I know that we are VERY late to the party, but as I’ve mentioned time and time again, Final Fantasy XIV was not something that any of us here at The Outerhaven thought to give a go. Hell, I never played Final Fantasy XI Online, which was the first time that the Final Fantasy series tried going into the MMO space, and to say that we avoided Final Fantasy XIV (the original version) due to all the issues and problems the game had is an understatement… And yes, most of us were playing World of Warcraft, something none of us are doing now.
The biggest draw for a lot of “WoW Refugees” like myself is the different experiences that Final Fantasy XIV presents to us. For years I have been subjected to over 15 years of “You are the champion of the Horde/Alliance, go forth and defeat this big god/demon/invasion/other faction” over and over again, all while standing around doing the same thing as 500,000 other “champions” as we all progress to the same goal.
Final Fantasy XIV sees you in the role of an Adventurer, someone who starts off as a newbie who arrives in town and needs to grow and build up your reputation as you become a part of the larger story over time. While there are other adventurers around you at all times, the only time you’ll see them is when you need to do a dungeon or raid. The story of Final Fantasy XIV is about you as a character and your journey into a larger world as someone who is meant to help the NPC characters to shape the world.
The two might seem similar, but at no point in Final Fantasy XIV are you referred to as “the chosen one” or a character of legend. You are always just an Adventurer who has worked their way into a reputation of note, which allows you to do things for other kingdoms and characters who run the world. World of Warcraft, you are the “Champion” from day one, a character who is going to be the “only” savior of the world and that’s all you ever are.
When it comes to gameplay, there isn’t too much from the get-go that separates Final Fantasy XIV from World of Warcraft. You have a bar that has all your abilities on it, and you push buttons to do special things related to your class (which is called a Job in traditional Final Fantasy style). You use these abilities to kill things, which give you experience, and you do quests which also give you experience, as well as money, that you use to level up your job, not the character.
The big difference between the way Final Fantasy XIV treats your character and your class as separate things is one of the biggest things that will make you rethink going back to World of Warcraft. Final Fantasy XIV’s leveling system is tied to your class, not the character, and you can have all the jobs tied to one character, removing a lot of the problems that World of Warcraft has with leveling alt characters.
For example, I started out my character, Lilthica Dracal, as an Archer which is much like a Hunter from World of Warcraft, just without the pet to rely upon. I leveled my Archer all the way through to level 30 via traditional methods, which include: Main Story Quests, Job Quests, and side-quests. When I hit level 30, my Archer Guildmaster sent me off to talk to this guy who turned out to be a Bard, which is the second-tier version of an Archer, which set me on the way of using songs, along with my Archer skills, to increase my damage output. However, if I wanted to change from an Archer/Bard and go hit things with a Sword, I could go to the Marauder guild, sign up there, and have to get new gear and level Marauder till it turns into a Warrior at level 30. If I want to heal, then I go to the Conjurer Guild and sign up there, and boom, I’m a healer.
Speaking of leveling, Final Fantasy XIV treats leveling very differently from how World of Warcraft brainwashed me into believing leveling should be done. For 15+ years, I use brainwashed into thinking that the way you need to level a character in any game was to go into a town, do all the quests, then move onto the next town and repeat till you hit maximum level. Nope, not in Final Fantasy XIV.
Final Fantasy XIV presents multiple ways to level your character. I’m just going to copy/paste from the Final Fantasy XIV wiki since it explains things much better than I can.
Main Scenario Quests
Main Scenario Quests are quests that tell the main story of Final Fantasy XIV. These quests often have cutscenes and voice acting, and also unlock important features of the game: airship travel, Grand Company access, a personal Chocobo mount, as well as dungeons and trials are unlocked through the progression of the main questline.
Initially, the Main Scenario Quests differ depending on the player’s starting city (Gridania, Limsa Lominsa, or Ul’dah). These stories converge at the quest Main Scenario QuestIt’s Probably Pirates and remain the same from that point onward.
Chronologically, the Main Scenario Quests are divided as follows:
Seventh Umbral Era Quests – Level 1-50 story quests released in Patch 2.0 as part of the base game A Realm Reborn.
Seventh Astral Era Quests – Level 50 story quests that continue the A Realm Reborn story through Patches 2.1-2.5.
Heavensward Main Scenario Quests – Level 50-60 story quests released in Patch 3.0 with the expansion Heavensward.
Dragonsong War Quests – Level 60 story quests that continue the Heavensward story through Patches 3.1-3.5.
Stormblood Main Scenario Quests – Level 60-70 story quests released in Patch 4.0 with the expansion Stormblood.
The Legend Returns Quests – Level 70 story quests that continue the Stormblood story through Patches 4.1-4.56.
Shadowbringers Main Scenario Quests – Level 70-80 story quests released in Patch 5.0 with the expansion Shadowbringers.
Post-Shadowbringers Main Scenario Quests – Level 80 story quests that continue the Shadowbringers story through Patches 5.1-5.5.
Side quests are useful ways of obtaining EXP, Gil, items, and other unlocks. These quests can be standalone or part of a series.
Side Story Quests – These quests offer lighthearted and complex stories that build upon the lore of the game, outside of the Main Scenario Quests. Some optional game features such as relic weapons are tied behind these quests.
Chronicles of a New Era Quests – These quests have more serious stories and unlock challenging content such as Extreme-difficulty primal battles and raids.
Seasonal Events Quests – These quests are available for a limited time only but give unique rewards.
Grand Company Quests – These quests move the player through the ranks of their chosen Grand Company.
Other Side Quests – Many side quests give nothing of note, but are a good source of EXP and Gil while offering a look into the more day-to-day aspects of Eorzean life.
Class Job and Role Quests
Class quests and job quests are given by your class guild master and other leaders of your chosen profession. They can be completed to earn new skills and abilities, along with gear and other items. These quests are available every few levels and it is recommended to complete them as soon as they become available.
Class Quests – These quests cover the story up to level 30 for each combat class, and through all levels for the crafting and gathering classes.
Job Quests – Combat classes turn into jobs at level 30, after which the quests are considered job quests.
Role Quests – Introduced in Shadowbringers (5.0), for combat jobs
Crystalline Mean Quests – Introduced in Shadowbringers (5.0), for crafting and gathering classes
Repeatable quests can be completed multiple times, with some limitations. Restrictions are often daily or weekly, but some only require the player to complete the quest before accepting it again.
Beast Tribe Quests – These quests can be repeated daily once players have unlocked access to the beast tribe. Quest completion increases Reputation with the beast tribe; higher Reputation ranks unlock unique items with that faction. Players are given 12 beast tribe quest allowances a day.
Feature quests are quests that unlock certain features in the game. Some Main Scenario Quests may also fall under this category but are not labeled as such.
Instance Quests – These quests unlock instances like dungeons and trials.
The Hunt Quests – Access to The Hunt in various regions can be unlocked through these quests.
Location Quests – Some locations in Eorzea are locked behind these quests.
Glamour and Customization Quests – Features unlocked through these quests allow the player to customize their character through glamour and other methods.
Aether Current Quests – These quests must be completed before flying in Heavensward+ locations.
Miscellaneous Quests – Many features unlocked via quests do not fall under a particular category.
Repeatable Feature Quests
Repeatable feature quests are quests that unlock certain features in the game, and can also be completed multiple times, with some limitations. They are mostly used for quests related to relic weapons, but there are a few that are not related to relic weapons.
Relic Weapon Quests – Some quests in the relic weapon questline are repeatable for the completion of multiple weapons.
Levequests are special repeatable quests that require leve allowances to accept. These quests are offered by levemetes and fall into three main groups: battlecraft, tradecraft, and fieldcraft. Completion of levequests rewards the player with items and a significant amount of EXP.
Battlecraft Levequests – These quests can be completed by a player in a Disciple of War or a Disciple of Magic class/job.
Tradecraft Levequests – These quests can be completed by a player using a Disciple of the Hand job.
Fieldcraft Levequests – These quests can be completed by a player using a Disciple of the Land job.
So, as you can see, there are more than enough quest types available to level any of Final Fantasy XIV’s 27 class/job combinations and 11 crafting styles in the game (with more to come with Endwalker releasing in November 2021).
But what got me was the fact that it took me till level 30 before I realized that I was leveling the wrong way in Final Fantasy XIV. So, I stopped doing things the World of Warcraft way and started focussing on the main story quests and class quests to level my Archer/Bard all the way through to level 55 before coming to the end of the A Realm Reborn content, which will make the next 10 levels found in Heavensward a lot easier to get through, though I expect everything to level out by level 70 when I’ll be tackling the Shadowbringers content as that’s when all the excess experience bonuses I have on the character run out.
Another big difference is the graphical quality of Final Fantasy XIV. Given that this is a Square-Enix Final Fantasy title, you know that they are going to take every single bit of graphical power from your PC, or PS4/PS5, and push it to the limits, something that World of Warcraft seems to deny should be done to their title in order to keep it “low end friendly”. Well, I can tell you that Final Fantasy XIV comes in a minimum of 1080p HD graphics, which even run really well on my fiancé’s 4-year-old underpowered laptop, though she only gets 15-20 fps whereas I’m running at a smooth 60 fps on my gaming PC. Since Final Fantasy runs at 1080p HD with 30 fps being the minimum on PS4, and 60 fps with 4K available on PS5 (I could get all the way up to 4K/60 fps if I owned a 4K monitor), you know that this is going to look good.
The main draws with the graphics are the way things look almost real for a fantasy setting, with the characters looking really nice and smooth, almost to the same quality that the recent Final Fantasy VII Remake has in their character models, so there is no cartoon looking polygons like World of Warcraft, which makes you feel more like you are the character instead of playing a cartoon from the early 90s CGI animation.
Speaking of animation, there are going to be a lot of cutscenes that you are going to be sitting through while playing the main story questline in Final Fantasy XIV, but unlike the competition, these cutscenes use the in-game models for the most part, with the ultra-high-level productions kept for the big moments in the game, giving these moments more impact when they come in than they do with that other game.
I’ve also got to point out the soundtrack for Final Fantasy XIV, which uses a lot of remixed themes from Final Fantasy games past alongside new tracks made just for this game. When you do some things like go to the Gold Saucer, the gambling establishment from Final Fantasy VII, you get a remixed theme that was used in the original game. When you mount a Chocobo, you get the classic theme as you ride around on your giant chicken. When you fight, you get a rendition of the classic battle theme. Otherwise, you’ll just get some nice atmosphere tracks to chill to as you go about your business, which for me, has been a very calming and relaxing experience.
Ok, ok, I’m sure you’re sick of me going on and on with the comparisons with World of Warcraft and basically licking Final Fantasy XIV’s boots as the great new game that I’ve just started playing. I know Final Fantasy XIV is not a perfect game at any rate. I’ve had some harder times with things in the game, especially when hitting the endgame content. With World of Warcraft, the raids and dungeons are more of a bonus that you do at the end of a storyline for gear that will help with the next few levels or to get your gear score up so you can raid.
Final Fantasy XIV, on the other hand, has these things woven into its main story content, meaning that you have to complete dungeons in order to progress the story. As I’m writing this, I’ve been waiting almost 90 minutes to enter Castrum Meridianum, a level 50 dungeon that I need to complete to move onto the next part of the story. While lower-level dungeons were not too bad in the wait times, waiting almost 90 minutes when I was told there’d be a 30-minute wait is a pain in the butt and something that is becoming more common the further you get into the story quests.
Another annoyance, at least for me, is the server selection. At the time of writing, there are no Australian servers, which left me in a bind where I had to go online and search for some form of community-made solution about where my fellow Australians are playing, which ended up putting me into the Japanese server cluster as it is the closest to where I am, so it’d have the lowest ping. However, the worlds where English speakers are on are completely full, to the point where I can’t even make a character on the world where other people are, so I’m playing on a mostly Japanese speaking server, with my only option for translation is to copy/paste into google translate for communication. But this problem will change with the arrival of Australian servers in November… If I can transfer over to them.
Overall, going from World of Warcraft to Final Fantasy XIV has been a fun and enjoyable experience for me as I’ve been opened up to a new world with new experiences and a lot to do outside of smashing content to go into raids I really don’t care about. I’ve done 55 levels solo, without the need for a guild or other people, and I’m happy to keep going in the same manner.
If you’re wanting to take a break from World of Warcraft and give something that is similar, but different, a try then goes and give the game a try for yourself. Final Fantasy XIV has a free game trial that allows you to level from 1 to 60, complete with 2 games worth of content (A Realm Reborn and Heavensward) for you to experience, which is more than enough time for you to decide if it’s worth dropping £12.99 a month for the rest of the game (plus game purchases).
Personally, I say give it a go, especially the free trial since you won’t have anything to lose. I’ve enjoyed my time with Final Fantasy XIV so much that I’ve decided to pay to play once my trial is over, and I look forward to getting all the way up to 80 sometime before Endwalker drops, then heading TO THE MOON!!!
Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a great introduction to the world of Final Fantasy for both new and old fans of the series, as well as people looking for a new or different MMO to play. While still having a lot of the standard tropes that an MMO does have, along with a lot of ones from the Final Fantasy series, the combination of both are a breath of fresh air for those people who have been stuck inhaling the stench of World of Warcraft for over a decade.
Beautiful graphics that run on most PCs
A Class/Job system that removes the requirement and grinds for alts
A long and in-depth storyline that draws you in
Endgame content participation is low
Only 60 levels available for free
Server transfers unavailable till 90 days of paid pay