The MMO genre has a long legacy, and though games like RuneScape and World of Warcraft are household names, there’s another game deserves just as much recognition, and is actually better in my opinion: FFXIV.
This is the fourteenth main installment of the iconic Final Fantasy series and Square Enix’s second Final Fantasy MMO. It’s a brilliant game all around, with an awesome community to boot. Anyone with an interest in the Final Fantasy series or MMOs in general should give this game a spin. And if you need specific reasons, here are five specific things that FFXIV has done better than most other MMOs!
Balance of MMO and story
To start off, FFXIV has a great balance between a compelling story and MMO elements. In some games, developers tend to lean towards one or the other. Fortunately, Square Enix managed to find a sweet middle ground that satisfies those who want the MMO grind/action, and those who like a quality story.
It truly doesn’t have a brutal grind that requires daily attention. Its quite the opposite: the grind of leveling flows with the main story well, and is supported by an efficient leveling system that is aided by daily roulettes. They let you revisit previous dungeons and boss fights to conquer them again. Although your level is synced down, the experience rewards are tailored to your current level, and chunk a nice bit off of your exp bar. This makes it easier to level in the later stages of the game.
Because this leveling system works well, it gives you time to experience the story. And this is a story you want to take in. The base game, A Realm Reborn, is gripping from the start, but the following expansions are even better. Heavensward, the second expansion, is incredible and really develops the main characters a lot. Meanwhile, those who play up until Shadowbringers will experience what many call the best MMO expansion of all time. All of this and everything in between is sure to excite and keep even the more jaded RPG fans for countless hours.
One of the first things a new player notices when starting up FFXIV is the graphics. Though its hard to hold all MMOs to the same standards, and some more recent titles might have better graphics than FFXIV, the game stands out by being different, and thus more memorable. Most things in this game – whether they are another player, their gear, or the landscape – are beautiful. Of course, because FFXIV has been around for a decade, it’s graphics aren’t fully updated. However, they still stand out from other MMO titles.
Something that is particularly noticeable is the gear. Often, armor and weapons in MMOs and RPGs in general are boring early on. You can’t start off right out of the gate with epic, kingly attire obviously, but FFXIV does a good job of making solid-looking gear from the get-go. It might not be incredible, but it’s not mundane either. Needless to say, there is a variety of late-game equipment that is top-notch at look at. As a result, you’ll always find gear that you don’t wear just for stats, but because you want to. And if you don’t like your current gear, you can use in-game items called glamours to change its appearance. It’s a win-win.
Another great thing about FFXIV‘s visuals is the amount of customization available. In regards to characters, gear and housing, there’s much to suit your liking. You can choose to be a cute Mi’qote cat girl, or a badass Au Ra dragon-like person. Likewise, you can purchase player-owned housing and apartments that feature limitless design opportunities. No matter which aspect you focus on, the visual variety is excellent.
For those familiar with the Final Fantasy franchise, this point comes as no surprise. As with every other Final Fantasy game, FFXIV has a stellar soundtrack that is pure bliss to listen to. Nobuo Uematsu is something of a legend in Japan and across the world for his orchestral works within the series as a whole. He was joined by Masayoshi Soken for this installment in particular and delivered a fantastic product for the player base.
This soundtrack truly does it all. It’s peaceful when walking through the lush woods of Gridania, but comes in hot and heavy for raids and battles. The beach paradise of Costa del Sol has a fun vacation tune. Meanwhile, when exploring the Wanderer’s Palace, you hear an exciting piece that captures the essence of adventure. Finally, there are unique pieces in there too, like the punk rock song found when fighting Shiva.
There’s a lot of variation and all of it is fitting for the mood of the place you’re at. The Final Fantasy universe is blessed with memorable soundtracks and Final Fantasy XIV is no exception. Veteran players of other MMOs typically turn their music off after years of playing and hearing the same songs over and over again, but I don’t think FFXIV players have the same problem.
One character to conquer them all
One thing that some games – like World of Warcraft –drop the ball on in my opinion, is the necessity to create alternative characters. This is because one character can’t be every class available, and is restricted in that sense. While creating other characters is common in FFXIV, it isn’t born out of necessity. That’s because a single character can level every class in the game. If you start off as an archer and don’t like it, you’re not stuck to it. It’s quite easy to switch to a new class, like a black mage or botanist for example, whenever you want. All you have to do is equip a different main hand weapon/tool and voila, you’re a new class with a whole new set of skills.
Honestly, it’s crazy that this isn’t a staple in the genre. Sure, it might make more sense thematically to have one character not have numerous jobs, but practically its a drawback. The ability to experiment and level the classes you see fit at your leisure is wonderful for new players and veterans alike. It gets rid of some of the stress of potentially picking something you don’t like and ensures everyone can play how they want to.
Another plus of this system is that players can learn how other roles operate, and get to know their strengths and limitations to better their teamwork for party-based activities.
Genuinely great community
Though the game itself is something to behold, an MMO is always partly defined by the people you play it with. Many online communities have a significant amount of toxic players in their ranks. Miraculously, FFXIV is much better in this regard as well. The scarcity of toxic players in this game is a welcome breath of fresh air. The vast majority of players are polite, welcoming and helpful. Even if a player is messing up terribly in a dungeon, for example, people are averse to flaming and more akin to explaining what the player is doing wrong, or giving them ins and outs of boss mechanics. This is for me one of the biggest highlights of FFXIV.
Besides simply being nice to each other, people have a sense of community. It comes in different forms, but there is something for everyone. Roleplaying is an integral part of the game and it fostered by the developers. For example, groups of bards travel to different worlds and perform concerts in-game. If you’re lucky, you might find a group performing at a city square, but there’s a good chance any parties or social gatherings will hire them to play too. One such ensemble, among others, is SongBirds, who also live stream their concerts on Twitch. But if being a musician isn’t your calling, there are plenty of other combat, skilling and roleplaying communities to enjoy.
All in all, the community of FFXIV is what most sets it apart from other games. There are bad apples in the bunch, sure, but many of the people you’ll encounter in Eorzea are down to earth and friendly. Nowadays, what else can you ask for?