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Beta Impressions: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PS4)

February 25, 2014, Author: Josué Cardona

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is the relaunch of Final Fantasy XIV, a MMO originally released by Square Enix in 2010. The reborn realm of Eorzea has been available to explore on PS3 and PC since August 2013.

FFXIV will soon be available on PS4 and Square Enix has just launched a free and open beta. I’ve played the PS3 version prior and have now spent a few hours with the PS4 version, so I’m going to focus here on the key differences I found between the two.

Note: Although considered two different games, I’ll be referring to A Realm Reborn as FFXIV throughout.

I had not played many MMOs but last year I decided to try out a few and then stick with one for a while. I went through WoW, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and FFXIV (on PS3). Out of the three, I definitely enjoyed FFXIV the most, however. I also bought a copy of EVE Online during a Steam sale but I enjoyed FFXIV enough to stop my search there. As much as I enjoyed FFXIV on PS3, I knew the PS4 version was coming soon so I didn’t sink too much time in on PS3. I’m glad I didn’t because although it is still the same game, the PS4 version seems like a significant upgrade.

Next-Gen Sandtoads

Next-Gen Sandtoads

I always thought that FFXIV on PS3 looked more like FFXII, a PS2 game, than more recent efforts, but this is generally the norm for MMOs and it did not distract me from any enjoyment. On PS4, though, it’s fair to say that while it doesn’t really showcase next-gen visuals it still looks very good, especially in comparison to the PS3 version. Everything looks better, from the character models, buildings, landscapes; it all looks beautiful, while magic and attack effects warrant special mention. I’ve never run the game on PC, so while the visuals are sharper and the textures are clearly running at a higher resolution, I’m not sure how much better it can possibly look.

There is a lot going on in Eorzea.

There is a lot going on in Eorzea.

FFXIV also generally runs much faster now. Start-up and travelling between areas happens a lot quicker, while players appear on-screen from farther away making the world seem much more alive. After some cut-scenes, I found myself very surprised by the sheer number of characters on-screen compared to the PS3 version. The beta ran very smoothly overall and I didn’t notice any significant technical issues.

It cannot be understated how much of an improve the Dualshock 4 is over its predecessor and FFXIV is no exception. Attacks and spells are mapped to the face buttons and you get different options depending on which trigger you hold, and the Dualshock 4′s triggers and symmetrical face buttons help to make this very comfortable.

Despite how great the general controls feel, menu and HUD navigation still seems like it was designed primarily for a mouse and keyboard, since at times you are moving a cursor around the screen. On PS3 the cursor was controlled by an analog stick, however on PS4 it’s a bit easier, offering touch control over the cursor. The touchpad also acts as two additional buttons, allowing you to scroll between HUD elements. This is the first game I’ve noticed that identifies the left and right sides of the touchpad as different, clickable buttons. FFXIV does feature full mouse and keyboard support, although I did not test it myself.

You can resize and move practically anything in the HUD.

You can resize and move practically anything in the HUD.

You have many customization options on offer, from adjusting the size and position of elements on the HUD to changing options for the left and right sides of the touchpad. In addition to customizing the button layout on the Dualshock 4, you can also save a separate configuration for the PS Vita. It seems that there may be even more customization options in the future as there is even an option for adjusting the touchscreen on the Vita, although at this point it’s not yet accessible.

Talking of the Vita, perhaps the biggest difference between the PS4 version and the other versions is full Remote Play support. This is also my favorite new feature, because I believe that grinding in a RPG while watching something on TV is precisely what the Vita and Remote Play was designed for.

Once you activate Remote Play, controls are immediately remapped for the Vita and the touchscreen takes over the exact functionality of the touchpad. At this time, the left and right clicks of the touchpad do not work by tapping the touchscreen but like I said previously, it looks like more features will be added to Remote Play moving forward. I did find the default Vita configuration a little strange because the X and O buttons were inverted but I was easily able to change that.

FYI: Phase one of the PS4 beta is running from February 22nd to March 3rd and unfortunately all characters created during this time will be deleted. Phase 2, however, runs from April 4th to April 7th and during this phase you can transfer your characters, old and new, in preparation for when A Realm Reborn launches for real on April 14th.

See you in Eorzea!