There’s a lot of excitement around Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV at the moment with the upcoming Shadowbringers Expansion set to be released 2nd July 2019.
Shadowbringers is set into include an increased level cap from 70 to 80, the bunny girl race popularized in Final Fantasy XII the Viera, two new job classes and everything you would expect from any MMORPG expansion; new storylines, expansive areas, new dungeons and raids.
While there is excitement across the fandom at the moment, this has also spread to the Respawning staff with the majority jumping in and finding out what makes this title stand out and to see if it’s worth the monthly subscription price.
I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XIV since its original release all the way back in 2010 but due to negative reviews and poor player retention was shut down. The game would make a return in 2013 as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and I have been hooked ever since. Throughout this article I’m going to be discussing the main reasons why I’ve been hooked for over five years and hopefully get you to join me and 14 million (And growing) players in the world of Eorzea.
Note – While Final Fantasy XIV has grown over the years, I’m going to try to not wander too far from the base game.
Final Fantasy XIV stays true to its legacy and maintains its foundation of strong storytelling. At the time of writing this article there are three main campaigns which start with A REALM REBORN, the first expansion HEAVENSWARD and finally STORMBLOOD.
I would argue that the weakest of the three is A REALM REBORN, as it serves as the foundation of XIV. You’re introduced to the world of Eorzea, it’s inhabitants and the dangers ahead. You are the Warrior of Light, you have been blessed by the Mother Crystal Hydaelyn and after performing heroic deeds become noticed by an organization called The Scions of the Seventh Dawn.
The reason this is the weakest is due to the crossover of MMORPG and Final Fantasy veterans. This isn’t your standard Final Fantasy title so standard MMORPG mechanics are introduced slowly over time allowing you to become acclimatised. This crossover becomes apparent in A REALM REBORN as a conflict between mechanics vs narrative. You’re very much an errand boy up the the very end of the base game, there are a lot of epic moments and your character accomplished some epic feats where you as the player are rewards however narratively speaking there is little impact at all.
The narrative begins to focus on the player post A REALM REBORN by this time you’ve hit level 50, the original level cap, and the games post launch content focuses the narrative around you and provides some of the most amazing story content I’ve ever seen in this genre. This is followed through in the following, HEAVENSWARD and STORMBLOOD.
With the narrative gradually guiding you into traditional MMORPG mechanics, at level 15 you are brought to your first piece of group content. Sastasha is the first dungeon you encounter and requires four Warriors of Light.
Each dungeon needs four players, also known as a light part which play a specific role: Tank, Healer, Damage Per Second (DPS). Your tank holds the enemy’s attention, the healer keeps them alive and the DPS deal the majority of damage.
There are thirty dungeons in total in A REALM REBORN while these serve as challenges in themselves they are gradually introduce the player to more complex mechanics over time.These are also presented in the form of Guildhests which act as a smaller scale encounter.
Raids / Savage Content
While dungeons provide an opportunity to develop an understanding of mechanics and get you through the leveling experience. Raids and Savage content are there to push you, in most circumstances anyway, as the difficulty is staggered.
Savage content content is end-game content which requires you to be max level, and you need eight players, this is also known as a Full Party. Two Tanks, Two Healers and Four DPS. You’re normally pitted against bosses which you’ve already fought previously but at a higher difficulty, leaving less room for error.
Raids are considered more casual and require three full parties of players, that’s 24 players. This is your more traditional experience within the MMORPG genre, it normally has you clearing trash enemy’s in between boss fights. There is normally room for error however there are instant death mechanics littered throughout the Raid.
While Final Fantasy XIV is a standalone entry into the series, it is also a celebration of the series as a whole. The raids have so far been a throwback to some epic moments in the history of the franchise. A REALM REBORN introduces The Crystal Tower from Final Fantasy III which includes the original bosses with mechanics fit for the genre and remixed score – It’s nostalgia porn at its finest.
The Golden Saucer
While on the topic nostalgia porn, remember Final Fantasy VII and the Golden Saucer full of mini-games? Yeah that’s been brought over too. While there are smaller mini-games available which come in the form of Punching Machines and Claw Machines which all reward MGP, a currency which you can spend within the Golden Saucer to purchase cosmetic weapon and armor, mounts or furniture for your player homes. Let’s have a quick rundown of all of the main attractions:
GATES (Gold Saucer Active Time Events) are special events within the Golden Saucer which happen every 20 minutes. These events occur every 20 minutes on a rotation of the following games:
A Leap of Faith: A jumping puzzle where you’re tasked with collecting Cactuar Statues
Air Force One: An on the rail shooting game, where your tasked with shooting targets which are worth points
Anyway the Wind Blows: Typhon (Boss from Final Fantasy VI) appears to randomly blow players off the stage. You have to attempt to determine where he will blow as your character will get locked in place.
Cliffhanger: A slight jumping puzzle where you’re tasked with rescuing a baby chocobo. Bombs will fall around you and if you get caught in the blast you’ll be knocked off the side and will have to start again.
Skinchange We Can Believe In: You’re tasked with hunting down an imp that is disguised as an NPC.
The Time of My Life: NPCs will perform random emotes and you have to copy them. It’s basically bop it.
Chocobo Breeding and Racing makes a return from Final Fantasy VII, giving you the opportunity to race your Chocobo through different themed environments from across Eorzea.Triple Triad makes a return from Final Fantasy VIII, the card battle mini-game which requires you to collect Final Fantasy themed cards from across the world.
Lord of Verminion is a unique addition to the Golden Saucer. A minion battle strategy game which utilises the minions you collect throughout the game. The objective is to destroy the other teams “arcana stones” which are placed on the battlefield.
PVP (Player Vs Player)
While Player Vs Player content is available in Final Fantasy XIV, it’s something of a dark horse and comes in three different flavours: The Wolves’ Den a 4 vs 4 arena style match, Frontline a large scale battle between members of the three Grand Companies over objectives and Rival Wings which basically plays out like a MOBA..
While this type of content isn’t at it’s most popular, there is a push to make it relevant with sought after rewards. If you’re interested in more information there is a neat player guide available on FINAL FANTASY XIV’s website.
Free Company / Housing
Free Companies are the equivalent to Guilds in the world of Eorzea, not only is this where you will find like minded players for the content which you enjoy you will also get the added benefits of buffs. Each Free Company is able to apply buffs such as increased experience and decreased teleport costs.
There is a huge focus on community in Final Fantasy XIV and to help solidify this, housing is available to purchase and be used as a home for your Free Company or for individuals to decorate. There is a huge catalogue of furniture available granting you the ability to create a space which is truly unique.
There are a lot of player created resources which catalogue and show off these player created homes, one of which is FFXIV Designs over on Tumblr – I suggest you go and check it out to be inspired.