makes life early on easy as you can walk through areas covered in monsters and not fight unless you want too. I did realise that when I went into the higher levelled areas a large number of creatures noticed me as I ran through, so I assume that it’s only the lower levels that you can get an easy run as when you get higher you won’t want to waste time on the small fry. This showed me that this world has been designed brilliantly, as by having the earlier missions start you off close to Gridania you level up and as you get stronger the missions move further out. This makes the world far more challenging than what I have seen in other games. You could be brave and at an early level and try to kill these stronger monsters or you could play it safe and fight easier creatures and become strong slowly. This gives you as a player far more options than before, and although I know that having stronger monsters in different areas is common practice for a Final Fantasy game, this is different as not all locations are locked and you can fight powerful creatures earlier than usual. In addition to this you also have Fates you can get involved in, which is a special kind of battle where you fight a strong monster within a time period which has a level bracket. What that means is that if you are too weak to hurt this monster it will tell you so, and if you are in that bracket you automatically join by entering a designated area on the map. This isn’t a solo battle as anyone in the area can join in and fight as long as they enter the battle area and at the end you get awarded with gold and exp depending on how well you fought or how much damage you inflicted. This means that the better you fight the better the reward and at the beginning anything you get is a decent result, which helped boost my levels and hone my fighting skills.
The great thing about this game is the simplicity and complexity of the game play. Now I know that this sounds like a contradiction, but there are aspects of the game play that are easy to use and others that are difficult. There is a perfect balance between the interaction and battle systems for the majority of the game as the controls are simple, left analog stick to move and press either R1 or L1 to open the menu bars to do actions or attack. There are two main types of exploration interactions which are quests, and talking or trading with other people in your world, which you can do whenever you are close to another player and select them. You select them by pressing your action button which will open up the menu this contains a list of possible interactions, all of which the player can agree or disagree too. You also have teleport crystals placed all over the world which once you have found and interacted with you can access from any other location you have already opened. There is a main crystal in New Gridania which is your return point if you die and is also where you travel to if you use your teleport option in your action bar (which is very useful when you need to get out of harms way) This however does take a few seconds so if you are using it to flee a strong enemy it would be best to attempt this once you are far away from them. If you are on the other hand just using it because you are too lazy to walk back then just know that it costs you money to use, so make sure you can spare it when needed.
You then have the fighting mechanics which are different from what I have been used to in a Final Fantasy game. Instead of random battles you can choose to attack the creature. As I mentioned when I was talking about the world some creatures do take notice of you and will attack you, but that was mainly at the higher levels. In addition to the change in how often you fight there is also a change in how you fight. Normally you would have a menu to which you would select your attack, however in this game you must select your wanted target then press your interaction button which will start the fight. You can also open up your attack selection menu and use a special type of attack. These attacks vary dependent on what you chose when you designed your character and how far you have progressed in the game. Some quests are for your designated attacks so they can become stronger by doing these quests.
I found that it was much better having to fight this way as I could pick and choose who I fought and how often. Not only that but the battles seemed better as you could run away from the attacks to not be hit and come back in for another hit as there is a slight break between each attack. I did have one issue with this way of fighting which was that when I was up against more than three opponents and wanted to select a certain one, for some reason I sometimes couldn’t lock onto the one I wanted and ended up attacking a completely different creature. In fact there was one occasion where I was trying to attack a designated target and kept locking onto another creature further a field, and this sometimes made it hard to fight multiple targets and even difficult to go against one creature as it wouldn’t lock onto them. After a while it got easier to use the selection and lock on of targets, but it was still something that came up more often than not which didn’t help when going up against a hoard of creatures. You do regain health when you are not engaged in a fight, which is useful when you need to heal and know you can’t win. So you tuck tail and run, regain your health and attack again and again, which for me is what saved me a couple of times from creatures that were far more powerful.
Graphics and Sound effects/Background Music
As with every Final Fantasy game the graphics are flawless and extremely beautiful. There is great detail in not just the character you personally create but the rest of the surrounding area is also amazing to look at. They have spared not a single detail and the world itself is something that should be admired for its amazing graphics. However there is one thing that I personally found quite irritating and that was the size of the talk text. Now recently in the Final Fantasy games there has been more voice acting than not as the generation has got bored of reading so much. So I was expecting mostly vocal and not a large amount (say about 30% of it was reading). What I found however was that 95% was just that, which as you maybe surprised brought a smile to my face. However what I didn’t like was that the writing was quite small. Now my TV is pretty big and of a decent HD quality, and yet sitting 10 feet away from it I had to squint to read what was written. I have near perfect vision and had trouble reading it all. Now I am not saying that everyone will be irritated by this as you might be playing it on PC or sit close to your TV, but what I am saying is there is for my liking too much written in one box and there is a large amount to read. The sound effects, background music and are amazing and well placed, it works very well with the gameplay and changes whenever it is necessary to without fail. The sound effects work very well with the game too, especially when you are invoked in a battle. With your attacks flaring out and the creatures retaliating with one of its own, the sound of you blocking it and of them screaming as you have defeated them. It all works wonderfully with the game as when you enter a fate for example the music goes dramatic so you know what has happened.
There are a few things that are in the game that can not be put under a specific grouping as they are slight things that are outside of gameplay. To start with at the initial starting up of the game you must enter your password and even sometimes your username and password to be able to play. I understand that this is for security reasons and I think that is a fantastic idea as it protects your players from someone hacking your game, this feature even comes on the console versions as you are logging into a server. Something that concerns me is that for you to be able to keep playing you require a steady internet connection. Now normally this isn’t something that I would mention, but the whole point of an MMORPG is the first part of that, online. I was booted a few times when my hub decided it didn’t want to work and I was in the middle of a battle at the time. This can be just a minor issue as most people with broadband have a decent connection, but then again when hasn’t a hub stopped working or had troubles due to line problems? The last thing is the messaging system that is in the game. At the bottom left hand corner is a chat box where
you as a player can verbal interact with the rest of the people in one go. Although this is something that is in the game it can’t really be put under anything apart from this, it is a great way to ask question to people who have been playing longer and also to see when someone else has achieved a goal or completed a quest. It is something that a game of this size and complexity needed and is something that I know will help me when I am stuck or just wanting to say random things.
+Huge open world
+Ability to pick and choose battles
-No online connection can boot you from game
-Lock on system in battles
This is an amazing game and with Square Enix expanding it the world won’t just be getting bigger but a lot better, with more to do and more places to visit. I had a lot of fun playing FF14 as hours would fly by as if only minutes, the only major issue I really had was being booted when my internet connection went. There is so much to this game and the world is so large that you could have just as much fun exploring the world and finding new locations as you would playing the quests and going into battles and fates. I would recommend this game to anyone who likes Final Fantasy or MMORPG or just online games, it is highly addictive and well worth having in your collection.
-Random Man 5000