From World of Warcraft to Final Fantasy XIV: Making the Transition

(Editor’s Note: This is a re­post from the won­der­ful Christian Kaleb, orig­i­nal­ly post­ed on https://www.ckaleb.com/. You can find more of his writ­ing there, or help sup­port his up­com­ing book Sword of The Nation by vis­it­ing his Patreon here!)

It fi­nal­ly hap­pened, didn’t it? You fi­nal­ly quit WoW — you are fi­nal­ly free.

It’s no se­cret that Battle for Azeroth has been an un­mit­i­gat­ed dis­as­ter from day one and that its short­com­ings are nu­mer­ous: The dis­ap­point­ing Azerite gear sys­tem, the slow­ing down of game­play, the time gat­ing, the end­less tread­mill of ti­tan­forges, the fact that every­thing feels like a chore, and the list goes on.

It’s sad to see a beloved game of yours go down due to de­vel­op­er mal­prac­tice, that’s pret­ty much how I’d de­scribe what’s go­ing on with Warcraft right now. Still, we’re not here to be sad, we’re here to re­joice, to cel­e­brate that at last you now have the time to play oth­er games, to work on that back­log of yours, and to ex­pe­ri­ence new—

Oh. You want an­oth­er MMO to fill the void? Fine, I won’t hold it against you.

This def­i­nite­ly should be the per­fect time to set MMOs aside and try dif­fer­ent gen­res — at least un­til WoW Classic is out, if that’s what you want to play. The MMO genre is at a very in­sipid and stag­nant point right now, not too many op­tions to go for.

If you’ve gone through MMO with­draw­al, glanced over what­ev­er is out there and end up land­ing on Final Fantasy XIV: Naoki Yoshida’s Wild Ride then well, my con­do­lences. It is how­ev­er, one of the “least worst” choic­es in the mar­ket, and while it’s not one hun­dred per­cent WoW, it does a good job at fill­ing the hole.

I cashed out on my WoW gold and gave this game a shot, first as a tri­al dur­ing the low point of Legion’s tenure (Patch 7.2 &Tomb of Sargeras), and now once more a cou­ple months af­ter quit­ting WoW. I went full cir­cle and recre­at­ed my orig­i­nal Ragnarok Online char­ac­ter on FFXIV — or Dante de­pend­ing on your per­spec­tive.

FFXIV is a spe­cial and rare case, a game that failed so spec­tac­u­lar­ly hard that it had to be re­done from the ground up in record time, get­ting a suc­cess­ful sec­ond chance with their own it­er­a­tion of the “WoW fo­mu­la”.

We all re­mem­ber the old 4.0 score memes at the time. There’s no deny­ing it, the first ver­sion of the game sim­ply sucked, al­though it did have a few unique things and game­play sys­tems worth sal­vaging. I nev­er played 1.0 but I’ve had my fair share of in­trigue on it’s his­to­ry — I’m a suck­er for dis­as­ter sto­ries (I live in one), and this one had a hap­py end­ing for Square Enix.

I know there’s al­ready a few guides that cov­er the sim­i­lar­i­ties and of­fer some tran­si­tion tid­bits be­tween the two games for those mak­ing the switch, so here’s my per­son­al take and im­pres­sions on it.

Be warned though, this post con­tains my per­son­al im­pres­sions and opin­ions and is most­ly in­tend­ed for dis­heart­ened WoW play­ers that are cu­ri­ous about FFXIV; that be­ing said, I’ll try my best to make these ram­blings as un­der­stand­able as pos­si­ble for all.

FFXIV is a very struc­tured and care­ful­ly wrapped stan­dard MMO ex­pe­ri­ence, sea­soned with the Final Fantasy fran­chise and pre­sent­ed in a most im­pec­ca­ble way; they’ve found a work­ing wheel and have no need to rein­vent it, they haven’t de­vi­at­ed much from the core for­mu­la over the past five years.

Graphically, it’s not a su­per pow­er­house (this game had to run on a PS3 up un­til a few years ago and it shows) but it’s very vi­su­al­ly ap­peal­ing; nat­u­ral­ly, its art style great­ly dif­fers from WoW’s.

I’m pret­ty im­pressed at FFXIV’s op­ti­miza­tion, it runs smooth on my sev­en year old com­put­er, which strug­gled to main­tain 60fps in WoW raids (Note: I stopped play­ing WoW be­fore prop­er dx12 sup­port for nvidia cards was added, so things might be dif­fer­ent now).

I thought at first that all the flashy spells and abil­i­ties would tank my fram­er­ate but I was proven wrong as I kept play­ing through the game. I did have to tone down some of the graph­ic set­tings and tin­ker with the fan’s curve be­cause I sus­pect that the ther­mal paste on my GPU is start­ing to wear out, but the game has noth­ing to do with that.

If you’re into it, you can ReShade the hell out of the game to have even bet­ter graph­i­cal fi­deli­ty, but that’s en­tire­ly up to you — it looks good enough as it is.

Featuring the edgelord ar­mor set you get at the end of [SPOILER]

The game’s spells and abil­i­ties are a vi­su­al treat and feel very im­pact­ful, an­i­ma­tions are of­ten im­pec­ca­ble and serve to spice up the oth­er­wise gener­ic MMO ex­pe­ri­ence of the game.

Things will get flashy, very flashy to the point of get­ting com­plete­ly out of hand, but thank­ful­ly you can tone down the vi­su­al over­load if you think it’s over­board. This game starts very sim­ple, both me­chan­i­cal­ly and graph­i­cal­ly, then you reach en­coun­ters that are a com­plete vi­su­al spec­ta­cle like this ex­am­ple: (spoil­ers I think?)

There’s a very im­pres­sive at­ten­tion to pre­sen­ta­tion and style in this game, it’s one of its strong as­sets. The HUD is very com­plete, clean, and the built in cus­tomiza­tion op­tions al­low you to arrange it up to one’s own de­sires, al­though there’s no of­fi­cial add‐on sup­port of any kind like in WoW (more on this lat­er).

tl;dr: I like WoW, should I play FFXIV?

Maybe, prob­a­bly. Definitely worth a shot if you’re MMO starved.

With their lat­est ex­pan­sion, Shadowbringers, less than 2 months away it might be a very good time to take out FFXIV for a spin whether you’re new to the MMO genre or you’re a fel­low “WoW refugee”. There’s enough game­play sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two games to make you feel your­self at home, and there’s enough fresh el­e­ments to wash away some of the bad taste Battle for Azeroth left in your palate.

Mechanics long gone from WoW such as DoT snap­shot­ting are still present in FFXIV; at the same time, FFXIV lacks some of the good mod­ern ad­di­tions and el­e­ments present in cur­rent Warcraft, leav­ing you with a near zero sum MMO equa­tion — I would go as far as to say that it’s very close (but not quite) to what WoW was dur­ing the Wrath of the Lich King ex­pan­sion.

That be­ing said, FFXIV is a very rigid, pre‐packaged, and struc­tured game, down to the core of each up­date. Endgame con­tent up­dates fol­low a strict and pre­dictable pat­tern; every ma­jor patch does add some­thing new content‐wise to those out­side the bleed­ing edge raid­ing scene though.

There’s cur­rent­ly an un­lim­it­ed tri­al which al­lows you to play up un­til lev­el 35, giv­ing you a small ap­pe­tiz­er of the com­plete FFXIV din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence; the in­tro­duc­to­ry ex­pe­ri­ence of­fered by the tri­al might feel very slow and slug­gish to you if you’re com­ing straight from WoW but it’s good enough for fresh play­ers and for those with­out much MMO ex­pe­ri­ence. This game cer­tain­ly picks up the pace and tem­po by the time you reach the first expansion’s con­tent, and it only gets faster from there.

FFXIV is also de­signed in a way so that you don’t have to stay sub­scribed and play it for every day of your life, leav­ing you with an MMO drug fix that doesn’t en­tire­ly con­sume you. Personally, this fits my cur­rent time‐constrained sched­ule very well and is one of the rea­sons I’m play­ing it on and off right now, but this par­a­digm might leave you content‐starved if you’re ac­cus­tomed to clear con­tent at a high‐end WoW Mythic Raiding lev­el.

As of the time of writ­ing this post, FFXIV is go­ing through its pre‐expansion down­time, there’s not much of a point in clear­ing hard con­tent right now, so you can re­lax and en­joy the game, lev­el a few class­es, see what it has to of­fer and what­not.

Be ad­vised that the game is weeb af, it is a Final Fantasy game af­ter all, you are the Warrior of Light and so is every oth­er play­er in this game.

There’s plen­ty of call­backs and ref­er­ences to past games, from skill abil­i­ties to Chocobos, and icon­ic boss en­e­mies from past games.

Yes, there’s a Cid, a Biggs, and a Wedge in this game.

I — What they got right

Both FFXIV and WoW share the same ba­sic MMO recipe, but there’s key dif­fer­ences in in­gre­di­ents be­tween the two of them to bake a dif­fer­ent type of cake, so to speak. What fol­lows is some of the el­e­ments that I be­lieve FFXIV ex­e­cut­ed ab­solute­ly right.

The Job System

One of my biggest gripes with WoW’s cur­rent de­sign ethos is that keep­ing up with your main char­ac­ter can be very time con­sum­ing; soon­er or lat­er you will want to try dif­fer­ent class­es or you will out­right need them in your ros­ter for X or Y rea­son, which will dou­ble, triple, or even quadru­ple the amount of time you need to in­vest in the game in or­der to have them all at a com­pet­i­tive lev­el.

This wasn’t much of a prob­lem back in Burning Crusade or even Lich King — but it’s one that has cer­tain­ly ex­ac­er­bat­ed from Legion on­wards. The fact that I’m se­vere­ly time con­strained as it is nowa­days makes mat­ters all worse — FFXIV’s core de­sign has a great rem­e­dy for this.

There is ab­solute­ly no rea­son to have an alt in FFXIV. This is be­cause you are able to un­lock and play as every class with a sin­gle char­ac­ter, be­ing able to swap be­tween them on the fly. Your ini­tial class se­lec­tion has no per­ma­nent con­se­quences for the char­ac­ter you just cre­at­ed as you will even­tu­al­ly be able to un­lock every sin­gle one of the playable classes/jobs.

This also means that you can do every sin­gle type of con­tent in this game with a sin­gle char­ac­ter; hav­ing a cou­ple of Jobs at max lev­el al­lows you to adapt to any group’s needs.

The jobs are quite en­joy­able to play as (for the most part), and each have their own quirks and perks; some have a more rigid ro­ta­tion than oth­ers, while oth­ers are more flex­i­ble in their ex­e­cu­tion. Some of them are pret­ty straight­for­ward, like Samurai and Red Mage, while oth­ers are a tad bit more com­plex in the long run, such as Summoner or Ninja.

The fact that you can share gear be­tween class­es of the same type great­ly helps when want­i­ng to play as a new class and to re­duce the over­all gear grind. Swapping be­tween class­es (and lat­er jobs) is as easy as swap­ping gear sets in WoW; FFXIV’s ar­mory sys­tem does an ex­cel­lent job at man­ag­ing all of your gear and job switch­ing with min­i­mal ef­fort — a sin­gle click or but­ton press is all it takes.

FFXIV’s Armory sys­tem in ac­tion.

There’s some clear simil­i­tudes be­tween some of FFXIV’s jobs and WoW’s class­es, but there’s no di­rect 1:1 coun­ter­part be­tween them. FFXIV’s sum­mon­er is a cast­er that re­volves around dots and pet man­age­ment like a war­lock, but they also have ac­cess to “Dreadwyrm Trance”, a cooldown that you could say loose­ly re­sem­bles a Shadow Priest’s Voidform phase.

All jobs are are a pre‐packaged, walled gar­den kind of ex­pe­ri­ence. There are no spe­cial­iza­tions, no tal­ents to chose from, noth­ing to change or cus­tomize their game­play with be­yond mi­nor gear choic­es; thus, their game­play is set in stone the mo­ment you hit max lev­el, which is one of the weak­est points of the job sys­tem.

Unlike WoW, every class has it’s own pre‐defined role; tak­ing my old WoW pal­adin as an ex­am­ple, I could Tank, Heal, or DPS with it. In FFXIV a pal­adin is and will al­ways as­sume the role of a tank and that’s it. Their toolk­it is im­pres­sive and I’d say it’s more com­plete than the one you’d find in a WoW prot pal­adin to­day, but it’s more leaned to­wards fill­ing the role of an off‐tank or sec­ondary tank when com­pared to say, the Warrior or the Dark Knight jobs.

Some jobs are sim­ply bet­ter than oth­ers, this will al­ways be true in any MMO, don’t let that stop you from play­ing what you pre­fer though, you can tank any endgame boss as any tank, heal with any heal­er, or dps as any dps job.

Every job has their own quest sto­ry­line as well, which you must go through in or­der to un­lock the full set of your abil­i­ties and their cor­re­spond­ing the­mat­ic ar­mor sets. The Dark Knight’s sto­ry sure is edgy, but it’s one I strong rec­om­mend pay­ing at­ten­tion to.

Just like in WoW You can pay for a per‐job cash shop boost that lets you skip most (but not all) of the lev­el­ing process of that spe­cif­ic job, but if you do this then you would have cheat­ed not only the game, but your­self; a short­cut, a hol­low vic­to­ry since you have to fin­ish up the lev­el­ing any­ways. Skipping most of the lev­el­ing process also means that you’d be ini­tial­ly less fa­mil­iar­ized with said job’s strength, weak­ness­es, and game­play perks.

Just take your time to learn a class as you lev­el it, lev­el­ing isn’t ex­cru­ci­at­ing­ly hard and there’s more than one way to lev­el up in this game.

Since you can’t de­vi­ate from the in­tend­ed game­play for­mu­la of every job and there’s no way to cus­tomize them through tal­ent points or any­thing of the sorts, ex­e­cu­tion plays an even big­ger role in your ul­ti­mate per­for­mance.

Everyone is ex­pect­ed to DPS in this game, even the tanks and heal­ers to a cer­tain de­gree, spe­cial­ly heal­ers. Damage pat­terns are pre­dictable so you’ll know when its time to fo­cus on heal­ing and when you can spare to cast a DoT or spell to help bring that boss’ hp to zero be­fore you hit its en­rage timer.

In the case of tanks, the “op­ti­miza­tion” goal is to stay alive and hold the boss’ ag­gro with­out your tank stance (Miss them? They’re still a thing in FFXIV.) A prac­tice that will al­low you to do the most amount of dam­age as a tank — un­der ide­al cir­cum­stances, this is in­tend­ed to be a team ef­fort that in­volves the us­age of your team’s aggro‐management abil­i­ties.

In any case, a ma­jor patch and a new ex­pan­sion is on it’s way so every­thing is sub­ject to change, that’s why I won’t delve much into each job with de­tail.

Once Shadowbringers is out in July, the game will fea­ture 4 tanks (Warrior, Paladin, Dark Knight, and Gunbreaker), 3 heal­ers (White Mage, Scholar, Astrologian), 4 melee dps (Ninja, Samurai, Monk, Dragoon), 3 ranged dps (Bard, Machinist, and Dancer), and 3 cast­ers (Black Mage, Red Mage, and Summoner). Blue Mage ex­ists in this game in the form of a meme lim­it­ed job that can only do cer­tain amounts of con­tent.

I’m a suck­er for clean, sim­ple icons. FFXIV’s Job icons are just that.

If you some­how find your­self dis­con­tent with your cur­rent main job you can just switch to an­oth­er and keep go­ing with your char­ac­ter, no need to reroll and lose hours upon hours of progress.

Content variety

FFXIV puts a huge em­pha­sis on pro­vid­ing its player­base with var­ied forms of con­tent be­yond the end­less endgame raid­ing tread­mill. I was ini­tial­ly sur­prised by the sheer amount of mini‐games and oth­er non‐raiding re­lat­ed ac­tiv­i­ties in this game.

One good ex­am­ple is the Gold Saucer, a hub for a de­cent ar­ray of mini‐games that’s in­spired by the orig­i­nal lo­cale in FF7. Triple Triad, FF8’s beloved card game, makes a full fledged ap­pear­ance in this game to cater to the ten or so FF8 fans in the world (of which I am one of).

[Shuffle or Boogie in­ten­si­fies]

Crafting, hous­ing, chocobo races, mahjong, deep dun­geons, there’s enough stuff to do in this game if you do not want to par­take in endgame raid­ing. There’s a larg­er com­mu­ni­ty em­pha­sis on so­cial­iza­tion when com­pared to WoW and it shows.

The Music

THE EDGE IS CALLING TONIGHT, THE EDGE IS CALLING TO—I’m sor­ry.

This is, with­out a doubt, the one thing that you can say they did ab­solute­ly right, and the one thing that I have to bow to in this game.

In WoW, the mu­sic is most­ly am­bi­ent noise, it’s there for you to ig­nore and dis­able as it gets in the way be­tween you, your DBM/Big Wigs/WeakAuras au­di­ble queues, and your raid’s voice chat­ter.

In FFXIV, the mu­sic (es­pe­cial­ly the trial/raid boss themes) are an al­most equal part of the en­counter as the boss fight me­chan­ics it­self — it’s there to com­pli­ment the sto­ry nar­ra­tive of its re­spec­tive boss fight.

The fact that tri­al boss­es and al­most all raid boss­es have a unique boss theme is quite as­tound­ing to me as a WoW play­er. Trials (sin­gle boss fight type of en­coun­ters) of­ten are a two‐phase en­counter, the lyrics be­gin to kick when you’re at the lat­ter half of the fight (I.E: When the fight gets real). The mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence of these fights is en­hanced when you re­al­ize that the lyrics are ba­si­cal­ly sung from the boss’s per­spec­tive.

Not con­tent with that, some of the most em­blem­at­ic tracks have re­arrange­ments and or­ches­tral ver­sions that are just as fan­tas­tic — if not bet­ter than the orig­i­nal ver­sions. Of course, a few tracks from past Final Fantasy games make a gra­tu­itous reap­pear­ance.

It’s prob­a­bly a good time to con­fess that I used to spo­rad­i­cal­ly lis­ten to the FFXIV OST while I was at the height of my 2017 WoW gold farm­ing in Legion. The game’s sound­track cer­tain­ly has its fair share of re­spon­si­bil­i­ty in me get­ting more and more cu­ri­ous about FFXIV un­til I was fi­nal­ly able to play the game.

The orig­i­nal ver­sion of FFXIV had its own sound­track, craft­ed by the leg­endary Nobuo Uematsu; when A Realm Reborn was launched, most of this sound­track was scrapped and re­placed with new pieces by Masayoshi Soken, who has done an ex­cep­tion­al job if I may say so my­self.

I’d go as far as say that FFXIV’s sound­track makes up for some of the game’s glar­ing short­com­ings. Even if you do not wish to play this game I’d strong­ly rec­om­mend lis­ten­ing to its sound­track at least once. The only neg­a­tive thing I have to say about the sound­track is that the orig­i­nal CD copies of it are very pricey.

Keeping old content relevant

Content ob­so­les­cence is a core and in­evitable part of an MMO game’s con­tent cy­cle; raids are no longer rel­e­vant once a new tier is re­leased, dun­geons are no longer worth do­ing once a new one with bet­ter loot is out, and all of the base game/current expansion’s con­tent is ren­dered ob­so­lete as soon as a new ex­pan­sion is launched.

Running ob­so­lete or “lega­cy” con­tent in an MMO to get old pieces of ar­mor, pets, or items for cos­met­ics pur­pos­es, or even for achieve­ment hunt­ing pur­pos­es is a com­mon trend among MMOs these days, WoW does it — FFXIV takes it a lil’ step fur­ther.

The Duty Roulette sys­tem is a week­ly match­mak­ing queue akin to WoW’s dun­geon find­er, it’ll of­ten pit you up in pre­vi­ous con­tent rang­ing from the very first dun­geon to the lat­est, they’re not en­tire­ly lim­it­ed to the cur­rent expansion’s con­tent.

When join­ing an “ob­so­lete” dun­geon as a high­er lev­eled char­ac­ter, you are scaled down or rather, synced to said con­tent. Your lev­el is capped to that dungeon/raid’s max, and your gear score is equal­ized to what would be the best at the time; and you will also only have ac­cess to what skills your char­ac­ter would have ac­cess to at that giv­en lev­el.

If you rather pow­er through old con­tent at a high­er lev­el ala WoW is also avail­able.

There’s also oth­er in­cen­tives, such as Wondrous Tails, a ran­dom bingo‐like stick­er al­bum that has you do­ing old con­tent for a shot at good re­wards.

I find their ap­proach rather in­ter­est­ing, it gives a con­stant rel­e­vance to old con­tent, and al­lows high­er lev­eled play­ers to en­gage with low lev­eled ones, keep­ing a healthy play­er­count across all sec­tions of the leveling/dungeon process.

Wondrous Tails

PC & Console cross‐play

Just like in Final Fantasy XI, this game fea­tures a seam­less PC and con­sole (PS4) cross‐play ex­pe­ri­ence; the only down­side is that you must pur­chase a copy of the game for each dif­fer­ent plat­form that you wish to play in (in­clud­ing Mac).

It’s prob­a­bly a good time to let you know that if you buy a copy of the game through Steam then you will be forced to buy every ex­pan­sion through it. This has al­ways been the case for any MMO that’s of­fered through steam.

My ad­vice? Get the game through any oth­er re­tail­er that of­fers a “reg­u­lar” copy, as you won’t be faced with this re­stric­tion — be­sides, the game goes for sale out­side of Steam more of­ten.

Controller support

I’ve played MMOs on and off for fif­teen years now, from Ragnarok Online to WoW, and a bunch of no­table men­tions in be­tween. Prior to FFXIV, if you were to tell me that you play an MMO us­ing a con­troller my first in­stinct would be to ei­ther laugh at you, or think that you’re try­ing to coax me into a sna­fu me be­cause the mere no­tion of it would be pre­pos­ter­ous and counter‐intuitive.

I’d be so wrong in this in­stance. I’m pret­ty amazed of how smooth the game plays with a con­troller, and how ex­pand­able and cus­tomiz­able it all is since the game was de­signed with con­trollers in mind; play­ing with one doesn’t get in the way of clear­ing the hard­est con­tent ei­ther, as it’s all been cleared with both keyboard/mouse and con­trollers.

I do want to learn how to play this game with a con­troller our of sheer cu­rios­i­ty and as a sort of self‐imposed chal­lenge. Getting rid of years of WoW key­board and mouse mus­cle mem­o­ry is eas­i­er said than done though.

For real.

Guess I’ll tack­le this once I have more free time, I guess.

My work in progress Dark Knight con­troller lay­out, a dis­as­ter wait­ing to hap­pen.

Being a PC‐PS4 cross‐platform game does mean that you can play with whichev­er in­put method you pre­fer on both plat­forms just fine. The game of­fers you with plen­ty of op­tions to fine tune your con­troller in­put, from tar­get fil­ter­ing to com­plete remap­ping of every key.

The abil­i­ty to up­load your set­tings from one plat­form and down­load­ing them in an­oth­er was re­cent­ly added to the game, grant­i­ng you a seam­less ex­pe­ri­ence.

Heavensward

Heavensward

The high­est point of my FFXIV jour­ney so far has been its first ex­pan­sion: Heavensward.

I wasn’t pay­ing much at­ten­tion to the cutscenes and sto­ry of A Realm Reborn, but as soon as delved into HW’s con­tent I was in­stant­ly hooked. I was en­tranced by the setting’s sense of high fan­ta­sy, the am­bi­ent present in the Holy See of Isghard, the sto­ry, the mu­sic — it’s all quite su­perb I’d say.

It was so good that it made the next ex­pan­sion: Stormblood, slight­ly lack­lus­ter in com­par­i­son; now, I don’t con­sid­er Stormblood a bad ex­pan­sion, but it just couldn’t hold a can­dle to Heavensward in my opin­ion, per­haps its the dif­fer­ence in set­tings and tone.

You can eas­i­ly pay no at­ten­tion to the sto­ry up to the mo­ment you reach this ex­pan­sion, but do try your best to im­merse your­self in it since it’s quite good for an MMO.

I hope Shadowbringers is just as good as Heavensward, if not bet­ter.

II — What they do different than WoW

Not all that glit­ters is gold, and no MMO is per­fect. What fol­lows are things that I don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly con­sid­er good or bad, but rather dif­fer­ent than what you’d be ac­cus­tomed to in WoW — and worth men­tion­ing.

The Main Scenario Quests

What’s that, you want to rush to max lev­el and run some endgame raids ASAP just like you used to do in WoW? Too bad, pray re­turn to the Waking Sands.

The en­tire­ty of the game’s con­tent is locked be­hind the Main Story Quest and/or side quests de­pend­ing on the case. For bet­ter or worse, you must go through the en­tire­ty of the game’s sto­ry in or­der to progress through ex­pan­sions and to sub­se­quent­ly un­lock the endgame con­tent.

In a way this is al­right I guess, since it forces you to — you know, play the game you’re pay­ing for in­stead of rush­ing to­wards the end­less gear­ing tread­mill WoW has made you run for years.

The base game, as well as its ex­pan­sions, con­tain each a main sto­ry nar­ra­tive, the qual­i­ty has its up and downs, but oth­er­wise quite en­joy­able. An abun­dance of cutscenes will ei­ther keep you hooked to the plot or test your abil­i­ty to re­sist press­ing the skip but­ton.

Every new ma­jor con­tent patch brings up a new chap­ter of the sto­ry, giv­ing clo­sure to lose ends and open­ing up some, even­tu­al­ly set­ting up the stage for the next ex­pan­sion; this is some­thing WoW has been try­ing to strive to­wards from Mists of Pandaria on­ward, but it’s some­thing that was miss­ing from past ex­pan­sions.

The sheer amount of sto­ry con­tent is a double‐edged sword though, if you’re new to the game you will have to go through an ab­surd amount of quests be­fore you fin­ish the orig­i­nal A Realm Reborn sto­ry­line, then an­oth­er moun­tain­load of sto­ry quests be­fore you reach Heavensward, once you clear Heavesnward there’s an­oth­er pile of sto­ry con­tent that you must go through be­fore you reach Stormblood, and so on.

It does seem very over­whelm­ing at first, to the point that it might dis­heart­en some, al­though you need to put things in per­spec­tive, in the case of the post‐ARR con­tent for ex­am­ple, you’re play­ing through a hand­ful of patch­es worth of sto­ry con­tent at once, which were re­leased through a span of two years or so.

Sure, you could pay to skip a large chunk of it, but why in the world would you pay to skip a game you’ve al­ready paid for?

MMO entry‐level accesibility

You may have tack­led Mythic Argus and saved Azeroth from de­struc­tion, con­quered your server’s Mythic plus lad­der and thus have an over 9000 raider.io score, and you may have slapped Mythic Jaina so hard she bailed out of Zandalar — but none of that mat­ters here, back to MMO 101.

You’re play­ing a new game, one that’s very hand‐holdy at first; the tu­to­ri­als and ini­tial slow tem­po of the game can and will an­noy you, my fel­low WoW pro. You need to be aware that the game has put a con­sid­er­able ef­fort in be­ing as ac­ces­si­ble to first timers and new­com­ers to the MMO genre as pos­si­ble, it has no way to know what you’re the crème de la crème when it comes to MMORPGs.

Take it easy, this ain’t myth­ic raid­ing any­more, chill and en­joy the ride as much as you can.

The game is slower paced than WoW

There’s no ifs and buts about it, this game is fun­da­men­tal­ly slower‐paced than WoW by de­sign and its ear­ly lev­els are ex­cru­ci­at­ing­ly slow.

The game’s base glob­al cooldown is 2.5 sec­onds ver­sus WoW’s base 1.5 (which is of­ten re­duced by Haste, pro­vid­ing a much faster game­play ex­pe­ri­ence). Not to men­tion that all class­es be­gin with a very lim­it­ed skill set which ex­ac­er­bates the prob­lem; in some cas­es you will be spam­ming one abil­i­ty (on a 2.5s cooldown) for quite some time be­fore you start to un­lock more pieces of your ro­ta­tion.

Diehard FFXIV fans will tell you that the 2.5c gcd is just a meme and that not only does the skill/spell speed stat re­duces the cooldown but you also fill the gap with off‐global cooldown abil­i­ties; while cor­rect I find this to be a half‐truth.

Yes, you will even­tu­al­ly get to re­duce the glob­al cooldown with stats from your gear, but the ef­fect is con­sid­er­ably less no­tice­able than stack­ing haste in WoW. Also, it’s true that some abil­i­ties are out of the glob­al cooldown and can thus be fired up at any time, which makes up for a more en­gag­ing flow of com­bat as your goal is to weave these abil­i­ties with your reg­u­lar glob­al cooldown ones — the prob­lem is that most of these off‐gcd but­tons are tied to cooldowns that pre­vent you from us­ing them all the time.

Regardless, com­bat does have a nice and en­gag­ing flow at max lev­el, it’ll just won’t reach WoW lev­els.

I’m not a math per­son but here’s some casts per minute (CPM) sta­tis­tics, both were picked ran­dom­ly among the top pars­es in their re­spec­tive log sites, and both of them are from the fi­nal boss of their raid tier.

wow-apm
WoW — Mythic Jaina
ffxiv-apm
FFXIV — Final Omega

Another thing to note is that at the lev­el cap FFXIV will of­fer you a larg­er amount of skills when com­pared to WoW (to the point that my reg­u­lar WoW key­bind lay­out didn’t suf­fice), but due to the longer glob­al cooldown you’ll en­gage in less ac­tions per minute than in WoW.

You will cer­tain­ly have more but­tons to press in FFXIV, but you will be ex­e­cut­ing ac­tions at a slow­er rate when com­pared to WoW.

Dungeons

Dungeons are an odd case here, a lot of ded­i­ca­tion went into de­sign­ing them, from the mu­sic to the en­vi­ron­ments — and yet, they’re all very lin­ear. Going through the main sce­nario quest will make you step foot into the ma­jor­i­ty of the game’s dun­geons in or­der to progress. Each dun­geon has their own sto­ry to tell as well.

There’s a sheer amount of dun­geons re­leased in every ex­pan­sion, a ma­jor con­tent patch is guar­an­teed to add at least one or two new dun­geons; sad­ly you might only get to step foot in some of these once or maybe twice.

When they re­hash a place to re­lease a “Hard” ver­sion of said dun­geon, they don’t just ramp up the num­bers and call it a day; nope, they ac­tu­al­ly change the lay­out, mu­sic, and en­e­mies, with a fit­ting sto­ry nar­ra­tive that ex­plains the changes and jus­ti­fies you go­ing back to that place.

This is ac­tu­al­ly some­thing I’d like to com­pli­ment them for.

Now, when it comes to dif­fi­cul­ty, they’re quite lack­lus­ter; each and every one of them is a walk in the park and are as easy as any nor­mal mode dun­geon in WoW. There are no in­creased dif­fi­cul­ty modes for them, al­though they do a good job a teach­ing you the ba­sic me­chan­ics that you will even­tu­al­ly face in endgame raid con­tent.

Dungeons rapid­ly be­come me­chan­i­cal­ly numb once you com­fort­ably out­gear them. They’ll of­ten re­volve around pulling some­thing like 1 – 3 en­e­my groups then AoE blast­ing them; rinse and re­peat­ing un­til you reach the clev­er­ly masked ‘check­point’ wall that leads to­wards a bossー­con­tin­u­ing this cy­cle un­til you’ve beat­en the fi­nal one (usu­al­ly the third boss) and cleared the dun­geon.

If you’re look­ing for a endgame dun­geon chal­lenge akin to Mythic+ then I’m afraid you’re gonna have to look else­where.

Itemization & Endgame Gearing

Are you tired of ti­tan­forges, ran­dom ter­tiary stats, and bonus rolls? Are you tired of Personal loot and would rather have Master Loot or need/greed back? Do you miss Heroic/Valor points? Do you want a more straight­for­ward gear­ing roadmap were you can ac­cu­rate­ly de­ter­mine when you will be done gear­ing on any giv­en raid tier?

Then look no fur­ther.

Keeping in line with the whole “FFXIV is a very struc­tured game” mantra, item­iza­tion is rather straight­for­ward and un­event­ful. Gear is just there to give you in­cre­men­tal stat boosts, noth­ing more, noth­ing less; there are no trin­kets with in­ter­est­ing procs, no ar­mor sets with cool game­play al­ter­ing ef­fects, nada. It’s all stat sticks, weapons in­clud­ed.

This is an ex­am­ple of some of the best chest pieces avail­able right now.

When it comes to endgame gear­ing, there’s a few paths to take:

The first one in­volves tome­stone farm­ing, this is just Justice/Valor points with a dif­fer­ent ter­mi­nol­o­gy. You will al­ways have ac­cess to a tome­stone with no week­ly cap that al­lows you to get some­what de­cent gear, and one tome­stone with a week­ly cap that al­lows you to pur­chase a high­er qual­i­ty set.

Both tome­stones are ob­tained via dun­geons, raids, and oth­er ac­tiv­i­ties — just like Justice/Valor points back in the day.

The sec­ond, and “main” source of endgame gear comes from 8‐man raid­ing; there is a “sin­gle” raid in the base game and one has been added with each ex­pan­sion; these raid are split into three tiers which are re­leased through­out the ex­pan­sion for a to­tal of twelve raid boss­es, which is the av­er­age of a sin­gle WoW raid tier. Chances are that the up­com­ing raid in Shadowbringers will fol­low the same pat­tern.

These raids come in two dif­fi­cul­ties: nor­mal and sav­age. Normal mode raid boss­es drop parts (to­kens) that can be ex­changed for gear, they can be eas­i­ly cleared with a ran­dom group and the me­chan­ics are quite sim­ple.

The oth­er dif­fi­cul­ty, Savage, is where the train­ing wheels are off and things get real. The fight is sub­stan­tial­ly al­tered, most of the vi­su­al cues are re­moved, and ex­e­cu­tion has to be flaw­less — screw­ing up a sin­gle me­chan­ic of­ten leaves your group fac­ing an im­mi­nent wipe.

It’s com­mon in WoW to as­sign key play­ers of your group with han­dling the cru­cial me­chan­ics of any giv­en boss fight. In FFXIV’s Savage fights, there’s an em­pha­sis in split­ting the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties across all eight mem­bers of your group rather than a se­lect few, this re­sults in chore­o­graph­ic per­for­mances that your team must mas­ter in or­der to suc­ceed.

Starting with storm­blood, the fi­nal boss of each tier fea­tures a Savage only phase much like WoW does with some of its myth­ic raid boss­es, pro­vid­ing you with an ad­di­tion­al chal­lenge.

Defeating a Savage (hard mode) or ex­treme Trial boss (who usu­al­ly drop weapons) awards you with a to­ken, if for some rea­son you’re un­lucky and the item you’re look­ing for hasn’t dropped, you will even­tu­al­ly have enough of these to­kens to trade for that piece.

The raids them­selves aren’t a sin­gle ex­plorable map like in WoW, but rather com­prised of seg­ments which you can queue to and jump straight to­wards the boss; this is kind of a let­down if you’re used to the way WoW han­dles it.

Featuring Kefka from the Final Fantasy VI se­ries

Another source of endgame‐quality gear comes from the 24‐man Alliance Raids, these are unique ar­eas with their own self‐contained sto­ry­line. Usually, you can only ob­tain one item per week from the cur­rent al­liance raid and the dif­fi­cul­ty of those en­coun­ters is sim­i­lar to Looking for Raid. It’s a de­cent way to get an ex­tra piece for an alt job.

Be it by tome­stone farm­ing or by raid­ing, you will know ex­act­ly when you will have your “Best in Slot” set or fin­ish your gear goals, I wish I could say the same for WoW, ti­tan­forg­ing has made the tread­mill end­less and it has dis­rupt­ed the WoW’s orig­i­nal boss loot/difficulty effort/reward ra­tio.

Stormblood’s 24‐man raids are based on Final Fantasy’s Ivalice.

If Savage isn’t chal­leng­ing enough for you then there’s the Ultimate fights; these are very pun­ish­ing and longer ver­sions of past em­blem­at­ic en­coun­ters (Bahamut and Ultima Weapon so far), your gear is scaled down to the encounter’s de­signed lev­el. These en­coun­ters award you with a ti­tle and weapons that aren’t ex­act­ly the best, but are more of a pub­lic tes­ta­ment that shows you’ve climbed the hard­est moun­tains the game has to of­fer.

I would love to tack­le these Ultimate fights, but alas, I can’t spare the time right now.

Crafting and Gathering

Crafting in this game (and gath­er­ing) is as­tound­ing­ly far more com­plex than in WoW, where craft­ing pro­fes­sions feel more of an af­ter­thought right now; just like the com­bat jobs, a sin­gle char­ac­ter can un­lock and switch be­tween craft­ing class­es at will.

The eight “Disciples of the Hand” craft­ing class­es in FFXIV

It’s not just a mat­ter of ob­tain­ing ma­te­ri­als, click­ing a but­ton, and call it a day (which can be done even­tu­al­ly), craft­ing here in­volves a very metic­u­lous bal­ance of jug­gling be­tween dura­bil­i­ty, qual­i­ty of items, and us­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate abil­i­ties to pro­duce the de­sired items.

These non‐combat class­es have their own sto­ry­line and can share some se­lect skills with one an­oth­er, so lev­el­ing all of them up to a cer­tain point is very ben­e­fi­cial in the long run.

Crafting is kept rel­e­vant with each con­tent up­date, adding new recipes to pro­vide play­ers with ar­mors, weapons, and ac­ces­sories that are close enough to the lat­est raid tier, al­low­ing you a lat­er­al gear up­grade path and the abil­i­ty to make some dosh via trad­ing.

III — Where I think it falls short

Sure, Final Fantasy XIV is a very shiny and great MMO to play, but it drops the ball in some ar­eas. Now, I don’t mean that the fol­low­ing el­e­ments com­plete­ly suck — it’s just that it’s ar­eas of the game that are quite lack­lus­ter and aren’t all that they could be.

The underlying tech

There’s a no­tice­able amount of tech­no­log­i­cal debt and spaghet­ti code in this game and it shows; things like be­ing dis­mount­ed when talk­ing to an NPC or not be­ing able to ac­cess your Free Company (Guild)’s win­dow while in­side an in­stance are odd de­sign choic­es that feel clunky in a “2019” MMO.

The UI is clean and the fact that you can drag and drop al­most every menu, sub‐menu, and win­dow to hot­bars is great, but at the same time there’s el­e­ments and game sys­tems that feel very out­dat­ed, it’s all quite para­dox­i­cal.

Cross‐world tech­nol­o­gy is still be­ing prop­er­ly im­ple­ment­ed in the game, a few weeks ago the abil­i­ty to vis­it oth­er servers with­in your data cen­ter was just added.

Data Centers are iso­lat­ed from one an­oth­er and there’s no way to in­ter­act with play­ers that aren’t part of your Center de­spite the fact that they’re ge­o­graph­i­cal­ly host­ed next to one an­oth­er (California in the case of US Data Centers). There is no way to play with your friends if they’re play­ing in a dif­fer­ent Data Center.

The Party Finder al­lows you to eas­i­ly set­up or join groups yet the on­line sta­tus of play­ers from oth­er servers in your friend list has to be man­u­al­ly re­trieved.

Blizzard sure has made a huge mess late­ly with all of their fran­chis­es, but one thing is for sure: Their Battle.net in­fra­struc­ture is one of the best right now. Hopefully Shadowbringers will come with much need­ed sys­tem up­grades.

World exploration

The world of Eorzea is a sight to be­hold but it suf­fered a lot dur­ing the tran­si­tion pe­ri­od to when the game was re­launched as  A Realm Reborn. The world was sliced and cut into seg­ments, a nec­es­sary com­pro­mise in or­der to have the game run­ning on PlayStation 3 hard­ware. And while new ar­eas have been made larg­er since the launch of Heavensward, with the sub­se­quent ad­di­tions of flight and un­der­wa­ter ex­plo­ration,  the game still re­mains most­ly sep­a­rat­ed in zones and load­ing screens.

As a re­sult, there’s no seam­less open world and in its stead are maps that con­nect with one an­oth­er through its bound­aries, very much like Ragnarok Online used to do back in 2002.

Macro support

FFXIV’s macro lan­guage isn’t as ro­bust as WoW, it shines in many ar­eas and falls short in oth­ers; it is an­oth­er el­e­ment of the game that si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly takes ad­van­tage of and suf­fers from the un­der­ly­ing tech’s short­com­ings.

You can cre­ate very clever macros that trans­form your hot­bars into in­ter­ac­tive menus, macros that remap your con­troller lay­out on the fly, macros that add sounds to par­ty an­nounce­ments, or even do sil­ly things like your very own Tokusatsu hen­shin se­quence.

Yet, when it comes to com­bat, things like mouseover heal­ing macros aren’t as re­spon­sive as in WoW due to the way the game queues up spells and macros

PvP

Yeah, it kin­da sucks.

In its cur­rent it­er­a­tion, you’ll find your­self play­ing a very sim­pli­fied and con­densed ver­sion of your job, with their cor­re­spond­ing stat tem­plate and most of their skills re­moved. Multi‐button com­bo abil­i­ties are con­densed into a sin­gle dy­nam­ic but­ton and some abil­i­ties be­have com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent.

Levels don’t mat­ter ei­ther, so you can jump in with any job as soon as you have them un­locked.

Frontlines, the sort‐of equiv­a­lent to WoW’s bat­tle­grounds, are quite lack­lus­ter, the in­fe­ri­or net­code doesn’t help their cause ei­ther. One thing to note is that some of the Frontlines will pit three dif­fer­ent fac­tions against each oth­er, which can get in­ter­est­ing at times.

Competitive PvP comes in the form of The Feast, I haven’t par­tak­en in it so I am not pre­pared to talk about it.

There’s some pret­ty unique ar­mors and weapons to be ob­tained from PvP, which is per­haps the only rea­son you’d have to do it; there’s a crossover event with GARO that will be end­ing soon.

3rd party addons

FFXIV has no ad­don sup­port, this mean no WeakAuras, no DBM, no Details, no TSM, no Opie (God I do miss this one).

There’s — al­ter­na­tives, so to speak, un­sup­port­ed and bor­der­line gray area so­lu­tions that al­low you to have that DPS me­ter you miss so much (with op­tion­al web­sock­et sup­port and skins that fea­ture CSS cus­tomiza­tion and oth­er good bits), vi­su­al and au­di­ble queues that work to a cer­tain ex­tend, and that e‐peen parse log you crave for.

Using them won’t get you banned, but it’s best if do not talk about them ingame.

Wait a minute — it can’t be.

Community resources

You will cer­tain­ly find game in­for­ma­tion in the form of wikis, the­o­rycraft­ing sources such as “The Balance” Discord, and game­play guides, the prob­lem is that most of these feel dis­joint­ed and not as tidy when com­pared to the guides you’d find on WoWhead and what­not.

IV — Wrapping up

Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft are two games that share ba­sic DNA el­e­ments but with fun­da­men­tal de­sign and cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences that re­sult in two dis­tinct prod­ucts with their own mer­its and ac­co­lades.

Neither side will open­ly ad­mit it, but both games have learned and tak­en from one an­oth­er over the past years. WoW’s in­ces­sant de­sire to rein­vent the wheel and fix what isn’t bro­ken has placed them at odds with their player­base; mean­while, FFXIV’s dev team is some­what re­luc­tant to de­vi­ate from the for­mu­la that saved them from the orig­i­nal version’s cat­a­stro­phe, which has start­ed to cause a pal­pa­ble stag­na­tion.

The vi­su­al as­pects, more so­cial fo­cus, and em­pha­sis on a su­perb sound­track makes FFXIV feel to me like a cross be­tween the World of Warcraft MMO for­mu­la and the prop­er Ragnarok Online se­quel I nev­er had.

The endgame con­tent in FFXIV will cer­tain­ly give you a chal­lenge re­quir­ing a frac­tion of the time WoW de­mands from you; de­pend­ing on your ap­petite it might not be enough for you though.

In this case I would still rec­om­mend you stay in WoW if what you seek is more pro­longed strings of dif­fi­cult raid con­tent and if you like to push Mythic+ dun­geons to your lim­it — and be­yond. As usu­al, MMOs are bet­ter when played with friends so keep that fac­tor in mind when de­cid­ing which one to play.

If you do de­cide to try or play this game out, then you can find me on the Cactuar serv­er in the Aether Data Center. I don’t count with much time these days as I’m fo­cus­ing on es­cap­ing from this coun­try, but I’ll glad­ly play with you as time per­mits.

Two young guns with quick fus­es

If you’re a young gun with a quick fuse, up­tight and wan­na let lose, dream­ing of big­ger things, and wan­na leave your old life be­hind then you’re more than wel­come to join our Free Company: Imagine Dragoons.

I hope that these ram­blings give you an ini­tial idea of what to ex­pect of Final Fantasy XIV if you’ve re­cent­ly bailed on WoW. As long as you’re hap­py and are hav­ing fun then play what­ev­er you want — that’s all that mat­ters in the end.

-Kal

(With thanks to BitterBlack for the gram­mar check­up)

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent be­low.
Christian Kaleb
Best Venezuelan Pariah Upstart Fiction Writer | Professional bread line doer. Dreaming of big­ger things and wan­na leave my old life be­hind.
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