It’s been a smidge over 3 months since I made the decision to forego World of Warcraft in favor of Final Fantasy XIV as my main play, daily-driver MMO of choice. It has been a marginally-interesting process of discovery, as despite having played FFXIV since 2014, I’ve never really made it my main, focal point game.
So how has it been?
Well, in a word – interesting.
I think the first thing I feel like I should say is that the way I play MMOs has been shaped irrevocably by WoW’s gameplay loop, which means that I have some level of expectation of daily content consumption. While WoW has taken some first steps towards getting better in this regard (9.2 has, from all accounts, a much healthier loop of gameplay that does not impose a need to play daily in order to keep up with your fellow player), FFXIV has largely been there for years with their formula.
FFXIV’s daily content is, to a point, largely a buffet of choices, with most things that make a substantial difference to character power being on a weekly limit. This is not different from WoW’s theoretical framework on rewards, but in practice, is actually a fairly substantial change. WoW makes use of diminishing returns on rewards, meaning that your best possible haul is always at a breakpoint of content consumption – filling Great Vault slots, completing Emissary or Callings, completing story content to make way for the next chapter to unlock, the next Renown milestone, etc. However, WoW doesn’t really have hard stops on most things save for raid loot lockouts, so you have an ability to push hard past those diminishing returns to maybe get something better. You can run Mythic Plus keys all day and all week for hopes of a drop, you can do as many world quests as the game has on offer for as long as you want, you can farm raids on multiple difficulties, and with changes to Torghast, you can push for currency in a constant stream of runs if you so desire.
FFXIV has pretty hard limits on a weekly basis, with more flexible daily limiters. You have a hard cap on weekly Tomestone acquisition for the current top tomestone, you can only run each roulette for its daily bonus once a day, you can only get one piece of raid loot per Normal current-tier raid boss per week, you can only receive one shot at Savage loot per boss per week, and you have hunt bills that can be done daily but only once per bill type per region with a once-weekly B-rank bill and farmable hunt trains for higher-tier mobs. The challenge log also helps define a point of diminishing return not unlike Blizzard’s approach – every week, you can receive a set of rewards (usually experience, Gil, or other currencies depending on the challenge) for doing a set of diverse in-game activities, with breakpoint rewards of larger dumps of Gil, which means there is value to doing most things – gathering, crafting, fishing, PvP, PvE content, tribal quests, and the like, but once you get the challenges complete for a given category of content, the value drops off sharply – at least as rewarded by the game.
What I’ve found this to mean, functionally, is that the game sort of gives me a very limited framework to play within, but has a wide array of content to do within it, which allows each week and each day to be pretty different. For my approach, I’ve generally aimed to cap top-tier tomestones within the first day or two of the game week, something that is easily doable at the current cap of 450 with a mix of roulettes, Savage reclears, and a usually-lucky one-row Wondrous Tales completion. I’ve made sure to get my Savage reclears done on reset day, as those are generally my best raiding experiences being confined to the Party Finder – if I’m up until reset hour on Monday night, I’ve usually had both P1S and P2S done before 2 AM PST, which is a pretty good feeling! I generally make my daily play a mix of Hunt bills (only Endwalker zones at this point, although weekly I do everything but ARR’s weekly B-ranks to buy more Aetheryte Tickets and to build up more Nuts for materia purchases), Roulettes (usually only Expert, Frontline, and Trial), and I’ll generally spend some time weekly trying to push my Savage progress in PF (we’ll talk more about the fresh hell of P3S done this way later in the post).
It has been pretty fun, although I will admit there is a weird feeling of a lack of progress that I get on days where I’m already capped for the week on Tomestones or where I don’t push a new Savage boss. WoW kind of wired me to expect treats more frequently, and FFXIV doesn’t expect the same, so I could, in theory, get to a point where I play a single day each week, get reclears, cap tomestones, do weekly hunt bills, and then not come back for the rest of the week, and that feeling is a bit weird for me. Admittedly, I think it’s better – I think that WoW doing something similar with Zereth Mortis is promising from a gameplay standpoint, and it means that the question I have to ask is usually “do I want to play” rather than “what do I need to do” which is healthier and generally better from where I have been with WoW for much of my time in that game. It creates a feeling of freedom and choice, even under what are otherwise relatively tight constraints – and it does this well enough that the illusion never really breaks.
A big part of why FFXIV feels so choice-oriented in this way is that the gear rewards are largely superfluous. That isn’t to say that you don’t gain performance from farming Savage gear and pushing closer to your best-in-slot armor and weapons, but that the rest of the content in the game uses item level sync or design in general to make the value of those upgrades more confined. Doing an Expert dungeon? Those cap at item level 570, so you can get there pretty quick with uncapped Aphorism tomes and then be done, if that’s all you play. World content? Most enemies in the world are damage sponges to a point, so getting more gear doesn’t create notably better kill times until much later in the expansion, and even then, doing hunts in Endwalker zones still requires burning through a chunk of your rotation to do enough damage. The only content that is currently not item level synced or designed to mitigate the impact of scaling is raiding in current content, EX trials from Endwalker, and doing old content unsynced, where the item level jumps can make a pretty big difference if you’re trying to solo or run group content like Shadowbringers Savage fights with relative ease.
So in that way, gearing becomes a thing you can choose to do, rather than something you must do, and that difference is huge in a lot of ways. Once you can do the Normal raids, more gear simply pushes your numbers higher, and you don’t need a single piece of raid gear or capped Tomestone gear to get there. Granted, if you want to push Savage, then playing the “numbers go up” game is crucial for that, but most people who enjoy MMO raiding already like that aspect of gameplay and so it serves them well anyways. Making it a choice to play the gear treadmill is, I think, a big part of why FFXIV has such a strong casual playerbase and community – there’s a lot to enjoy in the game that isn’t just watching damage and healing go higher and even for those elements, the game gives you a set of starter gear at each endgame that you can build on easily, instead of dropping you off wherever you happened to land from questing and wishing you luck. In WoW, hitting level cap means grinding gear to do the thing you actually want to do, where in FFXIV, the game gives you an Artifact set and sets you on a pretty simple path to do whatever you want. Granted, if what you want is raiding, you need to get some gear, but it’s not a big jump and even if you come in late to an expansion’s endgame, the MSQ has rails to push you towards getting more and better gear for later dungeons in an expansion for those story runs.
Outside of full endgame sweaty play, I’ve also been enjoying a lot of the little stuff that adds fun and joy to the game – Golden Saucer minigames and GATEs, beating NPCs down in Triple Triad, just relaxing and gathering – at some point, I’ll even go back and finish redecorating my house!
So I guess that brings me to the question I had when I uninstalled WoW back in December – does FFXIV fill the void left by that game? Well…no. But, in saying that, it isn’t a failing on FFXIV’s part – the games both have varying expectations of how often you engage or even can engage with them, and I enjoy FFXIV on its own terms in much the same way I liked a fair few elements of WoW’s gameplay. In fact, when I first started with FFXIV as my main-play MMO of choice back in December, I wanted it to replace WoW and feel the same, and that was a mistake on my part. As I’ve learned to engage with what FFXIV is and what it offers as a package, I’ve come to like it more and feel less like I’m missing something. While there are elements of WoW I would love to see in FFXIV (while I understand it kind of doesn’t fit the game, a Mythic Plus-style mode in FFXIV is something I would vibe with strongly), I’ve come to a place of understanding where I like what FFXIV is for itself and not as a stand-in for some other game.
For me, right now has been Savage focus season, as I can easily reclear P1S and P2S with Party Finder groups in a small number of pulls. One week I had two clean one-shots, which was very nice!
On the item level front, I’ve been able to turn my P1S and P2S drop attention to jobs other than Samurai, which has meant working on my healing set first. As of writing this, I have Samurai at 593 item level, Monk at 591, Dragon and Reaper at 587, Sage at 588, all other healers at 586, and everything else at 580 flat. My goal over the coming weeks is to finish out tomestone gear for Samurai, with 590 pieces for chest and legs, and then to fully focus on Sage gearing before moving on to physical ranged DPS (probably Dancer, since I play it a lot for PvP even though gear doesn’t matter there).
My goal for prior to the upcoming patch 6.1 is to get full cleared on the current Savage tier. P3S is getting closer in PF (I’m north of 200 pulls and I’ve started getting to groups who see enrage semi-regularly instead of being stuck in trap parties on ads or Darkfire prog lol), and while I expect P4S to be a cluster, I’ve heard some reassuring things about it from other PF players that I hope hold true! My bigger hope is that I can get the Phoinix mount from P4S prior to the patch, although that seems less likely, and my even-bigger hope is to get at least one job full BiS before the patch.
In any case, I’ve been enjoying my time in FFXIV, and as I’ve found myself better-adjusted to what the game offers and not wanting it to fill a specific gap, I’ve found myself enjoying it even more!