Final Fantasy XIV
|Final Fantasy XIV|
Collector's edition cover art
|Developer(s)||Square Enix Business Division 5|
Final Fantasy XIV[b] is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed and published by Square Enix. Directed and produced by Naoki Yoshida, it was released worldwide for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 3 in August 2013, as a replacement for the failed 2010 version of the game, with support for PlayStation 4 and OS X releasing later. Final Fantasy XIV takes place in the fictional land of Eorzea, five years after the events of the original 2010 release. At the conclusion of the original game, the primal dragon Bahamut escapes from its lunar prison to initiate the Seventh Umbral Calamity, an apocalyptic event which destroys much of Eorzea. Through the gods' blessing, the player character escapes the devastation by time traveling five years into the future. As Eorzea recovers and rebuilds, the player must deal with the impending threat of invasion by the Garlean Empire from the north.
The original Final Fantasy XIV, released in September 2010, was a critical and commercial failure. In response, then-Square Enix President Yoichi Wada announced that a new team, led by Yoshida, would take over and attempt to fix the issues with it. This team was responsible for generating content for the original version as well as developing a brand new game which would address all of the previous release's criticisms. This new game, initially dubbed "Version 2.0", features a new game engine, improved server infrastructure, and revamped gameplay, interface, and story. The original version shut down in November 2012 and was followed by an alpha test for Version 2.0.
The game released to largely positive reception; critics praised the game for its solid mechanics and progression, and they commended Yoshida for turning the project around. After a poor 2013 fiscal year, Square Enix executives attributed the company's 2014 return to profitability in part to the game's strong sales and subscriber base, reaching a total of over 20 million registered players by July 2020. The game has had a number of post-release updates produced for it, including four major expansion packs: Heavensward (2015), Stormblood (2017), Shadowbringers (2019), and Endwalker (2021).
Final Fantasy XIV is an MMORPG and features a persistent world in which players can interact with each other and the environment. Players create and customize their characters for use in the game, including name, race, gender, facial features, and starting class. Unlike in the original release, players may only choose to be a Disciple of War or Magic as a starting class—Disciples of the Hand and Land are initially unavailable. Players must also select a game server for characters to exist on. While servers are not explicitly delineated by language, data centers have been placed in the supported regions (i.e., North America, Europe, Japan) to improve the communication latency between the server and the client computer and players are recommended to choose a server in their region. Regardless of server or language, the game features a large library of automatically translated game terms and general phrases which allow players who speak different languages to communicate.
The user interface and game controls are unified across the PC and home console versions. Players have the option of using any combination of a keyboard, mouse, and game controller to play; the former two are achieved on PlayStation 4 via wireless or USB keyboard and mouse. By default, the system is navigated through drag and drop windows on PC. Navigation on the PlayStation version of Final Fantasy XIV is accomplished with a XrossMediaBar-like interface due to PlayStation users' familiarity with the set-up. This bar is used to access all menus, maps, logs, and configuration options. The head-up display for both versions includes a message log, party status menu, mini-map, and action bar. The player may customize the location of all of these elements.
The action bar and battle command input method differs slightly between the PC and home console versions. The PC version supports both point and click and keyboard selection of commands or macros from the action bar. Macro commands are customizable sequences of actions that allow players to execute desired abilities at a specific time. The home console versions instead map the action bar and macros to the "Cross Hotbar"—sets of four icons arranged in a cross shape. These are the grouped and accessed through a combination of the shoulder buttons and the directional pad or the face buttons. Using each shoulder button to cycle through the cross sets, players have quick access to commands. This interface is also available to PC players who use controllers.
Players are able to improve their characters by gaining experience points (EXP)—when a set number of experience points are accumulated, the player's character will "level up" and gain improved statistics which further enhance performance in battle. Four primary sources of experience points in Final Fantasy XIV include completing quests, exploring instanced dungeons, participating in Full Active Time Events (FATE), and slaying monsters which exist in the game world. Quests, including the "main scenario" questline, are generally short, specific tasks given to the player by non-player characters which reward items and EXP. Completing main scenario quests progresses the overarching plot of the game. Guildleves are a type of repeatable quest which may be undertaken using leve allowances. These allowances are limited but regenerate over time. Instanced dungeons are confined locations with specific objectives that must be achieved within a time limit. These dungeons often require multiple players to form a party before entry is granted. Some dungeons are for lower-leveled players to gain EXP quickly while others are for experienced players to collect rare items, equipment, and currency. FATE is a new gameplay mechanic wherein a large number of players may participate in the same event, regardless of party status. These location-specific events include battles with notorious monsters, defending a location from invading forces, culling hostile local wildlife, and assaulting enemy fortresses, among other types. Finally, slaying monsters for EXP is aided by the Hunting Log, which tasks players with defeating specific enemies in exchange for EXP bonuses. Upon reaching the maximum level, character progression shifts to improving "item level" by acquiring new and better equipment. This equipment can be gained through a variety of sources including endgame dungeons, crafting, raids, primal battles, and elite mark hunts.
In addition to these player versus environment (PvE) challenges, three forms of player versus player (PvP) combat exist in Final Fantasy XIV. The first type, the Wolves' Den, is an arena featuring structured four-versus-four battles; a player may register with up to three teammates to challenge another four-person team. The second type, Frontlines, is a large battleground in which players form teams of up to 24 characters. Teams are delineated by players' allegiance to one of three Grand Companies and the team which reaches the target number of points first wins the match. Multiple modes are available, each with differing locations and rulesets. Within the fiction, Frontlines is presented as an organized set of military exercises between the three nations with the ulterior goal of jockeying for dominance of regions rich in magical artifacts. The third type, Rival Wings, is a battle arena mode where players manipulate minion waves and pilot mechs to destroy enemy objectives.
Battles and party system
Players fight enemies using a combination of physical attacks, weapon skills, and magical attacks; these battles form the basis of party play in Final Fantasy XIV. Most battle content in the game requires parties of a specific size, including four players for dungeons and eight players for boss battles. The "Duty Finder" is an automated matching feature that sorts players into parties for selected content across different servers. The "Party Finder" is a bulletin board where players may recruit players across servers for any kind of content including dungeons, raid battles, FATE parties, and more. Members of a party fill traditional MMORPG roles like tank, healer, and damage dealer. Tanks draw the enemy's attention away from other party members who generally have weaker defense, healers use restorative abilities and support the party with damage and enhancing abilities, and damage dealers focus on attacking the enemy. Teamwork and strategy are required to defeat the strongest enemies. "Limit Breaks" are special abilities that can only be performed if members of the party excel at their roles.
Free Companies are player-run guilds, organized bands of adventurers under the auspices of one of the three Grand Companies of Eorzea. Free Company members may gain access to a shared company chest, a private chat channel, and Company Actions which are 24-hour buffs to certain aspects of gameplay, such as increased EXP gain or reduced gear damage. Free Company members may also pool their resources to purchase a house in one of the residential districts. In addition to decorating the house, players may use the grounds to grow unique items through the gardening system, train their chocobo companion, embark on airship expeditions, and purchase a private room for personal use. Linkshells are another form of in-game networking; whereas players may only belong in one Free Company, they may join multiple linkshells which act as private chat channels for interested sub-groups.
Armoury and Job system
Under the Armoury System, a character's equipped weapon determines the character class and players may change their class at will by changing weapons. Classes are divided into four disciplines: Disciples of War, masters of physical combat; Disciples of Magic, practitioners of the magical arts; Disciples of the Hand, crafters and handymen who synthesize and repair items; and Disciples of the Land, gatherers who collect resources from the environment. The Job System builds upon the Armoury System for Disciples of War and Magic. It allows access to powerful skills, magic, weapons, and armor exclusive to the job corresponding to that class. These jobs, many based on classic Final Fantasy character jobs, are more suited to party-based combat.
The virtual economy of Final Fantasy XIV is largely player-driven. The exchange of items is facilitated by retainers—non-playable characters who assist in selling items on the Market Board, gather items through ventures, and provide additional item storage. A small transaction fee for all sales serves as a gold sink to regulate the inflation of prices in the economy. Players of any class may contribute to the supply of the economy: Disciples of the Land acquire raw materials from gathering points throughout the game world; Disciples of the Hand craft the materials into useful items and equipment; and Disciples of War and Magic are able to procure rare materials through completion of dungeons and Treasure Maps. Players are also able to contribute by extracting "materia" from well-used equipment, which can then be used to improve the statistics of other equipment.
The mechanics of crafting and gathering have changed between the original release and A Realm Reborn. Most of these changes are geared toward reducing the randomness and guesswork involved in these processes. For Disciples of the Hand, all recipes of the appropriate level are unlocked by default in the Crafting Log. Crafting abilities have been rebalanced to allow successful high-quality synthesis without requiring multiple mastered Disciplines of the Hand. For Disciples of the Land, players are allowed to select which item they would like to attempt to collect at a gathering point, whereas before, the results of gathering attempts were randomized. The Gathering Log also displays the names and locations of items that can be gathered in the world.
Final Fantasy XIV takes place in the fictional world of Hydaelyn, a planet filled with multiple environments and climates covering three large continents. The region in which the game is set is called Eorzea. The four major city-states in Eorzea feature a wide variety of climates and biomes: the forest nation of Gridania is surrounded by a dense thicket called the Black Shroud; Ul'dah is a sultanate with a predilection for commerce situated in the Thanalan Desert; the thalassocracy of Limsa Lominsa finds its home in La Noscea on the island of Vylbrand; and Ishgard is a theocracy built in the snowy mountains of Coerthas. Eorzea is connected to a larger continent to the northeast which has largely been conquered by the militaristic Garlean Empire. Other political entities include the beastmen tribes who are perennially in conflict with the established nations; Sharlayan, a scholarly city to the northwest; and Ala Mhigo, a city-state which was occupied during the first Garlean invasion twenty years prior to the events of the game. The four major city-states comprising the Eorzean Alliance splintered in the face of this invasion when Ishgard abruptly withdrew, leaving the remaining three allies in name only. This conflict also resulted in the desolation of Mor Dhona, a once-vibrant region in the center of the continent that is now a barren wasteland.
Eorzea's history revolves around a series of Umbral and Astral Eras. Umbral Eras are periods of great calamity—the First Umbral Era marked the end of the age of gods. The guardian deities of Eorzea, known as the Twelve, retreated from direct involvement with mortals during this time. Umbral Eras are followed by periods of enlightenment and cultural growth called Astral Eras. The Third Astral Era was particularly noted for presiding over the Allagan Empire, an ancient civilization whose technology far exceeds the level of the modern age. Each Umbral and Astral Era pair corresponds to one of the six basic elements—wind, lightning, fire, earth, ice, and water. The Sixth Umbral Era was believed to be the last and the civilized races hoped the Sixth Astral Era would last forever. However, five years prior to the start of the game, the Garlean Empire catalyzed a series of events that would lead to the Seventh Umbral Era.
Through their research into the Meteor Project, the Garleans discovered a way to call down the lesser moon Dalamud and use it as a weapon. The plan—spearheaded by the Imperial Legatus Nael van Darnus—was to crash Dalamud into Eorzea, annihilating the beastmen tribes and their primal deities and conquering the smoldering remains. In response to this threat, the three nations of the former Eorzean Alliance reinstated their Grand Companies and reforged their pact. A band of adventurers defeated van Darnus but could not stop Dalamud's continued descent. During a major battle between the Grand Companies and the leaderless Garlean invasion force at the Carteneau Flats in Mor Dhona, Dalamud revealed itself to be an ancient Allagan-made prison for the primal dragon Bahamut, who promptly escaped to initiate the Seventh Umbral Calamity. The Sharlayan scholar Louisoix Leveilleur attempted to recontain Bahamut using the Twelve's power but, failing that, sent a group of adventurers "beyond the reach of time" to reawaken when they were needed again.
The player's character takes on the role of an adventurer in Eorzea under the Seventh Umbral Era who joins one of the three Grand Companies. The Order of the Twin Adder, Gridania's Grand Company, is led by Elder Seedseer Kan-E-Senna, an even-headed child of the forest who is blessed with the power of prophecy. Ul'dah's Immortal Flames are led by Flame General Raubahn Aldynn, a Highlander from Ala Mhigo and bodyguard of reigning sultana Nanamo Ul Namo. Raubahn climbed out of poverty through his martial skill while fighting in the Coliseum. The Maelstrom of Limsa Lominsa is led by Admiral Merlwyb Bloefhiswyn, a cunning former pirate who instituted a harsh conscription service to bring the pirate fleets under her command. Other allies include Minfilia and her Scions of the Seventh Dawn, an organization formed from the union of the Path of the Twelve and Archon Louisoix's Circle of Knowing which were active during the Sixth Astral Era. Members include Thancred, Yda, Papalymo, Urianger, and Y'shtola, the last of whom represents Final Fantasy XIV in crossover games such as Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call and Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. Louisoix's twin grandchildren, Alphinaud and Alisaie, travel from Sharlayan following in his footsteps to attempt to aid the nations of Eorzea. Finally, Cid Garlond is the head of the Garlond Ironworks, a technology company which builds airships and weapons for the Alliance.
Eorzea is threatened by invasion from the forces of the Garlean Empire to the north, first by Legatus Gaius van Baelsar of the XIVth Legion and his lieutenants, Livia sas Junius, Rhitahtyn sas Arvina, and Nero tol Scaeva. The Beastmen tribes also jeopardize the unstable peace in Eorzea with their summoning of primals, aetherial deities who deplete the land of its lifeblood. Both groups are manipulated by the Ascians, an immortal race determined to awaken their deity Zodiark whose revival imperils all of Hydaelyn.
The game opens with a vision of the player's character wielding a weapon of light (based upon their starting class) to strike down a masked man in black robes. The vision is a dream the player has while on a carriage ride to their chosen starting city—Gridania, Ul'dah, or Limsa Lominsa. Players returning from the original release appear in a forest in a pillar of light—Louisoix's final spell to save their lives from the devastation at Carteneau. Through undertaking various odd jobs, the player character ingratiates him or herself with the local Adventurers' Guild and earns comparisons with the fabled Warriors of Light, brave adventurers who participated in the Battle of Carteneau whose identities have been mysteriously erased from the memories of all who knew them. A pattern emerges amid these quests involving a series of attacks by masked men, as well as a member of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn who claims to know the origin of the player's visions. The adventurer meets the leader of this secret society, Minfilia, who reveals that the visions are a manifestation of the Echo and mark the player as a chosen representative of Hydaelyn, the Mothercrystal.
As a newly inducted member of the Scions, the player follows Thancred to Thanalan to investigate abductions and crystal theft along its trade routes. The culprits are members of the Amalj'aa beast tribe who capture the adventurer to be sacrificed to their primal god, Ifrit. The attempt fails as the Echo protects the player from Ifrit's brainwashing. The adventurer counters by defeating Ifrit and is hailed as a hero, with emissaries from all three Grand Companies jockeying for the privilege of recruiting said hero. While attending rallies at each of the three cities to honor the memory of those fallen at Carteneau, the player meets Loiusoix's twin grandchildren Alphinaud and Alisaie whose disagreement over the purpose of such nationalist displays results in the latter parting ways with her brother. The adventurer's next mission is to forge relations with the Sylphs of the Black Shroud, a peaceful beast tribe whose radical sect once summoned Ramuh to defend the forest from Garlean incursion. While searching for the Sylph elder, the player encounters Lahabrea—an immortal Ascian bent on destroying the Mothercrystal. The Scions, Thancred in particular, resolve to investigate this new foe.
The Kobold tribe in La Noscea, angered at the Lominsans' encroachment upon their ancestral territories, gathers crystals to summon their primal, Titan. In response, the player is dispatched to interview former members of the Company of Heroes, a band of mercenaries who previously defeated Titan and Leviathan in the Sixth Astral Era, for advice on how to combat the primal. After a series of lessons disguised as menial tasks, the company's leader reveals how to access Titan's domain: by reversing the current through the beastmen's own teleportation crystals. Though the adventurer banishes Titan to the aether, the victory is short-lived. While away, Garlean Tribunus Livia sas Junius had broken into the Scions' headquarters at the Waking Sands with the aid of the Ascians, abducting Minfilia and slaughtering the rest. While performing funerary rites for fallen comrades, the headstrong Alphinaud returns with news of a new primal Garuda being summoned by the Ixal tribe. He hatches a plan to confront Garuda in her own domain, but requires the aid of the amnesiac airship engineer Cid Garlond, currently toiling as a cemetery hand.
With Alphinaud and Cid, the player travels to snowy Coerthas in search of Cid's lost airship, the Enterprise. By uncovering a heretic plot, the once-untrusting Ishgardians agree to allow the adventurer to raid the Stone Vigil, a fortress overrun by dragons where the Enterprise was last seen. Cid manages to repair the Enterprise and, with the aid of the adventurer's Echo, regains his memories as a Garlean engineer, Eorzean defector, and genius inventor. The Enterprise cuts through Garuda's vortex and the adventurer bests the Ixali primal, though it is for naught. As Kobold and Amalj'aa prisoners of war summon their respective primals and the three prepare to face off, Garlean Legatus Gaius van Baelsar intercedes with the Allagan war-machine Ultima Weapon, which devours the three primals to increase its power.
Returning to the Waking Sands, the heroes discover a few Scions who escaped the attack, as well as the location of Minfilia and their other abducted comrades. Their rescue mission succeeds, but they also learn that Lahabrea had possessed Thancred during his investigation. Minfilia and Alphinaud barge into a meeting between the three Grand Company leaders who were considering surrender and convince them to fight the Garlean invaders. Using the combined forces of all three nations as well as other allied groups, the Eorzean Alliance executes Operation Archon—a massive counteroffensive that aims to assault every Garlean stronghold simultaneously. The player leads a strike team into the Praetorium where the Ultima Weapon is housed. Using Hydaelyn's blessing of light, the adventurer strips the Ultima Weapon of its primal aether and dismantles it. The player then fulfills the vision at the beginning of his or her adventure by striking Thancred free from Lahabrea's possession using a blade of light. With the threat of Garlean invasion lifted, the Grand Company leaders declare the beginning of the Seventh Astral Era. The player's character is hailed as a hero of the same caliber as the Warriors of Light.
Seventh Astral Era
Facing increasing scrutiny and pressure to align with one of the three allied city-states, the Scions relocate their headquarters to Revenant's Toll, a hub for adventurers in the neutral territory of Mor Dhona. No sooner are they settled when word arrives that a renegade moogle faction has summoned their primal Good King Moggle Mog XII, enabled by the Ascians. After besting the giant moogle, the Warrior of Light encounters a white-robed Ascian named Elidibus who tests the player's might before disappearing. Shortly thereafter, refugees arrive from Doma, a nation subjugated by the Garlean Empire, and seek asylum in Ul'dah, where their request is refused. Alphinaud recommends they work as tradesmen in the construction of Revenant's Toll. In gratitude, the Doman leader, Yugiri, accompanies the party to reconnoiter the Sahagin spawning grounds where their primal Leviathan is summoned. The adventurer slays the revived Leviathan using a boatload of corrupted crystals, courtesy of Lominsan warship The Whorleater.
Alphinaud inquires about the cause of riots among Ala Mhigan refugees in Ul'dah and uncovers the agents of Teledji Adeledji, an influential member of Ul'dah's ruling Syndicate. Raubahn speculates that Adeledji is jockeying for control of artifacts discovered at the Carteneau ruins, including remnants of the Allagan superweapon known as Omega. In the Black Shroud, the Sylphs summon Ramuh who judges the Warrior of Light as a worthy savior of the realm, departing amicably. Meanwhile, Alphinaud incorporates the Crystal Braves as neutral police force for Eorzea. Their first task is to investigate the "Ivy", a Garlean spy who has infiltrated the Immortal Flames' leadership. On another front, Ser Aymeric of the Temple Knights of Ishgard reaches out to the Scions and Braves in an unprecedented move to ask for their aid in monitoring the Keeper of the Lake—the wreckage of a Garlean airship intertwined with the corpse of Midgardsormr, the dragon king who repelled the Garlean advance fifteen years previous. In exchange, the Temple Knights agree to safeguard supply shipments to Revenant's Toll which had been harried by the followers of Lady Iceheart, an Ishgardian turncoat.
Varis zos Galvus is crowned Garlean emperor and begins consolidating power, lending new urgency to the search for Ivy. The Braves discover that Ivy is Raubahn's trusted advisor Eline Roaille, who is captured at the gates of a Garlean Castrum. A new Scion, Moenbryda, arrives from Sharlayan and provides critical advice for locating Iceheart. Using her body as a vessel, Iceheart summons Shiva into herself and challenges the Warrior of Light. Though the adventurer's band defeats Shiva, Iceheart escapes, bidding the meddler to consult with Midgardsormr. Based on the player's encounters with Lahabrea and Shiva, Moenbryda hypothesizes that a blade of pure aether can permanently destroy an Ascian while its essence is trapped within white auracite. Lucia of the Temple Knights requests that the Warrior of Light investigate suspicious activity at the Keeper of the Lake where the adventurer discovers that Midgardsormr lives on, slowly regenerating from his apparent death. He divulges that Nidhogg, one of his seven children, has rallied the Dravanian horde to renew their attack on Ishgard. Sensing the hero's connection to Hydaelyn, Midgardsormr invokes an ancient pact with the Mothercrystal and seals away her blessing as a test of the player's worth. The Ascian Nabriales takes advantage of the opportunity to infiltrate the Scions' headquarters in pursuit of Louisoix's staff. Moenbryda sacrifices herself to create the blade of aether necessary to completely destroy the Ascian.
As the Scions mourn their fallen comrade, Aymeric parleys for aid in Ishgard's defense against Nidhogg's forces. Minfilia and Alphinaud reluctantly pledge the Scions' support while the rest of the Alliance decline due to both domestic troubles and remembering Ishgard's reticence during the three Garlean invasions. The adventurer leads a band of volunteers at the Steps of Faith, Ishgard's main bridge. They manage to repel the attack and a victory celebration is held at Ul'dah with the hopes of pressuring Ishgard into the Alliance. At the banquet, Sultana Nanamo privately discloses to the Warrior of Light that she plans to dissolve the monarchy to erode the power of the Syndicate, the source of much of Ul'dah's corruption. However, the sultana's wine is poisoned and Teledji Adeledji bursts in to accuse the player of regicide just as Nanamo takes her last breath. Adeledji brings the adventurer forward to the banquet with his charges and denounces Raubahn for his negligence. Enraged, Raubahn murders Adeledji but Lolorito, another scheming Syndicate member, takes this as proof of Raubahn's guilt and has him arrested. The Crystal Braves are revealed to be in the pay of Lolorito and attempt to apprehend the fleeing Scions who are taken out one by one. Only a humbled Alphinaud and the Warrior of Light manage to escape with the help of Raubahn's son Pipin Tarupin. Cid takes them to Coerthas where the Ishgardians grant them asylum from their Syndicate pursuers.
The original release of Final Fantasy XIV began development under the codename Rapture between late 2004 and early 2005, and was officially announced in 2009. This version was directed by Nobuaki Komoto and produced by Hiromichi Tanaka, who was also serving as the producer of Final Fantasy XI, and employed the Crystal Tools engine, which had previously been used for Final Fantasy XIII. Following a bug-laden, abbreviated beta test period, the game released in September 2010 to near-universal negative reception. After two extensions to the initial free trial period, then-Square Enix President Yoichi Wada issued a formal apology to players and fans in December 2010, and announced a dramatic overhaul in the development team, most prominently the removal of Tanaka from the project and the demotion of Komoto from Director to Lead Designer. Monthly fees for the game were suspended until further notice and the previously planned PlayStation 3 version was canceled. After the change in development team, Naoki Yoshida, who had worked as planning chief of Dragon Quest X, was brought in to supervise the project as both producer and director.
In attempting to improve Final Fantasy XIV, Yoshida quickly discovered a number of key tasks. First and foremost, he had to restore trust in the player base while bringing the game up to a playable quality. To address this, Yoshida began writing "Letters from the Producer" which would discuss design direction, upcoming changes, player feedback, and increase transparency in the development process. However, outdated and cumbersome programming choices in the source code prevented the more radical modifications necessary to enhance the game. Thus, planning for a brand new game built from scratch started in January 2011 and development began in earnest by April, with work on a new game engine and server structure. Meanwhile, the team's efforts to improve the original release first came to fruition with patch 1.18 in July 2011, which included major changes to the battle system, implementation of auto-attack and instanced dungeons, removal of the controversial "fatigue" system, and the introduction of the Grand Company storyline which would supersede the original main scenario questline. Subsequent patches would further refine the gameplay as well as set the stage for the Seventh Umbral Era events.
On the anniversary of the game's release, Wada claimed that the initial launch of Final Fantasy XIV had "greatly damaged" the Final Fantasy brand. Thus, Wada and Yoshida announced the brand new version of Final Fantasy XIV in October 2011, code-named "Version 2.0", which had been in development since January, along with a tentative roadmap for future progress for both PC and PlayStation 3. Current players would be provided copies of the new PC client at launch, free of charge, and their character data and progress would be transferred as well. Along with the roadmap, they announced that monthly fees would be instated in order to offset the cost of redevelopment. Billing for the game began in January 2012. To encourage users to continue playing while paying subscription fees, Yoshida revealed the "Legacy Campaign" which rewarded players who paid for at least three months of service with permanently reduced monthly payments, an exclusive in-game chocobo mount, and their names featured in the credits of Version 2.0.
At Electronic Entertainment Expo 2012, Square Enix debuted "Agni's Philosophy", a tech demo for their new Luminous Studio game engine. Though members of the Final Fantasy XIV development team worked on Luminous, Yoshida admitted that both Luminous and Crystal Tools were optimized for offline games and could not handle an online environment with hundreds of on-screen character models. Though Version 2.0 uses a "completely different engine", he called the Luminous engine and the 2.0 engine "siblings" due to similarities in their structure. In July 2012, Square Enix revealed that Version 2.0's official title would be Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. As development for A Realm Reborn ramped up, Yoshida made the decision to shut down the servers for the original release on November 11, 2012. This date served as the "grand finale" for the old game, culminating in a cinematic trailer for A Realm Reborn called "End of an Era".
In a project postmortem Game Developers Conference 2014, Yoshida reflected on the herculean task of maintaining and updating an MMORPG while simultaneously developing a new one over the course of just two years and eight months. He identified three main reasons why the original launch failed: an over-emphasis on graphical quality, a lack of modern MMORPG expertise in the development team, and a mentality that all problems could be fixed in future patches. These evolved from the team's prior experience on Final Fantasy XI, the previous MMORPG in the Final Fantasy series. As the series has been renowned for its state-of-the-art graphics, the original development team gained an unhealthy obsession with maximizing graphical quality at the expense of server performance, which was unsustainable for an online game with tens of thousands of high definition assets. In designing Final Fantasy XI, the team spent a year playing EverQuest, the most successful MMORPG of the early 2000s. However, they lacked experience with modern games in the genre; the original Final Fantasy XIV team was instructed merely to make something "different from Final Fantasy XI". Yoshida admonished that the team should "go play World of Warcraft for a year [for inspiration]" instead.
A prevailing design philosophy for A Realm Reborn was to simultaneously appeal to hardcore MMORPG players while reaching out to new players and Final Fantasy fans who had never experienced the genre before. As a consequence, Yoshida held optimizing gameplay for controllers as a top priority. To streamline development, he made about 400 fundamental design decisions which eliminated time lost to getting approvals, with a focus on implementing standard features of the genre first. The new workflow pipeline was tested using updates to the original game and applied to development of A Realm Reborn. The continuing operations of the original release provided a valuable testing ground for new features that would be carried into the relaunch. Another focus was to appeal to busy players without a lot of free time, which led to creating the Duty Finder system. The base game and patch cycle were also designed to make it easy for lapsed players to return to. Throughout this process, Yoshida emphasized that communication with players and restoring their trust was key, even admitting that sales were secondary compared to redeeming the reputation of the series. Live streaming conversations between the development team and fans, such as the Letters from the Producer LIVE events, became a major element of Yoshida's player outreach strategy.
Testing and release
The alpha test for A Realm Reborn began shortly after the original release's finale and ended in late December 2012. During this period, Wada admitted that the development of A Realm Reborn was a cause of delay for many Square Enix titles at the time. Yoshida published an updated roadmap for the beta test through launch, indicating four phases of beta beginning in mid-February 2013. He claimed that the team is "adamant the game not be released until it is ready" and that launching too early "would be like at the level of destroying the company". In May 2013, Square Enix announced the release date for the game, along with details about pre-order bonuses and the collector's edition, which includes an art book, a bonus disc with a recap of the original release story, a soundtrack sampler, and several cosmetic in-game items. In June 2013, the company revealed a PlayStation 4 version was in development and due for release in 2014. Early access began on August 24, 2013, with players able to play continuously through to the August 27 launch. Players throughout this period noted continued server issues. Due to an "overwhelmingly positive response", the servers could not handle the number of concurrent players, prompting Square Enix to temporarily suspend digital sales of the game. In light of these issues, Yoshida issued an apology to fans for the game's "rocky" launch and reassured them that fixes were in progress and new servers would be created. A week after launch, the game received a ten-hour maintenance and fresh patches, and all players were compensated with a week of free play time.
A Steam version of the client was released on February 14, 2014. A beta for the PlayStation 4 version of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn debuted on the same day as the Japanese release of the console, February 22, 2014. Owners of the PlayStation 3 client were able upgrade to the digital PlayStation 4 client for free. A free trial of the game first became available for PC on July 31, 2014, with PlayStation 3 and 4 versions following in December. It initially limited prospective players to content under level 35 but this was expanded to level 60 in August 2020, allowing free access to all of A Realm Reborn and Heavensward with no time restrictions. The Chinese version, published and administrated by Shanda Games, premiered on August 29, 2014 featuring content through patch 2.16. It features separate servers from the other language versions of the game and a pay-per-hour micropayment billing system. The Korean version, distributed by Actoz Soft, launched in South Korea on August 14, 2015 with content from patch 2.2. This version carries a flexible subscription model with increments as low as 5 hours, similar to the Chinese release, up to 90 days, much like the traditional monthly payment plan. With the release of later patches, versions and expansion packs, the "A Realm Reborn" subtitle has been dropped, with the remade game being referred to simply as Final Fantasy XIV.. Fans now refer to the story arc encompassing up to the last patch as "2.0" or "A Realm Reborn", to differentiate it from the later expansions.
Coinciding with the launch of the first expansion pack, the macOS client was released on June 23, 2015. The port was handled by TransGaming. On July 3, 2015, Square Enix suspended sales of the Mac version because of widespread reports of poor technical performance and offered refunds to those who purchased it. Yoshida observed that the performance issues could be attributed to difficulties in transposing the game from Microsoft's proprietary DirectX graphical rendering libraries to OpenGL as well as a clerical error resulting in publishing the wrong minimum system requirements, both compounded by the hectic work schedule demanded by the release of an expansion pack. After new rounds of testing and optimization, sales of the Mac version resumed on February 23, 2016. In November 2019, Square Enix announced that an Xbox One version was in development.
Patches and expansions
The development team schedules the release of a major update approximately every three months. Each of these free content patches includes a continuation of the main scenario as well as new raids, features, trials, and dungeons. Minor patches that come in between major updates focus on quality of life changes, and are sometimes used to introduce completely new side content. In addition to regular free updates, the game features full expansion packs that add new zones, races, jobs, and premiere a new content cycle. Since the release of these expansions, the original subtitle of A Realm Reborn has come to refer to the portion of the game available at launch, rather than the entirety of Final Fantasy XIV. Patch 5.3 of the Shadowbringers expansion also modifies and streamlines the A Realm Reborn main scenario questline.
|2.0||A Realm Reborn||August 27, 2013||After the Garlean invasion is routed, a primal's roar interrupts the victory celebrations and the newly minted Warrior of Light is sent to investigate, leading to encounters with more powerful versions of the three previous primals. The Scions discover that the roar originated from a cavern underneath a Garlean Castrum in La Noscea. This complex, dubbed the Binding Coil of Bahamut, was created by a fallen fragment of Dalamud and serves as the most challenging endgame raid. Alphinaud's sister Alisaie accompanies the player through the coil's Allagan defenses to uncover the truth of the Seventh Umbral Calamity. At its nadir, they discover that the roar was issued by Bahamut, who is slowly being regenerated by the coil's internment hulks.|
|2.1||"A Realm Awoken"||December 16, 2013||"A Realm Awoken" was delayed by one month owing to time needed to fix the launch troubles. Major features of this patch include the addition of Free Company housing, the Wolves' Den PvP arena, and the Labyrinth of the Ancients, the first section of the Crystal Tower 24-man raid series. The Crystal Tower, which had been unearthed by seismic activity during the Seventh Umbral Calamity, represents the pinnacle of Allagan technology and hubris. G'raha Tia, a Sharlayan scholar, leads a team of adventurers through the Labyrinth which surrounds the tower itself to discover a way inside. Nero tol Scaeva, who had escaped the fall of the Praetorium, secretly follows them in hopes of stealing the massive power source at the top of the tower.|
|2.2||"Through the Maelstrom"||March 27, 2014||This patch opens the Second Coil of Bahamut raid where Alisaie and the Warrior of Light encounter the shade of Nael van Darnus, who had been slain by the heroes of the Sixth Astral Era at the twilight of the Calamity. Bahamut had ensorcelled him to do his bidding, urging the Meteor Project to fruition in life and to defend the coils in death. Upon van Darnus' defeat, the party discovers that Louisoix has also been tempered by Bahamut and will block future attempts to disable the internment hulks. Other new features of this patch include gardening, the ability to project glamours onto gear, and the Saga of the Zodiac Weapons, a questline to empower the relic weapons.|
|2.3||"Defenders of Eorzea"||July 8, 2014||The main features of this patch are Frontlines, a large scale PvP battlefield with up to 72 players; the Hunt, a server-wide search for Elite Marks—notorious monsters hidden in the open world that yield currency and upgrade materials when defeated; and Syrcus Tower, the next step of the Crystal Tower raid. Two strangers named Doga and Unei offer to open the sealed door to Syrcus Tower. Nero arrives to protest that only Allagan royals may open the gate. They admit that they are clones of Allagan sages who have been charged with stopping Xande, the mad emperor who was revived with the reemerged tower and seeks to sacrifice the world to the Void in pursuit of immortality. The adventuring party defeats Xande but the Cloud of Darkness refuses to nullify his pact, dragging Doga, Unei, and Nero into her domain as the tower continues to widen the Voidgate.|
|2.4||"Dreams of Ice"||October 28, 2014||In this patch, Alphinaud joins Alisaie and the player in the Final Coil of Bahamut raid where they confront Bahamut himself, and his tempered thrall Louisoix. Louisoix reveals that the prayers of the Eorzean people transformed him into the primal Phoenix on the eve of the Calamity. The Phoenix struck a fatal blow on Bahamut's physical body at the cost of his life. Not wanting the people of Eorzea to iconize the Phoenix and use his image for further summoning, Louisoix relinquished his primal power and erased the memories of all witnesses. Bahamut, however, clung to life and drew Louisoix's spirit into himself to be regenerated by the coils. Upon Bahamut's defeat, the Leveilleur twins conclude that the truth of the Calamity must never be revealed for fear of the common people summoning Phoenix as a weapon. The other primary feature of this patch is the debut of the Rogue class and Ninja job.|
|2.5||"Before the Fall"||January 20, 2015
March 31, 2015
|Released in two parts, "Before the Fall" concludes the A Realm Reborn storyline and segues into the Heavensward storyline. The first part features the Odin primal battle and the final Crystal Tower raid. Cid engineers a portal which transports G'raha and the party into the World of Darkness to confront the Cloud directly. Doga and Unei reveal that G'raha is the last surviving descendant of the royal Allagan bloodline and thus has the power to break Xande's pact. They sacrifice themselves to allow the party, including Nero, to escape the Void. G'raha, with his newfound ability to control the Crystal Tower, resolves to seal himself inside until mankind can be trusted with its power. Frontlines features a new mode called Slaughter whose objective is defeating other players. A patch between the two parts introduced the Manderville Gold Saucer, a theme park area devoted to the card game Triple Triad, Chocobo racing, and other minigames. The second part consists of quests that conclude the story.|
|3.0||Heavensward||June 23, 2015||The game's first expansion pack, Heavensward, contains content comparable to the amount found in the base game. The main features are an increase of the level cap to 60, the introduction of new zones with flying gameplay, and three new job classes—Dark Knight, Astrologian, and Machinist. The story picks up with the player entering Ishgard, which had previously been closed to outsiders, and getting involved in the Dragonsong War, a thousand-year conflict between Ishgard and Nidhogg's horde of dragons. The expansion also includes a range of new dungeons and raids, as well as new PvP modes and another playable race. This release coincides with the launch of a native OS X client.|
|4.0||Stormblood||June 20, 2017||The game's second expansion pack, Stormblood, focuses on liberating the city states of Ala Mhigo and Doma from the Garlean empire. Features include an increase of the level cap to 70, new dungeons and raids (including one raid set based on the Ivalice universe), new zones featuring swimming and diving gameplay, changes to the battle system, and three new jobs: Red Mage, Samurai, and Blue Mage. The expansion experimented with gameplay emulating multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs), open world games, and high-end "Ultimate" difficulty raids. The release of Stormblood marks the end of PlayStation 3 support for Final Fantasy XIV.|
|5.0||Shadowbringers||July 2, 2019||The game's third expansion pack, Shadowbringers, takes players to a new dimension, the First, which is a reflection of the Source, the player's home dimension. Here, players are tasked with restoring darkness to a world drowning in Light as they adopt the mantle of Warrior of Darkness. Features include a new level cap of 80, new dungeons and raids (including one themed around NieR: Automata), new zones, two new jobs—Gunbreaker and Dancer, and changes to the battle system. This expansion debuts two new playable races: Viera, as seen in Ivalice games, and Hrothgar, which are based on Ronso from Final Fantasy X. To facilitate graphical enhancements, active support for 32-bit Windows operating systems and DirectX 9 rendering libraries ended with Shadowbringers.|
|6.0||Endwalker||Fall 2021||The fourth expansion pack was delayed from its traditional summer release window to Fall 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the conclusion to the Hydaelyn–Zodiark arc of the story. Players travel to the Near Eastern nation of Radz-at-Han and take the fight into the heart of the Garlean Empire. It features two new jobs including Sage, a healer that wields magical aether foci called nouliths.|
Masayoshi Soken composed the majority of the game's score—over 100 tracks—in addition to his duties as sound director. The remaining tracks were reused pieces from the original game's soundtrack which was principally composed by Nobuo Uematsu, with assistance from Soken, Tsuyoshi Sekito, and Naoshi Mizuta. Yoshida directed Soken to "give us something straightforward that anyone could identify as Final Fantasy, with an easy-to-understand, expressive orchestral sound". Because of the abbreviated development schedule, Soken focused primarily on creating the soundtrack while his team worked on the various sound effects for the game world. The team was given less than a year on sound production, though according to Soken, it felt like "enough work for two full games in that time". Most of the tracks had specific guidelines or came from the development team's requests, though Soken was allowed to "do what [he liked]" for Titan's battle theme, although the initial lyrics had to be changed for having too much profanity. Soken sang the vocal work for some tracks, such as the battle theme for Leviathan. Soken also arranged pieces from earlier Final Fantasy games for use in special in-game events.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Original Soundtrack is a collection of music from the game including both the launch and tracks from Patch 2.1, "A Realm Awoken". It was released on March 21, 2014 on Blu-ray Disc and features 119 tracks with accompanying gameplay videos. The first print run came with a special "Wind-up Bahamut" in-game pet. Emily McMillan of Video Game Music Online called the soundtrack a "truly fantastic score", and said that it was superior to the music of the original version of the game. She felt that it was an excellent merging of the traditional Final Fantasy musical style with a modern orchestral score. Mike Salbato of RPGFan also praised the album, saying that it was his favorite album of 2014 and that he "can't recommend A Realm Reborn's soundtrack highly enough". Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Original Soundtrack debuted at position #10 on the Japanese Oricon album charts for its release week and remained in the charts for eight weeks.
In addition to album feedback, critics of the game praised the score in their reviews. Kotaku's Mike Fahey stated that the music was "wonderful, complex and satisfying". He often paused to remove the ambient and interface sound effects so as to hear it better. GamesRadar's Adam Harshberger called it "a standout even amongst Final Fantasy's storied heritage" and Digital Spy's Mark Langshaw called it "a sonic feast ... that pays appropriate homage to the long-running RPG series". The soundtrack won Video Game Music Online's 2013 Annual Game Music Awards in the Eastern category. In 2017, Guinness World Records awarded Final Fantasy XIV for having the most original pieces of music in a video game at nearly 400.
In contrast to the original version, Final Fantasy XIV has earned a generally positive reception and robust sales numbers. Prior to release, both the games press and fans were surprised by its quality and level of polish. IGN's Charles Onyett cited many specific improvements over aspects of the initial game and recognized that "it seems like Square's doing the right things to fix the many mistakes made with Final Fantasy XIV's original design". Following an impressive showing at Gamescom 2012, it won Destructoid's Gamescom Community Choice Award. The editorial staff observed "the considerable changes made to the engine, HUD and combat system, transforming it into a far cry from the game that disappointed so many". However, GameSpot's Jonathan Toyad was less confident about the game, praising the changes but commenting that many features would seem overly familiar to players of modern MMORPGs.
The overwhelming sentiment expressed by multiple reviewers was that the remade game executed admirably on traditional MMORPG features and succeeded at addressing the failures of the original version. For Kevin VanOrd of GameSpot, this steadfast implementation of genre fundamentals was his greatest criticism—that "it does not leap over the shoulders of the games that have come before". However, he was quick to praise the quality of the game's writing, a feature highlighted by a number of other critics. USgamer's Pete Davison was particularly enamored with the story and commended the responsiveness of non-player characters to the player's actions as an effective method of worldbuilding. Many reviewers enjoyed the ability to play as multiple classes on a single character, a feature retained from the original release. Davison remarked that the differing mechanics of each class made them feel unique in their gameplay styles. Daniel Tack of Forbes.com singled out the crafting minigame as "one of the most interesting and compelling" aspects of the game.
The console versions of the game were noted for their robust feature set which put them on the same level as the PC release. Phil Kollar of Polygon lauded its implementation of controller play, calling it "Final Fantasy XIV's single biggest gift to the [MMORPG] genre". While the PlayStation 3 version suffered from minor framerate and loading time issues as well as reduced graphical fidelity, reviewers observed that all of these problems were eliminated in the PlayStation 4 version, creating parity with the PC release. Kollar and Leif Johnson of IGN also found that the game played admirably on PlayStation Vita via Remote Play with only minor lag.
Overall, critics were satisfied with A Realm Reborn's incremental improvements. Adam Harshberger of GamesRadar compared it to a "buffet dinner [with] everyone's favorite meal", forgiving the lack of innovation. VanOrd likened the game to the "old world" of MMORPGs, safe and familiar. Johnson and Davison both saw the new version as a solid foundation for future content to be added in patches and expansions. For Kollar, it was a return to form, "the first Final Fantasy game in years to capture the energy and joy that made me fall in love with the series". Motoki Shinohara of Famitsu concluded that "I'm really glad that I'm back home in Eorzea".
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn rated well among many "Game of the Year" lists in the enthusiast press. It was named Best MMO of the year by Game Informer, ZAM, and Joystiq's Massively. AbleGamers honored it as the most accessible mainstream game of the year for 2013. RPGFan named it not only the best MMO of 2013, but also Game of the Year. Players awarded the game Reader's Choice at both ZAM and Game Informer. At industry award shows, A Realm Reborn earned the Special Award at the 2013 PlayStation Awards and the Award for Excellence at the CESA's 2014 Japan Game Awards.
Stormblood won the award for "Best MMO" at Game Informer's Best of 2017 Awards, while it came in second place for the same category in their Reader's Choice Best of 2017 awards. The game was also nominated for the "Still Playing" award at the 2017 and 2018 Golden Joystick Awards, and for "Best Expansion" at PC Gamer's 2017 Game of the Year Awards. The game itself was also nominated for "Best Ongoing Game" at the 2019 Game Critics Awards, and for the same category along with "Best Community Support" and "Best RPG" at The Game Awards 2019.
Shadowbringers was nominated for "Best Game Expansion" and "PlayStation Game of the Year" at the 2019 Golden Joystick Awards; for "Role-Playing Game of the Year" at the 23rd Annual D.I.C.E. Awards; and for "Evolving Game" at the 16th British Academy Games Awards, and won the award for "Excellence in Multiplayer" at the 2020 SXSW Gaming Awards, as well as the award for "Best Online Game" at the Famitsu Game Awards 2019.
Sales and subscriptions
By the end of the first week of release, the PlayStation 3 version of the game placed second in Japan's sales charts, with 184,000 physical copies sold. In late October 2013, Square Enix announced that the game had one and a half million registrations. It was the 16th best selling PC game of 2013 in the United States. In Japan, the PlayStation 3 version was ranked 32 in sales, with 244,574 retail copies sold. Following an extremely poor fiscal year 2013, Square Enix executives commended the game's sales and subscriptions for their role in returning the company to profitability in 2014. Yoshida has repeatedly emphasized that the robust success of A Realm Reborn was due to its traditional monthly subscription model. He sees the free-to-play model as an unreliable source of income predicated on devoting a lot of development resources to monthly consumable or cosmetic items in order to maintain profitability, leaving little time for higher quality story and battle content. He also disclosed that over 80% of players are satisfied with the subscription model and theorized that this is due to players' confidence in a steady stream of quality content because of their subscription. With the traditional model, the player base grows over time as people see the game expand, unlike a free-to-play game which can boast a huge initial player base which changes dramatically in size and revenue from month to month. Yoshida has no plans to change to a free-to-play model in the near future. The game had over 14 million registered players by August 2018, which had increased to more than 20 million by July 2020.
- Until June 2017
- Initially subtitled Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (ファイナルファンタジーXIV: 新生エオルゼア, Fainaru Fantajī Fōtīn: Shinsei Eoruzea, lit. Final Fantasy XIV: Reborn Eorzea), the game as a whole is now simply called Final Fantasy XIV.
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