A breath of fresh air in the MMO scene, or rather, a reminder of what it was that made MMOs popular in the first place.
What makes FFXIV:ARR so good, is not what it does have, but rather what it doesn't.
Ever since World of Warcraft became such a large player in the MMORPG scene, competitors have risen which attempt to dethrone it with new and "exciting" mechanics, but in doing so forget what an MMO even is.
FFXIV:ARR learns from the mistakes of others and sticks to the known strengths of the genre. The holy trinity of Tank/DPS/Healer, Strong and challenging end-game content, deep storyline and world lore, an abundance of content to sink your time into along with major content patches every 2 and a half months.
It should be noted, that major content patches in FFXIV:ARR usually contain the same amount of content an expansion for WoW would contain at launch.
Yes, the game has a subscription model, but given the spetacular failures of numerous F2P and Cash Shop MMOs that have popped up over the years, combined with how this money is funneled into frequent and high quality updates to the game, is this really a bad thing? Honestly, it's well worth the money.
However FFXIV:ARR doesn't just stick to old core values, it does so while breating new life into them that don't undermine their integrity. The holy trinity of MMOs is refered to as holy for a reason, to mess with it is to dance with certain doom. FFXIV:ARR conquers this perplexing problem regarding the need for re-interpretation without becoming gimmicky by altering the way experience works in the game.
In traditional MMOs, you make a character, you select your class and you start getting experience points. As you gain experience, your character levels up thus expanding your capabilities with your selected class, until you hit max level then you move to end-game content.
XIV:ARR does away with character experience, instead replacing it with class experience. You have an active class, determined by the weapon you are wielding and any experience gained will go into the experience pool for your active class. You don't level your charcter, you level your class. For example, I'm currently a level 50 conjurer, specialising in the advanced healing class "White Mage" and I am also at the same time a level 18 Thauterage, the predecessor to the DPS class "Black Mage".
This doesn't make me some weird DPS/Healer hybrid, I can only be one at any one time. If I have a WHM weapon equipped, I'm a WHM and I have access to all the abilities of a WHM of my level and can equip gear for my class. I do not however have access to abilities for classes I have also leveled (except certain cross-class abilities which are sort of how this game does talents) nor can I equip gear meant for a Black mage while I have my white mage active. At the same time, when I switch to my black mage, it is as if I am a fresh character still leveling and only at level 18, the fact I have a class at max level does not affect my game play at all.
This is great since it allows for alts without having to give up your character, your identity, your friends, your guild etc, you have it all in one place, without ever undermining the holy trinity.
FFXIV:ARR shows that it's possible to approach MMORPGs with a "Don't fix what isn't broken" philosophy without simply remaking yet another WoW.
On a final note? I pre-ordered the imperial edition for The Elder Scrolls Online, that set me back $75 USD, I did that before I started playing this and you know what? I've decided to just swallow that purchase and play this instead.
It's THAT good.
Saying all that however, the game is certainly not without it's faults.
FFXIV:ARR is a remake of the 2010 game FFXIV, which frankly? Was absolutely terrible.
The original game suffered from poor UI, poor world design, a dull and slow (Even by MMO standards) storyline and terrible optimisation leading to significant technical issues.
There is only so much you can do with this and this shows when we look at the current game world.
The current world is made up mainly of what was the original open game world which has had the massive bloat cut from it, the areas worth keeping turned into zones which are seperated by zone transitions.
These aren't instanced, which is good, but still it does break immersion a bit.
Thankfully, this isn't likely to be an endearing issue as developers have acknowledged the size of the world which though acceptable, could use a bit more to it and have said that we will be seeing significant increases to the world's size in major expansions (the first of which is expected in the second or third quarter of 2014).
There are also some key class types which are noticably absent from the game, for example the stealthy ambusher, (thief, rogue, ninja etc), however once again the developers have acknowledged this issue and said plans are in place to bring in new classes in future patches and expansions.
Typically, I would count this as a major negative when forming my opinion on a game but I have been very impressed with how reliable Square-Enix are for following through on promises and fixing or introducing things where needed.
So I'm willing to take their "We are aware of this and we have plans in motion to meet these requests" in good faith, something I am VERY hesitant to extend to many if not most game developers these days.
FFXIV:ARR is the equivilent of a miracle in gaming. Not only rescuing a title otherwise doomed to ridicule, but improving it to such an extent that it deserves a place in the genre's historybooks on account of it's merits.
It has it's issues sure, but nothing that comes close to being considered a major con against it's abundance of pros.
I highly recommend buying this game, or at the very least, putting it onto a watch list and keeping a very close eye on it over the next few months to see just how well it is cared for for yourself.
I'll give this an 8/10 :V
TL;DR - This be some seriously good ♥♥♥♥, but it has some things that need attention. Buy it or keep an eye on it!