Written by Bad Demoman 11th November 2016

For a lot of people, the MMO experience is basically World of Warcraft and that’s about it. But I didn't play WoW until 2014, and I only played it for a month. I didn’t catch the “bug”, I suppose. My MMO experience was limited to Guild Wars and a bunch of free Asian MMOs (Risk Your Life took up a huge chunk of my life!). So I started on Final Fantasy 14 partway through Heavensward, the first expansion. An MMO lives and breathes on its community, and how it treats its players - so what is the FF14 experience, for an entirely new player?

When you start FF14, you get a couple of choices - Your race, your job, and your deity. I’m one of those people that spend hours and hours on character creation, and really want everything to fit with an idea in my head. Thankfully, FF14s character creation is pretty great. While each race has small stat differences, they’re not all that considerable, so you can ignore them and simply pick the race you like the most. The races are pretty diverse too - I went with a boring old human, but your standard set of elves, giants, tiny people and anthro-cat people are all there. Each race will also have two variants which will change a few things about them - for example, there's a race of Dragon people called the Au Ra, who have two different variants of scales to choose from. All these variants are accompanied by a bit of lore telling you about the races history, and the reason behind the differences - different habitats, for example. Never fear that your meticulously crafted adventurers beautiful face will be hidden away behind a helmet the whole time - you can choose whether to display your helmet or not, and there's a wide selection of headgear that doesn’t cover your entire face, like the Paladin’s crown or the Black Mage's hat that should be familiar to any FF veteran.

Your selection of job will affect where in the world you start out, but it’s important to note that you’re able to change jobs almost whenever you want. After progressing through a bit of the story, you’ll get access to the other cities, and all you need to do to unlock the other jobs is to visit their guilds. The result is that you don’t feel like decisions you made are affecting your enjoyment. When I played WoW I got to level 30 or so as a Druid before deciding I didn’t enjoy it - and I was stuck with it. Final Fantasy gives you a lot of ways to increase your EXP gain, especially if you have other classes that are a higher level. It makes you want to experiment, and try out a bunch of different classes. Sure, you’ll eventually have a main job that you focus on, but if tedium sets in maybe it’s time to just switch things up!

The story quests seem to be a conflicting part of FF14. Obviously you’ll be spending a lot of time on them, and they’re required to unlock a lot of features in the game. Some people claim FF14 has one of the best storylines in an MMO. On the other hand, one of my WoW playing friends tried out FF14 before me and complained that there was “just way too much text!”. At the time, I was dismissive. That’s what Final Fantasy’s all about! But after playing the game, I entirely understood what he meant. I found it incredibly difficult to invest in the story at all. Minfillia, one of the most key characters, struck me far too much as an uninteresting character whose sole role is to order you around. It doesn’t help that her orders are often far from interesting. FF14s quests  made me long for the days of “Slay 15 goblins and deliver their third toe from the right”. A lot of the story quests in FF14 involve travelling between different NPCs and talking to them. It feels like a grind to get to the more interesting content! Thankfully, some of the side stories are a lot more interesting. Finding out about Bahamut's history as a world destroyer that was imprisoned was amazing, and while I haven’t gotten to it yet, what I’ve seen of the Alexander dungeons have made me really look forward to them.

There’s a wide berth of content types in FF14. There’s Fates, quests that will appear in the world for a limited time that can be tackled by any number of players at once. Guildhests, repeatable quests that mostly serve as efficient EXP farming. The recently added Palace of the Dead is a particular highlight. The idea is, you enter a 50 floor dungeon at level 1, levelling up at a much faster rate as you progress. It lets you try out new classes without having to grind them all the way to higher levels, while also earning some EXP for the class outside of the palace too! A large amount of the focus is on Dungeons. A large amount of your time will be spent in 4 man dungeons - One tank, One healer and two DPSes. This is where you’ll get the best idea of the community. I found very few people I had disagreements with or felt weren’t pulling their weight, the community is friendly and inviting (atleast in Phoenix, my server).

This is partially because, in my experience, the community is mostly experienced players that have already hit endgame content. There's positives and negatives to this - there’s usually someone who’ll be able to help you out if you don’t know what’s going on. However, some experienced players might have unrealistic expectations of your ability if you’re new to the game, and some aren’t very tolerant of mistakes. This was particularly an issue for me, since I mained tank. If things go wrong, it’s often the Tank and the Healer that get the blame, after all. Thankfully, the helpful members of the community far outweigh the toxic ones.

Final Fantasy 14 is an MMO in progress. While WoW has over 10 years of content, experience and community behind it, Final Fantasy 14 is still in its early stages by comparison. A lot is set to change with the release of Stormblood, the second expansion. However, after being rebuilt from the ground up after the less than stellar initial release, the Realm Reborn version is more than just a competent MMO - it’s an excellent one. With the FF14 teams success in such a daunting task, I have every confidence that Stormblood is set to improve the experience, for new players and old.

Thanks to the awesome guys of The Little Ones Free Company over on the Phoenix server for the help with the pictures!

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Bad Demoman

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