Returning to Eorzea: Square Enix Follows Through With Vast Improvements to Final Fantasy XIV

It’s gratifying to see a game publisher like Square Enix admit fault and work to publicly fix a flawed title that we had so anticipated. That is the saga of Final Fantasy XIV. After some encouragement from a friend I gave this game a second chance, and I am glad I did.

Final Fantasy XIV was a title I was drooling over since the first teaser trailers. Then I lucked in to the closed beta of it. The beta had me so excited. Never before had I seen such amazing graphics in an MMO or any other game. The beta, as is the case with any game in testing phases had its issues, but nothing that would turn me off. I pre-ordered my Collector’s Edition of it and eagerly awaited its arrival.

When launch day came I plummeted headlong into it, having decided to retire my Final Fantasy XI character. (FYI: In addition to FFXIV I currently am on WoW and ST:TOR. If you don’t know those acronyms you probably are not a gamer, or at least not an MMO gamer.) Back then, I must say, I was enthralled with the first few levels. On a technical note, thank god I have a powerful gaming PC because initially that was needed to play this game at all. Even with my powerful beast of a machine my fans would whirl like a wind tunnel. People without a hardcore gaming rig were left out in the cold. After my first dozen levels my disappointment started. This was a game I truly wanted to love, but it left me empty. A game, especially an RPG or an MMO needs to give you some sort of raison d’etre, a reason to be. That was lacking, and much time was spent trying to figure out what the hell to do next while my PC was whirling like a NASA wind tunnel. So, I eventually ended up not playing the game at all. I considered deleting it to free up hard drive space, but something in me, whether it was sentimentality or optimism, said wait. My decision paid off.

I must give Square Enix credit for admitting to their mistakes and then developing a game plan to make much needed improvements in both the technical aspects of the game and the game play itself. Here is the link outlining the changes being made for version 2.0, and check out the PDFs that go into further detail about the changes.

After having not played in a year, I have spent the last several nights playing, investing on the average seven hours a night. That being said, the changes I have noticed have been dramatic.

After I got in the game, I grew concerned because my PC was not kicking into overdrive like it did before. Then I checked some of my performance monitors and realized that the system’s resources was being used much more efficiently and economically. With several background apps running on Windows 7 64-bit, total RAM usage was only 2.8Gb, while only 27% of my i7 processor was being used. My rig also runs dual Nvidia 465 graphics cards. For this game I do not use SLI configuration, running graphics on the primary and PhysX on the secondary. Square Enix had said they were changing the graphics engine, and they did. And, there is no noticeable compromise in graphics quality. The game looks amazing. I repeat: amazing. This is some of the best graphics I have seen. And with this new graphics engine, they have made this game much more playable and accessible for people who do not have high-end gaming PCs. To cap off already amazing visuals, the weather effects and time changes in the game will make you stop and watch. The texture detail is, for lack of a better word, dazzling. So, as for the graphics, visuals, and arts style of this title this game deserves an A.

I’m baaa-aaack!

But, visual components alone do not a game make. You have to have some kind of driving momentum. Once I got over the amazing graphics, I was pleased to immediately see those exclamation marks over some NPCs’ heads indicating some available missions. As well, the new leve quests that SE introduced into this game are still there. As promised, Square has added content and refined others. There are also some really nice cut scenes that caught my attention, adding to some of the story lines and tying things together. They have promised more work on this, and I am anxious to see how far they go. Of course, in the time I have played it since going back, it is impossible to see everything that has thus far been tweaked, but I have to say from what little I have seen, that Square is making a valiant attempt at putting its money where its mouth is. It is really a shame that they didn’t get it right at the beginning, but the strides they have made make it worthy of a second chance.

A Man and His Chocobo

If this were a full review, I would take time to write about the character creation, jobs, crafting, and plethora of choices that we have come to know and love in our MMORPGs. I will revisit that when the 2.0 version hits (and/or if I create a new character before then.) I will tell you this, there are a multitude of choices to make, and if you are one of those who like to craft and sell your wares there is plenty to do in that area.

Ultimately, what they are striving to achieve with their version 2.0 slated for release this fall, is a complete overhaul of their game. They have wisely chosen to tackle this incrementally. As of this writing, they seem to be right on schedule. As of this writing they have a game that I am looking forward to playing right now. If you played it before, but were turned off as many were, I highly recommend giving it a second chance. If you haven’t played this before and were considering, you have two options: one, waiting for the 2.0 release and/or its companion PS3 version, or two, jumping in right now to a gorgeous game that at this point is a good solid MMO. Did I mention that it is gorgeous?

All I need is my moogle!

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