Is Final Fantasy XIV worth getting into in 2023? In short yes! But here's why!
If you're thinking about starting any MMORPG, you probably first want to know about its health. While the big MMORPGs on the market today are all relatively healthy with big publishers backing them, Final Fantasy XIV is the fittest of them all. While there are no exact player numbers, Final Fantasy XIV continues to set new player records with every expansion release.
State of the Realm in 2023
With the release of the Endwalker expansion at the tail-end of 2021 Final Fantasy XIV is looking forward to at least another year of patches before the 7.0 expansion releases sometime in the spring of 2024. With a new sizeable patch every few months, there is always something to look forward to.
Even if we're approaching the middle-of-expansion-lull, thanks to the way Final Fantasy XIV is set up you're always finding someone to play with. And some recent improvements even let you run story-related dungeons with AI companions, so your progress is never tied to other players even as a new player.
So yes, Final Fantasy XIV is still going strong in 2023. There were some fears that an expansion with the name Endwalker (which concluded FFXIVs main scenario), Final Fantasy XIV would slow down. But since the release of 6.0, patches have been bigger than ever and a new story line has started with the post-patch content.
And with another expansion on the horizon, as well as massive content overhauls and a graphical update in the future, now is the best time to dip toes into the critically acclaimed MMORPG.
Let's get the big one out of the way first, Final Fantasy XIV has an extended free trial. While you'll eventually have to pay for the game, the expansions, and a monthly subscription fee. But your first forays into Eorzea come free of charge.
Many will probably be confused by what the free trial up to level 60 even means. While other MMOs tend to have a more open structure, leveling up to level 60 doesn't sound as impressive if the current level cap is 90. But since Final Fantasy XIV has a very linear structure, you get a lot out of the free trial.
A free trial up to level 60 includes all of the base game's content A Realm Reborn and the award-winning Heavensward expansion and its patch content. If you only plan to do the main scenario, this will already get you 80+ hours' worth of content.
But you're also free to explore all the other content, like the optional raids and dungeons or even level alternative classes and jobs.
Or to cut it short, you get to actually try out the game. While on paper it doesn't sound like much that you only get to play the first expansion, you get two full games worth of content. And there's a lot of it, even in the free trial.
So take your time with it, once you hit the end of Heavensward you should have a solid idea of what Final Fantasy XIVs content is like. But what is Final Fantasy XIVs content anyways? Let's talk about the highlights!
If you heard about Final Fantasy XIV before, you've probably heard that it has a very good story, especially for an MMORPG. But Final Fantasy XIV has a great story for a game period. It is easily one of the best-told stories in all of gaming.
Being an MMORPG that is regularly updated has allowed Square Enix's Creative Business Unit III to tell an epic you wouldn't even find in a big movie franchise. It's an entire world, rich in character and detail that evolves and changes as the player progresses through the story.
While many games these days are often written with a sequel in mind, these stories still have to stand on their own. Or get more story content every few months. MMORPGs and especially Final Fantasy XIV with its linear progression really gets to spread their wings.
It is something you learn to appreciate about Final Fantasy XIV after a while. Things will regularly get name dropped and become important 10, 20, or even 50 hours later. At times it can be a little self-indulgent, as Final Fantasy XIVs story likes to take its sweet time.
But while the big story might not progress at full speed at all times, you get many small stories that are about the people and places you visit. And these then split off into other stories with side quests and entirely optional stories that sometimes feed back into the main story.
Some of Final Fantasy XIVs best moments are some of its optional side content, be it chasing after ancient secrets or just learning how to cook. And because Final Fantasy XIV is an MMORPG with a crafting system and player progression, it can tell these stories in the context of the player leveling up and learning new skills.
That is something you don't really see, even in big RPGs anymore. Because they don't need to explain away how your character makes things, how you interact with the online market board or even the markers that pop up over your head.
Final Fantasy XIVs story goes places and it would be hard to convey in just an article like this wouldn't do justice. But if you play all the way through Endwalker, you get what is arguably the best story in the entire medium. Sounds just like high praise, but trust me on this one.
One of the big reasons why that is the case is because you get to shape your character. While dialog options rarely impact the story, they still manage to pull you in. And as your character, who in some shape or form is you forms a relationship with that world, and the characters you'll eventually be pulled into the narrative.
And while on the surface, Final Fantasy XIVs story looks like a standard fantasy affair it grounds itself in a breathing world. Beating the evil Wizard has ripple effects, and you get to see those play out in full as the story progresses way beyond the initial conflict. And the words of a dear comrade feel comforting at journeys and.
But let me sum it up with the following: “Oh come now, it’s been a gripping tale. Unbreakable bonds and noble sacrifice, sprinkled with moments of levity to counterbalance the pathos. It’s got it all.”
Raiding, Dungeons, and other Endevours
While the story makes up a big part of the Final Fantasy XIV experience, you'll also do lots of fighting in dungeons in raids.
Unlike many other MMORPGs, Final Fantasy XIV lets to play every job and class on one character. While you'll need to level them all individually, there are other limitations besides the occasional level and gear requirement.
And if you come from other MMORPGs, rest assured Final Fantasy XIVs jobs are very balanced across the board. Sure it's not perfect, but the game is designed in a way that every job can clear all content in any combination. So just play what you like.
Final Fantasy XIV also obeys the trinity of Tanks, Healers, and DPS. There are 19 jobs in total with 4 Tanks and 4 Healers, all come with their own quirks and unique gameplay gimmicks. Within categories, such as Ranged, Casters, and so on, they might feel similar to each other but they come in varying levels of party utility and complexity.
Most of Final Fantasy XIVs leveling process takes place in dungeons, raids, and special instances. Unless you're doing the main story scenario or quests. We get to content in the actual world a bit.
What deserves praise, is how the game gradually ramps up its pace and what it demands from players. Initial dungeons are very basic and let you get used to the pace and mechanics of combat. And as you progress through the game and the expansions, combat gets more layers as your jobs also get more complex.
That's something you can't really do in a non-linear game because you have to assume that every encounter might be the first one a player ever had. In XIV, however, since a number of trials and dungeons are needed to complete the main scenario, the game gets to build on this.
By the time you reach Shadowbringers and Endwalker, even a dungeon boss boasts the complexity of an older trial.
Something that also sticks out about Final Fantasy XIV here, is its presentation. Boss fights especially are events with their music and mechanics tied to the lore of that boss.
This might sound a little boastful, but no game gets boss fights right as FFXIV. The music being synced with the boss' mechanics and the visual full sound is really hard to compare to any other game out there.
And that only gets grander by the way both Raids and big boss fights are always coming with a story. You are not just fighting some boss locked away in some dungeon (sometimes that is still the case), there is always lead up to the fight it's always presented as a highlight instead of just another loot dispenser or challenge. And this alone sets FFXIV apart from many, many RPGs out there.
When we talk about Final Fantasy XIV, there are always at least two things that are mentioned. That the story is very good and that the music is phenomenal. And that in the context of it existing in a franchise that is especially known for its soundtracks.
Video Game music in general is something fascinating, it can be a little tune that adds that little extra oomph to gameplay and or a story beat. It can even be the gameplay if we look at titles like the recent Hi-Fi Rush. And while Final Fantasy XIVs music is nothing crazy, it is still probably one of the most impressive soundtracks in all of gaming.
Because similar to the story, the music of Final Fantasy XIV gets to really stretch its wings and go places you wouldn't be able to go to another video game. If the story of Final Fantasy XIV is a long, multi-part theater piece.
The music is the musical version underneath and on top of it. The genius of it has been analyzed by people way smarter than me, so won't even attempt to do that here.
What I can do, is gushing about it. While XIV has many great music pieces that stand well on their own, it is how they come all together and interlink with each other. The music is very much part of the stories being told, so much so that the lyrics are often the only insight we'll ever get into some of the characters.
And probably also because it is an MMORPG, musically composed by a certified music nerd. It is the only game or maybe even piece of media in which you find a grand orchestral epos seamlessly transitioning into a punk rock musical number. And it is beautiful.
And keep in mind, the man responsible for this, Masayoshi Soken, and his team are now working on the soundtrack for Final Fantasy XVI. So if you want a taste, you're welcome to pursue XIV's soundtrack which is now almost completely available on all the big music streaming platforms.
The World of Final Fantasy XIV
If you're playing an MMORPG, you are probably more invested in the space you spend your time in compared to other games. This is no sly comment, but I don't think anyone ever asked why the Tilted Towers in Fortnite was called that and who built them. In an MMORPG, there is most likely an answer to that in a quest somewhere.
Final Fantasy XIV often draws criticism because of its heavily instanced content and segmented world. This is fair, especially compared to World of Warcraft's massive open world. But somehow Final Fantasy XIVs world manages to feel larger due to its presentation. You never visit a country, you only visit a part of it.
And with travel speeds being relatively low and zones massive, there is a sense of place only the big single-player RPG can equal.
Part of what makes XIV's world so alive is that NPCs that litter the world aren't NPCs. Most of them are characters with some sort of story attached to them. Be it some scene that plays out during a quest or their involvement in the main scenario quest.
Suddenly these places are not just ‘that village over there', it becomes the place where someone lives. And someone who might even be happy to see you if check in with them after a while. And that's what really makes Final Fantasy XIV special and stand out.
Its world isn't just a place where a story and a video game happen. It feels alive, places have history either with the player or a history of their own. And that's again, one of the more underrated aspects of Final Fantasy XIV.
Everything that isn't Combat
But do you want to know what's really fascinating about Final Fantasy XIV? It is the only game with a sizeable, dedicated community of people who don't engage with what you'd traditionally call its most important content, raiding.
Since the release of the Heavensward expansion, Final Fantasy XIV has come a long way to please players from all walks of life. While the main scenario quest is something we all have to do, as it gives context to just about everything else in the game, from there you have a lot of options.
Sure, leveling other jobs is fun but have you considered becoming an artisan or a gatherer? Final Fantasy XIV does not only have a great crafting system which is about as deep as its combat, but it also comes with its own set of quests and stories. There are entire game modes dedicated to just these two things.
While all of this takes place within the world of Final Fantasy XIV, crafting and gathering are very much their own beast. And don't even get me started on fishing. If you start getting fishing, especially the various challenges and the ocean fishing you sometimes forget this game even has other content.
That's just crafting and gathering. Those feed into Final Fantasy XIVs housing system which in itself can turn the game into something closer to animal crossing. And then there is the Island Sanctuary which turns the game into Harvest Moon but with capitalistic intentions.
There is a reason why Final Fantasy XIV has enjoyed such a long life, and it's not the story or the amazing raids, or the cool battle content. It's everything else.
There are so many people to play FFXIV just to hang out or do anything really, be a Mahjong champion or decorate their houses. That's also the kind of content that keeps people around for the time between patches.
And I understand that to the unindoctrinated, this sounds like blatant padding. But I've spent an entire week decorating my house to my liking. And after I was done, I took a few screenshots threw them up on social media, and tore it all down for a new project.
If we're talking about MMORPGs and any online game, we have to talk about the community. Now I will not give you the old song and dance about how Final Fantasy XIV has the greatest community of all time. Because that's just promotional talk at this point, especially with the drama that pops up here and there.
I will however say that Final Fantasy XIV tends to have a more friendly player base than other games. This is mostly because there are not many ways in FFXIV to be hostile to each other. Griefing people are either completely pointless or just a waste of time.
And because of the way the game is set, veteran players are encouraged to take new players under their wing and explain game mechanics as well as more advanced strategies. Honestly, the Mentor/Sprout system Final Fantasy XIV has in place is despite being named to death by the community one of its better aspects.
But there is more! In the section above I mentioned how there is a large crowd of people who play Final Fantasy XIV to just hang out and live in the world. This extends to a whole lot of that I believe even parts of the community aren't privy to.
For example, there is now a yearly In-Game convention called LunarCon organized by prominent members of the community with contests, panels, artists showing off their art and even stage plays.
There are entire communities centered around the taking of screenshots. You only have to look at Twitter for that, but some of them even do monthly magazines. And there are similar communities around the housing system or just fashion. After all, even Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi sells his own ‘sakaGUCCI' clothing brands in limited editions, in-game!
And then there is the Roleplay community. While for the more casual observers, there are nightclubs that just offer a cozy atmosphere to hang out while listening to a curated list of tunes. There is much more to discover.
The Roleplaying Communities, especially the on the Crystal Datacenter have regular weekly or even yearly events. Blitzball isn't in the game (yet) didn't stop people from making up a dice game and a league for it. There are server-wide festivals based around the various in-game holidays and big joined campaigns or even a weekly fighting tournament.
What I'm trying to get across here, is that even outside of the normal things in Final Fantasy XIV, there is still a lot to discover.
There are many communities within the community, and you'll see that there are many, many people who play this game for vastly different reasons. And that alone speaks not only to the quality of the game but also to the health of the community.
Just come and Play FFXIV
So I hope until now, this has been a glowing endorsement of the critically acclaimed MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV with an extended free trial up to level 60 including the award-winning Heavensward expansion. But allow me to bring it home even further.
There are two, maybe three things that usually put people off Final Fantasy XIV and I'd like to address them.
First, yes it's an MMORPG with a monthly fee. That might be a business model of old but I promise you your money is being put to good use. As mentioned above, Final Fantasy XIV receives another every few months and a major expansion every two years.
And you don't have to be subscribed at all times either, Final Fantasy XIV makes it really easy to step away from the game for months and come back without missing out on much.
Second, Final Fantasy and MMORPG don't really go together for some people. Even if this is the second MMORPG in the series and Final Fantasy XI and XIV are the two most successful titles in the entire franchise. So let me put this straight, Final Fantasy XIV is mainline Final Fantasy through and through, one that 4 massive expansion packs since its release.
There is a reason why even hardcore fans of the series hail it as the best in the franchise. Even with all the staples of the MMORPG genre, even if you aren't a fan of that. Final Fantasy XIV is as classic Final Fantasy as it gets, and the amount of quality it manages to pull off regularly puts even many modern titles to shame.
And the third one is; it's an MMORPG. There are some who say this isn't a real MMO, or an MMORPG is just the usual grind fest. If you just play through the main scenario, you get one of the best-told stories in the medium and a very decent RPG with great progression and multiplayer elements.
And if you continue to play after that, most content outside of the main scenario is very heavy on the multiplayer aspect. Think of it this way: The main scenario is your story and yours alone and everything outside of it is what you decide to do with your friends and strangers you meet along the way.
If you are still on the edge about it, the trial is free. But don't just dismiss Final Fantasy XIV. Without a doubt, it is one of the best experiences you can have in gaming today, and it's backed by a team that really cares and is given the time to make the game they want to make. And you get a taste of what Final Fantasy XVI will have in store for you.
UPDATE: Until March 15, FFXIV is 50% off! Making now the perfect time to dip your toes into Eorzea!
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