Final Fantasy XIV is the Best MMORPG of 2021
I know this might be a topic of contention, but, Final Fantasy XIV, as of June 18th, 2021, is indisputably the best MMORPG right now.
And I’m well aware there are going to be multiple of you that sit there at this very moment, jaw agape, in complete disbelief that I’d say something like that. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’ve stated this in previous years, and after having played Shadowbringers, it’s more evident than ever how high quality a title this is.
But at the same time, as no game is infallible, Final Fantasy XIV does have areas that need improvement. Aspects of the game that are missing.
Today, I want to take a little bit of your time and discuss what makes Final Fantasy XIV the best MMORPG to me. Not you. You might have an unadulterated, deep seething loathing for the game, and that’s your right.
But this is a game that has taken thousands of hours from me, and I don’t regret any of it.
Now Final Fantasy XIV is a pay-to-play MMORPG which is something holding a lot of you back from trying it, but, were you aware that they offer an expanded free trial that allows you to play through the entirety of the base game AND the award-winning Heavensward expansion all the way up to level 60 absolutely FREE?
Okay, now that we’ve gotten that little meme out of the way, where do I even begin? I’m quite the ardent JRPG fan. I’ve loved JRPGs of all my life. Breath of Fire IV, Dragon Quest 8, Suikoiden I and II, Final Fantasy VIII and IX, Star Ocean Till the End of Time, Tales of Symphonia and Phantasia, Xenosaga, Legend of Dragoon, Golden Sun. You name a JRPG and I’ve played it.
It’s only natural I’d find myself drawn to Final Fantasy XIV. I’ve been playing since 2.3? 2.4? A patch or two before Heavensward came out. I’ve had an active subscription for the last 5 years of my life, and have played during the first and last 3 months of every expansion.
Like a lot of players, when I first began playing I was confused by the combat. Naturally. I’d come from World of Warcraft – yes, I’m a WoW refugee. I’ve been playing WoW since 2008 and like Final Fantasy XIV, have had an active sub there for longer than I’d like to admit.
WoW’s tab-target combat is one of the best in the genre. Like or hate the game, you cannot deny that not only are the animations for characters and abilities top tier, but everything feels so smooth, so fluid, and the global cooldowns on abilities feel like they’re available much more frequently than in Final Fantasy XIV.
And early on, you really feel the impact of the longer global cooldowns. It isn’t until you get access to quite a few of your abilities, some of which are off the GCD, that you begin to realize that early-game was not at all indicative of late or end-game.
By the time you’re at end-game, which is where the vast majority of MMOs take place, the flow of battle feels entirely different.
While the combat was definitely slower than I would’ve liked, I was completely captivated by the story as soon as I stepped foot in the game. Story was part of the reason I enjoyed JRPGs as much as I did. Becoming enthralled in a world not your own – an escape so contrastingly different from the boring reality we live in was just so enticing to me.
Coming into this world for the very first time, seeing the enormous city of Ul’dah, seeing hundreds of players running around, Mi’qote dancing in the streets. I fell in love. I didn’t even need to see the other starter cities of Limsa Lominsa or Gridania to know this was going to be a gorgeous game filled with endless wonder.
So I created my character: Initially, I wasn’t sure what class I wanted to go with. I love playing Mages in games, but didn’t want to end up with DPS queues while leveling so was tempted to run with whatever the tank options were. After perusing my options, I ended up going Thaumaturge, which ends up becoming Black Mage at level 30.
Oh, right. For those of you that really have no knowledge pertaining to the Final Fantasy XIV, let me elaborate on how classes work in this game.
I know I’m saying “class” repeatedly, but Final Fantasy XIV actually refers to advanced classes as “Jobs,” which your base class advances into at level 30. I know it’s a little confusing, trust me, it gets easier.
The game utilizes the holy trinity: Tank, which consists of Marauder and Gladiator, Healer which consists of Conjurer and Arcanist, and DPS which consists of Pugilist, Lancer, Rogue, Archer, Thaumaturge and Arcanist.
Each base class, as discussed a moment ago, can advance into more powerful versions of their class with the Gladiator progressing into the Paladin, the Marauder into the Warrior, the Pugilist into the Monk, the Lancer into the Dragoon, the Rogue into the Ninja, the Archer into the Bard, the Thaumaturge – my class, into the Black Mage, the Arcanist into either the Summoner or Scholar, and the Conjurer into the White Mage.
Then we have expansion jobs like the Dark Knight and Gunbreaker as tanks, Astrologian as healer, Machinist, Samurai, Red Mage, Dancer, and Blue Mage as DPS, and finally, the two upcoming classes, the Sage and Reaper coming when Endwalker releases in November.
One aspect I believe Final Fantasy XIV really excels in is its freedom to play what you want, as you’re given the capability of swapping jobs whenever you feel the need. You can level every single job on a single character, meaning there is absolutely no need for alts within the game to enjoy something different.
That isn’t where this ends though, far from it. You’re also given the opportunity of leveling every crafting and gathering profession on a single character. Crafters are referred to as “Disciples of the Hand,” consisting of the Alchemist, Armorer, Blacksmith, Carpenter, Culinarian, Goldsmith, Leatherworker, and Weaver.
Likewise, gathering, referred to as “Disciples of the Land” consist of Botany, Fishing and Mining. Suffice it to say, there’s plenty to waste your life away pursuing, should you feel so inclined.
Now, backtracking a little: I ended up choosing to go the Black Mage route. I love playing with magic, and wanted to channel my inner Vivi. I mean honestly, who wouldn’t want to channel a little Vivi?
And so I began my journey that would go on to span months, years. A journey I’m still actively enjoying to this day. And while I initially started this game alone, I now have a companion in my travels across Eorzea and beyond – my wife, Mrs Stix. Who, actually is a much better player than I am at the game.
She has completed every single Savage raid as it was relevant, and is making her way through Ultimate content.
Our journey through the game was filled with quite a few emotions. I’ve never seen Mrs Stix cry in a video game up until she played Final Fantasy XIV.
While your introduction to the game definitely begins very slowly – as all JRPGs seem to, it continues to get progressively better the longer you stick with it and the more invested in the characters you become.
I know you’ve all heard tales how much of a “chore” the game can be to make it through, and honestly, I don’t entirely disagree with that sentiment.
There are various parts in the story that you just wish you could skip. They’re too slow. Too filled with menial tasks that really only serve to pad out the time it takes to level. And considering how long of a game this is, are 100% unnecessary.
Thankfully Square took note of this and removed a large chunk of these quests, further trimming some of the questlines down to a much more tolerable level.
But at the end of the day, if you’re a fan of JRPGs like I am, you’re no stranger to downtime. Parts of the game where you’re just not really doing much. While there were a few times, especially after clearing the base 2.0 game, with the patches necessary before Heavensward, that I felt I wasn’t really enjoying myself as much anymore, I stuck with it.
I’m not going to quit a game because I was a little bored for a period of time. And luckily Mrs Stix and I did, because we were greeted with one of the most engaging stories I’ve seen in an MMO since Wrath of the Lich King. Only exceeded by their most recent Shadowbringers expansion.
Now if you’re not a fan of narratives in your MMOs and would prefer to just explore a large sandbox world with the freedom to progress how you want, this definitely isn’t for you. Maybe something like Black Desert would better suit those needs.
Final Fantasy XIV plays like a single-player game that you can group up with and play with friends – or strangers, when or if you need to. A game that you can wander through enjoying the sheer beauty that the game offers.
But just because it has a large emphasis on the narrative, doesn’t mean it doesn’t also have a large, varied selection of content to consume outside of that.
Yes, the story is what captivates your attention. But it’s what you do in the game between the story that really keeps you there.
Leveling is pretty traditional. You take quests, you run from area to area fighting monsters, queue into dungeons, go about obtaining materials.
You fill up your Hunting Log by hunting monsters out in the field, you participate in F.A.T.E’s – which are large, open events that spawn randomly all over the map in every single zone. Okay, so not entirely traditional, but for the most part it feels familiar.
Then as the story progresses, you unlock the ability to run Trials, which put you up against Primals like Ifrit, Shiva, Leviathan, Ramuh, Bahamut. All names you no doubt recognize. These Trials are 8-player fights that require coordination, teamwork, an understanding of mechanics. You know, things a lot of us lack.
After your leveling journey is complete, you’re greeted with the endgame: Now there are two types of MMO player. The PvE player, and the PvP player. PvP players spend hours grinding through battlegrounds, arenas, and open-world PvP every day.
PvE players are the opposite. PvE players run dungeons, raids, and the most competitive type of content the game has to offer its playerbase, typically avoiding PvP as they have no interest in it.
Now I know I’m going to get some flack for saying this, but it’s generally considered common knowledge that the PvP in Final Fantasy XIV is… lacking. From someone who came from open-world PvP MMOs like WoW and Aion, I was severely disappointed by what was present within Final Fantasy XIV.
But you know what? All of the PvE content more than made up for the lack of e-peen measuring competitions I used to have. And honestly, if I felt the innate need to relive my days PvPing… I could just go back and play the games I enjoyed actually PvPing in.
Which is what I tell people all the time, yet is something a lot of people just can’t wrap their heads around.
Endgame for PvE players, though, consist of fashion and.. Well, fashion. That is 100% the true endgame for Final Fantasy XIV.
You also have things like Ultimate raids, Savage raids, Extreme Trials, 24-man Alliance Raids, The Bozjan Southern Front which allows for up to 72-players to explore and participate in simultaneously, Beast Tribe Quests and for fans of crafting, the Ishgardian Restoration.
If all that made sense to you, then congratulations, you’re a much more dedicated player than I am. If not, then you definitely have your work cut out for you as these are just what constitute the “main aspects” of endgame. That’s disregarding anything you choose to do by choice.
Mount farming, leveling all your jobs, obtaining every achievement. There is just so much to do at endgame that you’ll never feel bored. Or if you do, it’s because like me, you choose to only play casually. Yes, I’m a casual. But streaming 3 days a week and doing 7 videos for this channel – I don’t have the time to play MMOs competitively anymore.
I know content creators that don’t dedicate themselves to a specific MMO don’t often have the experience to talk about games they play with depth and precision of someone that devotes their very being to a game, but Final Fantasy XIV is one of 4, maybe 5 games I’ve played quite extensively for years at a time.
Eorzea and Azeroth are my homes away from home. They’re two worlds that I genuinely feel comfortable in. I know everything about them. I know everything about the two games that take place within them.
I’ve become so enthralled with the stories being told that every new expansion brings me back for months at a time, and I do nothing but waste away over several days breaking only for small potty-trips and the occasional cheeseburger if I can bring myself to stand given I’ve been sitting so long I can’t recall if my lower body is still attached.
This is a game that I can talk about almost endlessly. I’ve had so many amazing experiences within Final Fantasy XIV that I just haven’t had anywhere else.
Mrs Stix has met so many great people through the game, and every time we do a dedicated video like this it ends up bringing new people into the game that go on to tell us how much of an amazing experience they’re having.
Without Final Fantasy XIV, I don’t think this channel would have ever taken off. Without Final Fantasy XIV I don’t believe I’d even have a Youtube channel. This game has given me thousands of hours worth of enjoyment. It has given me something to actively play with my wife – to enjoy outside of movies and hiking.
And with Endwalker right around the corner, with the game coming towards the end of November if everything goes according to plan, I guarantee you we’ll end up lost within the world once more.
Final Fantasy XIV is an amazing MMORPG. It’s absolutely gorgeous – sure, it might not necessarily hold up graphically when compared to newer games developed with modern tech, but there’s no denying that this is a stunning MMO.
The combat becomes much more difficult at endgame, requiring active micromanagement of every aspect of your job: damage mitigation, instant casts, regens, heals, aggro. Yes, there are tab-target combat systems that are better, but trust me when I tell you this feels more than sufficient.
The world is expansive. Every expansion adds in a surplus of new zones that are more exquisite than the last.
The narrative spans so many years worth of content, with it finally ending in Endwalker, and beginning a new storyline for the first time in a decade.
There’s just so much content to consume that you’re never at a loss of where you should go or what you should be doing with your time.
I know some people will argue that there are plenty of MMOs out there that offer these very same things. And you know what? I’m not saying they don’t. Guild Wars 2, The Elder Scrolls Online, World of Warcraft. They’re all very high quality titles within the genre.
But to me? Personally? Final Fantasy XIV is better. It just does everything right. It offers me – as an individual – everything I want out of an MMO, and because of that, I can say with 100% certainty that this is the best MMORPG in 2021. And with Endwalker coming, it will likely be the best MMORPG in 2022 as well.