I hold Final Fantasy XIV quite close to my heart. Whilst I haven’t put the same amount of hours into the game as other MMORPG enthusiasts might have, I’ve still spent plenty of time exploring the vast world of Eorzea with friends. It’s also my first (and only) experience with the genre, with the likes of World of Warcraft and Guild Wars ignored because of my preference to play on console. Of course, it does help that the Final Fantasy name is attached too, having been a fan of the series for a long time.
Despite my enthusiasm for the game, it has been a while since I last played. MMORPGs have always demanded plenty of time from players and it’s something I haven’t always had an abundance of, so clearing dungeons and raiding with friends had to go on the backburner for a while. What better time than the launch of the game on the PlayStation 5 to jump back in though? With my trusty level sixty-four Paladin in tow, I’ve ventured back into the fantastical world of Eorzea to absorb its magnificent sights, slay its most fierce beasts, and, of course, visit the Gold Saucer for hours of fun – all with the added benefits of some next-gen enhancements.
As a note, this review isn’t going to cover ALL aspects of Final Fantasy XIV. There’s so much content in the game that I’ve barely scratched the surface of, despite putting around two-hundred hours in at this point. Instead, I’ll mainly focus on the improvements brought with the PlayStation 5 version, a few of the things I really like about the game, and some of the things that I think could be improved.
First and foremost, Final Fantasy XIV features everything you’d expect from an MMORPG. A huge world full of varied locales to explore? Check. Plenty of dungeons, raids, and quests to complete? Check. A ton of different classes and jobs to play that offer something different? Check. Mounts to ride across the environment? Check. An epic narrative that’ll keep you completely invested in the journey? Double-check (honestly, Final Fantasy XIV has a fantastic story and writing). It delivers everything you’d hope for really, with plenty of other features found across the journey to keep you engaged for hundreds upon hundreds of hours. I haven’t even touched on the communal side of things with Free Companies, parties, and housing, with plenty on offer when it comes to the social aspects of the game.
The finer points of Final Fantasy XIV
It’s an absolutely top-notch experience and one that offers something for everyone. However, going over all of that would take way too long, so, as mentioned, I’ll focus on the things that I felt were most important for me.
For one, the controller support in the game is great. It’s easy to get around the world and interact with its inhabitants, whilst the customisable hot bar options allow you to give quick access to your most important skills and actions. I played as a Paladin, so it was handy to put my best combos of actions close to each other, with them only requiring a press of the R2 button and the controller face buttons to perform. I had a separate hot bar (you can have up to eight) for my more explorative actions too, with it easy to switch between them depending on what you’re doing in the game. Switching between targets is easily done with a simple button press too, so players should never get too overwhelmed – even when in the midst of a huge dungeon run.
Whilst it can take getting used to (especially when it comes to switching windows and so forth), it shows that you don’t need a mouse and keyboard to enjoy an MMORPG. Just try not assign your most important hot bar actions to the d-pad… for some reason I ALWAYS struggled to hit those quickly.
The flexibility of the classes and jobs on offer is impressive too, with a vast range to choose between that each bring something new to the table. I took on a tank role as a Paladin so I had to focus on keeping enemy enmity and ensuring my allies were never targeted, though I also tinkered around as a healing role with the Conjurer to see how that felt. Prefer dishing out damage? The likes of the Lancer or Arcanist might be better for you, especially since they transition into the Dragoon and Summoner jobs – two of the most iconic roles in the Final Fantasy series.
No matter what you pick, each role always feels that little bit different thanks to the varied skills and actions they offer. Whilst players are broken down into tank, DPS, and healer roles, there’s so much more to it than that thanks to the sheer diversity offered within the game. With new jobs coming in each new expansion, you won’t run out of things to try fast.
Would you rather take a more stoic approach and do some crafting or gathering instead? Final Fantasy XIV caters for that too, with players able to become the likes of a miner, a blacksmith, a weaver, or armourer, just to name a few. These are less action-focused roles but instead see you creating items to use, share with friends, or sell on the market board to make some gil. It’s a satisfying way to play the game where you don’t have to focus on defeating enemies, but instead amassing the tools and resources required to progress in your role. In a similar vein to dungeon runs, they’re at their best when working with others and putting crafting and gathering roles together, though it’s not essential to progress when playing solo.
Speaking of dungeon runs, Final Fantasy XIV offers some epic locales to explore that are full to the brim with deadly enemies and valuable loot to gather. A lot of these are simple and require you to go from point A to B, but others are more expansive in scale and bring with them varied objectives that’ll challenge you to explore a bit more. Some of the boss battles require intricate strategies to defeat too, whether it’s by watching out for AOE attacks or ensuring they’re NEVER able to perform their special moves. They make for thrilling encounters where good communication can be the difference between life and death. It’s utterly engrossing, with each player having to perform their role perfectly to see success – don’t worry, it’s not as daunting as it sounds once you know what you’re doing. When you do defeat that tricky boss and conquer the dungeon, though? It’s super satisfying, especially when you get player commendations for playing your role well.
A lot of these things that I like the most in Final Fantasy XIV are typical of the MMORPG genre really. It does each one so well though, which shows that it covers the basics and offers an enthralling experience by just living up to the expectations of the genre. However, Final Fantasy XIV does offer something that felt especially unique and special: the Gold Saucer.
Players may recognise the name from the Gold Saucer’s appearance in Final Fantasy VII, but Final Fantasy XIV’s take on the iconic locale is a little bit different. It’s still packed with mini-games to play though, whether that’s an obstacle course to test your jumping skills, a shooting target ride, or even a showdown with Yojimbo and his mighty blade. There’s also the Jumbo Cactpot that acts as a weekly lottery and the Mini Cactpot that offers scratch cards to earn the Gold Saucer’s currency, which can be used to purchase an abundance of special items. It’s the only way you’re going to get an Adamantoise mount…
One of the best things about the Gold Saucer is that it’s the home of Triple Triad, the iconic card game from Final Fantasy VIII that has made its way to Eorzea. Players are able to collect cards, compete against AI opponents across the world, and even other players in strategic showdowns. I spent hours on end playing the game in Final Fantasy VIII, and believe me, I’m just as invested in it here.
Between it all, the Gold Saucer just offers a place to go to relax and have fun. It takes you outside of the typical MMORPG experience and instead lets you unwind and partake in silly little antics, with each adding bursts of personality to the game. No matter what I’m doing in Final Fantasy XIV, I always make sure I finish up every session with a visit to the iconic amusement park.
Where could it improve?
It’s clear that I’ve got a lot of love for Final Fantasy XIV and that it offers a varied and entertaining experience, but it’s not perfect. For one, there can be a steep learning curve to the game. MMORPGs demand more patience and strategy than your typical RPG, with players having to stick to their roles perfectly. I’ll be honest, I didn’t fully understand my role as a tank when I first started playing a few years back and I was useless, with my team mates often having to deal with my poor efforts when trying to hold enmity. One of my early dungeon runs ended with one player messaging me to tell me to ‘never tank again’, so yeah, it could be a little rough to start off.
There are tutorials in place in the game and the novice network offers support to teach you the ins and outs of everything, but you can be thrown in the deep end. Whether it’s by communicating with other players or doing a bit of reading online, it can take a while to fully understand the role you play in a party and to play effectively.
It doesn’t help that chat is awkward with the controller, with players having to quickly type out messages by mashing buttons and the d-pad. It is possible to hook up a USB mouse and keyboard if you like, but those who don’t have that option may struggle a little when it comes to communication. Fortunately, the party options of the PlayStation 5 do make voice chat a viable option, but the cross-play nature of the game might not make that an easy possibility when playing with strangers.
Some of the questlines could get a bit tiresome too, especially when you’re doing an abundance of fetch quests that drag you from point A to B to A over and over again. There are a LOT of quests to complete in the game and it’s easy to burn yourself out doing them all, especially since there isn’t always a lot of variety to be found. Having things like duties, dungeons, and so forth can alleviate this and they certainly act as Final Fantasy XIV’s more enjoyable action-orientated instances, but those who want to follow questlines through solo might find they can get a little repetitive.
The PlayStation 5 port is pretty special
So I’ve gone over the things that I like and dislike about Final Fantasy XIV, but how does it feel to play on the PlayStation 5? One of the big additions that comes with the PlayStation 5 version of the game is the option to play at 4K, though I found the 1440p option more serviceable. Whilst 4K looks very sharp and pretty, it doesn’t hit the consistent 60fps found with 1440p, which is something that I found more impressive when playing. Striding through the likes of Ul’Dah at its busiest or a twenty-four-man raid with no slowdown just felt fantastic, whilst the differences in resolution aren’t all that noticeable between the pair.
Ultimately, it will come down to player preference: would you prefer a sharper resolution or an improved frame rate? The option is there for both, with each bringing their own notable benefits to the game.
Of course, the SSD included with the PlayStation 5 is put to good use, with the load times of Final Fantasy XIV feeling almost instantaneous throughout. Transitioning between areas or teleporting between entirely different locales takes seconds, with the player never kept out of the action for too long. The SSD has quickly become one of my favourite features of the next-gen consoles, with it making travelling through Eorzea feel like a breeze.
Another impressive feature is the use of the DualSense’s haptic feedback. I’ve found that a lot of titles have been very hit-and-miss with its implementation, but Final Fantasy XIV uses it to an impressive degree throughout – especially when riding one of your mounts. Believe me, you’ll feel every thwomp of a Behemoth as you trudge across the environment on its back, whilst the hypnotising vibrations of the Magitek Death Claw that carries you around really makes it feel like you’re being manhandled by the machinery. It was a little disappointing that it wasn’t better implemented when it came to attacking, though I suppose it’s something my controller battery life will appreciate. Either way, it’s an impressive use of the DualSense functions and gives players a greater sense of presence within the mesmerising world.
I’d be remiss not to mention the use of Activity Cards too. Whilst they don’t allow you to directly boot into different aspects of the game, they do show your progress through different questlines and how long is left in each one. It might sound like a small feature, but it’s something I appreciated – especially when I was deciding whether it’d be worth taking the time to finish a particular questline or call it a night.
Besides the PlayStation 5 version of Final Fantasy XIV offering an array of improvements that really strengthen the experience, it also launches alongside the 5.55 patch that brings additional story content and quests to the game. Admittedly, I haven’t hit these yet (I haven’t even got to Shadowbringers yet), but it might give some additional incentive to return for those who have spent some time away from the game. The PlayStation 5 version of the game comes as a free upgrade for PlayStation 4 owners too, so the transition of your character and previously purchased expansions is fuss-free.
There’s also the option of the free trial for those who are completely new to the game, with everything up to the end of the Heavensward expansion free-to-play. That feels absolutely INSANE to me – there’s the potential to invest hundreds of hours into that alone if you really sunk yourself into the different classes and quests. It’s a risk-free endeavour really, especially if you can get some friends to join in on the fun.
Final Fantasy XIV already offered so much to players thanks to its vast world and features, but the PlayStation 5 version makes it even better to play. Between the improved performance, the faster loading times, and the haptic feedback implementation, it really is a mighty fine way to experience Square Enix’s epic MMORPG adventure.
Add to that the fact that there’s an impressive free trial (that offers hundreds of hours of content) on the PlayStation 5, and you’ll quickly see there is no better time than now to play Final Fantasy XIV. Just be warned: as soon as you visit Eorzea and experience its delights, you won’t want to leave anytime soon…
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC
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