Final Fantasy XIV Version 1.0, an MMORPG that didn't exactly set the skies ablaze (to put it mildly) saw several improvements made prior to the "End of an Era" events that led up to a scorched Eorzea. Ravaged by the fall of the lesser moon Dalamud and the awakening of the elder primal Bahamut, the three major nation-states were crippled, their heroes during the final battle seemingly lost to time, And then, the world went dark– literally. The game was shut down.
Rare indeed is the bad game that sees improvements at cost to the original developer. While it's perhaps a bit more common in the MMORPG space, few would argue that the incremental improvements instituted to FFXIV 1.0 were enough to fix what was, by the consensus of many, a fundamentally broken game.
Enter Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, an unprecedented complete rebuild of the entire kaboodle. Far from a simple graphical overhaul over the same skeleton, Square Enix has built a brand new game on the ashes of the old one – and what a game it is! Taking pages from many other games in the MMORPG space, as well as from numerous classic Final Fantasy titles, A Realm Reborn is a game that dispenses with many of the time sinks and unfriendliness endemic to the MMO genre, making sure players enjoy the journey to the level cap as much as what comes afterwards. The game is gorgeous, sounds incredible (that soundtrack!), and offers an incredibly friendly and intuitive interface. The class-changing system is developed to such a degree here that it allows players to jump from event to event, swapping jobs as they go, with nary a moment of downtime or needless grinding to be seen. Players appear to be thrilled with the experience, and many of our own editors have spent far more time than we care to admit exploring every inch of Eorzea.
There is a dark side, though: in a change from some of Square Enix's more recent overblown expectations in terms of sales, a catastrophic underestimation of interest in the game has led to pervasive login troubles for the vast majority of the player base. This has made it difficult for buyers of the game to access it; and what's more, character creation on many servers has been temporarily restricted, resulting in many situations where friends are unable to play on the same world. While the development team has been vocal that they are actively working on alleviating these issues, there is still work to be done.
The candor of the game's development team in admitting mistakes and working to resolve them to everyone's satisfaction assures us that these issues should be ironed out in the coming weeks. In light of all that, and given the absolutely unprecedented history of A Realm Reborn, and also just how darn good the game ended up turning out, we felt that it was undoubtedly the most noteworthy release in August, and it is for that reason that it is RPGFan's Game of the Month.
Shortly after this article was written, Square Enix performed extensive maintenance to add several game servers, increase the capacity of existing servers, and reduce stress on the cross-world Duty Finder. Of our five editors playing the game, four have found their connectivity issues eliminated or significantly reduced in the days following the upgrade.