It’s been nearly two years since the release of Final Fantasy XIV, a launch that was met with crushing disappointment from fans worldwide –and laughably low review scores from just about every major reviewer out there. It was a disaster of such massive proportions that it resulted in a near complete swap-out of the development team months later and the promise of a massive revamp of the game in the future.
That revamp is nearly upon us. The enormous update, recently titled Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, is expected to hit sometime toward the end of this year or beginning of next, with a Beta scheduled for Winter 2012. Demoed this week at Gamescom 2012 in Germany, the game seems to be sporting some pretty impressive new graphics, graphics that Director/Producer Naoki Yoshida claims to be ”the highest quality graphics of any current MMO.” That might not be too much of an exaggeration. Some of those forest screens look like they might just might be able to give The Witcher 2 a run for its money.
The specs of the machine used in the presentation weren’t disclosed, but supposedly any machine currently capable of running the current version of Final Fantasy XIV should be able to handle A Realm Reborn without the need of any hardware upgrades.
The real meat of the update comes in the form of near complete overhauls to existing systems. A new Limit Break system inspired by Final Fantasy VII was shown off. Parties share a single Limit Break gauge that builds through normal combat as well as well-timed attacks and support abilities. When the gauge has filled up the party will be able to unleash a variety of powerful special attacks. Combat as a whole has also been revamped in favor of quicker, smoother encounters rather than tedious, hours-long slogs.
A tutorial system will be been added to help new players get into the game, as well as get current ones familiar with how the new systems work. Yoshida says that while some may find it restrictive at first, it was deemed necessary to familiarize players with how differently the game will play.
It’s an ambitious update to say the least. Massive gameplay overhauls like this have a habit of pissing MMO players off (we all remember the backlash from Star Wars Galaxies’ “Combat Upgrade” and “New Game Enhancements”), but, well, could Final Fantasy XIV possibly get any worse than it currently is? It remains to be seen if A Realm Reborn will manage to revitalize the game, or whether everyone will just stay holed up in the decade-old Final Fantasy XI until the end of time. There is always the possibility that those who were holding off for the long-delayed Playstation 3 release may take an interest when it is finally release alongside the update. Maybe now it will actually be worth giving the game a try?