Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is one of those MMORPGs that definitely has a niche audience. Whether or not you’ll enjoy the game depends on many factors, but if you haven’t tried the game yet or haven’t returned for some time, now really is a perfect time to give it a shot.
With FFXIV: ARR’s first expansion, Heavensward, due for release on June 23, there are plenty of good reasons to try out Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn if you haven’t already. Frankly, any Final Fantasy fan who’s sunk a decent chunk of time into the franchise over the years owes it to themselves to try out the Final Fantasy-based MMORPG. But even non-FF fans can find something to love about the game with a little searching.
If you need further convincing, here are five features and gameplay systems that FFXIV: ARR does better than any other MMORPG currently out there. Written by a self-professed MMORPG addict, this list will be specific as possible and will dig into some comparisons and contrasts that refer to other MMORPGs as often as possible.
I’ll be honest upfront—FFXIV: ARR isn’t a perfect game. It is, however, very much worth playing at least once to see the leveling experience and the beginning of endgame. That experience can only get better once Heavensward is released. Until that time, here are five things FFXIV: ARR does better when compared to the rest of the bunch:
Character Models and Animations
Compared to older games like World of Warcraft (even with its revamped WoD models), the character models in FFXIV: ARR look absolutely amazing. The models feature distinctive skeletal structures and body movements that look like they’re straight out of a single-player RPG rather than an MMORPG that was created to allow hundreds of players in an area at once. Walking animations and casting poses have a lot of personality. Every race has its aesthetic charms and no races look like a complete copy and paste of one another.
Character animations—including spell and attack animations—are also superb. When firing off a Fire II spell or slamming a Paladin’s Circle of Scorn into the ground, you can really feel the impact of every spell/ability. Part of this impactful effect is due to the game’s slower global cooldown, but it’s largely due to the gorgeous animations themselves. Most of the character emotes are fantastic and embody a game that’s naturally more appealing to gamers who like to roleplay and/or feel immersed in every motion their character makes.
These superb animations can also be found within the gear acquired in the game. White Mage robes flutter in the wind. Heavy armor moves heavily and makes clunky noises as you run. Most of the coolest weapons in the game come complete with unique animations that not only depict the power of the weapon, but also its origin within the game’s lore.
Weather System and Day/Night System
While many MMORPGs have some sort of day/night and weather system, few have one that’s as immersive or detailed as FFXIV’s. There’s nothing quite like halting your chocobo in its tracks to spin your camera around at the gorgeous sunrise accompanied by a gentle, morning fog. The fog effects and thunder/lightning effects during a rainstorm simply can’t be found in any other MMORPG. Often times, the little things really do matter.
Dungeon Roulette and Level Sync System
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has a solid number of dungeons that are explorable while leveling and upon reaching the level cap (level 50 for now—the cap is increasing to 60 in Heavensward). The dungeons themselves are pretty fun albeit not groundbreaking, but the fact that players can queue up for any dungeon and automatically be synced down in level to complete that dungeon without overpowering it is fairly unique in today’s MMORPG scene.
Other games, like RIFT, have such a system in place, but it’s more optional. RIFT’s mentoring system also still gives you all of your higher-level abilities and stats that seem rather overpowered in comparison to what a normal player of that level would experience. The desync feature in FFXIV is more genuine, forces your number of abilities to also sync to the appropriate level, and encourages endgame players to take part in earlier dungeons as though they were actually that level.
New players benefit more from learning how to properly work with their teammates instead of being ushered through a dungeon at super speed. The fact that all players are on equal footing in a dungeon also encourages them to communicate and work together as a group. This experience differs from games like Guild Wars 2 where dungeon runs are synced but lack a trinity system (made up of a healer, tank, and damage dealers). The lack of a trinity system essentially forces players to adapt to an “every man for himself” role when grouping with others.
In a post-release patch, the developers of FFXIV also added in a new feature that lets endgame players queue up for what’s known as a “duty roulette” queue which places them in a randomized dungeon—of any level range—with a desynced level. Queueing up once a day for a roulette dungeon gives the player bonus currency.
The lower level players get a quicker dungeon queue and get paired with someone who may be able to teach them a thing or two about dungeoning. It’s fairly win-win, especially when paired with FFXIV’s player commendation system, which gives players a small incentive for being respectful, polite, and helpful toward complete strangers.
Leveling your first character and class in FFXIV: ARR is just plain fun. This is largely due to the fact that the main story “scenario” quests are tied extremely close to each class and every level you gain. While this doesn’t make experiencing the story optional while leveling the first time through, it gave the developers the freedom to write and incorporate a driving story that introduces interesting main characters and an immersive story arc.
This close integration gives the game a single-player RPG feel while leveling. It also allows the developers to create new story content for major patches that extends that same driving story arc. Since players are encouraged to experience the complete leveling story as they hit level 50, extending that story and adding content for everyone becomes easier.
This new content also makes being a returning player convenient. How do you know what you’ve missed? Simple—go talk to Minfilia. When story content is expected to be added in a certain manner, it makes looking forward to those additions much simpler. In this regard, returning to FFXIV and picking up where you left off is a whole lot easier than returning to say, World of Warcraft after three major patches have passed.
This approach is definitely different than Blizzard’s recent habit of adding new story content in WoW that’s introduced through garrison missions and optional quest hubs instead of a main, driving arc that creates tension. Frankly, it’s a better approach for someone who enjoys the inherent roleplay nature of an MMORPG. While many WoW players are currently questioning why their characters are still even in Draenor, there’s no questioning the driving forces behind the current plot points in FFXIV.
Dungeon unlocks and game feature unlocks are even tied to the main story in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. This is an interesting decision on behalf of the developers, but a solid one when you consider the fact that this almost guarantees that new players will see how these features and dungeons operate. “Forcing” players to enter queues to fight watered-down versions of Ifirit and Titan the first time around may seem cumbersome, but it teaches them how partying works in the game while showcasing story. It’s not a perfect system due to the tedium veteran gamers feel during many of the tutorial-style fights, but it’s not a bad compromise between new players and veterans alike.
Secondary Class System
FFXIV includes one of the most innovative features from Final Fantasy XI (which is its predecessor of sorts): its secondary class system that lets you change to a completely different class with a press of a button. Gear and hotkey switches are automatic, and each class has its own level, which lets you jump between classes at any time and work on something different if you wish.
This is a great system for a game genre where players are often tempted to roll new characters in order to try all the different classes. It helps us become invested in a single character and makes inventory management, socializing, the possibility of roleplaying, and endgame progression easier.
That said, the system isn’t without its faults. Leveling secondary classes can be rather tedious without being able to take part in any of the main scenario quests and/or other quests you’ve completed on your main. The crafting and gathering system in FFXIV: ARR also isn’t as in-depth as it could be due to the fact that leveling is repetitive and most of the leveling items required become obsolete quickly.
What do you love (or hate) about Final Fantasy XIV? Tell us in the comments!