Final Fantasy XIV - Worth Getting Into Now?

Yes, I completely skipped all of the E3 news this year. The reason? Well, it's covered by everyone and everything. While I do have my own thoughts on what was announced, there's really not much that I could say that hasn't been said before. The trailers and gameplay videos speak for themselves, and there are plenty of videos out there for anyone who couldn't watch the shows live. That being said though, I would like to discuss one game that was touched upon, as it is more relevant today than it was during E3. That game being Final Fantasy XIV.

With the release of Shadowbringers, there is a lot of discussion going on around the web. While many long time fans are already playing (and most likely loving) the expansion, there are a lot of others who are just now looking at the game for the first time. Although the game might look interesting to them, most of the time they can't help but wonder if it's even worth it. After all, it is a game that's been going for quite a few years now, and Shadowbringers is the third major expansion. It's a lot of content to work through, and that alone many turn many off. So, I figured I'd take the time today to tell you guys how it is. What Final Fantasy XIV is really all about, and if it's worth getting into if you haven't already. So with that being said, let's get on with this!

What IS Final Fantasy XIV:

First of all, what is the game? Well to put it simply, it's the 14th main entry in the Final Fantasy series. Now some of you may already be passing this game off as a side game as it's an MMO, but I want to make this very clear right now. It isn't. This is in fact a mainline entry, and it has everything (plus more) that you should expect from any of the other 14 titles. As for those of you who know nothing about Final Fantasy, let me assure you that the numbering doesn't actually matter. Rather than being a series in the standard sense, Final Fantasy is more of a collection of different games under one name. Every title is a stand alone, and only shares some similar ideas/themes with other entries. Well, that and they are all story focused JRPGs.

So, with that being said, again, FFXIV is the 14th mainline entry in the series -- but it is also a series of it's own. It's an MMORPG that has had 5 full storylines released, and multiple "bridge" storylines released between each major expansion. It's a massive world with a lot of story packed in, and it all takes place in an online living world.

Not Your Standard MMORPG:

The first thing many people think when they hear the term MMORPG might be something like WoW or one of the many free to play MMOs out there. Now while FF14 does share similar systems and mechanics with some of these, it is still very much a Final Fantasy game. The truth is, FF14 is mostly a single player experience. (Until end game that is.) When you start the game you'll create a character and enter the starting city like in most MMOs, but the game starts to change the more you get into it. Now sadly the game does have quite a long start up, but things do get a lot better. After you make your way through your generic MMO fetch quests and kill quests (as well as the other tutorial style quests), you'll eventually witness an event that forces you out into the world. It's at this moment most players realize FF14 isn't going to be what they expected.

From that point onward the story becomes much more linear. Sure you're still free to go wherever you like and take on side quests, but rather than being your standard lore based story most MMOs are known for, it becomes one that is both dialogue and cutscene driven, and one that always pushes you forward. You'll travel to far away lands, visit towns and talk to npcs, fight your way through dungeons, and take on bosses as you progress through each of the game's chapters. Eventually everything will come to a head at the game's final boss, but even then things are only just getting started.

The End of 2.0 and Pre Heavensward:

Up until the end of the original story, things are quite linear. While the start is your generic MMO startup, the rest of the story is that of a single player Final Fantasy title. Yes you will have to work with other players to finish dungeons (there is an auto match making system to form parties for dungeons and bosses you need to complete), but for the most part you are on your own. Once you finish the base story however, things become different.

First of all, post 2.0 the game finally has a budget. The original base game was created after the massive failure of 1.0, and was a complete reboot for the game. Because of this the devs really had no idea how 2.0 would preform, and they didn't have a lot of time or resources to put into it. So because of that they couldn't really do anything too crazy with it. Only key cutscenes were voice acted, and there was quite a bit more padding scattered throughout the main plot with it's side quests. With 2.0 however this is no longer the case, and it shows. Most cutscenes are now voice acted, and the cutscenes in general have greatly improved. It's a nice upgrade from what we originally had, but it's still nothing compared to what they were able to do in Heavensward... But I'll get to that later.

The next major change with the game starting end game is the fact that it becomes like a standard MMO. MANY extra dungeons, boss fights, and raids become unlocked the moment you finish the main story, and the game puts a bigger focus on these aspects. This means players need to work together to complete everything, and the jump in skill level pushes everyone to get better at the game. While there are side stories (such as the inspector episodic quests), the real focus of end game is FF14 being an MMO. And that's why a lot of MMO players enjoy it.

Heavensward and Beyond:

Once players get to Heavensward, the game falls into it's current "standard" pattern. Story events push you to a new region of the world, and a brand new adventure begins there. Here is where the story's production value really jumps, and it's one of the reasons players have stuck around for all these years. An entire new voice cast was hired to dub the game, once again nearly all of the cutscenes are voice acted, and there are a LOT more cutscenes in general. Although the base game tried to offer a standard FF experience as well, it's not really until Heavensward that FF14 pulls it off. It's a fun ride from start to finish, and easily (in my opinion) one of the best stories a Final Fantasy has told. On the other hand, side quests exist, and because of that many people come to hate the moogle race, and their constant asking of you to climb mountains to look for their favorite rocks... At least there is one way around this.

The big thing with each expansion in FF14 is that they typically offer some sort of major game changing mechanic, or quality of life improvements. Heavensward introduced the ability to fly, which makes completing side quests much faster if you wait and do them later (as flying needs to be unlocked in each area first), Stormblood added swimming and underwater exploration (it also dropped support for the PS3, allowing the PC and PS4 versions to break free of it's old limitations), and Shadowbringers... Well, it brought a lot of battle system changes and expanded on some improvements introduced in Stormblood. Anyway, each expansion has upgraded the game in multiple ways, and many of those upgrades carry over into the base game as well. This means even if you're a new player, you're not going to have to go through the game's early days like we did. And that's a good thing.

So, is it worth it?

If you skipped directly to this, I wouldn't blame you. I still recommend you read everything before this to get an idea of what the game is for yourself, but here's my honest answer:

YES!!!!!! (If you're into JRPGs that is.)

Even though we are quite a few expansions in now, it's not as overwhelming as you might think. You have to force yourself through some boring setup at the start of the game, but once you get past that the game flies. The new upgrades to the combat system seem to make things a lot easier now and enemies die faster, and there are now daily rewards for every type of multiplayer duty. This means when you do hit parts that require multiplayer, it is easy to find a party and get it done. Even OLD end game content has players playing it again, so you don't have to worry about waiting an hour + to get in.

As for the story itself, it's really something you shouldn't rush (enjoy each and every minute of it while it lasts), but it doesn't take too long to get through it either. You can do the game's free trial to see if you like it, and use that trial to get through all the boring generic MMO setup content. Once you do so and hit level 35, you could then decide what you want to do from there. If you're really into the MMO aspects you could level grind your other classes to 35 as well, but if that's not your thing you can buy the game and move on with the main story and your main class. Buying the game gives you another 30 days of game time, which is more than enough time to get through the rest of the base game, and even the patch stories before Heavensward. Then depending on how much you play, it could be possible to knock out  the other expansions as well... But I really don't recommend rushing like that. Realistically you'll be into Heavensward when your first 30 days end, and you'll then need to sub. That's where some people get turned off.

If you're worried about the sub, don't be. You are not locked into anything, and you can even make payments through Steam if you don't want to use the more expensive $30 time cards, or don't want to put your credit card online. Instead a standard full sub is $15 bucks for a month, but that's only if you want to use more than one character. It's $13 a month for the single character account. Either way, you don't have to pay every single month, and when you do pay you are opening yourself to hundreds of hours of content. Of course after a couple of months you could easily be finished with the story, but there are still other things to do on the side. It's up to you if you want to do those things though, as none of it is actually required. Want to catch all the fish? Go for it. Don't like the insane crafting system? Ignore it. These are all options you have, and not something you have to do, and that's one thing that makes FF14 great.

So in short, if you're thinking about trying the game, then go for it. Don't be put off by how much content is in the game, because not all of it may be for you. Focus on what you like, and you'll fly through it in no time. As for the price of the sub, again it's really not that bad (especially considering just how much there is to do in the game). While some may be put off by having to pay for a game they already own, you could always think of it this way. It costs more to see a 2 hour long movie, than it does to play hundreds of hours a month. But again, it really depends on you liking the game or not. That's where the free trial comes in, so it's not like you have to pay out of pocket right away.

Well, hopefully that gave you guys some idea on what FF14 is! If you're still interested, then feel free to go out and download the trial today. It'll be worth it.

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