Why Final Fantasy XIV Is The MMO That Sticks For Me

TLDR: Because It's Final Fantasy
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Final Fantasy XIV: The One That Stayed. Square Enix

MMORPGs are the one major game genre I never dipped a toe into. The core concept alienated me: playing with strangers online? I wasn’t interested in other people interfering in my game experience.

While World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XI took the globe by storm, I crafted mansions, collections, and soap opera stories in The Sims . An individually curated, highly customizable world where I could benefit from the contributions of others on my own terms felt much more my style. Other RPGs — without the MMO tacked on — were also up my alley.

Cut to a number of years later, when I realized that perhaps these worlds which had absorbed the time, attention and money of so many people might be worth a shot. I tried a handful of MMOs like Blade & Soul and Guild Wars 2, but they didn’t stick. If pressed, I couldn’t explain why, except to say that no matter how gorgeous the world, no matter how beautiful the characters and gear, no matter how interesting the combat system — I neither understood nor cared about anything I was doing.

That’s not an attack on those two titles, by the way. It’s just hard to get into an MMO in this day and age without previous experience with the genre under your belt. Simple phrases like “stack on this boss” mean nothing, macros might as well be actual spellwork and even setting hotkeys is a fraught activity. Staring at your hotbars feels like staring at hieroglyphs. And if you’re playing alone? Forget about it. What do you have to make you want to stay?

Enter Final Fantasy XIV. I was invested in Final Fantasy XIV ’s story from the start because the game story was so bound up in the fascinating external tale of 1.0’s troubled development, broken launch and inspiring redemption. It takes guts for any company, any game to write their failures into their own lore, but of course Final Fantasy did it in their own high fantasy style with a blood red moon, an evil Empire, Bahamut and the end of the world.

I watched the Speakers Network and noclip documentaries on Final Fantasy XIV , rapt with attention. To take a game from zero to hero? What a feat! My emotional investment in Final Fantasy XIV ’s story secured, I fired up an account and started the game. Critically, I had someone high-leveled and knowledgeable to play it with me, available for all my idiotic newbie questions.

But also critically, Final Fantasy XIV is easy and accessible in those opening hours. You get the tale of the apocalypse, you understand that you’re part of rebuilding Eorzea and have to prove yourself as an adventurer, so your low-level fetch and chat quests make sense. The base game is well-written and charming in every interaction, while the environments and race designs are whimsical and magical.

And no one suffers you to play alone, not really — there’s always someone recruiting for their Free Company, the guild-like groups of folks who offer themselves as a resource for players of all levels. (The Free Companies who aren’t interested in newbies won’t recruit them, but those who do know what they’re getting themselves into.) You can play the whole game alone, using the Duty Finder and Party Finder functions for instanced story dungeons, but if you want to play with others, you can run the Duty Roulette and form parties with strangers to tackle that content together. Final Fantasy XIV sincerely tries to appeal to fans of both solo and party play, which I appreciate greatly.

Plus, Final Fantasy XIV just has that Final Fantasy feeling: the high fantasy, the adorable Moogles, the classes that unlock iconic Final Fantasy jobs, the chocobos, the tale of an intrepid adventurer helping the world, a dark Empire, an apocalypse, classic summons like Ifrit and Ramuh… you even meet Biggs and Wedge.

While I could use job and story potions to skip through A Realm Reborn and Heavensward content, putting me in a prime position to enjoy the new Stormblood content, I don’t want to. I’m having so much fun experiencing the story, learning the mechanics and playing with friends (I’ve looped at least two other real-life folks into the game) that I’d be doing myself a disservice skipping through any part of it.

If the story bogs, if the leveling gets grindy, if I get bored or uninspired, I’ll change my tune. But so far Final Fantasy XIV has managed to make itself stick where other MMORPG titles failed, and I’m ready to gain my levels the old-fashioned way: logging hours, churning through the story and having fun with friends.

How do you feel Final Fantasy XIV stacks up against other MMOs on the market? Do you find that it’s the MMORPG that has stuck for you, or does another title take that distinction? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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