Especially if you’re not already familiar with how the subgenre works, getting into Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) is a daunting task. Having to sink hundreds of hours into a game can seem inconceivable, but there’s never been a better time to jump on board with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, currently the most-played MMO in the world. That’s especially true with the game getting a brand new data center and going back on sale as of January 25, 2022.
There’s a lot to love about FFXIV, but perhaps what’s most fascinating is the stellar single-player elements that make it one of the most accessible MMOs out there.
The freedom it gives players is astounding. There are countless options for exploring its world, characters, and systems. Past that, however, it also has one of the best narratives in the entire Final Fantasy series, which is really something considering this is a franchise known for its storytelling.
With the release of the Endwalker expansion, there are now 19 combat classes and 8 crafting classes. Yes, there are balancing adjustments, but any of them presents a viable option for players. The game has a great way of easing you into its mechanics. There are multiple tutorials for playing each role, and story elements demonstrate mechanics like crafting.
The world of FFXIV is an absolute joy to explore, packed with lore and interesting characters. While the main scenario of A Realm Reborn can be a bit of a slog to get through, once you reach the first expansion, Heavensward, things kick into high gear and never slow down. As you progress through each expansion, you can practically see the development team becoming more confident, more willing to experiment in wild new ways. This applies to both gameplay mechanics and stories.
There’s a metric ton of content to wade through between dungeons, raids, alliance raids, beast tribe quests, and more. Contrary to what most games do, however, FFXIV veritably encourages players to take it slow and go at their own pace. Things like the Challenge Log and Wondrous Trails are structured in a way that they don’t force players to go out of their way to complete specific tasks, but they reward players for doing whatever they want to.
You could rush through the dramatic story or spend your time perfecting your cooking as a Culinarian, feeling a sense of accomplishment either way. The game’s director, Naoki “Yoshi-P” Yoshida, has even been vocal about wanting players to take breaks and go at their own pace, without fear of missing out.
Saying FFXIV has the best story in the entire series is admittedly a bold statement, but there are few Final Fantasy games more narratively ambitious than this one. Each expansion tackles heavy themes with a lot of grace in its own self-contained story. And yet, it still ties into the overall narrative and lore of the game at large. These gripping tales can be largely experienced by playing in single-player, outside of using the Duty Finder to occasionally match with strangers.
Heavensward focuses on prejudice between different peoples as the main story grapples with hope and religious dogma. Stormblood dives into militaristic oppression as well as personal guilt over past actions. Shadowbringers then subverts the light vs. dark trope while trying to send a message of working with others for positive change.
While we could go on all day about the specificities of the mechanics and story, one other aspect of FFXIV really deserves a bigger mention: the community. FFXIV’s community is well-known for being one of the most welcoming and helpful in all of gaming. It’s commonplace to have a healer randomly restore your HP while you’re exploring, or have a stranger jump in and help fight off the mob you’re dealing with. At the same time, any FFXIV player will tell you there’s nothing quite like the bustling plaza of the Limsa Lominsa, a location where you can find countless bards, crafters, role-players, and more.
The game’s community at large has been tremendously welcoming to new players over the years, and there’s a lot of creativity on display. Whether you’re taking pictures of your Warrior of Light with G-posing or bragging about your home design skills, there’s so much vibrancy in FFXIV’s community. It’s become a refuge of creativity for many players, and it adds even more to explore.
At this point, there’s practically no excuse to not at least give FFXIV a try, considering the game has a massive free trial that can take you up through the Heavensward expansion. It’s a veritable theme park of Final Fantasy’s history and an encapsulation of everything the series has stood for over its 35 years.