Let it be known that Final Fantasy XIV bombed hard in its 2010 initial release. Not the game play itself, but everything else wrapped around the game was broken beyond recognition.
Just to be clear, flowerpots weren’t the only cause of the server crashing; the developers failed adapt to changing trends in game design, opted to focus on graphics quality, and ultimately failed to realize in the process that their game would just not be fun to play. Their Beta testers knew about these issues for months, and they still released without fixing anything even slightly.
Honestly the game play by itself was also broken. Your normal attack was an annoying button (mouse) press. The dual leveling system was confusing and pointless. The entire quest structure amounted to only levequests (and yes, there was a leve allowance that accumulated over time, just as they do now). All the zones were vast expanses of copy/paste nothingness. The AoE toggle on abilities was difficult to use on the fly and made casting more tedious than it had to be. There was some kind of party combo skill chain system in there that nobody knew how to use and required people to turn it on or something. The Main Story Quest (MSQ) launched with 4 cutscenes, and everything wrapped around that terrible game play was also really terrible. The only enjoyable thing for me was the crafting (by the way, crafting/gathering in XIV is the best I’ve seen in any MMO!)
I won’t go anymore in to that, but if you’re interested, here is a Reddit thread that provides a very in depth look at just how badly Square Enix screwed up (and how well they turned the game around soon after! Proud of you, SE! ♥)
Why Play Now?
There’s a lot of stuff in this game, and if you’re like me, you’re pretty busy as is, and including a time consuming video game such as Final Fantasy XIV is probably the last thing you want to do. I get it, but if you play video games at all, you should really give this game a shot.
The story focuses on the player becoming the famous Warrior of Light and getting involved in political intrigue, massive wars, and grand cosmic struggles. The main campaign is a slow burn, and I do mean slow. If you plan on watching the cut scenes and plays regularly, and playing every day, it will take you roughly two months, and I do not recommend missing the story content at all. It is simply agreed upon by any FFXIV player you come across – it’s just that good!
It can take weeks that builds to fantastic heights and features some of the most compelling villains and allies in all of the Final Fantasy games. The world of Eorzea is sprawling and gorgeous. Square Enix has always been big on flashy graphics and minute details, so there’s always the promise of a new, spectacular area on the horizon. You’ll find yourself completing tricky dungeons, fighting ancient gods, and clearing tough raids with up to 24 other strangers (or friends) depending on the circumstances (these are called Alliance Raids). Square Enix also offers a variety of purchasable level and story content skips that allow you to decide when and how you jump in and how strong you’ll be.
The game’s large community, numbering 16 million registered accounts, welcomes all kinds. There are communities focused on fighting tough bosses and completing raids, communities for role playing and crafting player stories, and servers for different languages. No matter what you want to do, there are players who will eagerly help you along.
Buying The Game
If you’re curious about Final Fantasy XIV’s world and early combat experience but aren’t yet ready to buy it or pay the subscription fee, there is a free trial. Additionally, people that already have the game can refer you (with a referral code; click the link for instructions!) that will give you both access to special mounts that cannot be obtained elsewhere, and experience boosts for leveling. You can only play up to level 35, but you can still sample the starting job classes and enjoy some of the story, dungeons, and boss fights. Be warned that the early portions of Final Fantasy XIV can feel slow, as the story takes a lot of time to acquaint the player with Eorzea’s various governments and major characters.
Choosing A Server
I’m on Primal – Hyperion!
Each server is a little different, but the most important thing to know is that there are four data centers with individual servers that fall into certain time zones or play styles. Severs on the same data centers can be traveled between using a new “World Visit” service that lets you explore beyond your home server as a sort of guest. Keep that in mind as you select a data center.
For North America, there are three data centers:
- Aether: The most populated data center. Many of its worlds are “congested,” which means it isn’t always possible to make new characters, especially after this new expansion’s release. Aether’s popularity means you’ll find a little bit of everything. More raid content is cleared here than on the other servers. Really good for hardcore players.
- Primal: Primal servers are generally laid back, though some are more hardcore than the others. It also boasts a server with some Brazillian players and Australians. You’ll find some memelords from 4chan here and there, but it’s not too prominent. Overall, it’s a chill place.
- Crystal: Social players, crafters, and role players will be very comfortable here. While there are raiding teams, there are far less than in other servers. This is where you go if you want to tackle the game’s economy or build player-created stories. Some servers have a reputation for erotic role play (think: cybersex) but that largely happens behind closed doors and is nearly invisible for those not seeking it out.
In addition to the North American data center, there are the Japanese data centers: Gaia, Elemental, and Mana. Europe has two data centers: Chaos and Light. These data centers have some of the newest servers, which means you can get in on the bottom floor of new communities, but that also means things like player housing are limited for the moment.
Play With Friends
As with most MMORPGs, if you know people playing Final Fantasy XIV, it’s best to try to play with them. It will make the early experience easier, and even if you’re somehow not on the same server initially, it is possible to visit other servers on the same data center and transfer to them eventually.
There’s a ton of stuff that people can do together in this game – daily roulette’s, the party finder has a ton of options like teaming up with random people to farm a rare mount drop in one of the many trials, and teaming up with people that will help you clear a boss. There’s also a unique treasure map dungeon in the game that rewards ample amounts of sell-able loot and gil.
Joining others for events is painless, even for a loner like me.
I have to admit, my biggest worry about getting into Final Fantasy XIV was being forced into having to play with strangers in order to see my way through the campaign. I know, why play an MMO if I want to play alone? But my reservation was that I’m playing this alone and don’t really have the energy to seek out people to play with just to get through it. I dragged my feet preparing for the first Instanced Dungeon. I didn’t realize it would be finding a party for me; I explained that I was new and people gladly helped me along. I hadn’t really experienced MMOs quite the same was as Final Fantasy XIV allowed me to experience it; and I was pleasantly surprised.
In addition to that, the game is always encouraging spurts of cooperation with Full Active Time Events (or FATEs, how cute), which appear randomly on the open-world map. They’re dynamic little instances that bring a few players nearby together for one small goal — like taking down a swarm of enemies, or escorting a courier through a dangerous stretch — before sending them back on their way. At the launch of Stormblood and Shadowbringers, there was a lot of random’s teaming up to take down the new FATEs for that extra experience bonus, and honestly, that feeling of camaraderie set this game apart from the rest. The community is really supportive and I’ve met some amazing people along the way!
In addition to all of that, you can also start a Free Company with your friends. Free Company is just a fancy name used for “guilds”, which is the common term in most MMOs.
Having a Free Company gives you and your friends access to numerous different boosts, such as experience boosts, food longevity boosts, and teleportation costs reduced. It provides a place to converse with others in the game and participate in dungeons that others might be doing. In our FC, we regularly do treasure maps and dungeons together. Just last week we cleared some Expert Trials for a few of our newest members!
Where To Start
With so much story and the ability to buy story-skipping items from the Mog Station, it can be hard to know where to start. You have a few options, each with pros and cons. Regardless of what you choose, I’ve written a handy section following this one that’ll help you get up to speed with the story.
Start From The Beginning: It’s a very good place to start. You’ll have a comfortable introduction to jobs and lore. The onboarding process isn’t too bad, and you’ll start with easier content that will help you learn the ins and outs of playing. This is also the cheapest option thanks to the free trial or lower-priced starter edition.
- PROS: Comfortable introduction to Eorzea and the game’s many jobs. Less intense initial experience. Lower cost.
- CONS: The story of A Realm Reborn starts slow and stays that way for a while. You really need to grind through to the end until things start to pop off. The dungeons and boss fights are also much less exciting than what comes after. Wait times for lower-level dungeons might be longer, as the majority of players are mid- to high level.
Something reiterated in both Heavensward and Stormblood is how much they’ve improved on some of the shortcomings of A Realm Reborn. By all accounts, the first hours of A Realm Reborn are the slowest, most tedious that the game has to offer, and it only gets better from there on. If what I’ve been enjoying for the past 40 hours is the content late-game players bemoan the most, I’m very excited to see where things go from here.
As much as I have enjoyed my first 40 hours of FFXIV, there are a few things I feel newcomers should probably hear before they jump into the game:
Join a Free Company
Free Companies are FFXIV’s take on guilds. While I said above that the game does a good job grouping players together for dungeons, it’s obvious that the game is better with people you know. The further I get into the game, the more apparent that becomes. If you’re having trouble finding a Free Company, use a group finder like this one.
Have a little patience
Some of the quests early on are also a little bland and require a lot of running from A to B. If those are deal-breakers, you might not have fun with the earlier parts of FFXIV.
Don’t get overwhelmed with quests
Once you reach level 10 in your initial class, you’ll have access to a number of other classes to train in, each with their own quests associated. You might have access to eleven Disciples of the Hand classes at once, but maybe just tackle one or two at first.
Don’t get lost in character customization
My Guardian is Menphina, the Lover. I don’t know what the hell that means. It’s one of the several things players select while creating their character. As far as I can tell, it has no impact on your experience. So, don’t spend hours researching them; just get in the game and have fun.
I’ve really enjoyed my time so far in Final Fantasy XIV, and I’m excited to see where things go from here. If you’re still on the fence, just try out the free trial.