Already one of the best redemption stories in video games, Final Fantasy 14 is enjoying a huge renaissance. The game is more popular than ever, and after years of expansions it’s morphed into an enormous world with a lot to do. But while FF14 is very good at introducing new players to the basics, there’s lots of information that many new players should know before starting.
First: downloading Final Fantasy 14.
As amazing as Final Fantasy 14 is, it does have one significant hurdle: downloading the game. One of the game’s most common problems is an “unable to download patch files” error, and it’s something affecting Australians especially. It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing the game through Steam either, as that still fires up the FF14 launcher, which is where you’ll run into the problem. While this might get easier after Endwalker’s launch — that’s when the Australian servers will go live — the easiest solution for now is to use a VPN. Others have had success changing their DNS settings, and there’s a guide here on how you can do that.
Yes, it’s 2021 and the whole process of giving an email, getting a link and logging in should be a lot easier than this. But please stick with it: FF14 is well worth the hassle.
Starting Final Fantasy 14
Beginning FF14 is exciting, but overwhelming experience. Often the first choice a player should be making is what data center they will be part of. Australians will be able to join a local server after Endwalker ships later this year. But for now, you’ll have to pick between servers in Japan or the United States. Both have pros and cons.
American servers have a greater latency than Japanese servers, but they’re filled with mostly English speaking players. Japanese servers are more responsive, but you’re not always guaranteed to match up with a group who plays in English (unless specified).
The Kujata and Tonberry servers are the unofficial homes for Australians in FF14, but they have their own issues: the server population is fairly full, so you might have difficulty creating a character on the server.
When you do start out, it’s worth creating a character on the preferred server FF14 nominates. This will get you a “Road to 70” bonus, increasing the experience you can earn until hitting level 70. It’s incredibly helpful.
Another consideration is peak times for the data center you’re playing on. Peak times matter because it can make it harder to queue for dungeons, trials and raids — it can sometimes be the difference between a 5 minute queue or a 30 minute queue.
American server peak times tend to happen Australian mornings, where as Japanese peak time tend to be Australian evenings. If you have a bunch of friends already playing, this doesn’t matter as much.
People on the free trial will have access to 6 races, but anyone who has bought the Shadowbringers expansion will have access to an extra two races. These affect the look of your character, expressions your character makes and certain emotes. It’s worth playing around to find which look suits you best.
Unfortunately, this is one of many options that the game throws at the player. They are asked for a first name and last name. A nameday (birthday). Preferred God (there’s twelve). Race and clan and starting city. Of these choices, the starting city is probably the most important.
I know I agonised over my choice of God, finally deciding on Azeyma the Warden. If you ask regular FF14 players, only the role players will probably know what god they align with. It’s just a name on your characters profile, and it is never used.
The birthday also has no purpose beyond allowing Role players to really get into character. It’s never used in game. Race options are Hyur (human), Elezen (elf), Miqo’te (cat person), Lalafell (small person), Roegadyn (similar to Ogre) and Au ra (dragon person). The additional paid races are Viera (bunny girl) and Hrothgar (large cat people).
Each race has two different clan options which often effects small parts of the character. For example, in a Miqo’te, it affects skin colour, eye size and tail length. Once the character is mostly made, it’s time to pick a city!
What you can and can’t do with the Final Fantasy 14 free trial
Just note there are some restrictions on the FF14 free trial.While annoying, they’re designed to prevent people from cheating. Players on a free trial can’t join or be invited to free companies. You can’t trade or add people to your friends list, and you can’t start parties either.
Picking a Final Fantasy 14 city
There’s three main city states when you begin Final Fantasy 14: the desert city of Ul’dah, the forest city of Gridania and the sea city of Limsa Lominsa.
These cities have their own personality, but what matters is what classes are available each city. You’re best off deciding on a class before picking a city, since you’ll be stuck there until about level 15.
Ul’dah has the Thermatuge (Magic DPS), Gladiator (tank) and Pugilist (melee DPS) classes. Gridania has the Conjurer (Healer), Archer (range DPS) and Lancer (melee DPS) classes. Limsa Lominsa has the Marauder (tank) and Arcanists (Magic DPS) classes.
Limsa Lominsa also has a Rogue class (Melee DPS) but it doesn’t become available until you reach level 10 in any other class. Arcanist is also a special class which splits between a DPS and healer once you hit level 30.
Classes are changed simply by equipping a weapon once that class has been unlocked. You can change class at any time with the exception of Dungeons and in combat. There is no penalty for picking up all the classes, so there’s no reason to not try them all.
Getting around in Final Fantasy 14
At the beginning of the game, the only real mode of transportation is to walk. A player can attune to an Aetheryte and in the main cities, they will also have shards to aid getting around. Personally, I think walking around at first is a good idea. It helps a player understand the layout of the town. Attune to the shards on the way, and movement will be easy!
As the world starts to expand, a few other options will come into play. Aside from the large three main cities, at least one town in an area will have their own Aetheryte. Players can teleport this way, for a small amount of Gil, the main game currency.
Sometimes areas will have more than one town. Players can use Chocobo Porters which allows a player to get from one location to another without worrying about getting lost or being attacked. Chocobo porters are automatic, so it’s best to let them do their thing until you get to your destination. These also use Gil.
Going between the three main cities before attuning to their Aetherytes requires the use of airships. There are also normal sea ships to get to places as well. Both options will cost you Gil as well.
You’ll eventually get your own Chocobo, but it won’t be able to fly until the Main scenario is completed. Luckily, mobs are very easy to outrun.
Final Fantasy 14’s quests, mentors and inns
As you level up, you’ll come across the Final Fantasy 14 mentor system. Any avatar with a crown next to their name is a mentor and can invite a player to the Novice Network. Aside from the Novice network, there is also the Smith, who players can recognise by the sprout symbol above their head.
The innkeep allows a player to retire to a room. Here you can store special weapons, gear, glamour items, play any mini games you’ve unlocked, listen to orchestrion rolls or check out the story. This is a great place to recap events that have already happened in FF14, just in case you missed them the first time around.
The Smith helps new players get acquainted with the game and the available roles. The arms mender will fix your gear; there’s one in most towns, usually in the shopping district or adventures guild. (You should probably seek them out once you’ve done a few dungeons.)
A general rule of thumb when starting FF14 is to do any quests with a blue/purple background, instead of the yellow one. Main story quests are marked with a meteor outline, so they’re easy to distinguish. Blue/purple quests will always unlock something special: a dungeon, an emote, or a minion. They’re always worth doing.
How grand companies and free companies work in Final Fantasy 14
Every main city will have a grand company, and you’ll be asked to pick one. It’s easiest to pick the company located in your starting city; you can change Grand Companies later on at any time. (You will drop to the lowest rank in that company, however, forcing you to work your way up again.)
All quests and rewards among grand companies are the same. The only difference is their name, colours and what NPCs are in them.
A free company is a player-run guild. Here, players and their communities will run content, grow rare vegetables, help new starters, actively recruit players and own houses. You’ll probably get bombarded by a lot of free company invites when you start Final Fantasy 14. Joining one of these isn’t necessary, but the benefits are often worth it. You’ll usually find an Australian-specific free company on whatever server you’re on, but it’s best to check the FFXIV ANZ community Facebook page first.
Levelling, leves and fates in Final Fantasy 14
There are four main ways of leveling in FF14: Quests, Leves, Fates and Dungeons.
Dungeons are often locked behind story progression and Quests aren’t often repeatable. Until you reach the first dungeon in the game, your main methods of levelling will be Fates and Leves.
Leves are similar to quests: accept the level, go to the area marked on the map and activate them. They’re often collection quests, or “murder so many of this enemy” type affairs. There’s also some leve escort quests, the worst inclusion in any video game somehow made even worse in FF14. You have to beckon an NPC towards you, but it only works over short distances.
Escort quests are best avoided. Do other Leve types which offer armour and accessories as well.
Fates are special timed events that occur naturally on the map. You can join one by just entering the zone covered by the fate. If you’re 5 levels higher than the fate, FF14‘s level sync will let you drop down to the requisite level so you can take part. Unlike Leves, which are often solo affairs, Fates encourage players to work together.
There are three general fate types: murder, boss and defend. The first involves killing a certain number of enemies. The second is a straight up boss fight. The third is like tower defense.
There’s also a special boss fate type, which is the area boss. It’s marked with its own boss fate symbol, and these Fates have a 30 minute timer instead of 15. I’d avoid these when starting out though: they’re designed to be done with large, experienced groups.
How dungeons work in Final Fantasy 14
Your first FF14 dungeon will unlock at level 15, along with the quest that gives you the challenge log. Every dungeon has a tank role, healer role and two DPS characters. If you’re new, it’s worth starting out as a DPS since your main job is to just kill things.
But when the dungeon begins, no matter what your role is, let your team know you’re a new player through party chat. It’s best to say it: even though FF14 warns people that a new character is in the dungeon, many players have alternate characters. So unless you say otherwise, people will assume you know what you’re doing.
You can start as a tank or a healer, although those roles are more stressful. Tanks take the lead and need to know where to position enemies, as well as the path through a dungeon. Some tanks will do large pulls (gather lots of mobs) and that is incredibly stressful on a new healer. So don’t be afraid to say you’re not comfortable — some party members will ask, but others won’t. If you don’t communicate, it’s easy to wipe.
Each dungeon will have its own story and gimmick. In the first dungeon, the boss Satasha can summon adds (additional enemies) that need to be interrupted to stop them spawning. This is part of why saying you are new is important: it won’t always be the end boss that trips you up. It may be the first, or the middle boss that has a special mechanic. These dungeons will have hard versions later on, continuing the story of the previous dungeon after the main scenario has been completed in A Realm Reborn.
On top of all this, you can even ask for a full run. This means going into every area so that the dungeon’s map is filled out. It only needs to be done once on a character, but you get an experience bonus for doing so. It’s easy to tell when it’s been accomplished as the game will notify you with the “Mapping the realm” achievement. And in Final Fantasy, achievements actually have a purpose: they usually give experience, gil, titles, minions and even mounts!
Final Fantasy 14’s daily roulette
After a player has unlocked at least two dungeons, the daily roulette becomes available. At first, only levelling will be available. But as the story progresses, you’ll gain access to Trials, Raids and the Main Scenario.
What the duty roulette does is it picks a random dungeon from the ones a player has unlocked. This gives an experience bonus when done for the first time a day. There’s is also a bonus for being an adventurer in need, which is a great way to help extra classes to level up.
In the duty roulette there is also a Guildheist option. These are smaller dungeon sections which teach you the different tactics needed to get through a dungeon. They’re always worth doing, since it’ll show you mechanics you’ll need to know throughout your Final Fantasy 14 journey.
Final Fantasy 14’s challenge log
The challenge log is incredibly useful. It’s similar to Achievements except it resets weekly. It’s great to help gain MGP (Manderville Gold Saucer points, a currency spent at the Gold Saucer), or to help level up your Chocobo companion.
The challenge log has multiple categories, there’s one just for dungeons. For Australians, it resets every Tuesday around 6:00-7:00pm AEST.
Final Fantasy 14’s The Hunt
The Hunt is end-game content for A Realm Reborn, which is the first chapter of FF14 content you’ll play through. You can’t access to the hunt board until level 50 and have reached a certain standard with your Grand companies.
So why mention it now? Because the enemies can spawn in any beginner area. If there is a level 50 enemy with a red marker by its name, do not approach it and stay away. If it is blue, it’s safe to go past, but don’t click on it. Unless you enjoy dying.
Gathering and crafting in Final Fantasy 14
Gathering and crafting are available from the beginning of your FF14 journey, but I’d suggest leaving them until you finish the main story.
There’s a special area in Heavensward (the first expansion pack for FF14) called the Firmament that makes levelling your crafting and gathering classes much easier. It does have an level entry of 15. But once you pass level 20, the gathering and crafting quests request High Quality items — these are often easier to find and craft at higher levels.
The Final Fantasy 14 community
You’ll find the FF14 community is pretty great. They’re welcoming of newcomers and always happy to help. If you see someone being awful, just note that abuse isn’t tolerated by Square Enix. Don’t be afraid to use the report feature: there’s nothing wrong with speaking up, and often someone will. Help keep the community great!
So that’s a pretty comprehensive guide to getting started in Final Fantasy 14. I’ve tried to include everything I wish I’d known when starting out several years ago: while I had the support of friends, that didn’t prepare me for the sheer scale of everything FF14 offers.
Even today, I’m still discovering things to do. It’s rare to find any game which has a bit of something for everyone. But as with any game, the most important part of Final Fantasy 14 is to enjoy it. (And it helps that the music is pretty damn good, too.)
Scree is a long-time reader and contributor from the Kotaku Australia community; you can read her previous stories here.