Final Fantasy XIV (2010 Release): The Kotaku Review

Final Fantasy XIV (2010 Release): The Kotaku Review

On this, the eve of the official launch of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, let’s take a look back at the original release of Square Enix’s second Final Fantasy MMO, and reflect on the wrongs the new version is trying to right.

— Originally posted October 21, 2010 —

Forget Cloud, Squall, Tidus and Lightning; in Square Enix’s second massively multiplayer Final Fantasy game, you are the hero. And so is everybody else.

Many massively multiplayer online role-playing games use war as a backdrop. Final Fantasy XIV drops players into one of Eorzea’s three city-states after fifteen years or so of uneasy peace. Planning for a war that never happened has left countless soldiers and mercenaries without work. To handle this problem, the idle combatants formed guilds to help re-purpose their out-of-work compatriots as adventurers. The message to new visitors to this fantasy realm is quite clear: Get a job.

Ideal Player

Massively multiplayer online gamers with the time, patience, and inclination to carve out their own little corner of the Final Fantasy universe with several thousand like-minded individuals.

Why You Should Care

The single-player Final Fantasy games guide players through an established story. Final Fantasy XIV is an opportunity for players to create their own.

Is this just an updated version of Final Fantasy XI? Final Fantasy XIV shares certain aspects of Square Enix’s first massively multiplayer Final Fantasy title, but like any two of the single-installments, the mechanics are very different. Instead of levelling up a single class at a time, players can switch between any number of professions by simply swapping tools of the trade. Swapping your axe for a doming hammer, for example, changes your profession from Marauder to Armorer. Each profession gains ranks, while at the same time the player gains experience points that increase their physical level. By the end of testing, I was a level 19 character, a rank 12 Marauder, a rank 11 Blacksmith, and several other professions.

It sounds quite complicated. There isn’t much to Final Fantasy XIV that isn’t complicated. Mining for ore has the player performing a hot-and-cold mini-game. Synthesis (read: crafting) involves maintaining a balance between quality and durability, using coloured lights as an indicator of how successful the next action will be. There is no recipe book in-game, so players must consult external websites to figure out what they can make in the first place. Crafters set up shops all over the place, but with no method in place to search for sale items, I found myself spending hours clicking on random strangers, hoping they were selling what I needed. The game’s complexity is further aggravated by a lack of in-game documentation. Some thrive on the challenge of conquering the game’s mechanics. I just found myself getting frustrated.

Check out the FFXIV MMO Logs for my four weeks as a pink-haired kitty girl named Fritti.
Isn’t there a PlayStation 3 version of the game on the way? It’s glaringly evident to anyone attempting to navigate Final Fantasy XIV’s cumbersome interface that the PC version is the PlayStation 3 version. There are currently no convenient keyboard shortcuts for simple actions like opening up your inventory or assigning your skills. Those aren’t the sort of buttons you’d find on a PS3 controller, so why have them? Instead players must open a main menu to access inventory, statistics, abilities, and any number of functions that would be better served by a simple button press. Many players, myself included, feel as if paying PC players are beta testing the console game instead of playing a fully realised product.

So it’s a total loss then? The game does have its redeeming qualities. The combat is relatively simple, and the ability to mix-and-match skills from your different professions makes for a level of character variety not often seen in an MMO. It’s also a breathtakingly beautiful game on a high end machine, filled with nifty little graphic touches like leaves blowing in the wind. Plus, Square Enix recently extended the free subscription period from 30 to 60 days, laying out plans to enhance the game based on player feedback, adding new functionality like the ability to search player stores and a button that targets the nearest enemy.

Tell me more. Our Final Fantasy XIV MMO Log, which covered four weeks of gameplay, from character creation to blacksmithing to an extended pancake metaphor, touches on the finer aspects of the experience.

Final Fantasy XIV In Action

The Bottom Line

There are chocobo in Final Fantasy XIV, but you cannot ride them. The whimsical, lemon-yellow, ostrich-like franchise mascots are installed at stables in the game’s main cities, but players cannot interact with them. Square Enix hasn’t determined how it’s going to implement them in the game. I can see how Final Fantasy XIV could evolve into an amazing online experience. All of the elements are in place, but like the chocobo, Square Enix is still trying to figure out how to make them work. Many players may have the patience to wait and see how things pan out. I do not.

Final Fantasy XIV was developed and published by Square Enix for the PC, released on September 30. PlayStation 3 version due out next year. Retails for $US49.99, with a starting monthly subscription rate of $US12.99 a month for one character. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. For a detailed accounting of the four week’s spent playing Final Fantasy XIV for this review, check out our Final Fantasy XIV MMO Logs.


  • I remember playing 1.0 a few years ago. Everything being server side meant the game was insufferably laggy.

    Having played the Beta though, SE and Yoshi-P has certainly outdone themselves and went beyond expectations. Not totally the most innovative MMO, but it’s really great looking, gameplay is smooth and the lore is very deep. Can’t wait to play it tonight when the servers finally open up.

  • I feel it’s really unnecessary to re-post this. A Realm Reborn is not this game – it’s been rebuilt from the ground up to fix just about every broken thing mentioned here.

    • Yeah. Maybe if it was re-written to be more of a ‘this is what we wrote last time, this is what we think of the re-release’ piece, but this is just a repost of a review for a game that doesn’t exist anymore (it’s not just out of print, you literally can’t play the game being reviewed anymore).

    • While unnecessary, it’s certainly interesting to me just how kind they were. I was much, much, much harsher at the time.

      • Agree. I felt at the time it released originally that there was the seed of a good game there (the story quest stuff was interesting and the game was quite pretty if you had the machine to run it) but it felt like it shouldn’t have made it past the alpha stage, let alone been released. And it felt like they’d made it in a silo disconnected from every other development made in the MMO space, which actually was pretty much true.

        Glad the reboot is so much better.

        • I remember seeing footage of a dev interview where a fan asked if you’d be able to jump, instead of being fenced in by ankle-high obstacles or invisible walls at fixed points next to gentle inclines. The developers blinked, looked at each other and laughed derisively.

          FFXIV’s original launch was very much an exercise in, “You fuckers will like what we tell you to like because it’s Final Fantasy and we are ineffable gods of game design.”

    • Still, for those of us who heard “Final Fantasy XIV is awful RUN AWAY RUN AWAAAAAAY” and nothing else, it’s nice to know what the problems used to be when we see the review for A Realm Reborn. The past informs the future, kind of thing.

    • FFXIV 1.0 wasn’t ideal, and so far, in my limited time, ARR is much better – but I still don’t think 1.0 was anywhere near as bad as people made it out to be.

      • It was pretty terrible at launch. You might feel differently because you stuck with it for a while while they were improving it (and they did eventually improve it a lot)

        • But to me that’s the point. An MMO shouldn’t be excused for being crap or having issues that shouldn’t have occurred, but most MMO’s are shaky at launch. Many come good with time. Not all, but many do. People seem to forget that. I mean if it’s not your cup of tea, that’s completely fair. I just find too many people these days will play for 2 hours and if they’re not smitten, they’ll say it’s crap and walk away. That’s cool – but check back in later and see how things are going.

          I guess it’s just the nature of things, and should mean developers go the extra mile to make sure their game grabs you, but I often wonder how ruined people’s attention spans are – particularly when it comes to MMOs.

          • To be fair most people who pick up a new MMORPG nowadays have sunk the ridiculous amount of time into getting to the ‘good bits’ of a MMORPG so many times that they’re sick of it. Personally I’m way past the point where I’ll put up with padding in MMOs. I’m just over that whole ‘tough it out through the snail pace leveling and the end-game is sort of fun’ thing. If end-game is the good part why am I doing all this 1-50 stuff?
            If a game has had two hours to engage me on some level and it doesn’t, why would I go back to it? Is my attention span short or are they just making mediocre games that only work when they tap into a players compulsion for progression? I’ll play an 80 hour game but not if the first 30 hours are spent playing a weak game with a vague promise of a potentially good bit later.

          • Yes, and now the game is good. 🙂 But it took a while and a complete overhaul to get there.

            Most MMOs are actually a playable, fun experience for many hours at launch now. Infrastructure teething aside, if it plays terribly (and 1.0 played terribly – I especially liked the 1-2 second UI lag doing anything because they thought it would be a good idea to do it on the server) then maybe it’ll come together after some patches, but most MMOs don’t.

            I think the resurrection they’ve done of FFXIV is really interesting, probably unprecedented.

    • There just trying to fill there daily quota on articles. When there isnt anything new they will re hash an old article

  • Being a skim-reader, I only realised it was talking about the OLD version of the game due to the comments above. Don’t repost things like this when reviews for the new version are due, it’s very confusing.

  • I’m glad I had/have Ad-Block enabled after getting conned into clicking such a shameful moneygrubbing googlebaiting repreint.

  • I have always wanted to get into an MMO, but they’re just monumental in the time and effort you need to put into them. Subscription payment, as well as an initial cost for the game, puts me right off. It kills me that I haven’t played two of the numbered Final Fantasies, do I propose two questions to the lovely Kotaku community:
    1) Does FFXIV ARR feel like it’s deserving in it’s inclusion as a FF title? As in epic gameplay, environment and storyline?
    And 2) Considering the time, effort and money (particularly money) is FFXIV ARR worth it for someone who considers themselves an avid FF fan but total MMO n00b as it were?

  • The gameplay isn’t epic, the storyline certainly isn’t epic. You spend the majority of the first hour just walking around a town, which has multiple loading zones and looks the same in every direction. The fighting is just really average, its like 1 move on a long cd, the monster slowly walks towards you and occasionally makes a box on the ground which you have to jump out of. This game has absolutely nothing on WoW, you’re getting about 1/3rd the quality in gameplay and story. Is it better than age of conan? yes, is it better than LOTRO/EVERQUEST 2? in graphics, sure, in gameplay, its sadly close for such old games.

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