How Final Fantasy XIV Cost Me a Good Night's Sleep

Where do you go after you save A Realm Reborn from the Empire's evil machinations? Pete checks out the end of Final Fantasy XIV's road to the level cap, and where Eorzea's heroes go from there.

Article by Pete Davison, .

It's been a long time since a video game kept me up until 5AM.

On those occasions where a video game has kept me up until 5AM in the past, blame can usually be laid at the feet of a dramatic and exciting finale that goes on a little bit longer than I thought it was going to. Because once I start down the road that clearly leads to the final boss, there's no way I'm stopping. I'm sure at least some of you can relate.

Final Fantasy XIV was, as it turned out, no exception. And that was a surprise, because although I love the game dearly, I wasn't expecting an MMO to be able to step up to the plate and deliver a finale that could match up to the frequently ridiculous and overdramatic denouements of the single-player installments in the series.

How wrong I was.

Here's what a level 50 black mage looks like. I normally hide the hat.

Final Fantasy XIV's main quest takes you right from level 1 up to the current cap of 50, conveniently taking you all the way around the entire game world and back again in the process. In following the main questline, you'll run into numerous sidequests, learn the special abilities of your class -- which, remember, you can switch out at any time if you want to try something different -- and make your way through numerous dark and scary dungeons with three friends (and/or random strangers) at your side.

As you approach level 50, it becomes apparent that the stakes are getting higher. This becomes particularly clear in the Cape Westwind boss fight, which marks the first time you graduate from a four-person "light party" to an eight-person "full party" -- currently the largest party size supported by the game. The Cape Westwind fight is a good introduction to working together with more people simultaneously -- a vital skill that you'll need if you hope to survive the last two dungeons.

Once you actually reach level 50, the first thing most players do is finish off their class-specific quest, which completes their first set of "artifact armor" -- special gear that gives each class a unique appearance similar to how they were depicted in previous Final Fantasy games. Following this, it's onward to the game's final two dungeons: Castrum Meridianum and the Praetorium, both of which require full parties of eight people to participate.

The two dungeons are quite different from one another, and indeed markedly distinct from the dungeons you may have challenged earlier in the game. Castrum Meridianum is quite an open-plan dungeon that requires good leadership -- usually from the most experienced tank in the group -- and also makes use of some unique mechanics such as firing powerful cannons at strong enemies. The Praetorium, meanwhile, is a textbook Very Definitely Final Dungeon, complete with overdramatic music and, again, some unique mechanics -- in this instance, hopping aboard a suit of Final Fantasy VI-style Magitek Armor and having the opportunity to stomp about blowing everything up for a while.

I neglected to take any screenshots during my run through the final dungeons, so here I am smacking a rock with a hammer instead.

And then come the final boss battles. A Realm Reborn had already set my expectations high with some top-notch boss fights throughout the course of the game, but I wasn't ready for quite how "Final Fantasy" the final confrontations were.

The latter part of the Praetorium is something of a boss rush, you see, with a number of dramatic fights punctuated by cutscenes in which villains shout at you while things explode and the music swells and throbs dramatically in the background. After taking down the game's last few recurring villains, you'll come face to face with an iconic Final Fantasy beastie: Ultima Weapon itself. Thus begins a huge fight in which pyrotechnics are going off all around you, and in which you'd better concentrate if you want to stay alive. In true "final boss" tradition, the battle against Ultima Weapon makes use of mechanics from most of the other major bosses throughout the game, giving the battle a really pleasing sense of closure when you come to the end.

And then? Well, I'll leave the details of what happens right at the end for you to discover for yourself, but suffice to say, those of you hoping for a lengthy and satisfying end sequence will not be disappointed. There's even a credits roll that rivals Assassin's Creed and Grand Theft Auto in duration -- but after that's done, the game continues, having set things up nicely for both the current endgame content and future expansions.

One tip: if at all possible, run both Castrum Meridianum and Praetorium in a single session, and with the same group of people. If you're in a Free Company, recruit as many people as possible to come along so you're with people you know and trust -- this also minimizes the chances you'll be thrown together with speedrunners who get pissy if you don't skip the cutscenes. Because come on; it's a Final Fantasy final dungeon -- of course you want to see the cutscenes! (If you do find yourself resorting to playing with a group of randoms through the Duty Finder, set expectations up front: tell them it's your first time running the dungeon and that you'd like to watch the cutscenes. Jerks will generally leave at this point; other people will usually be understanding, particularly since recent patches and adjustments to rewards have discouraged speedrunners somewhat.)

After hitting 50, I decided to try out another class for a bit. Here I am as a Gladiator. Lightning loaned me her clothes.

So what happens after that? Well, the story-based stuff slows down somewhat, but there is still a narrative justification for most of the things you'll find yourself doing through a series of quests. You'll find yourself running level 50 dungeons to earn money -- level 50 dungeon monsters drop money instead of awarding now-redundant experience points -- and "Tomestones," which can be exchanged for higher-level equipment at a special merchant. Your eventual aims are the acquisition of a powerful "Relic" weapon for your class of choice, and gearing yourself up appropriately to take on what is currently the most difficult dungeon in the whole game, the five-part, eight-player Binding Coil of Bahamut. Along the way, you'll encounter "Hard Mode" variations of the tricky Primal fights from the main storyline -- iconic Final Fantasy summons including Ifrit, Garuda and Titan -- and learn that, indeed, reaching level 50 is just the beginning of your adventuring career because there's still plenty to do and lots to learn. Alternatively, if endgame progression does nothing for you, you're free to start levelling another class at any point -- and in the process take advantage of the "Armory Bonus" system, which grants a hefty experience boost based on the difference between your current class and your highest-level class -- or look into the potentially lucrative crafting and gathering classes.

On December 17, 2013, Patch 2.1 will be released. This is the first of the promised significant content updates for Final Fantasy XIV that Yoshida and the development team told us about early in the game's life, and adds a ton of new stuff to do.

Level 50s will have plenty of new challenges, including "Hard Mode" versions of Copperbell Mines and Haukke Manor -- two of my favorite dungeons from earlier in the game -- and an all-new dungeon called Pharos Sirius. Perhaps most notable, though, is the introduction of the 24-player raid on the Final Fantasy III-inspired Crystal Tower, a structure which is currently visible but not enterable in the game world.

On the way to Crystal Tower. Come December 17, I'll be able to head inside with 23 friends.

Crystal Tower is not intended to replace the Binding Coil of Bahamut as the most difficult dungeon in the game; rather, it is intended to be an intermediary step providing players with more choices of things to do at high level. It'll serve as a good means of acquiring decent high-level gear -- though not quite as good as that found in the Coil -- but more than anything it will present interesting logistical and leadership challenges trying to keep 24 players in order. It's not quite as daunting as it sounds, though; those 24 players will actually be organized into three groups of eight rather than bundled all together.

In short, then, it's well worth making your way to the level cap of Final Fantasy XIV and finishing off the story, because it's a truly spectacular conclusion that kept me glued to my seat long after I should have gone to bed. And beyond that, there's plenty of stuff to do, with more on the way.

The future looks bright for the reborn realm, then; long may the light of the Crystal shine upon Eorzea.

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Comments 6

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  • Avatar for touchofkiel #1 touchofkiel 4 years ago
    I've barely played the game since I finished the main quest last week. I ran some tome dungeons a few times, but I understand that this needs to be done many, many times, weekly, just to get your small armor boost. Maybe I need to change companies or something, but the game suddenly got very, very boring to me - which is a shame, since I loved most of it so far.

    (An even bigger shame is that I just plopped down $40 for 3 months worth of play, and now I don't really want to play it.)

    I will agree that the main quest, while basic in plot, was paced pretty well, and had a very satisfying conclusion.

    Maybe I should just go give crafting another try, but that seems just as dull as running the same dungeon over and over.
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  • Avatar for Terpiscorei #2 Terpiscorei 4 years ago
    Between being busy IRL and the release of Pokemon, my interest in FF14 dropped off pretty precipitously. I did finally make it to level 50, but haven't yet done the Praetorium; unless some pressing opportunity presents itself, I probably won't.

    I still think the increased emphasis on short cooldowns, monster tells, and positioning are an improvement on what is essentially the same combat model employed by Everquest, the mechanics are still basically unchanged from the DIKU-type MUDs Everquest itself was based on. None of the skills are particularly situational, even when healing, so it really just boils down to finding an acceptable skill order and following it. There's just really nothing new here, unfortunately.

    I'll probably try to keep playing a little -- I have a good group to play with, and that probably 70% of enjoying an MMO. At the same time, for all its flaws, I'd simply rather go back to Tera -- it's probably a worse MMO, but a better game.
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  • Avatar for Roofpigeon #3 Roofpigeon 4 years ago
    So I've been playing for close to 3 weeks now, having only 4 evenings a week to play it.
    I just reached level 50 by doing FATES a lot, and I did the entire mainstoryline quest when I reached 50, much easier to do and still enjoyable. Why I ruined the storyline you ask? simple.. it's an MMORPG and I want to raid. MMO's are best enjoyed for endgame content so i love a good grind to get ready for that and finally challenge the coil bosses. Agreed I couldve enjoyed it more if i go sucked into the storyline and did area by area but I was in a rush and it would've taken me too long.

    it's a matter of perspective. I am sure die-hard Final Fantasy players will find the game less enjoyable after the storyline and I'm sure that MMO-vets would enjoy the game more after the storyline.

    whatever floats your boat really :)
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  • Avatar for pjedavison #4 pjedavison 4 years ago
    @davekoekebacker40 has it right; while I personally wouldn't choose to play in that way (as a Final Fantasy fan more than an MMORPG fan, I enjoyed making my way gradually through the story, particularly since the game was built with that in mind -- also I've never really subscribed to the whole "endgame is the only reason to play an MMO" viewpoint) it's a valid approach if you want to take it. As I noted in our original review, I like the fact that the game caters to both types of player. Final Fantasy fans can set aside the game once they finish the storyline, having easily had 100+ hours of enjoyable questing. MMO fans can continue playing indefinitely, enjoying the new content as it appears.

    As with most MMOs, there's a lot of freedom and you can make things as interesting or as dull as you want. If you just grind the same thing repeatedly, of course it's going to get boring quickly. But the nice thing is that you don't have to do that; you're not locked in to any of your choices, whether that's your combat class or your crafting/gathering skills.

    If you get bored of fighting, go craft for a bit. When that becomes tiresome, go gather for a bit. When you want a real change, start a completely different class and learn some new skills. Build up some other classes to 50 so you can fulfil multiple roles in a party. And if you do get tired, set it aside for a while; your character will still be waiting for you when you come back!
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  • Avatar for Kadrom #5 Kadrom 4 years ago
    Glad you got a group that let you watch the cutscenes, even if the whole thing is just Final Fantasy cribbing on Star Wars for the 3rd or 4th time.

    I've been playing the game a lot more than I ever expected to. I was pretty hardcore into FFXI back in my high school and college days, but now I don't have the time to commit like I did then, but thanks to the user friendly systems I've been able to accomplish a lot. Combining that with pretty much ALL of my friends from FFXI coming back to play 14 when I never expected them to, and I've been able to get my relic+1 on my paladin and have even done a few turns of the Binding Coil on a random basis. I'm looking forward to more content (player housing! Malboro lanterns and chocobo statues!) and more ways to farm tomes in 2.1.
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  • Avatar for benjaminlu86 #6 benjaminlu86 4 years ago
    I loved the fact that Ultima Weapon served as a sort of "Final Exam Boss" ( for all the mechanics you've learned up to that point. Going through HM Primals and Binding Coil turns that up to 11 and they're some of my favorite execution fights I've played in any game. I love the teamwork required in these very definitely endgame dungeons.
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