Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn Review: Second Time’s a Charm


Final Fantasy XIV

By: Jason Siu


10 min read

Home » Reviews » Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn Review: Second Time’s a Charm
final fantasy xiv a realm reborn review full cleared

We prefer to run an ad-free site, so this post may contain affiliate links. If you wish to support us and use these links to buy something, we may earn a commission. Learn more here.

Reviewing an MMORPG isn’t an easy task — loving or hating a game is purely subjective in my opinion, and while a rating system can surely help gauge whether or not a game is worth buying, I wholeheartedly believe everyone has different preferences as to why a game may or may not be enjoyable. But let’s be honest: MMORPG gamers aren’t typical gamers. We know what we like, and we know what we don’t like, even though everyone has different reasons for playing or enjoying an MMORPG. There are standards, so to say, to the genre and while Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn doesn’t revolutionize the genre, it’s a must-play if you’re a Final Fantasy or MMORPG fan.

Before I start talking about Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, it’s worth mentioning that by far, MMORPGs are my favorite games to play. I’m fortunate enough to have a steady group of players that game hop with me to whatever is the new flavor of the month. My first true MMORPG that I devoted time into was Dark Age of Camelot, the days where maps were non-existant and typing /loc over and over was the equivalent of your grandparents’ tale of walking to and from school, climbing hills in their bare feet with heavy backpacks in the snow. In other words, it was an age of online gaming where quests were unheard of and losing XP when dying was commonplace.

I’ve seen the highs and the lows of the genre. From World of Warcraft to The Matrix Online and everything in between, I’ve experienced my fair share of MMORPGs. While I invested quite a bit of time into Final Fantasy XI, I simply couldn’t wait for the release of Final Fantasy XIV. I upgraded my computer, bought a new 30-inch monitor, and dropped hard-earned cash on the Collector’s Edition. Less than a week after Final Fantasy XIV’s initial release, the game was uninstalled and my Lalafell was abandoned. It was not a good game at all. It had everything MMORPG gamers hate: a laggy and clunky interface, poor combat mechanics, and an awful leveling system.

I shrugged it off and found my next fix. I returned to World of Warcraft, spent time in Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Tera, and even Defiance, to name a few. But none of them held my attention for more than a couple of months. When I first started hearing about Final Fantasy XIV being redone from the ground up, I was skeptical. I believed short of starting from scratch, there was no way Square Enix would be able to salvage the game.

Eh, we didn’t like that Eorzea anyways.

And start from scratch the company basically did. Naoki Yoshida took the helm and a major overhaul was done. Admittedly, I didn’t follow its development too closely. My first real sight of the game was at E3 earlier this year, when I checked out the Ifrit primal battle. Coincidentally, while standing in line to have my chance at playing the game myself, I received a closed beta invite to A Realm Reborn. And that’s when I stepped back into Eorzea and was amazed.

So rather than reviewing Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in the traditional sense, I’d rather share my experiences with the game and why I find it so enjoyable. Maybe those features attract you to the game, maybe they don’t. Maybe the things I find fault with will really bother you, or maybe they won’t.

First and foremost, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a really polished game. Server issues aside, once you log into the world of Eorzea you’ll simply be amazed. It’s absolutely beautiful and runs like a PC game should. Even when the streets of Ul’dah are lined with crafters mastering their trade, the game doesn’t so much as hiccup. Yes, graphics aren’t everything, but when you’re investing hours at a time into a game, having it easy on your eyes is a real treat.

Ul’Dah lies in the desert, where its residents has turned sand into gold.

There’s such a diverse set of environments, with each continent truly capturing its inspiration. Gridania, the lovely and spirited woodlands; Ul’Dah, the rugged and resistant desert; and Limsa Lominsa, where the sea roams free. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn does what few MMORPGs can do: it balances the world in a way that it feels huge, but ties it altogether so that you have a reason to come back to past locations. It makes for a memorable experience while you explore and journey through the game.

Truth be told, I’m one of those MMORPG gamers that love to speed towards max level to experience end-game content. In World of Warcraft, I hardly read the quest givers’ text. I would simply pick up as many quests as I could, open my map, head out and complete all those quests, turn them all in, rinse and repeat. Star Wars: The Old Republic boasted a captivating story, and while the initial few storyline quests had me paying attention, halfway through my leveling experience I had no problems skipping them.

And that’s where Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn really shines. From the get-go, the game brings back the captivating experience previous Final Fantasy titles are known for. Memorable characters play a major role through the storyline, which plays out much like a standard role-playing game does. The story draws you in instantly, and you’ll hardly want to skip the cutscenes. Yoshida and his team did such a fantastic job tying Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 to A Realm Reborn with a rich story filled with lovable characters. You’ll grow attached to the NPCs as they fight alongside you, and at no point does the game overwhelm you with meaningless characters.

Limsa Lominsa, a bustling port and pirate hideout in Eorzea.

(Warning: There are spoilers beyond this point.)

Then there’s all these treats for long-time Final Fantasy fans. From fighting cactuars to riding a Chocobo, to finding Wedge, Biggs, and Cid, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is absolutely packed with rich Final Fantasy lore that will give your childhood memories a huge smile.

I started leveling my Conjurer during open beta, hitting level 20 before leveling my Arcanist sub-class to level 15. Once the head start happened, I began pursuing my White Mage job class and a week later I was fortunate enough to watch the credits roll. Credits roll? In an MMORPG?

The credits roll really sets Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn apart from the competition. Leveling from 1-50 is truly an experience that no other MMORPG has offered in the past. There’s a start and a finish to the main storyline and it’s very satisfying. The final dungeon embarks you on a journey with seven other players to bring down Ultima, and with the backdrop of epic Final Fantasy music playing, you’ll even climb into Magitek armor and smile the entire way. And once the credits finish rolling, the journey really begins anew with all new dungeons and quests to explore.

That’s right, when in other MMORPGs you hit max level and delete your quest log, or grind dailies for reputation, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn continues the progression that ties everything together. One could argue that other MMORPGs do the same, but Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn does it in a way that keeps you interested. You don’t want to simply venture to that next dungeon just to get loot, but to see what the dungeon itself has to offer.

And finally, there’s the gameplay. In almost every MMORPG we play, I always assume the role of a healer. Sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s exciting. When we first attempted Garuda without watching anything online or reading about the fight, we failed. Multiple times. But with each failed attempt, we learned what not to do the next time for that phase. After a few attempts, we finally completed it successfully and it was by far the most fun I had ever experienced healing in an MMORPG.

The Order of the Twin Adder call Gridania home.

Sure, the combat system in A Realm Reborn doesn’t offer anything revolutionary to the genre, and while many would argue it’s more of the same old “stay out of bad stuff and don’t die,” there’s much fun to be had. I can understand the point-of-view that the combat could be considered boring since it does utilize a global cooldown (and yes, I found Tera’s combat to be very fun), you simply have to experience the end-game content to realize there’s more than meets the eye.

But the game still has plenty of faults. The inventory system is atrocious, and while the armoury chest is a welcomed addition to help keep your gear organized, things get awfully clustered once you start leveling sub-classes. Gear sets are nice, but the fact that they’re stored client-side is a disappointment. Want to login from somewhere else? Your gear sets don’t go with you.

While the leveling pace, for the most part, works, there are periods of time where you’ll run out of quests. That means you’ll have to hop into FATEs, or use your allowances of levequests, which means doing the same thing over and over. There is also the Hunting Log for additional experience, and exploring the world grants you a ton of experience at later levels. This is worth mentioning: save exploring until you’re 48 or 49 to maximize the experience gained from fully uncovering each area’s map.

FATE grinders are always ready to move as soon as a new FATE spawns.

As for FATEs, the system is a bit flawed. Leveling as a White Mage made FATEs frustrating if I wasn’t able to get into a group. By the time I could cast a spell to do any significant damage to the FATE mob, the army of players had already taken it down. Some FATEs gave great experience, but other FATEs I would barely get over 1,000 experience at level 48. In other words, find a group to join if you’re FATE grinding, or turn to levequests since they also randomly give you epic loot.

In addition, there’s a bit of lag in some of the fights. There’s a handful of times where I felt I had clearly left the range of a mob’s attack, but it still inflicted damage on me. It’s especially frustrating during a boss fight, but hopefully the upcoming server upgrades will help resolve those issues.

Another major flaw in A Realm Reborn is the fact that you can’t simply just group up and zone into a dungeon. You have to use the Duty Finder, even if you have a full group ready to go. While it doesn’t sound like a major inconvenience if you’re already grouped and just have to queue to automatically be ported to the dungeon, it’s a major inconvenience if the Duty Finder server ever has issues, which it has.

And seriously Square Enix… why can’t the game just automatically hand over quest items?

I can’t wait to see what Yoshida and his team has in store for the future of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

In closing, I’m extremely excited about the future of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. The fact that the game has forced me to kick certain habits I’ve obtained over the 10-plus years of playing MMORPGs makes it very promising that I’ll remain interested for more than just a few months. Best of all, Yoshida plans on introducing a PvP system that has its own abilities so that PvP and PvE can be balanced separately. Why no other major MMORPG has successfully done that is beyond me, but I look forward to seeing how A Realm Reborn handles it. If everything else currently in the game is an indication, the future of Eorzea is very bright.

It may have taken nearly three years to redo Final Fantasy XIV, but I can admit that it was well worth the wait. Best of all, it proves that Square Enix still got it and that the future of the Final Fantasy franchise is promising. While Final Fantasy XIII could be deemed an overall disappointment in the grand scheme of the series, A Realm Reborn rejuvenates the MMORPG genre in a way only a Final Fantasy title can.

At the end of the day, A Realm Reborn may not bring anything new to the MMORPG genre. But what it does bring is a very satisfying gaming experience with a captivating story, a beautiful world, and a bug-free experience (if you’re able to login, of course). If you don’t have the patience to deal with server and login issues, I’d highly recommend to wait for word that the server upgrades are indeed an improvement. But for those that don’t mind fighting through a messy queue, I promise that your frustration will soon be forgotten as soon as you see your character roll out of that bed in the Inn.

And yes, I’ll admit that it required servers to be down for an extended period of time for me to write this review — which isn’t really a review, because I don’t believe in giving an MMORPG a score. So to sum it all up: Play Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn if you like Final Fantasy or MMORPGs. At its $29.99 price tag (for PC), you really can’t go wrong — it’s just a solid and memorable online gaming experience.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn does have a monthly charge and is also available on the PlayStation 3, with a PlayStation 4 release coming in the future. Cross-platform play is available, which means you’ll be able to group with players on the console version if you’re playing on PC and vice-versa. It features a diverse class system and currently has four-man and eight-man dungeons, with 24-man raids coming soon. And yes, there’s moogles.

Like our content?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get video game news, features, and deals straight to your inbox.

This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to the newsletter indicates your consent to our Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletter at any time.

With over 20 years of online publishing experience, Jason Siu is currently the Content Director at VerticalScope and used to spend most of his time writing about cars. His work can be seen on websites such as AutoGuide, EV Pulse, FlatSixes, Tire Authority, and more. As the former co-founder of and West Coast Editor of Modified Magazine, he has also authored two books for CarTech Books. In his spare time, he founded FullCleared to indulge in his passion for writing about games. Although Jason is a variety gamer, he generally prefers RPGs.

Latest News