Final Fantasy XIV: One Month Later

Has the reborn realm lost its luster, or is it in the game for the long run?

Article by Pete Davison, .

I enjoy MMOs, but I often find I lose interest in them after a while -- particularly if progress slows to a crawl.

That slow progress is usually intentional, of course -- it's designed to keep you playing for weeks, months, years rather than burning through all of the content within a week then complaining that there's nothing else to do -- but it's a fine line MMO developers have to walk, particularly if they're trying to attract players other than the hardest of the hardcore raiders. Progress too fast and people will leave, bored; progress too slowly and more casual players will get discouraged.

So how is Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in this regard?

A month after release, and following what I'd call some "moderately dedicated" play, I've reached level 44 (out of 50) in my starting class of Thaumaturge (which I upgraded to Black Mage shortly after hitting level 30), level 15 in Archer (a prerequisite for unlocking the Black Mage job), level 29 in the crafting class Weaver, and level 14 in the gathering class Miner. (If you don't believe me, here's proof.) Raptr claims that I've played the game for just shy of 100 hours in total, and it's fit nicely in alongside other games that I've been playing such as Grand Theft Auto V, a probably misguided attempt to "get everything" in Tales of Xillia, and Sweet Fuse. In short, I'm happy with the progress I've made, and not running into my usual MMO problem of bingeing on it for a week, getting burnt out and frustrated that I seemingly don't have any time to play anything else, then never touching it ever again.

This is me, shortly after beginning my temporary career as an Archer.

It's working well for me, then; I've never been what I'd call a hardcore MMO player, though I've got more "into" Final Fantasy XIV than any other game in the genre I can remember -- I'm a member of a Free Company (the game's Guild equivalents); I've made some friends; I feel experienced and confident enough to lead inexperienced newbies through some of the dungeons (I'm a Haukke Manor master, yo); and I'm at a stage where I can comfortably explore pretty much the entirety of Eorzea without dying, so long as I'm careful. That's a pleasant place to be in after a month of moderately dedicated play, then, and I certainly don't feel like I'm in any rush to reach the level cap and endgame content. At the same time, I do want to see how the main story ends, and from about level 40 onwards I started running into level-locked story quests that were just slightly higher than where I'd got through just questing and the occasional dungeon -- I've ended up having to go and grind a little to progress, but there's certainly plenty of places I can do that without having to fight the same monsters over and over again.

One of the nice things about Final Fantasy XIV is that there are a variety of ways to progress -- though once you've beaten a quest (including the main story events) once, there's no going back and doing it again. This means that if you either reach the level cap in your starting job or feel like a change, you'll have to find alternative means of gaining experience -- thankfully, the "Armory Bonus" mechanic gives you a significant bump in experience point gain based on the difference between your new class and the one in which you've attained the highest level, making even just running around grinding monsters a practical means of levelling up. To put that in a degree of context, upon reaching level 30 in my Thaumaturgist class, I was told I'd need to level Archer to 15 to unlock Black Mage; doing so took about an hour and a half of not trying particularly hard and primarily focusing on hunting monsters, during which I had a fleeting moment of regret at not picking Archer in the first place, as it's a lot of fun.

If you put in the effort -- and are willing to invest a considerable amount of in-game currency -- you can level your crafting classes pretty quickly, too. One member of the Free Company I'm a member of managed to get a crafting class from 1-50 in the space of two days, though it was an expensive process; crafting requires a considerable amount of elemental crystals, which can only be acquired through defeating elemental monsters, through gathering skills or, if you don't have the time or inclination to do that, through the auction house-like Market Board in the game's major cities.

Levelling a gathering class is a somewhat slower process, though it can be accelerated somewhat by taking on appropriately-levelled repeatable Levequests rather than simply grinding and hoping for the best. As you get better at the various gathering skills, you unlock a number of traits that make your job a little easier, too -- things like being able to find the nearest node of an appropriate level for your current skill, or being able to increase the yield of crystals that you mine from nodes.

And here I am zapping a big toad thing in a hideously uncoordinated ensemble.

Final Fantasy XIV feels like a game that's been designed to cater particularly to those who are willing to take their time and not rush through the content rather than those who just want to get to the endgame as quickly as possible. In other words, it's an MMO where the endgame isn't "where the real game begins," unlike many of its peers -- instead, it's a game where the whole journey to that level cap is just as -- if not more -- important than what you do once you stop gaining experience and start focusing on your gear.

That's not to say there's nothing to do at the level cap, of course -- there's "hard mode" versions of the various Primal boss battles from throughout the story, a hefty quest to get your "Relic" weapon, some challenging dungeons and raids and, thanks to the Armory system, at any point you can go and start a new class from scratch. Not only that, but if you have friends who are lagging behind you in terms of levels, a "level sync" function scales you down to an appropriate level if you're participating in group content with them. This is a particularly useful feature, as it means that almost everything in the game is constantly relevant to everyone -- so if you have a favorite dungeon from early in the game and just want to run through it again for kicks, you can do. At the same time, this means the game lacks that satisfying moment from World of Warcraft where you realize you can walk into certain dungeons and run them solo, but it's a small price to pay.

The player base's biggest concern at the moment is what's going to happen with the game's economy in the long term. At present, critical players say, there isn't enough gil flowing into the game from quests, while there is a significant amount flowing out through repair costs, Market Board fees and the like. This issue was partly addressed in a recent patch, which significantly lowered the cost of repairs and materials needed for players to repair things themselves as well as increasing the occurrence of "pure profit" items in high-level dungeons, but some players are still worried. In particular, these players would like to see greater monetary rewards from completing tasks such as repeatable Levequests and the public FATE quests you come across in the world, both of which are a little stingy with their rewards at present. While I haven't run into financial difficulties myself as yet, I'm given to understand that this is largely an endgame issue, when high-level gear costs obscene amounts of gil to maintain, and the quest to earn your class' "relic" weapon is also a particularly expensive prospect. Hopefully this is something that will be naturally addressed in the coming months as new content is added.

Certain areas in the game still get quite busy, but for the most part the player base has spread themselves around the game world as a whole.

All in all, though, things are looking good for the game so far. Although some areas don't seem as heavily populated as they were around the launch period, this isn't necessarily a sign that players have dropped out -- more that, due to varying rates of progress, they've scattered themselves naturally around the game world. There's certainly always plenty of people online, though wait times for the Duty Finder are still rather lengthy if you're a DPS character. Most importantly, the server issues the game was suffering around launch are now nothing but an unpleasant memory forever commemorated by the various Free Companies who use "1017" as their tag.

We'll continue to revisit the game over time -- particularly when new content drops -- and keep you posted on how things are going. In the meantime, if you happen to be on the Ultros server, feel free to say hello to Amarysse Jerhynsson (me) or Zen Stormbreak (Mike) any time you see us online!

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Comments 13

  • Avatar for robo_riley #1 robo_riley 4 years ago
    Wow, this makes me want to play Final Fantasy XIV. I'm not much of a MMORPG person either (I've dabbled in WOW and GW2, but didn't get sucked in).
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  • Avatar for Kadrom #2 Kadrom 4 years ago
    I just hit level 50 this weekend after playing a moderate amount. I've done one of the two final 8 man dungeons needed to finish the story and hope to do the second tonight. It's been fun, and has been satisfying for everyone in my linkshells and Free Company regardless of their playtime.
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  • Avatar for renatocosta90 #3 renatocosta90 4 years ago
    After the big rave about FFXIV here on USGamer I decided to give it a shot. It is my first MMO in ages and I can say I'm definetely having a blast.
    Fired up a Conjurer (Healer) and haven't looked back since, it has been a lot of fun until now. The story is mildly interesting, so far, but I really enjoyed the mechanics of the GuildHests, FATEs and Dungeons. Also, the community seems very forthcoming and helpful, which I would have doubted if someone told me this a few months back.
    So, if any other fellow USGamer readers are up there in Eorzea, I'm playing on Brynhildr with my char Senaka Ittai.
    Also, Healers can instantly find any, ANY party. And that's kinda fun :D
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  • Avatar for renatocosta90 #4 renatocosta90 4 years ago
    @limbeckd Haven't added you yet, but my char is on the comment below!
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  • Avatar for limbeckd #5 limbeckd 4 years ago
    I've been pretty busy lately, but I've managed to put a bit of time in--just hit 15 as a lancer today. Playing with a controller is both awesome and frustrating--the main frustration being targeting the right creature; sometimes it seems to pick a target across the screen rather than the one right in front of me. I find the story and the characters very bland, but I've been having fun enough running around and killing stuff.

    I haven't been able to devote enough time to a single sitting to trying out the group content, but I'm looking forward to it. I've really enjoyed healing in WoW lately, and I'm interested in trying it out in FFXIV, but my targeting is so imprecise at the moment that I'm hesitant to try. I haven't joined a FC yet, but I expect that'll come eventually.

    My main complaint would be the number of fetch quests I get sent on. One of the recent main story line quests involved:
    -run back to the main city and talk to person 1
    -go talk to the head archer dude
    -go back to person 1
    -go talk to the head carpenter
    -go back to person 1
    -go talk to someone else and watch a long cutscene.
    I'd say that WoW's leveling is perhaps too streamlined these days, but at least they got rid of that sort of tedium. I spend a lot of time just running from one place to the next.
    @renatocosta90 We're on different servers :-( But if anyone wants to hit me up, I'm Jamm Sammich on Sargatanas.
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  • Avatar for akmass #6 akmass 4 years ago
    @limbeckd Don't know if you've messed with the filters in the options but it makes targeting a breeze (basically set it to enemies only when in combat). The standard settings make it very tough - targeting everything. It's also especially easy for healers, who just use the d-pad.
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  • Avatar for limbeckd #7 limbeckd 4 years ago
    @akmass I did mess with that earlier today. Why it isn't enabled by default is beyond me. Usually targeting does work fine, but sometimes I seem to target some random mob rather than the one right in front of me.
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  • Avatar for benjaminlu86 #8 benjaminlu86 4 years ago
    @Kadrom Hey! It's Titania. As promised, we finished the main story tonight and man, is it good. The last boss is a super satisfying encounter of the "final exam" variety where it tests your knowledge of all the mechanics from dungeons and bosses you've faced before. It was great! Now to AAAAHHH relic! :)
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  • Avatar for pjedavison #9 pjedavison 4 years ago
    Glad to hear so many people have been enjoying this game. :) Pity we seem to be scattered over a variety of servers!
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  • Avatar for Toplinkar #10 Toplinkar 4 years ago
    As someone who never enjoyed a MMO game before, but loves the FF franchise, I must say this game caught my attention, but not enough to give it a try.

    I'll wait, see if the new content that is obviously coming is interesting and if all plays well I'll give it a go on the PC or the PS4.
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  • Avatar for Angrycop #11 Angrycop 4 years ago
    Hey guys, its too late to start playing ? i wanted to buy a copy online this weekend. Seems like a good game !
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  • Avatar for limbeckd #12 limbeckd 4 years ago
    @Angrycop I certainly wouldn't say it's too late. Plenty of people still running around the lowbie areas.
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  • Avatar for Angrycop #13 Angrycop 4 years ago
    @limbeckd Thanks, buying it then !
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