Friendship Ended with Azeroth, Now Final Fantasy XIV Is My Best Friend

Friendship Ended with Azeroth, Now Final Fantasy XIV Is My Best Friend
My Bard/Black Mage is just as excited to talk about Final Fantasy XIV as I am. (Screenshot: Square Enix)
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I’ve done it. I’ve finally begun my journey with Final Fantasy XIV, after six years of aborted attempts I made it through the still strangely unfriendly onboarding process and am now roaming free in the world of Eorzea.

This was a long time coming. This previously glaring omission in my Final Fantasy record lead to me having to state “every single-player Final Fantasy” whenever I wanted to write generally about the series (which has been a lot now thanks to FF15). And there are far too many people I trust who’ve been telling me, “Ash, you’re gonna love this game.”

Holy. Shit. Do I love this game.

I’ve played MMOs off and on for 13 years, spending most of that devoted to World of Warcraft. I’ve dabbled in games like Destiny 2, Tera, City of Heroes and more, leaving behind a long chain of fun but otherwise unremarkable experiences that failed to stick. Those games could never hold my attention the way WoW has.

WoW was my first true online gaming love. It’s my winter companion, the game I use to get me through the coldest months of the year. But as Elsa might say, it’s time to let it go.

Like any good history nerd, I named my chocobo Bucephalus after Alexander the Great's trusty steed. (Screenshot: Square Enix) Like any good history nerd, I named my chocobo Bucephalus after Alexander the Great's trusty steed. (Screenshot: Square Enix)

Coming from a dedicated WoW player, playing FF14 for the first time was like cleaning my glasses after an extended period — yeah I could see before, but I had no idea how much I’d been missing.

I hate retreading content. Most times, I’ll abandon a game entirely before I’ll ever suffer restarting one. That’s one of the main reasons why my first character in WoW is my only one. I know Blizzard overhauled the levelling experience numerous times, but the idea of starting back at level one on an alt is so unappealing that I’ve been content to live with just the warlock I’ve had since day one.

In Final Fantasy XIV, I’m every alt character, it’s all in me. At the click of a button I can dance between my bard and my archer. Progressing through the main story quest, I can evenly, seamlessly, and simultaneously level up my two classes. All my resources and materials are shared, with no need to constantly send cash or gear through the mail as one must do for alts in WoW. It’s life-changing.

My character in her Black Mage and Bard jobs. For some reason, I have an unshakable preference for ranged DPS classes. (Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku) My character in her Black Mage and Bard jobs. For some reason, I have an unshakable preference for ranged DPS classes. (Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku)

Coming from a caster class in WoW, FF14 seems a bit lacking in the ability to tailor your class to fit your desires. In WoW, depending on which specialisation you choose within your class and what talents you pick within that specialisation’s talent tree, no two warlocks are the same. Though I’ve only just unlocked jobs in FF14, I don’t get the feeling I’ll have WoW’s level of customisation over my character. Thanks to this one-size-fits-all approach, my Black Mage will be casting the same Fire IV’s and Blizzard III’s as any other.

While that’s a bit of a bummer, the novelty of all the classes to choose from makes up for any disappointment. I can wield gunblades, books, or whatever the hell that spinny thing is hovering over an astrologian’s hand. I can dance or sing my enemies to death or simply have my chocobo companion kick them into the afterlife. Even the relatively straightforwardness of the Black Mage is fun to play. I really like how I have to quickly switch between my two elemental spells, juggling the increased damage output of my fire spells versus the mana restoration of my ice ones. It’s more complex and intricate than my warlock’s job of simply making sure I refresh my damage-over-time spells before they time out.

I want what they have. (Screenshot: Square Enix) I want what they have. (Screenshot: Square Enix)

But more than any ease of alt levelling or novelty of classes and playstyles, FF14’s story is what’s going to keep me firmly rooted in Eorzea for the rest of my natural life. I like WoW’s story and its characters. I think they’ve done Thrall dirty, and it’s been a pleasure to watch Anduin Wrynn grow from a little boy who runs and hides when trouble starts, to competently and compassionately leading his own nation.

But in WoW, it always felt like you helped the story along but didn’t have a direct impact. You’re there to lend the strength of your arms to the powers that be, but the real conflict takes place over your head. In the Battle for Azeroth expansion, you tag along as Anduin and Greymane (at least on the Alliance side, sorry Hordie brethren) hunt down Sylvanas. Yes, you’re involved, but the primary participants are people who operate way above your paygrade. You’re kinda like a weird third wheel.

In FF14, you are the story. When big-bad Lahabrea first shows up, he’s not talking to Thancred or Y’shtola. He’s talking directly to you. 

FF14’s story takes great care to make you feel special, after all, you’re the one in the cutscenes. I recognise WoW and FF14 stories might be going for different things, but I like FF14’s level of personalisation. You play WoW to hear someone else’s story like Thrall, Sylvanas, or Illidan. In FF14, you play for your own. I’m not too deep into the story yet, but I’m told it gets so good I’ll likely be moved to tears. I can’t wait, but in the meantime I’m content to while away the hours in Ul’dah, making heart eyes at Raubahn.

This could all be temporary of course, my enthusiasm born out of nothing more than FF14’s novelty. But I cancelled my WoW subscription immediately after learning FF14 will allow me to pursue my long-held dream of becoming a Triple Triad champion, so it’s pretty safe to say I won’t be going back to Azeroth for a while.

Comments

  • Your point about the new-character grind is a good one, and applies across a whole range of games. I really think developers should move to a model where, having maxed out one character, you can start a new one at max level straight away. No gear or other bonuses (eg, the champion points from ESO, or guardian tokens from Borderlands – you would still have to earn these meta advancements). I reckon more people would play games longer if this was the standard approach. It’s no skin off anyone else’s nose, and it would really encourage existing players to keep playing., and experimenting with new characters.

    • Buy why level in the first place. Leveling is such an arbitrary arcahic way to play.

      Take WoW for example, new expansion… rush to get from level 50 to level 60 takes two weeks… then 1.5 years to 2 years of end game content till the next expansion.

      Leveling is 1 to 2% of a players experience with their main character.

      I think it should just be training starting zone… then straight into the end game. Content can be gated behind quest chaind and item levels. Item squish can be seasonal without having to squish player and enemies.

      • Yes good point. Although I do think that levelling can still work for the first play-through, when there is a decent-sized single-player campaign or story (eg again ESO or Borderlands). I just don’t want to do it again. And again.

      • The levelling is the best bit for me (if it’s done well). I usually hit a wall pretty quick at end game in MMOs and unsubscribe. That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t get rid of the levelling and replace it with something else but the exploration and moving from zone to zone is my favourite bit of MMOs. The re-running of the same dungeons and the gear hunt wears thin for me.

      • Don’t assume that every player is more interested in end game content. When I played WoW, I enjoyed the time levelling as a beginner and getting to see all the different areas and getting to try out new skills as I obtained them. I play a lot of single-player RPGs so it’s a multi-player version of what I’m used to.

  • I still don’t understand how the same company that recovered a failed MMO launch to created FF14 2.0 and keep it rolling strong for 7 years with growing appeal…

    … totally fail with Marvel Avengers.

    Lets make a live service game for Marvel, we could make it like FF14 our most successful live service game… NO!!! Lets instead make it just like Anthem and Fallout 76.

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