Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn PS3 review – The guilds are alive with the sound of grinding
You wanted the bad news first, right? Well, you’re having it anyway: at the time of writing, Final Fantasy 15 A Realm Reborn’s servers are stretched, strained and overflowing with disgruntled adventurers unable to log in or even create characters. With the EU hubs packed like a rush-hour tube, I’m unceremoniously dumped on a replacement bus service based in Japan, which comes packaged with a language barrier and the occasional bout of lag. Great.
You’d think Square Enix would have learned its lesson after the unanimous critical mauling the original FF 14 received when it launched on PC back in 2010, but if anything the server issues are even more annoying this time around – because the game is actually good. Very good, in fact.
Manage to chisel your way through FF 14’s scabby technical crust and you find a world that’s beautiful, intimidatingly massive and thronging with life and possibility. It’s a slow burner, too, easing you in with story quests that play out much like a traditional single-player RPG before gradually introducing you to MMO concepts – raiding dungeons, joining guilds and bonding with a gang of strangers by hacking a giant mutant mushroom to bits.
The pacing is near perfect. Swords, loot and EXP get fatter along with the monsters. Eorzea seductively peels back its boundaries as quests take you deeper into the land and lore, with deserts, forests and bustling cities creating a real sense of adventure.
Most impressive is how streamlined it all is. A fully customisable hotbar system means battle commands and inventories are never more than a single button-press away. Although the targeting system is disturbingly skittish, the fighting itself is an accessible blend of turn-based action and real-time movement. Cooldown times on your main attacks are balanced by the fact you can nip behind opponents to dodge their offensive. Hell, stick the ‘dance’ emote on your hotbar and you can Michael Flatley your way through brawls if you fancy it – it’s a system as flexible as it is simple.
Hopefully, by the time you read this Square Enix will have given those servers a good kick because this is easily the best MMO on PS3
It won’t be until you party up with mates that A Realm Reborn flexes those tactical biceps, however. The ingenious Duty Finder automatically sticks you with suitable companions according to your chosen class (you’ll always need a tank, healer and ranged fighter, for example) before letting you loose on some brilliantly designed monstrosities. Pounding these into EXP soup really is the best way to make friends.
Hopefully, by the time you read this Square Enix will have given those servers a good kick up the caboose – and if that’s the case you can stick an extra point on that score, because A Realm Reborn is the pinnacle of online adventure, and easily the best MMO on PS3. Technical teething issues aside, FF 14 is a blinding online RPG. A huge, diverse world, bags of quests and a console-friendly UI make it simultaneously deep and accessible. Play it.