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.

ro-originalchar2
Edgy in 2004
ffxiv-kalebdrk
Edgy in 2019

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.

ffxivjobs
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).

ffxiv-tt
[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
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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)