Lots of people grew up playing Final Fantasy games on the Super Nintendo and PlayStation, and many of those same people are currently ignoring Final Fantasy XIV, having lost interest in the series long ago. It’s easy to see why, but that’s a huge mistake.
FFXIV released years ago and was so bad that Square Enix had to take a wrecking ball to it and yank the whole thing back to the drawing board. Yes, it was that bad. But who doesn’t love a great comeback story? FFXIV relaunched in 2013 with the “Realm Reborn” moniker, and it’s been wowing fans of the franchise and newcomers alike with a fresh and innovative take on the designs pioneered by games like World of Warcraft ever since—for anyone willing to give it a try, at least.
Number 14 is different from the Final Fantasy games most people remember—a “massively multiplayer online” game with different gameplay, rules and mechanics. MMOs can be pretty intimidating from the outside, but I think Final Fantasy XIV has enough of the elements of previous games in the series to make the transition as smooth as a chocobo’s feathers. Even better, “Heavensward,” the game’s first expansion, just added a ton of new content, classes, dungeons, and darker story content.
There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical of Final Fantasy XIV, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not the game you think it is—not anymore, at least. Here are 5 reasons why.
THE STORY IS ACTUALLY GOOD
If you’ve played an MMO, you know that more often than not the story sucks. Normally used as thinly veiled context to get you to kill stuff, you’re more liable to skip reading all that boring quest text and jump right to the action. I don’t blame you.
Final Fantasy XIV has the kind of story that makes you roll your eyes in the beginning—it just seems cheesy. But I’ll be the first to admit that I was had to eat those words by the time I finished the last of its story quests introduced before Heavensward launched. Don’t be fooled by the cat people and lighthearted nature of the game; Final Fantasy XIV can get real dark, real quick. The characters can be unpredictable and intriguing, and the epic climaxes are always thrilling. If you’re willing to dig in and embrace the story wholesale—cat people and all—there is a lot to enjoy. It might just surprise you.
IT HAS AWESOME BOSS BATTLES
If online games you play with friends live and die by their group content then have no fear, Final Fantasy XIV is alive and well. It won’t be long until you unlock the first of several dozen dungeons, each one with a unique look and bursting with awesome baddies to kill. Group content is the heart of Final Fantasy XIV, so you’ll want to bring a friend (or seven).
If you thought raids in Destiny were complicated, get ready to take things to the next level. Once you finish the story, you’ll begin to chew through the extremely challenging and rewarding “endgame” dungeons. Each dungeon features several boss fights culminating in a finale that is almost always spectacular. If you’ve ever wanted to battle massive krakens one hour and then a literal wall of death the next, you have very specific expectations—and that’s OK, because Final Fantasy XIV can probably cater to them.
A gorgeous game requires two things: beautiful art design and solid technology to bring it to life. Good news: Final Fantasy XIV has both. I still have moments where I stop what I’m doing to take in the sights, and the continent of Eorzea has no shortage of killer vistas to gawk at.
But environments are only half of the equation; you need to look as awesome as the world does, right? Well, depending on what class you pick, Final Fantasy XIV has you covered. The gear you’ll collect might seem somewhat humble at first (we all need a little perspective), but by the time you reach the hardest dungeons, you’ll be sporting some awesome armor and weapons. Just don’t make the mistake I did and play a white mage unless you like looking like a medieval court jester most of the time.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
In an age where subscription-based online games are falling like dominos, Final Fantasy XIV’s $15 subscription fee feels a bit steep. If you’ve got the money to spare, however, you will not regret it. In fact, Square Enix’s dedication to pumping out an absurd amount of content every few months singlehandedly makes a strong case for coughing up the fee.
Since it relaunched in 2013, Final Fantasy XIV has had a new content update with a significant chunk of new things to do every three or four months. You can now build a house or airship with your guildmates, train your chocobo to kill things as effectively as you do, craft tons of gear, lose all of your money in XIV’s version of Vegas, and lots more. It’s great logging in each day and never having to ask “What should I do now?”
MIX IT UP
One thing that I hate about a lot of current MMOs is the way they lock you into a specific class for each character. Final Fantasy XIV takes a page from its older cousin Final Fantasy XI and allows your character to swap to any class they choose without having to replay all of the same pesky content. You’ll still have to level up your new class, but being able to seamlessly switch back and forth does wonders if you’re feeling bored with where you’re at.
Even better, if a friend decides to give the game a chance, you can always just switch to a class you haven’t played yet to level up together. It’s a pretty great system that allows you to always see if the grass is greener on the other side without spending a hundred hours just to find out.
If I sound a bit enthusiastic about Final Fantasy XIV, it’s because, well, I am. You should never judge a book by its cover, and while XIV certainly possesses a lot of the anime-inspired trappings that might make you roll your eyes, it’s also an incredibly deep game full of challenges and fun to be had. As online games like World of Warcraft gradually being to lose their luster, don’t be tricked into thinking the whole genre is slowly dying off.
Final Fantasy XIV might not be for everyone, but if you’re the adventurous type and tired of looking at the discs on top of your PS4 gathering dust, it might just be what you need to get you out of that funk.
Steven Messner is a freelance writer with a zealous passion for good beer and good video games. He also enjoys taco night, games about space, and forgetting to take out the garbage. You can find his work at GamesRadar, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and Paste Magazine. Alternatively, you could just add him on Twitter @stevenmessner and say hello. He likes that.
The Gamers Next Door unbox their ‘Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward’ collectors edition