Final Fantasy XIV has certainly come a bit into its own the past several months, having seen its global release this past August on both PC and PS3 to a resounding success that caught even Square Enix by surprise. Two years and nine months since the announcement of “A Realm Reborn” the game has transformed into the largest title in the history of Japan – and it’s about to get even bigger.
Set for launch on PlayStation 4 in just a couple short months, we had a chance to see the latest version of Final Fantasy XIV running on Sony’s new generation platform at a private media event earlier today. Producer/Director Naoki Yoshida once again took us through the paces – describing the game as one that carries the best quality graphics, an appealing story and a compelling gameplay experience.
But just how successful has FFXIV been since launch? The total player base has topped 1.8 million around the world, according to Yoshida. 6.71 characters have been created and the equivalent of 1.57 million years of game time has been cleared. As a result, the team will continue to innovate across all current platforms – PC, PS3 and soon PS4. More languages and regions – including China, Russia, South Korea and the Middle East – are expected to enter service and frequent updates will ensure the game “never gets old” even years down the line.
The PlayStation 4 version of the game is scheduled to launch in nearly two months time on April 14th – date that holds a lot of meaning for Yoshida as 2014 marks “the year of XIV.” As previously announced, the PS4 version will launch at a base price of $39.99 with a Collector’s Edition available for $79.99. Pre-order bonuses include early access – which begins from April 11th through the 13th – as well as a mog cap and Cait Sith minion for your in-game character. The PS4 Collector’s Edition will introduce all of the items from the PC and PS3 versions as well as a Wind-up Moogle minion and Fat Chocobo mount. The Moogle minion in particular will begin to dance when in proximity to another player’s minion.
Unlike the original beta test for the game, anyone with a PS4 will be able to participate in A Realm Reborn. Starting from February 22nd, phase one will run through March 3rd and require players to create a new character that will be wiped following the conclusion of the test. Phase two will begin on April 4th and will last a few short days through April 7th and marks the point where current users can transfer their character data from the PC/PS3 versions to be used in the final release. All of these days are of course tentative, but barring any issues the game is still scheduled to launch in full on April 14th.
PS3 users looking for a graphical upgrade will be happy to know that the PS4 version has been fully optimized for the platform based on the PC version. According to Yoshida, the game runs at a variable framerate with 30fps as the target. This means that it is essentially unlocked with fps fluctuating above 30fps depending on the situation. As a trade-off, the team is pushing for high quality while displaying a high number of characters on screen at once while maintaining a 1080p resolution and high detail.
As with most PS4 games, FFXIV will take advantage of the PS4’s remote play functionality, offering off-screen play through the PS Vita. All content can be played seamlessly with no restrictions and the user interface can be customized appropriately. Starting from the first phase of the beta, players can make use of the PS4’s Share services including livestreaming and screenshots with no restrictions in place.
Our hands-on time with the game was decidedly brief but initial impressions are quite positive. Square Enix gave us a glimpse of the game – running in real time on a PS4 – already on the upcoming patch 2.16, which will include adjustments to some of the world’s content. At first glance the PS4 version isn’t too different from the PS3 version in terms of overall design but its the visuals that provide the most striking differences. Based on our observations, the game runs quite smooth, although it still feels like textures are a slight downgrade from the current PC version running on maximum settings.
Keyboard and mouse functionality are an option in addition to the normal DualShock play and feels fluid. As someone who plays primarily on PC, the experience is largely the same. For those who wish to stick to a traditional controller, however, the Cross Hot Bar remains relatively the same from the PS3 version. The main difference here is you can use the DS4’s touch pad in place of mouse control to click certain things on screen.
Remote play allowed us to test the game on a smaller screen and for the most part, the interface becomes crammed in such a compact area. Because the Vita lacks the same amount of buttons as a normal controller, R2 and L2 are automatically mapped to the Vita’s L and R buttons with R1 and L1 commands placed on the back portion of the handheld’s touch pad. In an ideal situation, remote play seems best suited for casual activities such as crafting or gathering while completing end-game content is not impossible, but adds another layer of difficulty to the equation.
Whether you’re a current player of Final Fantasy XIV or looking to dig into the world of Eorzea for the first time, the PlayStation 4 looks to be by far the best way to play the game going forward for those unable to plunk down on a high-end PC.