Final Fantasy XIV has seen a bit of a surge lately on the back of a weak offering from competing MMO, World of Warcraft. That's not entirely fair to state, however. FFXIV didn't exactly do anything different that it hasn't already been doing for years, but more and more players are eager to try it for the first time, seeking greener pastures.
FFXIV is a massively multiplayer online RPG set across a variety of persistent world servers. The game has a generous free trial offering, but generally costs around $6 per month to help pay for the costs of its servers. Not everybody fancies paying for a subscription-based MMO, but I find the constant refresh of content, cloud-based servers, and high-quality ongoing development to be more than worth the asking price.
FFXIV borrows from the various Final Fantasy games over the ages, and even features content from other games such as Monster Hunter and NieR:Automata. You'll do battle with legendary dragons such as Bahamut, consort with iconic figures like Shiva and Cid, and dive into a complex political intrigue spanning nations. The story is probably the best part of FFXIV (for me, so far), which is delivered via an abundance of in-game cutscenes, complete with choreographed scenes and frequent voice acting. However, getting to the real meat of FFXIV can be an incredible uphill slog for newcomers, especially those used to other types of games (or even other MMOs).
As a newbie "sprout" myself, here are some of the tips and tricks I wish I knew when I initially went into the game.
Journey to Eorzea
Final Fantasy MMO
Final Fantasy XIV is a leading MMO set in the world of Eorzea. Filled with creatures and characters from Final Fantasy legend, FFXIV has taken a place at the top of the MMO pack in recent years, owing to high-quality story delivery and spectacular combat and raids.
FFXIV: Picking a class
Final Fantasy XIV differs from some other MMOs out there by letting you train multiple character classes at once. In FFXIV, classes are known as jobs," inspired by classic Final Fantasy games, and come in a variety of roles and playstyles.
Some jobs start as a basic version, and through story progression graduate into more advanced jobs. For example, to play as the classic Dragoon or Black Mage jobs of other Final Fantasy games, you must start as a Lancer or a Thaumaturge respectively.
Unlike previous MMO Final Fantasy XI, your chose race is purely cosmetic in FFXIV, and has no bearing on your capabilities in battle. Some jobs are also restricted to certain expansions, and can only be unlocked after progressing through the story to that point.
We have a full guide on every job in FFXIV here, but here's an overview of the main roles you can undertake in FFXIV.
Tanking classes are classic MMO staples. If you pick a tank, you're a defender and lead the groups by keeping the monster's attention firmly on you. By generating high "enmity," you ensure that enemies target you first, rather than the less defensive damage dealing and healing classes, who can't really take many hits (if any) from larger enemies. Tanks also deal moderately good damage too, contributing to the overall damage output of the group.
- Marauder/Warrior: Starting as the Marauder, the Warrior class is the quintessential MMO staple. Rocking a two-handed axe, you'll charge into battle first while defending your allies with powerful attacks.
- Guardian/Paladin: Wielding a sword and shield, the Paladin is a more magical variant of the Warrior, using holy magic to augment your strength and prowess.
- Dark Knight: The opposite of a Paladin, a Dark Knight labors for justice using their inner torment as a weapon. Dark magic coupled with the ability to steal health from enemies keeps you alive against threats that would vanquish others.
- Gunbreaker: One of the newer classes, the Gunbreaker is inspired by Squall of Final Fantasy VII. Using a unique gunblade, rapid technical attacks make quick work of enemies.
Healers are responsible for keeping the group alive. Various types of damage can hit your party in combat, ranging from unavoidable passive area of effect (AoE) damage to direct hits that can rip chunks out of your tank's health pool. Managing your mana points (MP) and gauging which heals to use how and when is the hallmark of a good healer, and the classes of FFXIV offer a good variety for getting stuck in.
- Conjurer/White Mage: The opposite of the more destructive Black Mage, the White Mage is a holy-oriented caster that uses a variety of spells to repair wounds and defend the party from damage.
- Arcanist/Scholar: Scholars are studious healers who use their knowledge of the arcane to mitigate harm. Wielding an apocryphal book of knowledge, the Scholar is a formidable defender that can also summon faerie sprites to aid allies.
- Astrologian: Astrologians are a newer healing class that uses their knowledge of the stars and zodiac to conjure mystical healing spells.
Damage Dealers (DPS)
DPS (damage-per-second) classes are the spear of the group, dealing large amounts of damage to a monster's health pool. They aren't very defensive, though, meaning that their role is to avoid as much damage as possible to maximize their own damage output. Although, like all jobs in FFXIV, they do get some emergency defensive spells on longer cooldown timers.
- Thaumaturge/Black Mage: Black Mages are the iconic wizards of the Final Fantasy world, wielding spells like Fire, Blizzard, and Thunder to dish out massive amounts of damage from range. They are generally squishy, though, and quick to die when targeted. They're also liable to losing DPS if forced to move around.
- Machinist: Among the newer classes, the Machinist is a technician that uses a gun and other ranged mechanical tools to deal damage.
- Lancer/Dragoon: The Dragoon is a risk-taking damage dealer who wields a lance and the power of the dragons themselves. The Dragoon is an agile damage dealer for those who like to get up close and personal.
- Rogue/Ninja: The Ninja is another close-range damage dealer who uses twin daggers and ninjutsu magic to dispatch foes.
- Samurai: The Samurai is an advanced damage dealer who uses a large two-handed katana and blade combos, dishing large amounts of damage with effortless style to boot.
- Red Mage: The Red Mage is another Final Fantasy staple that combines close-range sword fighting with long-range spell-slinging, creating a hybridized playstyle that combines aspects of melee, white magic, and black magic.
- Archer/Bard: Using songs to inspire party members, the Bard is an archer class that fights from range. A unique song gauge grants potent buffs to your party, aiding every level of combat.
- Arcanist/Summoner: The summoner is a unique pet-oriented range class that calls upon powerful elemental creatures to aid them in battle.
- Blue Mage: The Blue Mage is a solo-oriented job that can't participate in regular events or dungeons. Instead, the Blue Mage has its own storyline and unique challenge modes, which offer decent rewards. Blue Mage largely revolves around its unique spell-acquisition system, which has players hunting down mobs throughout the game to steal abilities from. This is in some ways side-content for those who want to try something different.
FFXIV: Configuring your HUD
Final Fantasy XIV and MMOs in general are notorious for their complex user interface (also known as UI or HUD). MMORPGs feature various intersecting and overlapping systems, making them quite daunting for newcomers. While the UI can be daunting at first, it doesn't take too long to learn, and comes with a ton of customizability for your own unique playstyle.
You can customize the UI in FFXIV by hitting ESC, and selecting "Customize HUD," this gives you a new mode that lets you move around UI elements, resize them to your liking, including the ability to hide them completely. Here are some tips on how to customize your HUD.
- General UI elements: Most things like the map, your hit points, and so on probably don't need to be moved around unless you're advanced and want to try something new. You can, however, change their size by selecting an element, then hitting the cogwheel icon and changing its scale.
- Chat logs: The chat log in the bottom left shows all the messages from various players and system features. It can get extremely busy, though, especially if you join a Free Company (similar to a guild or a clan, with friends). What I do is add a second log for "social" messages, separately from the other one. To do this, hit the + symbol next to the chat box at the bottom. Then, you can hit the cogwheel icon to configure filters for each tab. I filter out everything except tells, free company chat, party and raid chat, and linkshell chatter in the top box, and leave everything else going on as usual in the bottom one.
- Hot bars: These are your main ability bars, generally across the bottom of your UI. You can assign keybinds to your liking via the ESC menu. I generally use WASD for movement (using the right mouse button to turn my character). I then assign 1, 2, 3, 4, Q, E, R, F, and combinations of left Shift and left Ctrl as modifiers on those buttons to add more spells. You get two hotbars by default, but I set up a third hotbar to the side for things like potions and random extra abilities. By the end of the game, you may find you need three ability hotbars too, due to the large volume of spells some job roles get.
FFXIV: Leveling flow: quests to take, and quests to skip
Final Fantasy XIV features relatively linear progression, at least to begin with. It's a heavily story-based MMORPG with a single-threaded main story quest (also known as the MSQ), which is required play for unlocking dungeons, raids, jobs, and other content. The MSQ should be your primary focus as you play. The main story quest is symbolized with a fiery exclamation mark, and is also depicted in the top left corner of your screen at all times. There are a variety of quest types, though. Here's a quick explainer.
The easiest way to find where the quest objective is to open your journal (J key by default), select a quest, then hit the map. Clicking on the map and teleporting to the nearest aetherite (a blue crystal symbol) will help you get to where you need to go the quickest, although you need to have physically traveled there on foot the first time.
- Main scenario quest (MSQ): The MSQ is the real meat of FFXIV, giving you story context, dungeon unlocks, boss battles, trial events, gear upgrades, and more. Since FFXIV is now moving into its fourth expansion, the MSQ gives you a mountain of EXP while playing, enough that you can level two or even three jobs side by side quite comfortably without really touching any side quests. EXP gains are boosted for older content to help players get up to speed, although you may find that you have to explore additional dungeon runs or side quests while leveling into the latest expansion.
- Job quests: Underneath the MSQ banner on the top left, you may also see a smaller quest beneath it. This indicates that you have a new job story quest available. Job quests unlock new abilities, reward job-styled gear, and more. Generally, a new job quest is unlocked every few levels, and the game will notify you when a new one has become available.
- Side quests with unlocks: When you see a quest marker with a blue color and a + symbol inside it, that denotes some form of unlockable content. This can be a new job to unlock, a new gameplay feature like materia, crafting, or aether currents for learning flight. It may unlock a new dungeon or a raid, and various other things. Generally, if you see a blue quest marker with a + symbol, it's worth checking out.
- Regular side quests: Standard gold quest markers are side quests. The vast majority of these are skippable, since they don't reward good EXP, and generally don't have interesting rewards. Some offer dances, emotes, and other "fun" things here and there. However, besides lore, the vast majority aren't worth doing unless you find yourself absolutely starved of EXP.
FFXIV: Dungeons, raids, and gearing up
The cornerstone of any self-respecting MMO is the dungeoneering layer. Beyond the main overworld, most areas are attached to a dungeon or two, denoted as a blue cave entrance symbol on the map. Most of these are unlocked via the main scenario quest, although a few (especially in the case of hard modes) must be unlocked through side quests that appear as and when you meet the criteria (generally a specific level).
You can queue up for any dungeon you've unlocked by opening the duty tab (U by default). This gives you the ability to queue for specific dungeons and raids, teleporting you into them once a suitable party has been matchmade. Additionally, there are duty roulettes and daily quests you can undertake, rewarding tomestones that can be traded in for gear starting at level 50 (from an NPC in Revenant's Toll, Mor Dhona). Group content in FFXIV are split between linear 4-player dungeons, 4- and 8-man boss events called trials, 8-man raids, and 24+ player raid alliances. There are a few "raids" required for the main story quest which don't necessarily reward loot, but may give you tomestones for trading in for gear.
Dungeons in FFXIV are fairly easy for the most part, at least until you start getting deeper into hard and extreme difficulty trials and modes. For beginners, here are a few tips:
- If you're DPS, make sure you let the tank lead, and let the tank engage combat. Generally, you want to attack the target the tank is focusing on. If you pull enmity (agro), you'll take a lot of damage, and make things more difficult for the healer.
- If you have time, it's worth taking a quick glance at boss tactics before entering a new dungeon by searching for the name of the dungeon in your favorite search engine. If you're entering higher-end content, studying the tactics more in-depth becomes more necessary.
- Most bosses telegraph their attacks with a cast bar or animation. Try to avoid all area of effect attacks (AoE) by moving as soon as you see orange damage markers appear on the floor.
- If you're tanking, it's worth moving the enemy list in the HUD to somewhere more visible, as it makes it easier to track when adds spawn for pick up.
- In larger raids, some bosses put a debuff on the tank that causes them to take increased damage. The second tank should use provoke in this scenarios in what is generally known as a "tank swap" to mitigate incoming damage, and make life easier for the healers.
- In dungeons, don't be afraid to use cooldowns frequently. This is especially true for tanks. If you're willing to use your big damage mitigation cooldowns frequently, you can make larger pulls and help the dungeon run go faster. You should try to make sure they're off cooldown for the boss battles, though.
FFXIV: The future
The next big FFXIV expansion is called Endwalker, and will serve to round off the main story that revolves around the crystal Hydaelyn, a deity that bestows the player character and their allies with the power of Light. Endwalker will add new areas, new content, new bosses, and new classes.
Endwalker adds the Sage healer job and the Reaper melee DPS job, as well as a male Viera (bunny people) playable race. The level cap increases from 80 to 90, extending the story into new zones and areas. Some of the new trials include the summon Anima, who debuted in Final Fantasy X. It will also add Oceania data centers, and also give players the ability to play with friends from other continents, due to broad server upgrades. Endwalker will also add a new "Island Sanctuary" system, which looks to be inspired by the likes of Animal Crossing, where players can enjoy a casual solo experience.
Final Fantasy XIV has completely hooked me as I sought greener pastures owing to the decline of one of the best multiplayer PC games. The community has been incredibly warm and welcoming, and even eager to encourage and help accommodate new players.
I plan to expand this guide further in the future, so if there are any oversights or tips you'd like more information on, drop your questions in the comments, and I'll be sure to answer them.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!