The best Final Fantasy ever. The best MMORPG ever. The best game ever. The best story ever told in any medium.
These are some of the ways people have described the wildly successful Final Fantasy XIV.
The MMO nature of the game put me off playing it for a long, long time. But with the main story officially “over”, it was the perfect chance to dive in. I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. Now that I’m done with it, is FF14 the best anything ever?
No. But it’s still pretty great.
First of all, some context. I never intended to play this like a true MMO. I didn’t grind for gear. I didn’t try different roles and jobs. I didn’t do side-quests or dailies. I didn’t buy and decorate a house. I didn’t do any of the many, many things you can do in FF14. The game is designed so that you can go through the much lauded main story and ignore everything else if you so wish, and that’s exactly what I did. So read this review as someone who approached the game from that point of view.
Let’s talk about the time and money commitment. I finished the main story in four months. It took me about 220 hours to see the final credits, the length of about three or four RPGs. I spent about 7000 yen in total, the price of a regular PS5 game or slightly less. It’s definitely possible to see the story through in a “reasonable” amount of time and for a reasonable amount of money. You can play about half the game for free, so there’s no reason not to try it out.
Now onto the game itself. I have many positive things to say about FF14, and some negative ones. Here’s the thing: the negative ones are all related to it being an MMO, a genre I’m not particularly fond of. So if you love MMOs I can cut to the chase and say: play this game and see it to its completion. You won’t regret it. You might even think FF14 is the best anything ever.
Coming from the perspective of someone who likes well paced single-player games, though, I could do without some of the genre’s trappings. Mainly that the gameplay is very basic outside of very specific quests, that the story is very (very) spread out, and that the production values are not as high as, say, those of Final Fantasy VII Remake, with much more basic graphics, animations and camera angles. You can hardly blame the game for this though, it’s simply part of the genre it belongs to.
Being an MMO comes with some positives as well, though. It’s fun to play with friends and to join random people for boss battles. Some of my most memorable moments include people asking me to join their party during random quests, or a friend showing me around the game. FF14’s later expansions give you the option to play with AI companions instead of actual human beings if you don’t like this aspect. While I was excited to play with the game’s cast of characters at first, I quickly went back to playing with other players, as the bosses are clearly designed around that.
FF14’s story has been highly praised, and it’s something that has prompted people who normally don’t play MMOs to try out the game. The game has the advantage of being able to dedicate hundreds of hours to fleshing out its world and characters. In that sense, it’s more like a TV show than a movie, in that there are a lot of smaller character arcs that blend into a larger narrative. The lore is interesting, the characters are well developed, the villains are likeable, and the soundtrack is fantastic. By the time you reach the ending of Endwalker, the latest expansion, you will be glad you saw it through.
Not all missions are created equal though. You will soon realize that a lot off them are filler fetch-quests, and many cutscenes can be safely skipped. After playing the game for some time you get a good sense of which cutscenes are essential to following the story.
There are also a few hurdles before getting to the good parts of FF14. The base game, A Realm Reborn, doesn’t have much going for it until its post-credits missions. It is with the first expansion, Heavensward, where the game starts to shine. Here’s a brief summary of each expansion:
A Realm Reborn: This is definitely the weakest of the bunch. It introduces the players to most of the game’s mechanics, but the story is paper-thin. 80% of the quests are fluff and the story doesn’t get going until the post-credits missions — which to be fair are as long as the pre-credits ones. It’s obvious that once the game became a success, they put a lot more effort into future content.
Heavensward: Here’s where the game gets really good. In fact, this expansion has some of the best content in the whole game and is probably the best way to gauge if FFXIV is for you.
Bloodstorm: After Heavensward, it’s a bit of a disappointment. It’s not as bad as A Realm Reborn — there’s actually a story — but by this point you know the game can do much more, so it’s more painful. The expansion focuses on some characters that are not as interesting as those in Heavensward.
Shadowbringers: This is where FF14 started being talked as one of the best games of all time. Another fantastic expansion that kicks the story into high gear and has one of the best, most likeable and fleshed out villains in media.
Endwalker: The end of the story that A Realm Reborn started, and a worthy follow-up to the fantastic Shadowbringers. It has even higher highs, and the climax doesn’t disappoint. The main story arc is pretty much over with Endwalker, with a new one starting with the next expansion.
So, to elaborate on whether FF14 is the best game ever. It isn’t. I don’t even think it’s the best Final Fantasy, liking tighter experiences like VII (and its remake) or X myself. But it’s definitely one of the better ones after several disappointing entries, with exceptional characters and a really interesting lore. That I was even able to finish the story is a miracle in and of itself, considering I’m not fond of MMOs, so that says a lot to the quality of the game.
Should you play it? As I said earlier, it’s free to play up until the end of Heavensward, so there’s no reason not to. If Heavensward grabs you, play the rest and you won’t regret it.
Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
My email is ” email@example.com “, by all means contact me about anything!
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