The story behind Final Fantasy XIV is widely known by now. A troubled game many pundits had deemed dead on arrival, yet one the development team at Square Enix were not ready to give up on. They would effectively nuke the entire MMO, relaunching it as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in 2013, now considered one of the genre’s best entries of all time. It’s one of gaming’s most triumphant comeback stories, galvanised by FF14’s ongoing success.
For those who want to know more about the game’s road to redemption, the folks at Noclip have put together a brilliant documentary giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at Final Fantasy XIV’s dramatic makeover.
Since A Realm Reborn launched on PC and PlayStation 3, the game has seen three expansions launching every other year; Heavensward in 2015, then Stormblood in 2017, and finally Shadowbringers in 2019. The MMORPG has only gone from strength to strength with each expansion, with a continued story throughout that has constantly surprised players alongside a near endless spread of content to experience, from casual to the hardcore.
With the patches that have been released since the critically-acclaimed Shadowbringers, we have seen even more refinements to what is now the base game. Square have gone back and streamlined the player journey between A Realm Reborn and Heavensward, an infamous slog that saw players yoyoing across Eorzea for hours on end.
Then there’s the greatly expanded free trial for new accounts, allowing you experience a huge wealth of content, right up to the end of Heavensward, without having to pay a subscription fee. So that’s almost every job up to level 60, a whole host of raids, dungeons and trials, and possibly one of the greatest Final Fantasy storylines in the first expansion – for absolutely no cost. Honestly, there has never been an easier way for new players to dive into this incredible MMO.
Also, there have been solid steps made over the last couple of expansions to make Final Fantasy XIV more user-friendly, with the different Jobs becoming more universal. They retain their unique quirks, but if you choose – for an example – any of the four Tank Jobs, there’s now enough similarities that you can jump between each and not feel entirely lost with how to play them.
Being more than a decade old now, you may be asking whether Final Fantasy XIV is still worth playing in 2020? In a word, absolutely.
I mentioned this earlier, but there’s so much to do in Eorzea. As it currently stands right now, there’s four sets of 24-man “Alliance Raids”, four sets of 8-man “Normal Raids”, dozens of “Trials” of varying difficulty (frustration) levels, loads of dungeons, and all of this feeds back into the game’s illustrious story.
Even if combat isn’t your thing, there’s a range of crafting and gathering jobs, should you have always wanted to be a botanist or a blacksmith. Beyond that there’s a huge amount of furnishings in the robust housing system, an extensive photo mode with the Gpose mechanic, and then all of the free seasonal events and fantastic cross-overs with other games as well.
Then there are the mini-games and oh boy does Final Fantasy XIV spoil on that count. Those familiar with Final Fantasy VIII will relish in/dread the addition here of Triple Triad (complete with *that* music); but there’s also Mahjong, crane machines, test your strength, jumping challenges, and so much more to wile away your time at the Gold Saucer (yes, this also has *that* music).
Finally, the game’s population has only kept growing, with the last revealed count totalling 20 million. For such a large community, there is minimal toxicity (until you reach the endgame content anyway) and it’s one that is very welcoming to new players. You will never struggle to find people to run instances with, even when it comes to the earlier, low level content.
Or you can find yourself a few friends to play the game with, as long as you’re on the same server of course, and perhaps even create your own Free Company to give yourself access to shared bonuses like additional storage, party-wide boosts to experience and other benefits, or — as was the case with my Free Company — the ability to pull together to buy a house together.
Final Fantasy XIV Patch 5.4 has brought with it more story, a new dungeon, trial, and the final four raids from the Eden series. Needless to say, without spoilers, it is all amazing stuff and simply continues the high quality levels the team have been putting out for years now. Also, the narrative by the end is intriguing in the implications it makes about the future of the game.
The next expansion looks likely for 2021, and the story has reached a fever pitch. The previous content rounded off the Shadowbringers story with an epic battle that, I won’t lie, put a huge grin on my face. So with 5.4, we’ve now entered into the narrative leading up to the next full expansion in 2021, which we still know nothing about.
Of course we don’t know when the continued support and tremendously enjoyable narrative will end in Final Fantasy XIV, but the game’s beloved director and producer, Naoki Yoshida, has stated that support will continue as long as it’s wanted. Final Fantasy XI (which launched in 2002) can be used as a promising indicator here. Besides, XIV is still a huge money spinner for Square too, so there’s that.
With such a rich legacy, hours of high quality MMO content, and one of the friendliest player communities on the planet, Final Fantasy XIV is well worth a go if you’re somehow still sitting on the fence. Better yet, if you’re going to pull the trigger bring a group of friends along for the ride!
May the Twelve protect you, Warrior of Light.