It goes without saying that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was one of Square Enix’s highlights of the year at the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo. After the struggles in recent years due to the regrettable failure of the original XIV, Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida has led a brand new team to recreate the world of Eorzea in its rightful glory from the ground up. In less than 2 months, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn will finally reappear to the world, but will it rise to the occasion?
The massive line of eager E3 attendees that queued up within minutes of the expo opening came at no surprise whatsoever. Media tickets gone within seconds and even knowing the fact that there would only be 2 matches an hour didn’t serve as an obstacle. For whatever reasons everyone had, we were determined to face the ferocious Ifrit and claim victory.
The challenge was simple: defeat Ifrit within 10 minutes.
We were first given a basic review of XIV and the details of the Ifrit battle challenge; a “Mission Briefing” if you will. They introduced us to the new Eorzea via the latest trailer and led us through the job classes available to battle as. 2 teams were set to confront the Ifrit at the same time in separate battles, and with 8-man teams, we were able to choose from 7 different classes:
While I’ve dabbled in many a MMO in the past, I’ve never had the opportunity to play either Final Fantasy XI or XIV. Needless to say, I wasn’t quite as prepared as I should have been. Upon entering the demo booth, we quickly glanced around to decide which character we should control. In each team, four characters were assigned to the PS3 and four were assigned to the PC. At our station, the PS3 was assigned to the Gladiator, Lancer, Thaumaturge and one Conjurer, whereas the PC was assigned to the Archer, Pugilist, Marauder and remaining Conjurer.
Although I very much wanted to choose the Archer, I didn’t trust myself with the PC controls and thus decided to go for the Thaumaturge instead. We had a few minutes to run around the sanctuary and familiarize ourselves with the controls, and then we jumped straight into battle. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had a great balance of spells available, specifically some close-range with quick execution. In the past MMOs I’ve played, mages possessed primarily long-range attacks with quite a long casting time. As someone who prefers to just get right up in the enemies’ faces, it was a bit of a turn off.
(Note: The Ifrit in the battle challenge was a watered-down version of the real deal that will be present in the final build.)
Our strategy when the battle started off, as was everyone else’s I’ll wager, was ultimately more “destroy everything in sight” than “have Ifrit focus on the tanks while damage dealers attack and healers, well, heal!” Of course everyone was aware of their assignments, but in the heat of battle things get rather lost in the details. We could hear the staff relaying advice to us which allowed us to reconvene and focus together as a team despite Ifrit’s ferocious rampage, which was exceedingly helpful.
As Ifrit raged onward and summoned molten hot flames from the depths of hell, I found myself able to cast Blizzara left and right while its attention was directed towards one of the tanks. Quite honestly, it came as a bit of a shock that it was even possible, as I expected to be interrupted at some point when my MP depleted. Instead, it remained at a rather healthy status throughout the demo, leaving me without a care in the world in regards to keeping up my barrage. Turns out the team was set to Level 50. But at such a high level with a weakened Ifrit and a success rate of around 50%, it really makes you wonder just how difficult the real thing must be.
Ifrit had several key attacks it would use at specific points in the battle, mainly depending on its health levels. Until it reached 50%, it would stomp around the battlefield shooting bursts of flames from its mouth. These could only travel in the direction it’s facing and had fairly short range, making them less difficult to evade with the right timing. We had a few casualties due to this attack, nothing a Cure from a Conjurer couldn’t fix! It wasn’t until we chipped its health down to the halfway mark where things got a little crazy.
Not only did Ifrit become even more ferocious, but it also summoned an Infernal Fetter. While the Fetter is present, Ifrit will do everything it can to prevent you from destroying it, and if you neglect to do so within the allotted time, the entire team will fall victim to an unavoidable Hellfire, resulting in an instant failure. When that bright yellow spike appeared amidst the blazing red battlefield, we immediately changed direction and rushed towards it with the most powerful attacks available in our arsenal. It seemed like the longest minute of our lives as we desperately launched attack after attack at the Fetter, and although we were doing well initially, it seemed to be too late as Ifrit leaped away and a bright flash engulfed the field, drawing a disappointed groan from the crowd around the booth.
Or not? Once the flames cleared away, we realized we were all still standing, albeit with a significant chunk of health gone. But just because the Fetter was no longer around doesn’t mean we could take things easy. Ifrit, enraged that we had destroyed its secret weapon, called upon the remainder of its strength to decimate the remaining threat. Columns of fire spewed from the ground left and right, leaving little room to maneuver and dodge even with the warning signals. Although Ifrit would never attack where it was standing, sometimes it would move out of the way at the last minute, leaving us to hop around like toads to get out of the blasting zone; running just didn’t seem fast enough at the time!
We reverted back to our post-Fetter strategy with the tanks taking the heat, the healers defending the team and the damage dealers bringing it all down. By this time, the other team had already accomplished their mission and was waiting to see the outcome of our battle. All eyes were on the screen with our little band of heroes, and let me tell you, there is nothing more satisfying than dealing the final blow with everyone’s cheers of support ringing in our ears.
All in all, I felt that this small taste of A Realm Reborn left me desperately wanting more. With Beta Phase 3 already well underway, there’s only a short time left until the game releases. Let’s see just how much the game has changed, and how much it will continue to do so in the days to come.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn releases on August 27, 2013 for PC and PS3, and will be available in 2014 for PS4.
• Cecily Lam is a contributor to Final Fantasy Network and managing editor at Kingdom Hearts Insider.