Review by Alex_5097

"While not for everyone, FFXIV will provide a great time for many."

It seems in recent years Square-Enix has polarized its audience. Many claim the Final Fantasy series has gone drastically down hill, while others continue to enjoy every offering. I think a lot of this has to do with the company's tendency to completely rethink the series with each new installment. After the release of Final Fantasy X, the games have taken greater leaps; each entry in the series now bears little resemblance to the previous entry. Final Fantasy XIV is no exception. So while this game certainly won't please every FF fan (or MMO fan for that matter), for the right audience FFXIV brings immense potential for fun and adventure.

Graphics: 9/10
The Graphics in Final Fantasy 14 are breathtaking. Character models are detailed and animate smoothly. The environments are expansive and awe-inspiring. The draw distance is very impressive in Final Fantasy 14; cities stay in view until they would naturally be out of sight and there is no noticeable "pop-in" of other objects. Textures are clear and detailed and all areas have a great deal of variety in scenery. Effects are also very well done; rain and sand storms look great and add even more variety to the game's look and feel.
All this being said, it should also be known that the level of graphical quality is a bit of a double-edged sword as it takes a fairly powerful machine to run the game smoothly.

Sound: 9/10
The music in FFXIV is spectacular. Nobuo Uematsu returns to the series in a big way, writing the game's entire score. The field themes add even more depth to the already immersive environments. I found the Coerthas theme to be a stand- out, adding to the mysterious and ominous feel of the area and cultivating a sense of impeding danger. Battle themes add excitement without being overbearing or distracting.

The quality of the voice acting is great when it is there; unfortunately many of the cut-scenes are lacking voicing entirely. Sound effects are also very well done, capturing what they need to and never feeling out of place or breaking the immersion.

Story: 7/10
While I'm currently only on the fourth story mission, I'm already completely enthralled. I chose to start in Gridania, the magical city in the heavily forested Black Shroud area. The story takes a minute to get going, but by mission three it really picks up the pace. There is already mystery, political intrigue and, on a more personal level, some very touching characterizations. The story with a character named Fye and her brother Dunstan as well as the looming war between two large powers in Eorzea stood out particularly. Cut-scenes are all animated with the in-game engine and are very polished. I would have given the story thus far an 8 but subtract a point because it would have been nice for a few more of the scenes have voice acting.

Game-play: 7/10
The class system in FFXIV is a fresh take on the systems from games past. Like in Final Fantasy 11, you can play all classes on a single character. Changing classes is a much simpler process however. Say you want to play an archer? Simply equip a bow and arrows and you're ready to go. There are two separate types of levels in FFXIV: your rank, which is the level for each individual class and your physical level which is a constant, overall level for your character. You get rank points for only the class you have equipped but you always get exp for your physical level. You can mix and match skills you've learned with various classes for an enormous amount of character variety. Want to make a tank that can self heal or an archer that can de-buff enemies? Just level the right classes and you can more or less make your character what you want.

Game-play is fairly varied considering the game was just recently released. There are the story quests for each of the three starting cities and also shorter quests called "guild leves" of which you can do 8 per every 36 hours. Guild leves have selectable difficulties making it possible to solo them or complete them in large groups. Crafting is also very detailed in this game. Crafting classes have their own ranks just as battle classes do and even get their own "leve" quests which provide you with materials as a reward. The game goes even further with dedicated gathering classes such as Botanist and Miner. Of course there is always the option to simply grind out levels or explore the beautiful world SE has created.

One thing to note is that many things in the game are VERY time consuming. If you are not patient you may very well dislike or even hate this game. Even simple things such as selling loot to vendors can take more time than it should. The games UI definitely needs some refinement, but if you are able to look past these details the game-play can be very fun and rewarding. It is also important to note that being a persistent online game, there will almost certainly be many updates and improvements to the core system as well as expansions with more content.

Overall: 8/10 (not an average)
While the game has certainly had a polarizing effect on its target audience thus far, many players will not only have a good time, but will have a great time with this game. There are definitely some kinks to be worked out, but many, if not all of these will likely be addressed in the months to come. This being said, if you are impatient or don't want to deal with some quirks in the UI, you may want to steer clear of this game completely. If you are looking for fast game-play and instant gratification you will likely be disappointed. If you are able to keep an open mind and look past some of these issues, there are some great adventures to be had with Final Fantasy 14. The atmosphere of Eorzea, for myself and many others, almost completely outweighs all of the shortcomings.

The visuals and sound are stunning. The story has been very entertaining and has the potential to develop into a truly great narrative. The community is very strong and supportive to new players as well as FFXI and MMO veterans. This game is fun in its current state and has the potential to surpass FFXI and be another truly amazing game from Square-Enix.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 10/08/10

Game Release: Final Fantasy XIV Online (Collector's Edition) (US, 09/22/10)

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