Category Archives: Video Game

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Review

Last November, the original Final Fantasy XIV went out with a bang. Soon after the game’s second anniversary, the adventurers of Eorzea met their fate in one last fight against the malignant Garlean Empire. Neither side was destined for victory however. Unwittingly, the Empire called forth the Dragon King, Bahamut, whose immense, uncontrollable power left the entire realm in flame and ruin.

However, where most apocalyptic events signal the end for an MMORPG’s lifespan, for Final Fantasy XIV it heralded a new beginning.

Truth be told, Square’s second foray into the world of massively mulitplayer gaming was a bumpy ride from start to finish. 2010 saw an unprecedented rise in the number of free-to-play MMO alternatives and, on the other end of the spectrum, World of Warcraft still monopolised the subscription market. Competition was at an all-time high and, with Final Fantasy XI being almost a decade old, fans were eagerly anticipating yet another instalment in on the industry’s most iconic franchises.

Put simply, Final Fantasy XIV failed to deliver. A number of its mechanics and systems simply didn’t gel and the whole thing came across as rushed and uninspiring. In a matter of months it slipped straight off the radar despite years of anticipation.

However, Square Enix wasn’t about to give up. A year after the game’s launch, it announced Final Fantasy XIV 2.0, which would later become known as “A Realm Reborn”. Looking to eradicate the game’s troubled past, Square -as previously mentioned- obliterated version 1.0 during a final in-game event ironically dubbed the “Calamity”.

XIV’s transition to the PlayStation 3 works remarkably well.

Almost three years after the game’s original, ill-fated launch, Final Fantasy XIV has finally risen from the ashes. Though far from perfect, A Realm Reborn is one of the most refined and in-depth MMOs in circulation and a true testament to Square’s dedication.

Still set in Eorzea, A Realm Reborn charts the journey of new adventurers as they look to rebuild their fallen realm and push back the Garlean Empire. It features five playable races which can pursue any of the eight available classes, including Archer, Marauder, Lancer, Conjurer, and more.

This latter choice will determine which of the three city-states your character will operate from, at least to begin with. By completing a combination of story-driven quests and side tasks, you’ll be able to roam Eorzea at your leisure and partake in conventional MMO tropes such as dungeon crawls, and crafting.

Each class operates in a similar way but, through learning new abilities, divisions start to materialise. Conjurers and Scholars, for instance, will prefer to strike from afar whilst constantly topping up their health and wards. Marauders and Gladiators, on the other hand, will beef up their health and armour whilst developing skills used to attract an enemy’s attention. These distinctions become increasingly evident as you move towards group-based encounters which start at level 15.

No matter which of the game’s disciplines you decide to follow, gameplay remains largely the same. On PlayStation 3, A Realm Reborn handles fairly similarly to your regular third person action title when navigating the in-game world. However, targeting and using abilities is a bit more complex yet manages to channel the PC version’s precision and the overall feeling of a traditional MMO.

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This is done mainly through hotbars. Divided into sixteen slots, here you can assign abilities, menu short-cuts, items, and emotes to the DualShock’s face buttons and digital pad. To use an action on the hotbar, you will either need to hold down L2 or R2 and press the corresponding button. It feels strange at first, especially whilst having to juggle targeting and movement, but soon feels natural and fluid.

Quests, as in any MMO, are you main source of currency and experience. In A Realm Reborn they still follow conventional templates such as “go here, talk to this NPC,” or “kill X amount of these enemies” but such tropes are unavoidable in a genre that has stuck to its core tenants for well over a decade.


Aside from quests and FATEs, the Hunting Log provides a nice diversion with some major XP pay-outs.

Final Fantasy XIV tries to spice things up a bit, however. One of version 2.0s biggest new features is the inclusion of FATEs. These are self-contained, on-the-fly missions that appear from time to time and can be tackled by anyone within the nearby vicinity. FATEs include tackling huge boss monsters, escorting NPCs, gathering, and other objectives, each public quest offering a true sense of co-operation and fairly big pay-outs too.

Another fresh approach is the way Square Enix handles crafting and gathering. In most MMOs these are secondary skills which can be trained by visiting certain locations of occasionally activating nodes such as ore deposits or herb bushes. However, in a Realm Reborn these professions are treated as fully-fledged classes; this means that if you don’t fancy combat or questing you could quite easily play the game as a Miner, Botanist, Leather-worker, or Carpenter.

It’s an interesting premise and one that highlights a growing trend in MMOs, yet has plenty of shortcomings. In becoming a “Disciple” of the “Land” or “Hand” you essentially confine yourself to a very limited, tedious gameplay experience. Where crafting in games such as WoW and Guild Wars 2 is a semi-automatic process, Final Fantasy XIV tries to make it more interactive with the use of abilities and success rates. It may succeed in offering a fresh dynamic but there’s simply no enjoyment in running between mining hotspots or sitting in forge for hours on end (which is needed if you want to benefit from the game’s crafting system).

Luckily, you don’t have to commit yourself to a specific job or profession. As soon as you hit level 10 you’re free to take up as many other classes as you which. Some of the game’s more advanced jobs, including Warrior, White Mage, and Dragoon, even require dabbling in two separate professions.

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However, in switching to a new class, you’ll have to start at level one and work your way back up which is hard, especially if you happen to have completed many of the early game quests: a crucial source of experience for beginners.

The switch from Final Fantasy XIV to 2.0 didn’t just introduce refined mechanics and a succinct console port, the visuals also received a noticeable makeover, though the change will be more evident for PC users. Still, the PlayStation 3 version looks stunning. Sure, in densely populated areas, it will begin to stutter yet the level of detail is fantastic and the art direction peerless. Eorzea plays host to many a landmark, most of which will have you stopping in your tracks to behold their beauty. Furthermore the game is supported by a magnificent soundtrack which occasionally reaches into the Final Fantasy annals for inspiration.

What’s Good:

  • Stunning art direction.
  • One of the deepest MMOs in circulation.
  • Expansive class/job system.
  • Handles well on PlayStation 3.
  • Carries the series’ well-known charm.
  • Refined mechanics and new additions such as FATEs.

What’s Bad:

  • Stutters from time to time.
  • Can prove overwhelming.
  • Crafting/gathering simply isn’t fun.
  • Story-driven segments feel drawn out in places.

A Realm Reborn is a pure product of Square’s admirable determination and passion. It’s not ground-breaking in any shape or form yet introduces enough new and refined ideas to warrant attention. Not only that, it manages to replicate that classic MMO feel on consoles, something which seemed like an impossibility not that long ago.

It must be said, however, that Final Fantasy XIV isn’t the most accessible game on the market. Even veterans of the genre will struggle through some of its more laborious systems and processes, though there’s nothing a quick glance at a wiki or video guide cannot solve.

However, once over these barriers, there’s an enriching, if sometimes inconsistent, experience awaiting and one that has that definitive Final Fantasy charm.

We’ve chosen not to score A Realm Reborn due to the incredible amount of content on show. After it releases on PS4 next year, and once we’ve spent a long time playing the game, we’ll be better suited to assigning a number, so stay tuned.

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Fable Legends to have 5-10 year lifespan

Lionhead Studios expects its recently announced online-focused Fable Legends to have a lifespan of 5-10 years on Xbox One, according to new studio boss John Needham.

“We’re playing the long game with this,” Needham told GamesIndustry International.

To achieve the lifespan Needham hopes for Fable Legends, the game will make use of the Xbox One’s suite of features and services, including the cloud, he said.

“This is the next big Fable game that is going to be out for five to ten years so it needs to be big, it needs to be interesting,” Needham said. “There needs to be a lot of stuff to do, it needs to integrate all the cloud and Xbox One features so we keep our community alive and growing. So yeah, it’s big and ambitious, but it needs to be because it’s going to be around a long time.”

Just because Lionhead Studios will be working on Fable Legends for the next 5-10 years does not mean the company won’t also spend time on non-Fable projects during that time. Needham said though the company is focused on Fable Anniversary and Fable Legends right now, the studio also has an incubation group to brainstorm new ideas.

In addition, the company’s third annual Creative Day will be held next week, where employees can present game ideas, services, features, or art projects they are working on. Needham said this event is “great fun” and has in the past led to ideas that have been used in full products.

Lionhead Studios today delayed Fable Anniversary for Xbox 360 until February 2014, while Fable Legends does not have a release date. A beta for the game will begin next year. For more on Fable Legends,

 

Assassin’s Creed 4 DLC Will Feature a Pirate Named Adewale

The discovery of the Season Pass for Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag has outed the existence of yet another Assassin aside from the game’s protagonist Edward Kenway and Aveline, who features heavily in three bonus missions exclusive to the PlayStation 3. Aveline is the main character of Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation for the PS Vita.

The new character, named Adewale, is Edward Kenway’s first mate, and his existence was revealed through the DLC Season Pass for the game on Best Buy, as discovered by AllGamesBeta (via GameRanx). According to the retailer, players will take on the role of Adewale in a series of DLC missions and be treated to an alternate perspective with a deeper look at the events that made up the Golden Age of Pirates, the period in which the game is set.

The Season Pass carries a price tag of $20 and offers a 50 percent saving on purchasing the content separately. The game itself is slated for an October 29 release on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It’s slated for release a few weeks later on the PC. It is set as a launch title for next-gen platforms.

 

Video Game: Battlefield 4 dev DICE on Commander Mode and the importance of 60fps

Buy the next-generation version of Battlefield 4 and you’ll get the “full Battlefield experience”, developer DICE has told Eurogamer.

The Swedish developer has used the PC version of the game, which as Battlefield 3 players know features huge 64-player battles and, if your computer is up to it, 60 frames per second visuals, as the target for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Battlefield 4, due out later this year.

Battlefield 4 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One includes 64-player battles and 60fps visuals, unlike the console versions of Battlefield 3 and the current-gen versions of Battlefield 4.

Battlefield executive producer Patrick Bach said getting the next-gen versions of Battlefield 4 to 60fps was a priority for the development team because it wanted to recreate the PC experience in the living room.

“We have a very complicated game with a lot of moving parts,” Bach said. “We had to decide, yes, we will do this in 60fps. Everything else is secondary. We know the game is great when you have 64 players and destruction, and if we could get what we had on PC for a long time in your living room with a pad, wouldn’t that be amazing? That’s what we’re aiming for.”

The extra horsepower of the next-gen consoles has allowed DICE to up the player count to 64 for multiplayer, matching the PC version. Current-gen players, however, are stuck with 24.

“They [next-gen console players] will experience another level of chaos they haven’t seen before,” Bach said. “12 versus 12, you can keep track of quite a few people, but only so many. When you get to 32 versus 32, that’s when it becomes hard to keep track of the other team, when it feels like there are more things going on than just around me and what I can control.

“That’s the experience we always wanted to get to with the consoles without sacrificing the other core pillars of the franchise.”

64-player multiplayer and 60fps means next-gen console players are “getting the full Battlefield experience”, Bach said.

“It lies in the title: Battlefield. You want it to feel like a proper war and that the things that are happening on the map, even though you’re not a part of the battle, you can see the battle going on and you can choose to go to this other fight than the fight I’m just in. When you have 32 versus 32, that’s when that starts to happen for real.”

“Commander Mode was slightly flawed in Battlefield 2. We’ve been working on it for some time figuring that out, and I think we’ve got it.”

Meanwhile, Commander Mode, last seen in Battlefield 2142 and, before that, Battlefield 2, returns for Battlefield 4.

Commander Mode, which displays a tactical, top-down view of the battlefield, lets one player per side gather intel, issue vehicle and supply drops and go on the offensive by triggering devastating attacks either from PC, console or a tablet.

Bach said DICE had spent some time trying to work out Commander Mode’s “tricky design”, which, he admitted, was flawed.

“Commander Mode was flawed in Battlefield 2,” Bach said. “A lot of people thought it was fun to play, but they also felt it was this thing they could do on the side, like a jump in, jump out experience. Some people felt it ruined their experience on the ground when they had a bad Commander. So we had to fix those design flaws before we started to implement it. We’ve been working on it for some time figuring that out, and I think we’ve got it.”

The focus of Battlefield 4’s Commander Mode is that Commanders play against each other rather than with their team. Commanders have their own scoring and persistence, and use what Bach describes as “the pieces on the chess board” to win the game. “So, if I’m a good Commander and I help my team to take flags, I will get more toys to play with,” he said.

When Commanders go on the offensive they can trigger the devastating Gunship. “It feels very cool when you see the text on the screen when you’re on the ground and it says, ‘Gunship above’,” Bach enthused.

“When that spawns in you think, ‘okay, I can’t be in the open any more. I need to go under something because I’m very exposed.’ Especially for snipers on the roof – they get very scared when it happens and you see the big shadow over the whole battlefield.

“It’s really cool.”

Available on all versions of the game is the new Spectator Mode, which lets players watch a match in progress.

You can follow any player in third-person or first-person view, see the entire map from a top-down perspective and fly around the world using a free cam. From there you can place five cameras and toggle between them. This, Bach says, gives players virtual TV sets, and on next-gen consoles you can use their in-built recording functions to make movies.

“We see people doing that on YouTube already, but mostly for PC. Now you can do it on console.”

This should also be useful for eSports, Bach continued, because you’ll be better able to scrutinise matches and have referees. “It’s very positive for us.”

 

Facebook’s Instagram video feature seen as challenge to Twitter

https://i1.wp.com/static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2012/4/9/1334001376489/instagram-facebook.jpgFacebook Inc.’s FB +0.41% anticipated rollout of a new video service for Instagram is already getting some upbeat reviews from Wall Street and beyond, with one tech executive calling it a potential threat to Twitter.

Facebook is expected to introduce a feature similar to Twitter Vine service during a media event at the company’s Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters on Thursday.

That prompted S&P analyst Scott Kessler to reiterate a buy rating on the stock, saying in a note, “We see online and mobile video as a significant growth opportunity for FB, and have noted recent strong growth for Twitter’s Vine mobile video app.”

Kessler cited a research report earlier this month which found that for the first time there have been “more Vine shares than Instagram shares via Twitter.”

In fact, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said the expected video service from Facebook “will make Instagram stickier much as Vine has made Twitter stickier. “

“I think it will be a cool feature,” he told MarketWatch. “The Instagram audience is important to Facebook, given the much younger and more female dominated membership, and I think it is important for Facebook to pay attention to this audience and give them something different.”

And that’s because, “with 90 million users,” he added, it’s likely that “video sharing will take off, and will help Facebook’s efforts to monetize Instagram via interstitial advertising.”

That view was echoed by Marc Poirier, co-founder Acquisio, which helps companies manage online marketing campaigns, who also saw the speculated Instagram video feature as a potential challenge to Twitter.

“Here is a real opportunity to monetize Instagram, which becomes an attractive ad medium for brands seeking to engage with audiences,” he said.

“Inserting video ads into the feed would not only draw in more money from brand advertisers, but it would also create a serious challenge to Twitter’s service, Vine,” he added. “Not only is there still no advertising on Vine, but Twitter has yet to truly emerge with an ad platform that marketers take seriously, hence they’re struggling to draw in any real budgets.”

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