Final Fantasy 14: The pros and cons, what’s better and what’s worse from a Sprout’s (new player’s) perspective.
Eorzea – what and why?
With the recent downturn in activity in World of Warcraft, given the lack of new content and the only reason for me to log in being literally only to raid, I began to look further afield for my MMO content fix.
Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn, aka FFXIV (or just XIV), is the MMO that some would tout as the biggest and best competitor to WoW. This, despite the fact that the games have completely different styles, but to most the comparison and claims of competition hold true.
It originally came out to disastrous reception in 2010, was reworked and eventually re-released as A Realm Reborn in 2013. I originally picked the game up in 2015, and gave it a go but kind of quickly gave up, not being able to get into it as much as I thought I would.
Most of the systems of the game felt alien, compared to what I was used to in WoW, and the early game, as with Vanilla WoW, was a complete grind and not the most exciting game in the world to play.
Three years later, in 2018 I decided to give the game another go, but to much the same result. I still couldn’t get into it, and gave up as a result.
Both ventures into Eorzea, the world of FFXIV much like Azeroth is to WoW, were abandoned at fairly low levels (lower than level 15).
However, with a lot more time on my hands recently due to not really having much of interest to do in WoW, I decided to give it one more go.
This time, things were different.
Late into 2020, Square decided to rework the early game, in a similar way to how WoW’s early game was reworked with Shadowlands. Levelling was made faster, and much of the grind was removed or abstracted from the levelling process, so that the meme level “Collect 100 bear asses” was optional, rather than a requirement of levelling.
FFXIV: A Leaner Beast
Or how to improve your MMO to make it playable for newbies…
So with hearing this a few months ago, and being extremely bored in WoW, this was the time for me to give the game another go. And I am so glad I did, because the game has been improved in subtle but immeasurable ways.
First and foremost is the actual experience of levelling. With the grind removed, players can concentrate on getting through the actual campaign of the game, called the Main Scenario Questline, abbreviated to MSQ by players.
The MSQ takes the player and puts their character front and center in the storyline, and through playing the MSQ, the player is able to level from 1 to the original game’s level cap of 50. From there you progress to further MSQ’s from later patches and expansions in order to level right up to the current level cap of 80.
Endwalker, the next expansion releasing in November, will raise that level cap to 90 and finish off the story arc that the current game has been running with since the original re-release, A Realm Reborn.
The experience levelling now feels a lot more focused and driven mainly by the MSQ, rather than being forced to partake in grinds like filling out hunting logs and the such. A much more efficient process.
FFXIV: My experience so
far with classes
To begin with, I thought I’d start off where I’d left off in WoW – playing a tank class. This one would eventually become a Paladin (more on that in a bit), so I’d be playing a Paladin tank in two different MMOs 😂
As of the time of writing, my character is level 41, and has become a Paladin after level 30, having done the first 32 levels as a Gladiator, the base class for the Paladin “job”.
In FFXIV there are base classes (or jobs as they’re known in FFXIV), such as Gladiator, Marauder, Summoner etc. After getting some experience under your belt (IE your first 30 levels), your character is given the chance to specialise more into their chosen class, which in my case was going from the basic Gladiator class to the more specialised Paladin class.
There are only 8 basic classes in the game, with many more specialised classes later in each base classes future, with some jobs/classes locked behind much further progression, say after level 60. Some base classes can become multiple specialised classes, whereas some only have 1 further specialisation further down the line.
So at the moment I’m a newly minted Paladin, and still levelling my way through the MSQ.
Characters & Classes: The Good (Classes)
Alts in FFXIV – This is where the single biggest difference between WoW and FFXIV comes to the fore.
In WoW, when you want to try playing and levelling a different class, you have to re-roll a new character. You can’t re-roll the same character that you’ve been playing into a different class, that’s just how the game is and always has been.
However in FFXIV, different classes can all be played by the same character! Classes work, in practical terms, much like specs do in WoW. A quick click of a button and your Level 33 Paladin tank can become a level 1 Thaumaturge.
Yep, your level is tied directly to the class/job you’re currently specced into!
Now, I’ve been assured that levelling a new class once you’ve hit max with your main class is much more accelerated in comparison to your first one, but I’ve yet to begin levelling a new class on my current Paladin, so I can’t really speak to that much really. However the idea that you can have all the classes in the game on a single character is mind-blowing to a WoW veteran like me.
Sure, you can roll up a new character if you want. That’s entirely feasible and most players do have more than one character.
However, that’s where the comparisons to WoW begin to tip back into WoW’s favour somewhat…
Characters & Classes: The Bad (Mail systems)
The mail system. It’s an odd point to be kicking off talking about the downsides of alts in an MMO, but this is where the biggest issue for me lies.
With FFXIV, you can’t mail your own alts.
In one of the largest MMO’s in 2021? Seriously. You CAN NOT mail your other characters in FFXIV. This means you can’t send your alts currency, gear or anything at all.
Each character is treated like the first character you roll up in the game. It is its own entirely seperate entity, with no connection to your other characters.
Every single thing you’ve earned on your original character is forever bound to that character. No leg up for lower level alts, it’s essentially starting all over a second time around.
You can only mail characters on your character’s friends list. And you cannot add your alt characters to your main character’s friend list, therefore making the sending of mail to your alts impossible.
Well, not impossible. Technically speaking you can mail stuff to a trusted friend, who then forwards it onto your alt, but if you’re sending buttloads of currency, it better be someone you trust a hell of a lot (or a 2nd account!).
Characters & Classes: The Ugly (No wardrobe!)
This is a big one for me, given how much of a collector I am. But given how removed alt characters are from your main character, given that you can play all classes on any character, it follows logically.
There are account-wide pets and mounts, but these are handled rather cumbersomely in FFXIV. Each account-wide item appears in the mailbox on first login to a new character. In much the same way that account wide items in WoW used to be before the introduction of shared collection tabs there.
Even if these account wide items were the only things to be put into a shared, account-wide collection window, it would be a marked improvement. As it is, with me being still new to the game, I’m still having to plunder through nearly two dozen ingame mails to collect all the stuff (pets, mounts & items) that I already have that’s account wide. This includes the pets and mounts from the various expansion collectors editions, as well as store purchases.
The wardrobe especially is a big thing. In WoW, when you collect a new appearance, given level restrictions, you can then use that newly collected appearance on an alt.
Not so in FFXIV, where new characters need to re-collect appearances again. Which could be a massive pain.
Speaking of appearances…
Characters & Classes: The Glamorous
Transmog, or the Glamour system as it’s known in FFXIV, is the method by which characters can change the appearance of their equipped gear to something much more palatable.
Unlocked after doing a level 15 quest, it’s a somewhat more convoluted setup compared to WoW.
First, you acquire the piece you want to use as transmog. From here you have the option to put it into something called the Armoire in your inn room, or place it into a form of storage used directly by the Glamour system. In the latter there are 400 slots, but this isn’t as restrictive as it sounds.
Pieces of gear in FFXIV can be dyed to change their colour, so you’d only ever need to have 1 version of a piece of gear with that base appearance. Whereas WoW’s appearance collection can have multiple helms all using the same base appearance, differentiated only by slight colour variations, in XIV you only need 1 version, which you can then dye multiple times to change its colour.
The entire system is built around what’s called Glamour Plates. Think of these as the various costume slots available in WoW, where you can store up to 16 different setups that you can transmog to at a transmog vendor/mount.
However, once you assign an appearance to a Glamour plate, you can freely change to a glamour plate look without any fee or need to visit a vendor or your Glamour dresser, as long as you’re in a major city.
The only restriction is that you can only use an item’s appearance if the item itself would be equippable by the class you’re currently specced into. There’s no difference there really from WoW, where armour types are restricted to specific classes.
There are quite a lot of appearances that can be used by all classes, so these form quite a lot of base appearances, certainly at lower levels at least.
As for the variety of appearances in question? Mind blowingly huge. The variety in appearances, from medieval knight to business suits, to maid outfits, to warriors of Holy Light, to past characters from earlier FF games, to literal japanese schoolgirl outfits(!) to… well anything really that you can imagine.
The range and variety is amazing, and blows that of WoW out of the water a thousand times over. From simple everyday items such as a knitted sweater and jeans, to fantastical gothic black magic wielder. It’s a fantastic advantage over WoW, even if the base system that supports it is like I said somewhat more complex than WoW’s initially. You do get your head around it eventually, but it’s definitely not as intuitive as WoW’s.
FFXIV for the Whales: Quite literally
As far as external systems go, there is a cash shop (obviously), where you can buy a much larger variety of items than are available in WoW’s shop system.
In WoW’s cash shop you have about 20 mounts, a few appearances, a couple dozen pets and a few toys and that’s about it. In terms of services you have the race change, server transfer, name change etc all available as expected.
FFXIV has these latter services available too, and this is another place where it has a big one-up on WoW.
Race changes in WoW cost around £13. With this you get a free rename and you’re good to go. However if you’re happy with your character name then it’s not an option you’ll likely use outside of the race change itself.
A race change in FFXIV costs £5.75. Seriously, it’s less than half the price. You buy a potion called a Fantasia potion, which gets delivered to the character in question in the mail. You drink this and on your next login you have the option to re-do your character’s race, gender & appearance.
However, this is diminished somewhat by the fact that when using this system, there is no option to change your character’s name – that’s a seperate paid service (again, £5.75, vs £9 in WoW), and add in the fact that the ingame appearance changing option, the equivalent of the Barber in WoW, is a lot more limited in what can be changed.
In Shadowlands, you can basically change everything about your character, bar its name, ingame with gold. Skin tone, gender, hairstyles, faces, the whole lot can be tweaked at the Barber.
However in FFXIV this option, the Aesthetician, can only change superficial stuff like hairstyle, hair colour etc. Even seemingly basic stuff like Eye colour and skin tone will require going down the Fantasia route.
However it’s easier to avoid picking colours for skin & eyes that aren’t quite right colour on character creation, given you can view your character in different environments and lighting before commiting the character, which is not something you can do in WoW. So it sort of balances out, but not entirely IMO.
Also in the shop are the usual services, such as name change, server transfer etc, which all work in exactly the same way as they do in WoW, but again for a lot cheaper than the price charged in WoW.
Then there are the items you can purchase, such as mounts, pets, costumes, emotes(!), level boosts for specific jobs, items for the housing system in FFXIV (which I haven’t even touched on!), dyes, weapons etc. All of which are cosmetic, bar the obvious exception of the level boosts. There are also MSQ skips available, which will mark the MSQ marked as complete for a character, but will not boost their level. Useful if you want to get the MSQ out of your way and level more through side quests and job quests.
A huge number and variety of options, ranging in price from items as little as £1, through to the major skips which cost around £18, to the account wide party-sized mounts (which carry up to 8 people) which costs £28.
These are the aforementioned literal Whale mounts 😉
Most of the mounts and pets are account wide, but there are a few which are character specific, and as such only cost around £7. This character specific approach then applies to most of everything else, where costumes and class boost etc are all specific to a single character.
For me, the FFXIV cash shop, whilst featuring a vast swathe of more content than that of WoW’s, somehow feels less egregious than that of WoW. Maybe it’s because the prices in the FFXIV cash shop are so much cheaper than that of WoW for specific services. A character race change (£5.75) and rename (£5.75) total up to less than a race change with a free-included name change in WoW (£11.50 vs £13). And if all you want to do is race change (and leave the name as-is), it’s less than half the price of the equivalent service in WoW.
Mounts are cheaper, costume sets are much cheaper, and there are a wide variety of added extras, such as emotes.
I guess it’s the thought that you can treat yourself to a little extra at any given time, for not very much money, that makes the FFXIV cash shop less egregious for me, and ironically less of a cash-grab. Others may well disagree, given that WoW’s cash shop is much more limited in scope, yet has prices that are generally much more expensive, so it’s very much a subjective thing.
Miscellany: Housing & Guilds
I haven’t even gotten around to the likes of Housing, which is very much a thing in FFXIV. You can buy a house in a residential district in the game (of which there are many, yet free spots are still rare), then set about decorating it in whatever fashion you choose.
Guilds (called a Free Company or FC) can purchase an FC specific home, which will be open to all members of the FC, or an individual can purchase their own with enough gold/gil.
Speaking of guilds, the guild system is a lot more basic in FFXIV than it is in WoW. Stuff like a roster of who’s online at any given time is not as easy to use as in WoW, but the basics are there.
I’ve only recently joined my first Free Company in the game, so I’m still getting used to the whole setup, same as with housing and a lot of other aspects of the game as a whole, which is why I haven’t delved too deeply into either here.
Closing thoughts of a Sprout
FFXIV and WoW are very similar in some ways, and vastly different in others.
Similar in that both are MMOs with millions of active current players, featuring multiple playable classes, races, a cash shop, collectible stuff like mounts, pets, titles and appearances, and a story based approach to levelling up, where questing and dungeon delving will form the majority of the time spent getting to max level and regular raid releases at endgame.
However, where WoW take a more class-first approach, where a new character must be used for a new class each time, FFXIV takes more of a specific character-first approach, where the same character can play any and all classes (no race/class restrictions in place here!).
If you have a particular attachment to a single character, this will be a massive plus point, as you can invest 100% of your time and effort into your chosen character.
However if you’re the type of player that prefers to play multiple races in your MMO, then WoW will have the upper hand in this regard, as long as your chosen race/class combination isn’t forbidden (Gnome Paladins anyone?).
Given that choice, everything else will flow from that.
If you’re into having multiple characters of varying races, be prepared for a long haul on each character, as they will have completely cordoned off currencies, appearances, gear etc. Everything has to be done again from scratch outside of the account wide items you get mailed on first login.
Which may or may not be your specific cup of tea.
However if you want to invest in fewer characters, only the one or two (or however many you’re comfortable with given the above advice), then you’re in for a more in-depth exploration and use of each of those characters.
Given that there is an enormous amount of content for even one character to potentially get through, and that each character can be used to level every single class, then there’s quite a few year’s worth of content available to do on a single character alone.
So whereas WoW is a broader but more shallow setup, in that it’s easier to level and gear a single character, then do it all again on another and another (and if you’re playing multiple classes then necessarily so), FFXIV has a narrower, yet more in-depth focus and experience, playing fewer characters, but investing more time into each character with multiple classes per-character.
I’ve personally chosen to use two characters – one for my martial classes, such as Gladiator>Paladin, Marauder>Warrior etc, and a second character for my more magic based classes such as Thaumaturge>Black Mage etc.
Mainly for aesthetic reasons, as my Paladin is a huge Elezen (elven) female, whereas my magic user will be a much smaller and svelte Mi’qote cat-girl character.
Overall I’m glad I decided to give Final Fantasy 14 a third try. I’ve now fallen deeply in love with the game, and have already pre-ordered Endwalker, the next expansion which isn’t due out for another 6 months as of the time of writing. I’ve also bought the collector’s edition goodies for all of the previous expansions that I didn’t already have (Stormblood and Shadowbringers), and bought a more paladin-like costume for my Paladin tank on the cash shop (£6 for both armour and weapons, sold seperately – £4 & £2).
I’m spending all of my spare time playing through the game, and only logging into WoW recently for raids and not a lot else.
At the very least, I’ll have a backup option should WoW continue to drag its heels on content releases and I do ever decide to hang up my Protadin’s sword & board, even for a while.
I do know that if 9.1 turns out to be hot garbage, then I’d be tempted to step back from it for a while, and go more casual while investing more time into FFXIV.
I have seen that after I started playing, a LOT more WoW players are beginning to get more into FFXIV, including the likes of Bellular, Preach, Pyromancer, Luxthos etc etc. It’s heartening to see a lot of visible WoW content creators giving FF consideration, and quite a few of them have been blown away by the quality of the game.
Particularly the story-telling in the game, which by all accounts, especially by Shadowbringers, completely destroys WoW’s story telling. Shadowbringers has been called the best expansion of any MMO ever, by multiple streamers, so I for one can’t wait to get to that part of the storyline!
No doubt that a lot of this uptake of FFXIV by WoW streamers and YouTubers will be largely down to the lack of content at the moment in WoW, and whether any of them will continue on producing FFXIV content once 9.1 drops in WoW is up for debate atm.
However I do know that I’ll definitely still be playing it after 9.1 drops.
It’s a fantastic game, with a humble, talented Dev team that genuinely care about their player base (flying in the original ARR areas, as well as several other features, were added by devs in their off-time just to be able to give it to players), a fantastic (if slightly convoluted) transmog system, great graphics and an engine that runs really well even with everything maxed, and the most friendly non-toxic player community in the MMO space.