The recent buzz about Fortnite becoming Fortnite – Chapter 2 through the efforts of a black hole sucking up the original game reminded me of a different game. That game was Final Fantasy XIV. When FFXIV originally came out (1.0), it was met with… unfavourable reviews. While I myself had never played through 1.0, it was clear there was a lot of things wrong with it. Areas were too large and maze-like, things were poorly optimized (some barrel props had more polygons than player models), the UI was hideous and difficult to navigate at times, etc. It was plagued with problems. So much so that a giant ‘meteor’ struck the land of Eorzea and messed it up so bad that turned off all the servers, and FFXIV became an entirely new game titled Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Also known as the 2.0 update, almost everything was completely overhauled and FFXIV has now grown into a fierce competitor in the MMO market, rivaling other MMO top-dog World of Warcraft.
(Bahamut emerging from Dalamud as the Warrior of Light and his party look on)
I first played FFXIV around patch 2.5, a little bit before the first big expansion, Heavensward, was slated for release. I started playing it because one of my friends wanted to play it, and so did I because I’m a huge Final Fantasy fan. The only thing that was stopping me at that point was, well, it was an MMO and I had nobody to play with. So when my friend was on board for playing it, I got excited and delved into the world of Eorzea.
When you first start, you create your own character. You get a choice between Hyur (Humans), Elezen (Elves), Lalafell (2’ tall tiny people), Miqo’te (Human-Cat people) and Roegadyn (Massive people). The expansion races include Au’Ra (Human-Dragon people), Viera (Human-Rabbit females) and Hrothgar (Burly lion males). Within these races are something like subraces, which altar your appearance somewhat. For example, if you play as a Hyur, then you get the option between a Midlander or a Highlander. The only real difference is that Highlanders are somewhat taller. Then you get to pick your class for your character. Classes in FFXIV are… somewhat different to other MMOs, at least from ones that I’ve played. First of all, your character can be any class you want with no restriction. That means you can rotate between different classes at will. This reduces the need to make a separate character if you want to try out a different class, though you can still do that if you wish. All that picking your starting class does is change where in the world you start off in. Secondly, classes will later evolve into jobs. Jobs are like evolutions to your class, unlocking more skills and traits. To start, you’re given the choice between the following: Marauder, Paladin, Lancer, Pugilist, Rogue, Archer, Thaumaturge, Arcanist and Conjurer. When you reach a certain level, the class evolves into a job, for example, a Pugilist will become a Monk, a Lancer will become a Dragoon and a Gladiator will become a Paladin. The expansion jobs don’t require pre-requisite classes, you just jump straight into them after finishing their starting quest.
So my character, Naweh, started as a female Miqo’te Pugilist, later becoming a Monk. I picked Pugilist/Monk because I always liked to pick classes in games based on what I think the character I’m playing as would be. So, I thought being a Monk was perfect for Naweh, who I thought as calm, mild, and always into meditation, but secretly had a fury inside her, ready to burst out and strike whoever caused it. However, with the expansions came new jobs, the latest expansion bringing a job I have always wanted. Gunbreaker. Gunbreaker is a tanking job, utilizing a special weapon type called the gunblade, a sword with a special firing mechanism allowing the shooting of special magically imbued cartridges to provide extra damage, give buffs to allies and generally just looks fucking sick.
(Naweh in the character selection screen)
However, I stopped playing around when Heavensward came out, due to a lot of things happening causing me to be extremely busy, and recently I’ve gotten back into it due to an influx of friends playing it, and I heard the newest expansion was amazing. Naweh was only level 52 (the level cap with Heavensward was 60. The current max level with the latest expansion, Shadowbringers, is level 80). Naweh had a lot of catching up to do, especially if she wanted to be a Gunbreaker which requires you to have a level 60 job.
So, I got to it. I decided to try and rush to level 60 to become a Gunbreaker. Except… I didn’t rush. I took my time. I was enjoying my return to Eorzea too much to rush. The changes to Monk made me enjoy playing it much more than I originally did, especially because now it doesn’t feel like I’m trying to break my wrist trying to do my opening rotation. The story in Heavensward had its ups and downs, but mostly ups, and those ups were really up. Even the post-Heavensward content was mostly fantastic. So I took my time and enjoyed it at my own pace, which is what I’d recommend anybody who plays FFXIV should do. Just take your time and enjoy it, it’s not a race. Unless, of course, you’re in a world first group, in which case everything is a race. I am enjoying my time with the game much more than I did 4-5 years ago. It might be due to having an end goal, with smaller goals in between, whereas originally I was rushing myself to hit max level, doing everything at once. Beat Heavensward, unlock Gunbreaker, beat Stormblood, level to 80, play through the current expansion Shadowbringers and finally, play any new content that comes out with my friends. Maybe when I hit all my goals, I’ll try out a couple of other classes/jobs, or finally level all my crafters classes.
(Pugilists sparring in the Pugilist Guild, Ul’dah)
If anybody reads this and decides to try it out, there’s a free trial kinda thing that the game has now (that it didn’t have back when I first played). It allows you to level any class to 35, among other limitations like not being able to create a party (but you can still be invited to one), using the marketplace, or send private messages to other players. There’s a lot of limitations imposed onto a free-trial user, but if you’re just looking to see what kind of gameplay it has, it’s perfectly serviceable. I’d recommend looking at class videos to see what kind of gameplay each class has, though each class/job is capable of doing any content, there is never a class/job that can’t do anything. Except blue mage, but that’s more of a bonus ‘joke’ class.
But, eventually, I did hit level 60. And as soon as that happened, I sprinted straight towards the quest to unlock Gunbreaker. And gosh is it fun to play.