Hey, you there. Gal or guy who loves Final Fantasy but has spent your entire life avoiding the MMOs because they're, well, MMOs. Here's some advice: Go play Final Fantasy XIV.
"But wait," you might say. "Isn't it one of those big grindy multiplayer games? Don't I have to pay monthly? I'll stick to single-player RPGs, thanks very much."
OK. I mean, do what you want. But if you like Final Fantasy at all, you'd be remiss not to at least give Final Fantasy XIV a chance. It's a big online multiplayer game, yes, but it's also got everything you'd want from a Final Fantasy: an interesting story, a genuine sense of humour, a big fantasy world to explore, fun character classes, tons of quests, chocobos, etc. The writing is surprisingly good for a game with so much dialogue, and the music is straight-up incredible. (For real.)
Most importantly for JRPG fans, you can play it all by yourself. You'll have to join a party for the dungeons and bosses, sure, but FFXIV will match you up with random people pretty seamlessly. From what I've seen so far, it's easy to stay anti-social and play through the game at your own pace, exploring and questing in whatever order you'd like. The world of Eorzea is huge and constantly rewarding; once you get past the rather atrocious user interface (at least on PS4), it's a treat to wander around there.
Let me give you some quick history. For a long time, I also avoided the multiplayer Final Fantasys. Short of a pre-pubescent MUD obsession and a brief World of Warcraft binge back in 2005, MMORPGs were never really my thing. I've always preferred to spend my time playing as many new games as possible rather than letting one game consume my life. (Well, there's Destiny, but that doesn't count.)
Yet. Yet! Ever since FFXIV got rebooted as A Realm Reborn and people like Fahey wouldn't stop raving about it, I've always been tempted to dig into the fourteenth Final Fantasy. Earlier this year, I did just that, levelling up a Thaumaturge (aka black mage) and Gladiator (aka paladin) before other games stole my attention. Then, while on vacation this week, I jumped back in, and all of a sudden I'm hooked again. I love the story, the music, the visuals. I love meeting all the quirky new characters and fighting giant summoned bosses like Ifrit. I love riding goddamned chocobos.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Final Fantasy XIV is that, like World of Warcraft and many other big MMOs, you'll need a subscription to play it. You'll get the first 30 days for free; after that, you'll have to pull out the credit card and commit to a subscription, which is a real bummer because it gives you this looming feeling that you have to play FFXIV at all times or else you're wasting your money.
Still, if you like Final Fantasy but have never cared to play the MMOs, take my word for it: Even as a single-player game, FFXIV is great. Also, you can play Triple Triad with strangers and NPCs. If that isn't enough to pique your interest, then, well, you're not a Final Fantasy fan.