Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Review, Part 1

Ragar travels through Eorzea to see what Square Enix's remade MMO has to offer

Almost three years after the release of the original version of the game, Square Enix released Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn last week. I’ve already talked at length about the game’s mechanics, gathering and crafting systems and dungeons, but that was all during the various beta weekends. This time the game’s live for everyone to join and there’s no cap on how far I can progress, so it’s time to see just what FFXIV: ARR has to offer for MMO players. While there’re still a number of quests I’ve yet to complete, classes I haven’t touched since Closed Beta 3 and dungeons I haven’t unlocked let alone run, I have seen enough of the current content (both new and updated versions of what I saw during beta) that I feel confident giving my opinions on the game.

So Many Classes, So Little Time

Aside from all of the people who had a Legacy account from FFXIV v1.0, all new characters in ARR have had the Open Beta weekend and a few days of Early Access to make their way through Eorzea and unlock as much as they could. While there were a few issues during this period with getting onto the server, there are plenty of people who have already capped at least one class if not more. With that said, how far did I get before starting this review? As of last night, I am a level 31 Marauder, a level 15 Gladiator, I’ve unlocked my Warrior Job and my story questline is about on par with my Marauder level (I believe the step I’m on is around level 26 or 27). I have barely touched the gathering or crafting classes so far since I created this character but, given the mountain of text I wrote in my preview, I think I’ve covered about as much of that as I could reasonably do while pushing for a Job unlock. If I discover something new about gathering/crafting as I continue further into the game this weekend and beyond, I’ll write another article, but for the purposes of this review I’ll focus on the content I haven’t covered in one of my preview articles.

I decided to go Marauder this time around instead of Gladiator to see what things were like on the other side of the tanking fence. Most of what I did in beta was healing or soloing; my experience as a Gladiator tank was mostly positive but I wasn’t completely sold on the mechanic for AoE tanking. As a low-level Gladiator tank, your AoE rotation is primarily spamming Flash, an ability that uses MP instead of your weapon TP that generates threat without dealing any damage. Given that the Gladiator MP pool is somewhat pitiful due to it being a Disciple of War class, this Flash spam can only continue for so long before you need to regenerate MP. This means switching to your single-target combo rotation and swapping your bonus enmity move for an MP regen move until you have enough for more Flash spam, hitting Flash until empty, regen MP, Flash, rinse/repeat.

Compare this to my AoE rotation on the Marauder: Overpower three times and everything’s locked onto you. Continue to Overpower because your AoE move actually deals decent damage and it uses TP which has a far better regen rate for you than MP. That’s all that’s involved. If you’re feeling fancy, you can weave in a Maim combo to get that bonus damage buff, then switch back to AoE spam, but it’s all pretty much the same. Now you might be wondering why I’m making as big  a deal of this difference as I am; after all, it’s still single-button spam, right? You’d be right, but from the perspective of a player, there’s a big difference in the impact of seeing those numbers from Overpower and seeing absolutely nothing from Flash. Even if your damage as a Marauder tank isn’t much compared to your party’s DPS, there’s just something infinitely more satisfying about contributing to killing the stuff you’re fighting than spamming a non-damaging ability like Flash. Just because we dealt with it back in the Vanilla days of World of Warcraft with Sunder Armor doesn’t mean it’s a great way to do things. The MP regen thing just adds to the difference, but considering that I haven’t seen what abilities the Paladin job brings to the table versus the Warrior job I’ll leave that particular difference alone for now.

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