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A Top MMORPG, Shines on the PS4
on 16 June 2014
Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games on consoles are rare so being able to play one for hours on end without having to crouch over a keyboard and develop a mouse-shaped hand is something that doesn't come around often. When it does, and when it's as good as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, it's an MMO-lover's dream.
Pick your starting character and your starting class and off you go into a tutorial that shows you the basics of questing. Pick up every quest in sight and you'll be running around your starting town picking up teleport points for faster travel, gathering gear, learning the difference between main campaign quests, side quests and job quests and collecting lots of helpful pop-up tips that are stored forever in your online help menus to peruse at your leisure.
Once you hit level 10 the game opens up even more, allowing you to change jobs at whim and learning magic, combat, crafting and gathering, letting you take skills from one discipline that you find really handy and adding it to another (like learning Protect and much later Stoneskin on an Arcanist and then using them on your Gladiator, who can later evolve into a Paladin).
Getting all your classes to level 15 enables you to unlock all advanced jobs as well as learning how each class operates, which is handy for when, during your campaign quests, you'll sometimes get bottlenecked by having to form a party of 4 players (later 8 players) to progress through the storyline. Fortunately FFXIV makes this incredibly easy - just select the dungeon you need to do, make yourself available and the game finds the other players you need, groups you altogether and starts the ball rolling automatically.
Whilst bottlenecks like these can get annoying for the lonewolf 'solo everything' type players, there are only a few of them, the majority of the game is amazingly soloable, especially when you factor in that your Chocobo Mount can later be used as a fighting companion who joins you in battle.
You'll also want to join a Free Company as soon as possible. Basically guilds of players with their own chat, joining one allows you to listen in on what everyone is up to, allows you to ask questions and you'll learn about lots of different aspects like how to make Gil, how to farm efficiently, boss tips, rare spawns like Behemoth and Odin and you might also be lucky enough to be allowed access to the Free Company's Chest (extra storage for goodies which you can throw things into like crafting materials, and take things out of, like Materia to upgrade your gear) though this is at the whim of the FC leaders.
If leveling up (which is pretty fast if you take advantage of LeveQuests and FATES) and gearing up wasn't enough, the game tracks everything and offers more things to do. Your personal hunting log at level 10, Guildhests (mini group fights) at level 15, Sightseeing at level 20, PvP at level 30, Treasure hunting at around level 45, Beast Quests, Grand Company Quests, Supply and Provisioning Missons - so much so that it's incredibly easy to get distracted from your main campaign as you get sucked into doing something else. My personal favourite is Fishing, it's such a change of pace from everything else to just cast out a line and watch the stars move through the sky or a beautiful sunrise as you mooch up a big fish.
End game is surprisingly organised. Certain dungeons have 'gear level' requirements, so no more elite players telling you you can't join because you're not up to par, if you meet the gear level requirement as set by the game, you're in. At the initial stages you can get by with crafted gear and spending your tokens from daily Beast Quests, later on you'll be more dependent on the rarer drops from certain dungeons. Ultimately end game currently consists of gearing up via Relic upgrades and the higher level dungeons. However, if you're a crafter or a gatherer you have your own little endgame too of continually upgrading you stats to allow you to access the higher grade crafting materials. Being in a Free Company where existing crafters can just make gear for you makes this a whole lot easier, but if you want to go for it yourself it's possible and will take a long time.
I started playing at the PS4 launch, I now have several level 50 classes and I'm just scratching the surface, so I signed up for a further 6 months of gametime. At the rate they're adding new content I think I'll always be playing catchup unless I bite the bullet and ask the FC just to craft me my high end gear instead of doing it myself, but I like doing things myself :)
Graphically the game looks gorgeous, (some of the screenshots I upload to Twitter/Facebook look better than many of their PC counterparts) from a control point of view there's a VERY deep configuration menu to allow you to tweak things just how you like them so nobody will be able to tell if you're on PS3, PS4 or PC (Square Enix have made it cross-platform so we all play together, just like they did with FFXI, bravo!), and personally I use a Sony Gold Wireless Headset too, so no complaints about audio either. Comms is mostly via USB keyboard hooked into the PS4, but we sometimes use PSN party chat and my FC also has a Teamspeak Server set up for the more advanced PC players running endgame activities.
Finally, if you have a PSP, you can take advantage of Remote Play with the PS4. When my daughter comes over the TV and XBox 360 get taken hostage by Assassin's Creed Black Flag. Not a problem, just turn on the PS4 then use the PSP to login and get some vital mining, logging or fishing done, although chat with your mates on a PSP can be a bit of a fiddly chore.
In short: One of the most user-friendly, soloable, beautiful and well-designed multiplayer games out there. Lots of fan service for long time lovers of the Final Fantasy franchise (say 'hi' to Cid for me when you see him), lots of customisation via the games 'glamour' and dye systems so nobody looks the same and something for everyone if they take the time to find it. As with most MMOs you'll get the odd few hours downtime for patches/updates/maintenance each week, for me that's simply an opportunity to look up what the best bait is for Hammerhead sharks so I can make Shark Oil for profit.
You get your first month free of charge, £7.69 per month thereafter with additional 'add-ons' available for a small fee, e.g. want an extra storage retainer? That's an extra £1.15 a month, probably worth it if you're a crafting fanatic, but not really necessary if you're a well-organised crafting fanatic :)