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Final Fantasy, one of the most famous and longest-running JRPG franchises globally, has amassed a legion of fans. You may be one of them. One who can proudly boast of having traversed through the Crystal Tower, watched Celes at the Opera, faced the formidable Weapons in combat, or played Blitzball.
However, whenever someone asks if you played Final Fantasy XIV, you say: “No. I don’t play MMOs.” But before being an MMO, Final Fantasy XIV is, first and foremost the former, a Final Fantasy game.
And dare I say, one of the best in the franchise. (For me, THE best.) With that said, why should you believe in me, right? Besides being just one fan in this myriad of countless, I’m just a regular guy on the internet.
That’s why I hope this Final Fantasy XIV overview can shed some light and introduce you to the magnificent world of Hydaelyn and all the wonders it offers the players. Yes, it’s an online and massive game. You will cross paths with a multitude of other heroes who share the same destiny as you, even if the game mechanic ignores this for the sake of narrative.
And yes, there may be some teeny-tiny grinding involved. But technicalities aside, it’s a journey you won’t regret taking. The experience is enriching if you are a fan of the Final Fantasy saga and recognize countless references to the series throughout your journey.
Final Fantasy XIV Version 1.0
Before diving into what’s known today as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, we must have a heart-to-heart talk about what it was before when the game was first released back in 2010. The 1.0, or legacy version of Final Fantasy XIV, was released bleeding issues.
The game was conceived with Square Enix’s experience from Final Fantasy XI, which holds its own until today. But somehow, they bombed it. For starters, Final Fantasy XIV had a crappy interface that essentially forced players to play on a gamepad.
The engine they used back then, named Crystal Tools, was clearly not intended to use on an MMO. I’m not hardware, software, or anything ware-expert, but even I know that the system requirement they demanded to run Final Fantasy XIV was overkill for the game’s current graphics.
This means that anyone with a mid-core PC back then couldn’t run the game without frames dropping like crazy. I know because I was one of them who didn’t manage to stroll around the city without stuttering at every corner.
Believe it or not, if you played the game for a long time with the same job, they would kind of cap your experience, so you had to wait for the next week to continue leveling up.
Somehow, and thank Naoki Yoshida for using a Phoenix Down, Final Fantasy XIV was reborn. Holding accountability for the game’s faults and deciding to give it a virtual reboot, Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 was shut down in November 2012 and resurfaced as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in August 2013.
But the game didn’t go down quietly. It went down with a boom, a big loud boom caused by the elder dragon Bahamut. Legacy players were invited for the last battle at the Carteneau against the Garlean Empire, and then, a shutdown commenced. A cutscene played at its end, which was incorporated in the A Realm Reborn trailer.
Final Fantasy XIV World Settings
From now on, every aspect of the game I will write takes from the current base version of the game, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
The game is set on Hydaelyn, a fantastical world comprised of five but three significant continents and blessed by the Mothercrystal – a staple in most Final Fantasy – which is said to be the source of all life and light.
Inhabited by many races, beasts, monsters, and godlike creatures that appeared in other Final Fantasy games, XIV is a reference magnet for the franchise.
Gameplay-wise as well. Classes in the game are stemmed from the well-known Jobs of the franchise. Paladins, Ninjas, Dragoons (my favorite!), White, Black, Red Mages, and so on. Items, equipment, abilities, and magic also use the saga’s taxonomy.
Related read: Everything You Need to Know about Magic in Final Fantasy.
Main Story Synopsis
Final Fantasy XIV’s main story now sprawls eight years of narrative. I will stick to the early game to not overburden or fill you with spoilers.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn picks up 5 years after Final Fantasy XIV 1.0. You play as an adventurer and begin the game in one of three city-states determined by your class. After creating your character, you hear the voice of Hydaelyn, the Mothercrystal (yes, it shares the name with the world), and confront a mysterious masked fellow.
You will then do things that an adventurer does: kill innocent monsters, fetch items for lazy NPC, and search for little girls’ pets. After doing an abundance of basic chores, you get the attention of the Scion of the Seventh Dawn.
This nongovernmental organization has Eorzea’s best interests at heart without tying itself to politics or a hidden agenda. They try to recruit you and succeed in doing so; otherwise, the plot wouldn’t progress.
Working directly to amend Eorzea’s issues is where you will unravel the world’s secrets, meet a colorful cast of essential characters, and become the hero you were destined to be.
That’s pretty much scratching nor the surface, but the dirt over the plot’s surface. Final Fantasy XIV story crows a long-running epic that enthralls you. You may have some second-guesses like “MMO’s doesn’t have a good story.” Final Fantasy XIV does. And that’s just one of its unique features.
In MMOs, you generally create a customizable character who’s always messing around with other people’s issues. When creating your character in Final Fantasy XIV, you pick one of five starting races (up to eight if you got expansions). Each race has a unique set of starting attributes, but it’s more a novelty than an advantage. Races divide into two groups, which change their backstory and lore.
The human equivalent and probably the most predominant race in the game. There are two variants of Hyurs, the Midlanders and the Highlanders.
What we know as elves. Proud, tall, slender, with silky hair and pointed ears. Elezens are either Wildwood or Duskwight.
They are the smallest of them all, like dwarves, but not so hunky and hardy. Lalafells are fondly called the potato race of Hydaelyn. They are divided into Plainsfolk and Dunesfolk.
A catlike race with furry ears and a waving tail. Their ear wiggles are pretty cute. Miqo’tes are either Seekers of the Sun or Keepers of the Moon. Pretty words to say you’re a diurnal or nocturnal person.
The biggest ones with muscular builds. Female Roegadyn in-game is as rare as winning a bid on eBay. Their rough appearance often entitles them as barbarians. Roegadyns are separated into Sea Wolves and Hellsguard.
After choosing a race, it’s time to pick a starting class. Your starting class also defines your initial city-state. But don’t fret over it too much. After reaching a milestone in the game, your character can switch to any other class available in a blink and traverse the entire world. It means a single character can max every class/job available.
Each class falls into one of three categories: tank, healer, or damage dealer.
Sword and shield type of class. Gladiators are one of the tanks available early and start in the arid city-state of Ul’dah. The most altruistic tank in the game can aid the party while blocking enemies. After reaching level 30, you can turn into a Paladin.
Marauders carry a massive axe, which seems counterintuitive for a tank. However, with its raw damage and self-healing, it soaks a lot of damage for the party. Marauders start in the port city of Limsa Lominsa. At level 30, you can change jobs into a Warrior.
The only healer available at first for players, the Conjurer is aided by the forest elementals of the city-state of Gridania to support their friends. Though lacking in damage, no party would be left standing without a Conjurer. You can turn into a White Mage after reaching level 30.
The best class of them all! Lancers are a high-burst DPS class that relies on critical damage to decimate opponents. Starting at Gridania, at level 30, Lancers can turn into the glorious, well-groomed Dragoons and crazily jump around like a one-legged kangaroo.
The famous Black Belt from Final Fantasy I, Pugilists use their fists (and a block of concrete attached to them) to deliver a furry of attack into opponents while switching instances. Starting in Ul’dah, Pugilists turn into Monks at level 30.
Archer is the only physical ranged DPS available initially. Starting in Gridania, Archers use abilities that cause damage over time and watch their opponents suffer safely from a distance. After hitting level 30, Archers can turn into the artistic Bard.
A magical damage dealer, Thaumaturge overuse elemental spells of fire, ice, and thunder, to deal colossal damage to enemies. The famous glass cannon of RPGs. In Ul’dah, Thaumaturges can become Black Mages at level 30.
The second magical damage dealer. Arcanists are scholars who borrow strength from their summons to harm enemies or support their allies with healing. The only class in the game that evolves to two jobs: Summoner, a magical ranged DPS, or Scholar, a healer. Both in Limsa Lominsa.
You can’t start as a Rogue. Rogues were added in A Realm Reborn, and you can open them as soon as you hit level 10 and unlock the Armory System. Rogues are unlocked at Limsa Lominsa and use subterfuge and the shadows to deliver fast and precise strikes against enemies. Most Rogue’s skills cause extra damage while attacking a target’s rear. At level 30, they transform into the elusive Ninja.
As Hydaelyn’s champion, you are the champion of the game and a pivotal piece to the plot’s development. As with most narratives, we have multiple side characters that will share the stage. The sheer amount of NPCs deserves an article of its own. However, we have some notable characters, especially the Scions of the Seventh Dawn. Their members will intimately accompany you on your campaign.
Final Fantasy XIV Gameplay
If you have ever played an MMO before, you know the drill. You start fresh, level 1, empty bag, and the cheapest weapon possible in hand.
At first, you are given simple quests that gradually become more complex as you advance. To get stronger, killing monsters and completing quests are the main methods. Nowadays, the game is much more optimized, and you don’t need to do as many side-quests to get your level up to that required by the main story.
The battle system is called Real-Time Battle (RTB), the same used in Final Fantasy XI. Enemies appear on the map and will engage you as soon as you get near them – if both your level is similar – or if you smack a lance at their temple. You fight with an array of abilities and spells while you inflict pitiful damage with an auto-attack.
Early on, combat can be pretty dull. But as you progress further, you will unlock new abilities, and enemies will get challenging to the point where you will have to rewatch a video guide thrice just to pass on the boss first phase.
Every five levels, you get a class quest to unlock new abilities and equipment. After hitting level 30, you will be prompted to do a job quest to evolve your class to a job. Jobs in expansions don’t have classes because they already start at a higher level but have prerequisites to be unlocked.
Last but not least, Final Fantasy XIV presents an endearing gathering and crafting system. These artisans have their leveling system and can be handy when you don’t have the money to buy a more potent weapon or want to amass some gils.
Check out our complete FFXIV Main Story Questline guide.
Player Versus Player
I can hear you asking me: what about the PvP? If the game’s online, I wanna kick some online ass. Final Fantasy XIV does have PvP, but unfortunately, it’s not the game’s strongest suit. It’s not even its moderate suit. The PvP system is always on the tweaking roll, and while you can have fun in it, don’t jump in with high expectations. That’s coming from someone level 50 at PvP, the max level.
Final Fantasy XIV Endgame
However, the PvE endgame of Final Fantasy XIV is top-notch! Fighting the game’s strongest boss, raiding the latest raids, and getting that stellar equipment is a thrilling experience.
It’s a try-and-error process because you’re often accompanied by other players, so it demands coordination between the entire party to get the job done. But once you do, you can be the one mentoring and teaching the ropes for new players.
Final Fantasy XIV community is known for being the most heartfelt and welcoming community in the online world. So if you have anxiety over joining a public party because you’re gonna mess up and people are gonna flame your ears – or eyes – off, don’t be. They will be understanding, explain mechanics repeatedly, and eventually, you will be on the pantheon beside the hardcore players.
All the Expansions
Final Fantasy XIV has four major expansions and doesn’t show slowing down signs. Each expansion has a theme, extensive lore, and a plot.
However, the expansion lore and story are intrinsically connected to the first central plot of the game, which started at A Realm Reborn and ended in Endwalker, the game’s fourth expansion. In the fifth expansion, Final Fantasy XIV producer and director Naoki Yoshida said that players will experience a new story in the world of Hydaelyn.
Suppose you have withstood my ramblings so far and become increasingly interested in the game. In that case, I will list some features of each expansion, what else they bring to the massive RPG while doing my best to avoid spoilers.
Inspired by “A Song of Ice and Fire” and “Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together,” Heavensward brings a truckload of dragons to the table. We explore the northernmost of the Aldenard continent and visit the gelid city-state of Ishgard. The first expansion gave players three new jobs, one race, and expanded the base game’s plot while delving into new lore. The level cap increased from 50 to 60.
The legend says the horned and scaled human-like race are distant offsprings of dragons due to their appearance. Au Ra is divided into Raen and Xaela clans.
A greatsword-based tank, the Dark Knight isn’t ominous as one may think. The Dark Knight can soak damage and drain its enemies HP by infusing their blades with dark magic. Ok, maybe a bit ominous. Dark Knight is unlocked in Ishgard and requires any class at level 30.
Astrologians are healers who believe in the horoscope and use cards to heal their allies. One of the jobs with a tad of RNG, each card drawn provides different buffs for your party. You unlock Astrologian in Ishgard at level 30 with any class.
As the second physical ranged DPS, Machinists utilize technology and guns to assail their enemies. You can even use a flamethrower and summon a robot to fight for you! Machinists are unlocked at level 30 in Ishgard, and no specific class is needed.
With stunning inspirations from Japanese folklore, Stormblood takes us to the eastern continent of Othard. You can spot Japanese fairy tales, decor, and references at every corner. The second expansion added new challenges to our hero, two new jobs, the first limited job, but no races. Stormblood increased the level cap from 60 to 70.
The most famous swordsman in the far eastern comes to Final Fantasy XIV. Using sharp-edged katanas and building up their attacks to unleash a destructive high-end blow, Samurai is among the most egotistical jobs because they don’t have any abilities to buff their party. However, their high-damage output pays off. You can unlock the Samurai in Ul’dah by having any class at level 50.
In other Final Fantasy, Red Mages are a jack-of-all-trades. They use both Black and White magic, but their might is nowhere near the original users. In Final Fantasy XIV, Red Mages are a force to be reckoned with. Mixing long-ranged spells with quick melee combos, any party is lucky to have a crimson mage on. Red Mage is also unlocked in Ul’dah with a level 50 character.
Blue Mage is called a limited job. A vanity job where you can have fun with others as long as the dungeon rules are shaped for leisurely gameplay. For instance, you can’t use a Blue Mage to progress further in the Main Scenario. But you can steamroll a grueling boss with a party full of Blue Mages.
Blue Mage is a mage who mimics monsters to build his collection of spells. After witnessing a specific monster or a boss casting a spell, you kill it for a chance of learning it. Blue Mage is capped at level 70. To become one, you need to finish A Realm Reborn main scenario and be at level 50.
Related reads: Comprehensive FFXIV Dungeons Guide.
Shadowbringers was the expansion that raised the stakes for Final Fantasy XIV and established it as one of the best MMOs of today. You take on the mantle of the Warrior of Darkness to bring back the night in a light-infused world. Shadowbringers also added two more jobs to the game and two new races. The level cap, as usual, has been raised from 70 to 80.
The famous bunny boy/girls. It’s Fran’s race from Final Fantasy XII. Shadowbringers added the female Viera, but after a clamor from the public, they added a male version in Endwalker. They are divided into the Rava and Veena clans.
The Hrothgar is a feline race based on the Ronso from Final Fantasy X. Their bestial form caused panic at first but now can be seen living among other races. You can choose between the Helion or The Lost clans.
Gunbreaker, as you may have imagined, uses a gunblade as a weapon. The same as Squall and Seifer. Gunbreaker is a tank job that usually outputs the most damage between the defenders in a fight. With a combo that intertwines, you will be slashing, blasting, and defending simultaneously. Gunbreaker can be unlocked at Gridania by anyone with a level 60 class or higher and by purchasing Shadowbringers.
The third ranged physical DPS comes with style and grace to the game. Dancers are the best friends of other DPS. They use their chakrams to cause damage from afar and can choose a dancing partner. Every buff they get, their dancing partner gets. You need a class at level 60 and go to Limsa Lominsa to unlock your tap dance powers.
The fourth expansion, although not the last, producer and director Naoki Yoshida emphasized that Endwalker would finish the narrative arc that began in A Realm Reborn. As someone who has played it, yes, it does end (majestically, by the way), but it sets a precedent for new adventures for our hero. Endwalker brought two new jobs to the game, including a first for the franchise, and increased the level cap from 80 to 90.
The Reaper is the first exclusive job to Final Fantasy XIV. Wielding a colossal scythe, if you thought Dark Knight was ominous, wait until you meet one of these guys. Tapping into the power of the Void, Reapers can summon an avatar to deprive the lifeforce of their enemies. And hopefully, only their enemies. Reapers are unlocked in Ul’dah by having any class at level 70 and owning Endwalker.
Mixing sorcery with medicine, Sages are healers who display a bundle of curative and barrier-creation spells. They also wield the magical Nouliths, flying tools that shot laser/aether from its tips. You can become a Sage at Limsa Lominsa after getting any class to level 70.
Question: Is FFXIV Worth Playing in 2022?
Answer: Totally! If you are having second-guesses, try the Final Fantasy XIV free trial. The free trial lets you enjoy the base and the Heavensward expansion free of charge. It’s easily more than 300 hours of content.
Play whenever you want, and don’t pay a dime for it. Then, if you are interested and like the game, you can buy the expansions and continue your adventures without the restrictions imposed by the Free Trial.
Question: Do You Need to Pay to Play FFXIV?
Answer: Yes, you do. If you have purchased the game and have left the Free Trial, the game will require a monthly subscription to continue playing. I know you might
imagine that monthly fees are outdated nowadays.
But Final Fantasy XIV makes it worth it. With constant updates every quarter, the game adds new features, dungeons, bosses, and more to keep you hooked. Plus, it does not sell gears for cash that would give you an in-game advantage over another player. All items are purely cosmetic.
Question: How’s the Endgame on FFXIV?
Answer: Incredibly loaded with content. Final Fantasy XIV divides players between casual, mid-core, and hardcore. Since you can use the same character to evolve all jobs, including gathering and crafting, you won’t miss any content within the game.
Furthermore, each expansion releases at least six boss trials, twelve 8-party normal raids, and three 24-man alliance raids. Extreme, Savage, and Ultimate versions of some trials/raids for the hardcore at heart guarantee a colossal challenge for everyone involved. The Final Fantasy 14 Endwalker expansion is the latest expansion to further expand this already huge new world in the MMO space. Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker adds brilliant new story quests, new bosses and raids and tonnes of original game content, allowing fans of this MMO video game to keep engaged with this vibrant world.
What Other Games in The Final Fantasy Series Should I Check Out?
Honestly, aside from slightly underwhelming entries in the Final Fantasy series like FF13, we would say that all of the FF titles are worth playing. However, if we had to earmark just a few, they would be as follows:
– Final Fantasy VII
– Final Fantasy VIII
– Final Fantasy IX
– Final Fantasy XV
– Final Fantasy Tactics
We would also consider other titles such as Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Kingdom Hearts, Genshin Impact, Warcraft Classic, Secrets of Mana and Vagrant story.
If you have played an MMO before, Final Fantasy XIV Online has all the tropes that come with one. You pick a class. You start your journey with basic quests that progressively become more advanced. You level up and learn new, increasingly powerful skills. You unlock more areas and more cities. You unlock mounts, then flying mounts.
You collect equipment that becomes obsolete shortly after you have struggled to obtain it and decide that you will spend your time only furnishing your house or creating the perfect outfit for your character.
Final Fantasy XIV doesn’t break any of these rules, though it may reinvent some of them and innovate on others. However, the game’s strong point, outstanding-strong-point, is its story. No MMO has dared to do what Final Fantasy XIV did: build an almost single-player experience by focusing on the main story.
You meet a colorful cast of characters who sprawl through all five expansions and get excited, terrified, frustrated, and angry. But most importantly, you participate.
You are the Warrior of Light who is always there, at the center of the occasion, driving the narrative and creating your story alongside millions of other players. So should you decide to embark on this journey, may you ever walk in the light of the Crystal.
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