An interest in MMOs, reborn
One common thread I’ve heard about gaming for the past several years is the amazing quality of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Once arguably the worst mainline title in the series, it has evolved into what many, many, many people consider to be the best MMO on the market. On Destructoid, at E3, at Tennocon, I always seem to stumble across people gushing about their love for this game.
For the longest time, I treated the monthly subscription cost as a barrier to entry. After a year or so of World of Warcraft, I found I didn’t need to pay every month to enjoy a good MMO when there were so many free options or games that only charge me once. But the beckoning call of Final Fantasy XIV is strong, and in wake of the launch of Shadowbringers, it’s now too loud for me to ignore. Last week I picked up the complete edition and am ready to start my journey through wherever the hell this game takes place.
Of course, I don’t want to go in blind, so I asked two prolific FFXIV players on Destructoid — community moderators Pixie and Occams — a few questions that will help me, and hopefully other new players, hit the ground running.
Right off the bat, what is the most important thing people should know when starting up Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn?
Pixie: Take your time. As with starting any MMO, it is easy to get overwhelmed. There is a lot to do and a lot to see. As you learn your roles of choice, review the descriptions of your skills and spells. There are abilities and spells that evolve over time and start to play off other abilities, so sometimes you should go back and review them.
When you start the game and reach level 16, return to the local dining establishment/bar that the tutorial of the main story led you to in your home town. There is an NPC called The Smith that gives you quests that help you further acclimate to your role and partying with other players. As a reward for completing these tutorial quests, you’ll receive a snazzy set of gear that’s pretty good for the next 10 levels.
Also, follow the main story and your job quests. For your first job, this is a great way to stay geared up, level up quickly and get introduced to other content like fighting primals or joining a Grand Company around level 20.
Grand Companies accept a currency known as Grand Company Seals; they’re accrued doing FATEs, or turning in items you don’t want or no longer need to a Grand Company NPC. You can purchase pretty nice gear on your path to level 50 here, often better than what you could buy off a merchant NPC or the Market Board with Gil.
Finally, and I know I’m running a bit long on this answer, after you finish the level 50 main scenario quest, things get bogged down a little bit. There are a series of roughly 100 quests that bridge A Realm Reborn to Heavensward. It’s great big lore dump that all three expansions benefit from but when you’re nearing level 53 through these quests and are just hyped to enter Heavenward, it’s a bit of drag they tossed in so many fetch quests in ARR.
Thankfully, once that’s done, you never see a roadblock like that, so just stick with it. The best is yet to come!
Also, at 50, do the Crystal Tower raids. For reasons.
Are there differences in which server you choose?
Pixie: Before you could visit other servers within your Data Center, there was more incentive to pick a particular server. Now that you can visit other servers within your data center, there’s less pressure on the choice.
Population per server has never really been an issue as a lot of the content players end up doing is assigned to instances players from other servers can be matched to, but some servers have developed various cultures along the way.
Balmung is famous/infamous for being the big role player server and tough to get into. Lamia is a bit of an all-arounder and pretty laid back but is known to have one of the bigger Spanish-speaking communities. While most servers are friendly to LGBT players, Faerie and Siren have the larger gatherings of LGBT players. Gilgamesh (also known as Greg) has a densely populated raid community with all the pros and cons that entails.
There was a crowdsourced Reddit thread that goes into more detail about the differences that can be found here.
Occams: I picked my server because I liked the name.
For fans of the Final Fantasy franchise, what are some of the aspects from the series that have made their way into A Realm Reborn?
Pixie: Oh wow, where do I even start? You’ll come across staple enemies of the franchise like Malboros, Bombs, and Cactuars possibly before you can even ride your own Chocobo. If you start in Gridania, you’ll meet Moogles right away and see them in every expansion.
Occams: A better question to ask now might be what isn’t in the game? Each new patch and expansion has added so much that its really done a great job at giving fans a love letter to the series. The immediate stuff that a new player will recognize are mainstays like Moogles and Cid while later on there’s high-end content like a raid based in Ivalice and you even get to fight the Ghost Train.
Pixie: Square Enix is often hit-or-miss with exploiting nostalgia, but in Final Fantasy XIV, the team has achieved a Nintendo-esque mastery of using it.
Just as an example, Shadowbringers draws a fair bit on Final Fantasy III, VIII and there are elements of IX in there as well. Final Fantasy VIII mostly gets a love-letter treatment across the current expansion from the new Gunbreaker job to the Eden Raids. Your main mission in Shadowbringers is you return night to a world doomed to a flood of light, which was part of Final Fantasy III’s story.
If there’s a Final Fantasy you like, there’s something from it here. Even XIII if that’s your thing.
There are a lot of classes to choose from. Which class has been your favorite to work with?
Occams: I just have my Ninja so maybe Pixie can answer this one.
Pixie: I kinda try to get into the spirit of every job. I started mostly as a Warrior with my heart set on Scholar and Machinist, but those felt a little disappointing to me at the time so I stuck with Warrior through Heavensward. I focused on Samurai most of Stormblood. I’d say my current favorites are Dark Knight, Machinist, and I’m still liking Samurai.
Machinist, in particular, I’m smitten with because while I played it late into Stormblood, it was a job that was fun but had weird priorities like shoving everything and the kitchen sink into a 10-second window to exploit a skill known as Wildfire. Basically, you’d toss a kind of kinetic grenade at an enemy and its effects were increased if you could toss a lot of damage at it in those 10 seconds.
It didn’t work great and the whole job revolved around it, so the job got a revamp in Shadowbringers. Wildfire still exists and functions in a similar way, but you only have certain skills you can pump into it and otherwise, the job has taken strongly after Edgar of Final Fantasy VI. You get toys like Bioblaster, Drill, and Auto-Crossbow now and they’re pretty great. At 80, you get to summon the Automaton Queen to fight alongside you for short periods of time.
Another thing I like is the Machinist Limit Break 3 is borrowed from Barret Wallace of FFVII (or Laguna Loire in Dissidia’s case). You call in a satellite to laser the enemy in true anime fashion.
One of the new classes introduced in Shadowbringers is Dancer. Can I be a dancer right from the get-go, a dancer for money, any old music will do?
Occams: If someone hasn’t named their dancer Rhythm and talked about being a soul’s companion then I will be sorely disappointed.
Pixie: Dancer and Gunbreaker are available once you’ve reached level 60 in another job and own Shadowbringers. The Dancer quest NPC can be found in the Lower Limsa Lominsa Aetheryte Plaza and Gunbreaker quests start in the New Gridania Aetheryte Plaza.
Samurai and Red Mage become available in Ul’dah after the main scenario quest “Rock the Castrum” at level 50 if you own Stormblood. Machinist, Dark Knight, and Astrologian start at 30 and are unlocked by reaching Ishgard in Heavensward.
So yeah, Dancer and Gunbreaker aren’t immediately unlocked unless you want to skip the story and leveling by playing into microtransaction nonsense.
I personally feel that you should play and unlock the jobs by the originally intended means. Not only will you understand what’s going on in the story, but you’ll have other roles to fall back on if you end up not enjoying the expansion jobs. Story-skip and level-boosting potions are better used by players making another character who don’t want to go through unlocking everything again.
There have been three expansion packs released for this game. How would you suggest new players go about experiencing the world and the story without being overwhelmed by years of content?
Occams: I can definitely see how intimidating that could be. You are looking at dozens upon dozens of hours of content. You have a few options there. Just power through the Realm Reborn stuff which, contextually, is the weakest of the story arcs but still fun and interesting. Square does sell story completion items which you can use to essentially bypass the story and start the next arc. They run around $25 I believe. Same goes for job (class) leveling items. As someone with limited time to game, I get why this would be useful but I think unless you really experience the story, you aren’t going to get as much out of the game as other folks.
Pixie: You have more than enough time to get 80, so just take it easy and enjoy the ride. Even if you should somehow miss the current tier while it’s hot, the daily roulettes in the Duty Finder will still have players engaging with that content further down the road. It will always be there. A new cycle will start in 5.2 and things adjusted so players starting at that time have a fair shot at progression.
A Realm Reborn was a relaunch of the game but it was also a continuation of the story that started in the vanilla version. Is there a way for players to experience that original story content?
Pixie: There isn’t, but ARR/2.0 and beyond recap the most important events that happened there anyway. There are some cutscene collections on YouTube and interesting trivia to find, but a lot of 1.0 was retconned in 2.0 and the story is better for it.
There is, however, an annual event that relates to this I’ll mention later.
I have played just a few MMOs in my life. There was a short jaunt with Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine, I played Everquest on my phone for all of four minutes, and I probably spent a good 10 or 12 hours in Guild Wars 2 before my computer decided to stop running it properly. The MMO I’ve spent the most time with is World of Warcraft. Is FFXIV closer to WoW in terms of gameplay or is it more along the lines of a classic Final Fantasy game?
Occams: I haven’t played WoW since Burning Crusade so I’m not really sure how well I can offer up a comparison. I can say that XIV is very action-oriented with the higher-end boss fights and raids requiring a lot of space work and movement rather than just sitting there and cycling through the same set of attacks.
Pixie: From what I understand, there’s a lot of WoW influence. I never got far with it, though. My prior MMOs were Final Fantasy XI and Everquest.
There are differences. Like, as the lead protagonist, the player has an ability that gives them “premonitions” of where an attack will land, which is represented visually in ever-evolving ways. Just when you think you know all the tricks a boss can pull, an update will add a dozen more new ideas.
WoW players have often been bewildered by the sheer number of mechanics tossed at us, about as much as how polite most FFXIV players are.
When I went through WoW, I split my time playing as part of a team with my friend, as a member of a guild, and going through a lot of it solo. Is there a superior way to play this game or is it generally the same whether you’re playing by yourself or with others?
Pixie: It varies by role. Tanks and Healers will always be better served doing dailies and doing the dungeon queues in groups. DPS roles are as overpopulated as one might expect from other games. There are other ways to gain EXP, such as overworld events called FATEs (if you played Destiny, it’s like those random live events for bonus EXP) as well as daily and weekly “Hunts” that are in the spirit of hunts from FFXII.
As you unlock more content and get higher in level, your daily Duty Finder rewards get more valuable. Jumping into Normal Raid, Alliance Raids and MSQ roulettes will net you a sizable amount of EXP so there’s never really a lot of sitting around unless you just want to wait it out and do something out of game. During levels 1 through 49, you also have a quest system called “leves” of which you can do 10 each day (or let them pile up to a cap of 99) which you can do for some more EXP.
So if you want a quiet evening and just progressing alone, you have options. Doing dailies with groups is the faster path, though.
Occams: I’ve only played solo and I’ve had a great time of it. The community has been very friendly overall with a bad group/run/raid very much an uncommon occurrence for me.
MMOs tend to live and die by their non-story content. What does FFXIV have to keep players playing after they’ve completed the main story, and what are some activities you can do in tandem with your main quest lines?
Pixie: Raids are the main content. They drop those in the even-numbered patches while releasing Alliance Raids in the odd-numbered ones. So right now we have Eden’s Gate and soon the “Savage” difficulty of that, then in 5.1, the first “YoRHa Apocalypse” Alliance Raid will be added.
Within those cycles, you’ll see other content drops, such as traditional holiday events, crossover events, and eventually quests for our ultimate weapons for people to grind their brains out.
What type of in-game economy does Final Fantasy XIV use and are there any real money purchase options?
Pixie: There is a real money cash shop called the Mog Station, but not as a means to get more Gil, it’s for exclusive glamour items, mounts, minions, story-skip and level-boost potions. I got my Fenrir SDS mount and Eastern dress there. It’s also where older holiday event gear goes on to be monetized.
Otherwise, our economy revolves around Gil.
Occams: The classic Gil! A question that haunts me to this day is years ago a buddy asked me what the exchange rate for Gil was to the dollar. It never left my head.
Pixie: If I’m being honest, Gil is largely for buying crafted gear for raids, food and for filling out the odd missing slot of gear as you level up. Otherwise, you spend Gil on vanity glamours, minions and housing items. Gil isn’t a make-or-break thing, though it can be nice to earn lots of it through crafting.
Dungeons drop armor as well, so if you intend on leveling other jobs, it might be good to save that rather than spend Gil for leveling again later.
The Grand Company seals system is a preview into a later system in which you earn a currency called tomestones which usually have two tiers: One that has a 2,000 cap but can be accrued freely through doing high-level content, and the other more strictly-capped weekly at 450 for raid-level gear. At 50, 60, 70, and 80 each expansion has a little endgame depot where you’ll spend these tomestones and if you upgrade them you’re good for about midway into the next expansion.
There are also token rewards from raids to turn in for gear so Gil only really plays a role in advancement if you have secondary jobs you want to have caught up through crafted gear. That raid-level crafted stuff does get expensive, but as a patch cycle goes on it gets cheaper once the hype dies down.
In WoW, my Shadow Priest was quite the herbalist and tailor. Professions were one aspect of the game I sunk many, many hours into. Is there any similar system like that here?
Occams: XIV has a very similar system. For example, I am a miner and a furniture maker. It’s broken down into Disciple of the Hand classes (leatherworker, alchemist, goldsmith, etc.) and Disciple of the Land (miner, botanist, fisher) which are your gathering classes. They get their own class story missions and gear and skills.
Pixie: What’s neat about crafting is each guild also has their own story arc just like combat-oriented jobs do. Each guild master has their own set of quirks and can even be seen elsewhere in holiday events. Redolent Rose is probably the most famous of them.
What brings a smile to my face is they genuinely find a way to make your crafting or gathering have a harmonious little place in the world. Even the condescending lady at the leatherworking guild will find a way to make those under her employ feel special.
What type of in-game events does Square Enix host in the world of Final Fantasy XIV? Are there holidays are anything like that?
Pixie: Yes, there are all kinds of holidays. A mix of Western and Eastern holidays get fantasy spins on their real-world counterparts and sometimes include fun mini-games. Last Christmas, it was conducting carolers Theatrhythm-style.
We’re coming up on the Summer event, the “Moonfaire” as they call it. Soon after will come “The Rising” which is an in-game remembrance of the Seventh Umbral Calamity and basically how 1.0 died. Last year, they actually gave players a small, playable re-created glimpse of the End Times of 1.0 and rewards from that era that are otherwise no longer obtainable in-game.
It’s also an event that development team loves to fourth-wall through and thank the players, as well as give them a mystery to ponder regarding future content.
How gay can I be in this game?
Pixie: Extremely gay. Catboys can marry lion men. Lizard girls can marry rabbit women.
Occams: The Top Gun volleyball montage scene.
Pixie, you have created some of the most beautiful looking characters in this game and it’s a joy whenever you update your Twitter feed with your latest masterpiece. What type of character customization options does FFXIV allot players?
Pixie: There’s a system called glamouring. You buy these things called glamour prisms for Gil or company seals and dyes and then use them to project other pieces of armor or colors onto your existing armor. So if your black mage looks like a dumpy garden gnome and you’d prefer not to look that way, after level 16 there’s a way out of that.
You also get an alternative form of storage called a glamour dresser where you can place up to 400 visual items inside for the cost of a glamour prism each. There are 15 glamour plates that serve as a palate for what you wish to wear, though there are job restrictions placed on some gear because they don’t want heavily armored mages (for reasons) but you can project a bikini and frog suits over anything (also for reasons).
Still, if you’re creative and have dug deep into dungeon and raid content, you can find a lot of styles. Or if you’re just affectionate about looking like a Red Mage at all times as a Red Mage, you can always have that iconic look even as better upgrades come along.
I have lots of fun with it. It’s nice when armor from different dungeons can come together for a unique look and that’s something of a great need I have with games like this. It helps you feel more unique.
Finally, is there any specific moment in the game that you remember being pure magic that new players should be on the lookout for?
Pixie: It’s those moments you see a Moogle getting hammered, or an old face from an earlier quest or raid story still managing to be relevant. There are characters you will endear yourself to and seeing how they grow and change, live or die will affect you in many ways.
Cid, Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie are often involved in raid content and it feels like a growing family outside of your dealings with your main heroic party, the Scions.
Dark Knight surprisingly and amusingly has to deal with Moogle antics but has Jungian moments worthy of Persona 4. Plus as you progress through the expansions, Dark Knight and the other Heavensward jobs help keep the story of Ishgard and its people alive.
What makes Dark Knight’s story stand out is where most job-related quests are side-stories, Dark Knight dials back into some of the psychological consequence all these big main story events have had on your Warrior of Light during their adventures. And it doesn’t pull any punches.
That’s probably my favorite thing, FFXIV never forgets even some of the most minor characters you meet. A character you think is just tutorial fodder might appear in a bigger quest later. Small victories in your 30s will be felt further into the game. There are even small effects sometimes seen around the world after you finish particular quests or raid.
Occams: Find Hildibrand Manderville.
With that, I think I’m ready to start my adventures through Final Fantasy XIV. Hopefully, I’ll find it to be as enjoyable as Pixie and Occams, as well as every other person I’ve heard speak of the game, find it to be.