RELEASE DATE: April 14, 2014PLATFORM: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PCDEVELOPER: Square EnixPUBLISHER: Square EnixCATEGORY: Fantasy MMORPG
I first played Final Fantasy 14 back in 2010 in its original form and like a lot of gamers, I came away thinking that Square Enix had finally succeeded in killing off its most valuable franchise. Quests were broken, the frame rate was awful, combat was a joke; in short, the title got very little right and everything else wrong.
Most gamers know the story by now of how Square Enix managed to save its flagship series by rebuilding the game from scratch and releasing what was essentially a “mulligan” in 2013. The re-release of the game on PC received universally positive reviews with many reviewers saying they were astounded at just how much Square Enix was able to fix in just two years of re-development. The PS3 release expanded the game to a larger audience, although most reviews noted that compromises were made to get the game over to consoles, most notably in graphics and framerate.
But as of April 2014, Final Fantasy 14 PlayStation gamers are second fiddle no more. The release of the title on PS4 has shored up many of the PS3 version’s shortcomings and has added additional functionality that in some ways outshines even the PC release.
PS3 players with a PS4 wondering if they should upgrade to the new version have already had that decision made for them by Square Enix. All players who own the PS3 version of Final Fantasy 14 can automatically upgrade and download the title on PS4 for free. The only caveat is that doing so will remove your license for the game on PS3. If you haven’t yet purchased a PS4, this title may not be worth the $400 investment by itself, but if you’ve already moved on to the next generation, this upgrade is a no brainer.
The game now supports the use of keyboard and mouse on the PS4 and those who are used to using the controller on the PS3 now have additional options as well. The PS4’s touchpad can be used as a mouse to navigate with greater ease through the game’s many menu options. The keyboard/mouse versus controller debate is a matter of personal preference, but I personally felt that the analog stick is quite useful at times. Maybe my keyboard skills just aren’t as adept as they should be, but the ability to move my character out of harm’s way with a simple flick of my thumb on the PS4 controller has saved my hide more times than I can count in the last week.
The other big feature for the PS4 version of the title is support for Remote Play on Playstation Vita. To be clear, this reviewer does not own a Vita but I should still note that everything I’ve seen elsewhere on this feature is that it’s an overall positive addition to the game. Battling through a complex fight might be a little difficult with the limited control options, but the Vita looks perfect for checking the Auction House and working on your crafting. The ability to play a massive MMO the size of Final Fantasy 14 on a handheld is an impressive technological feat if nothing else.
The main storyline is just as good as ever on the PS4. I personally feel it’s one of the stronger stories Square Enix has put together in an RPG in quite some time, although I should note that it doesn’t really take off until your character is in the mid 30s.
If you’ve only played the PS3 version of the game, the graphics on PS4 will delight you. Previous problems like a limited draw distance and large amounts of player “pop-up” on the screen when in a large town have been alleviated. The game now runs at 1080p, and on a large television it can look quite beautiful.
The user interface, which tended to overwhelm even the largest TV screen on the PS3, has received a much needed revamp and no longer gets in your way. I still found the default size of the text to be much too small and would often get off of my couch and walk closer to the screen on occasion before I decided to put the time in and customize it to my liking.
Some dips on the frame rate can still occur if you are tackling something like a FATE with a large amount of other players, but overall it’s a smooth experience.
You can share all of these improvements with your friends through the PS4’s built-in social features that allow you to share photos and videos of the game.
Those coming from a PC will not be nearly as impressed, as a high end PC is still king when it comes to graphics, draw distance, frame rate, and other such variables. That said, only the most discerning of gamers will notice or care about the difference.
Combat in Final Fantasy 14 on the PS4 follows the same basic feel of every MMO since EverQuest and World of Warcraft. I will again note that the ability to hotkey your abilities to the controller can actually create a more intuitive experience than on the PC. The game allows each character to learn all of the many classes, and mix and match abilities from each. As someone who hates leveling alts in MMOs, this is still one of my favorite features of the game. Level up the classes you want on just one character and be done with it. An entirely new gameplay experience is as simple as switching out your gear.
I should also note that the difficulty of the end game can be just plain brutal for those who want that type of experience. There’s plenty of things to do in Eorzea if raiding isn’t your thing, but those who want to slay the biggest monsters should be prepared for a lot of complex strategies that are on par or even more difficult than a hardcore raid in World of Warcraft.
Final Fantasy 14‘s soundtrack is on par with other top titles in the franchise’s excellent musical history. That’s probably not surprising to anyone who knows that the one and only Nobuo Uematsu was involved. In fact, 14 is the first game since Final Fantasy 9 to have its original score at launch entirely composed by Uematsu. Additional composers have pitched in since then but it’s clear that it is Uematsu’s game. There are plenty of slight nods to other soundtracks from previous Final Fantasy games for those with a keen ear. My only disappointment is that a large part of the main story is told through text, with only the biggest events receiving voice acting. I suppose that’s acceptable, though, for a game of this size.
If you’ve been away from the game for some time, you’ve missed two major patches that have added hours of replayability to the game. There are plenty of new dungeons, boss fights, and even player housing to sink hours of game time into.
In short, if you’re already playing the game on a high-end PC, there’s probably no reason to invest in a PS4 copy. But if you’re coming from a PS3 or you’ve never played the game before, Final Fantasy 14‘s release on the PS4 is a must-play. Square Enix has developed an impressive accomplishment that blurs the line for what is possible between PCs and consoles.