I’ve gone from Beta to the actual game– and all the way through the main story. Would I recommend Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn?
For those who need a simple answer immediately: Yes. Thank you for stopping by. See you in Eorzea!
For those of you who need a little more persuading, or just want to know more about what it’s like, here are the top three reasons I’m loving FFXIV!
My Beta Tour
When Final Fantasy XIV reissued a new version of itself called A Realm Reborn, I was lucky enough to get a beta key. This was a chance to test the limits of the game– that’s what betas are for. Sure, I reported errors as I was supposed to, but I really spent my time wandering the maps and asking myself whether this was something I wanted to play long-term.
It was like exploring a neighborhood where you might buy your next home. What are the neighbors like? Is this where I belong?
Once the beta phase ended, Square Enix planned to wipe our character data clean. Everything we’d done would be deleted. I realized in the last few hours that I’d grown quite attached to my cartoon self. Also, I had one regret:
I hadn’t leveled enough to explore all the amazing places I’d seen in the distance. Eorzea is beautiful even in the starting regions, but I wanted to know what I was missing. So as our last hours ticked away I stood in a major city and shouted.
“I have no gil and no chocobo, but I have two legs, and I’m determined. I want to see something beautiful before Beta ends. Any suggestions about where to go?”
From the other end of town came two players. They told me to follow them. At a vendor across the street, they gave me some spending gil.
“Buy a pet.”
FFXIV has adorable minions you can purchase or find in other ways. They have no game-related purpose, but they follow you around everywhere you go, providing general cuteness.
I bought a wayward hatchling. This is basically a baby chocobo (think horse-sized chicken that you ride) still in his egg, which he wears like a diaper. My new companions bought some sparklers. They told me to follow them to the beach.
“But… these are your last hours of Beta. You don’t have to escort me if you want to keep playing.”
“Come on! I’ll be the bartender. What’ll ya have?”
These total strangers spent their remaining time in Beta giving me a tour. At one point I was so low level that they had to bring me back to life every few seconds. They didn’t mind. They wanted me to see the Burning Wall, a mountain with waterfalls and strange fire and ice crystal formations. They even fought off monsters while I posed for pictures.
This was my first real experience with the Community of FFXIV.
The Ifrit Line
The next Beta phase was Open Beta, and it was plagued with problems. While debates surround what actually went wrong, the consensus seems to be that Square Enix had a massive influx of players, and the servers couldn’t handle the stress.
I battled some of these problems, but I counted myself lucky that I got to play as regularly as I did. Many people were locked out for hours at a time, while others were locked out for days.
Once, during this period, I came across a queue of people, an orderly line of players that inched forward every minute or so. I stopped, confused.
“Excuse me,” I said in a private message to someone waiting patiently at the back. “What is the line for?”
“The server’s having trouble putting us through to Ifrit. We’re taking turns clicking on it.”
No kidding. These players all wanted to fight Ifrit, and so they had decided to queue up to reduce stress on the server. Square Enix had not suggested this. No one could even prove it would work.
“How long have you been waiting?”
“About an hour.”
Why didn’t they just run up and click on the glowing area that would start the battle? Because that was likely causing an overload. Tons of people were trying to get in, and the battle wasn’t loading properly. The theory was that if everyone took turns, then everyone might get a chance to fight Ifrit that night.
So they took turns.
OMG, you guys… This game has a great story! I’m a bit of a FF fangirl, but I’ll be the first to admit– sometimes Final Fantasy hits it out of the park, sometimes it hits someone in the face, and… Actually that’s about it. Final Fantasy stories are either awesome or bad.
This one is awesome.
I don’t want to spoil, but I will say two important things:
♦ First, Thancred is the new animated love of my life.
The new one? Like, there are others?
I mean, yeah. Tamahome. Kirito. Cloud… You know what? Quit judging me.
What’s so great about fictional Mr. Thancred? Um… He’s beautiful and a little bit angsty, and he manages to show up late to battles and leave early with an adorable grin on his face. It’s as if he doesn’t mind a bit dropping in to save my life all the time.
Because he loves me, right??
♦ Second, if you play this game… Do not let people bully you into skipping the cutscenes. I’ve mentioned how amazing the community is, and I won’t go back on that. But, as the game reminds us, in the light there are always shadows. Sometimes a few selfish people can make things difficult.
The main story’s end probably could have used better planning. Here’s why: The end mainly consists of two major battles in which you must party with other people to succeed. These are battles that players can repeat many times to get special items. Therefore, it’s extremely likely you’ll be playing the end with people who have done it over and over before.
And there are cutscenes throughout. Lengthy ones. Once you enter these battles, if you choose to watch the cutscenes– as I assume anyone who’s enjoying the story would want to do– you will be asking your party to sit and wait for you. They also have the option to go on without you if you’re not completely essential.
There have been horror stories of people getting insulted, yelled at, and generally treated like garbage for watching the cutscenes.
“You can watch them in your inn!” is the most common complaint.
There is an “inn” feature in FFXIV where most players go to log out, and there you can relive your favorite cutscenes if you want to. However, these are only available after you have already accessed them and seen how they end up in battle. Basically, if you skip the cutscenes and carry on with the fight, the end of the story is spoiled.
This worried me. The day I knew I would reach the resolution, I clicked to go in– and then I withdrew my registration for the battle. I clicked again– I withdrew. I didn’t want to be abused for watching the end of the story I had grown to love.
And, hello, Thancred was surely going to make an appearance. I couldn’t miss that.
Finally I got the guts, and I went in. I alerted my party immediately that I wanted to see the cutscenes, and, long story short, I ended up abandoned and alone in a battlefield meant for eight players.
I gave up and told my linkshell (think “guild” if that word means nothing to you; think “in-game social group” if “guild” means nothing to you) what happened. Two of them were free and said they would try going in with me. We arrived, explained we would be doing a “story run,” and… again the other players abandoned us.
This wasn’t quite as hurtful as the bullying I’d read about, but it was bullying nonetheless. The message was clear: Play our way or don’t play at all.
Miserable, I thanked my friends and told them not to worry about it. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time just so I could see the story.
But my friends didn’t accept that. One of them stood in a populated area and shouted that he needed volunteers to do a story run. The other went to his other linkshells and begged them to come along. Anyone who wasn’t busy at the time and had access to the fight was welcome.
We managed to get a total of six people, including me. At that point the numbers were on our side. We reentered the battle, started our journey, and I watched the cutscenes– while the others cheered me on.
This was such an amazing game experience. Not only did I get to the end of a fabulous story, but I did it with the support of people who cared. That’s what Final Fantasy is all about. Minor Spoiler: One boss in this battle asked what I was fighting for and prompted me with options: My friends, Eorzea, or fame. When I chose “my friends,” I really meant it.
BONUS: The Song
I have to admit: The list of things I love about this game is much longer than just three. Perhaps I’ll revisit this topic in a future column. But for now I’ll leave you with the theme song for FFXIV. It’s too beautiful to leave off the list.
Other players, what has your experience been like? I’d love to hear your happy stories and your horror stories.