What Three Months of Playing FFXIV As My Main MMO Has Been Like (And A Savage Update)

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!

13 thoughts on “What Three Months of Playing FFXIV As My Main MMO Has Been Like (And A Savage Update)

  1. I’m still in sort of a catch-up mode – my primary focus alt jobs and thus XP. Dungeon roulettes are fun! But I’m already questioning myself about the endgame once I’m there with my 14 picked jobs. Current tier raiding takes about 4 hours a week, and then?.. I’ve yet gathering and crafting to explore, but that’s it. I don’t have any goals about gear, as Tataru’s shop offers free 560 on the left side, and right side sells 580 at auction. Challenges and hunts seems like a thing to do (maybe?).

    So, what I miss (or rather will miss) compared to WoW is long-term casual goals which you can work towards for the bulk of gameplay, every day. Not sure – or rather, not aware what I am to pursue yet. What I probably want from the endgame is: waking up, deciding today I go with a monk or a samurai, for example, and set off for some fighting for a palpable reward. Got to figure out what that reward might be.

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    1. I think this is a fair point – the game tends to tick away longer-term casual goals just out of sight or behind a basic unlock. There’s stuff like the Relic Weapons, which can be done easily enough as a long-term goal. There’s Gold Saucer stuff, if you like the minigames (there are mounts to collect for a lot of MGP and the Triple Triad grind is real if you like that minigame). There are the deep dungeon achievements for clearing all 200 floors – you can do those in 10 floor increments and keep coming back to go deeper, which is cool.

      I guess the closest you could get to the WoW style rep-grind and daily world play is a mix of Tribal quests and Hunts, coupled with filling out as much of the Challenge Log as you can. It is a different flavor, for sure, but I would say it probably has a similar appeal.

      If you fall into the dungeon/raid grind, the nice thing about FFXIV is that it does have a cycle for casual players that can be rather long (with some exceptions) – you can spend a while gearing through just drops and tomestone pieces, and even buying full crafted 580 gear gives way to 590 tomestone stuff if you want the treadmill. It definitely has less focus on the WoW-style long-tail grinds, though, and it does a lot to make those side content that is rewarding to a point without being necessary for raiding or dungeons and the like.

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      1. Thanks, I’m actually saving this comment as a notepad file 🙂
        As you may have figured out from my posting, I’m not a challenge / character power player, more about exploration, lore and collections. So as the first two – exploration and lore – are practically drained (with an exception of role questlines and Hildibrand quests, delibreately saved for last!), I’m looking toward vanity items, like glams and maybe mounts. Would that there was a great catalog site for those, like the one they make for hunter’s pets for WoW.

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      2. At some point, I think I’ll write a post that puts more of that stuff into context, because there’s a lot of collecting activities you can do once leveling is off your plate that are fun, pretty easy to engage with, and aren’t massive group events or heavy progression checks. A lot of it is older, but there’s something of the sort in every expansion and Endwalker will eventually get a handful of things like that too (it seems based on the Live Letters)!

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      3. Actually it could be a bestselling guide for your blog 🙂 I’d rather appreciate one, telling what people could do in Endgame from alt jobs, reps, achievements and Gold Saucer to farming dungeons and Savage raids, written in a manner of activity -> possible reward.

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  2. I was only just recently thinking similar things. I opted not to savage raid, crafted myself 580 for every job at 90, and went “Huh. I guess I do whatever I want now?” It feels so different not to have that constant grindy pressure of WoW and I love it. I’m even playing other games!

    The M+ idea for XIV is interesting but I wonder what that would look like in the context of the current reward structure and daily/weekly caps. Does it even reward gear? If so is it better or similar to savage gear? Is it cosmetics like PotD/HoH? Is it currency like hunts? It seems like an inherently anti-casual activity to add so I wonder how it’d fit in.

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  3. I find all these kinds of discussions -and I’ve read many over the years – both illuminating and confounding. My primary issue with FFXIV has always been the extreme paternalism of the design. You outline it very clearly in the post – the game is structured so as to control players’ behavior in a way that feels both watchful and protective.

    It’s not that other mmorpgs don’t restrict or time-gate activities. They pretty much all do it. it’s more that other games seem to be protecting the content from the players, as in stopping it being used up too fast, while in FFXIV, very much as you describe, it’s the players who are being protected from the content, as if they were children at a party being kept from eating too much cake and making themselves sick.

    That may be appropriate in a game that’s intended to be played by children but as an adult I find it uncomfortable, verging on patronising. I’m definitely not saying the WoW way of handling things is better. I actually think it’s even worse but that doesn’t mean I think FFXIV’s solution is a good one. My question is, what is the intended audience for these games? If it’s adults then shouldn’t those adults be left to make their own decisions about how many times they want to repeat the same content? Limiting it to protect the viability of the product is one thing but limiting it to prevent the customer from themselves is very much another and not something that sits well with me.

    This, though, is a problem that’s existed as long as mmorpgs. The only real thing that interested the non-gaming media about the genre twenty years ago was how “addictive” it was and how children and adults alike had their lives wrecked by it. There was some truth in that, too. When you produce and sell a potentially addictive, potentially dangerous product to what is effectively an unseen, unrestricted customer base (We all know how porous the protective barriers to purchase are.) then I guess you end up taking precautions as much to protect yourselves as your customers. Given the way the genre has moved so heavily into wilfully rather than accidentally coercive/addictive practices over the last decade or so, it’s hardly surprising none of the games feel entirely comfortable to play any more.

    Personally, I prefer games that leave me to decide what I want to do when and for how long, but that in itself is predicated on my understanding that I never want to do any of it to excess. If I found it hard to stop, I might well feel differently.

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    1. It’s an interesting point, because I would disagree about the paternalistic nature of the design. The game rarely hard-locks anything – it uses reward gates and there are often players that will push past the locks to do things just for the sake of doing them. Even at the high-end – Savage raiding has a number of groups that have their rewards for the week come back and attempt to parse higher on bosses, pushing down their kill times or using weird strategies to get better performance.

      If you play the game using the rewards as a guide? Sure, it’s a pretty on-rails experience, and you can choose quite carefully what track you want to glide down, but even then, you can do more than what the rewards guide you to. There’s no dungeon loot lockout, so you can chain-run roulettes past the first daily bonus and still get something from it, the game has specific support for doing old content under close-to-original conditions (it syncs item level to the minimum allowed by the dungeon/raid and disables the soft-nerf Echo buff) or you can run through and do things solo or small group in that same content at current power, and there are very few hard caps.

      In fact, the only three “you cannot do more than what we want” caps that exist are a daily Tribal quest allowance, a Custom Deliveries weekly allowance (these are crafting/gathering objectives for specific NPCs with story quests), and Hunt bills – which are just killing world enemies anyways, so you just don’t get the added reward if you decide to kill more past the bill.

      I think this speaks to a preference difference, personally – having some rails and semblance of a track is something I prefer, not for the sake of addiction prevention (although the roots of such caps and limits are well-noted in your comment) but because it takes a ton of possibilities and distills them to a subset of more rewarding activities I can chase first, after which I can run loose over whatever I please for whatever reason.

      Now if you’re not endgame-inclined, the game may be found wanting in that area (it has better leveling flow than WoW, but that isn’t a high bar exactly), but I think it strikes a better balance of choice and reduced limits.

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  4. What sad for me is that we as a gaming community are so conditioned to expect rewards when doing something in an MMO that we are at a loss when the reward is locked or doesn’t exist. The concept of exploring “just because” or “Hey, I like this instance, let’s run it again!” seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle in MMO design. Or rather, there isn’t enough money to be made by that sort of player that games aren’t designed around them.

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  5. Very interesting summary, a few remarks:

    > 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

    I know where you’re coming from, but I’m not sure I agree. You’re technically correct with the “not daily”, but that doesn’t really mean ‘less time’. I am raiding normal atm, we cleared 5+6 bosses the first 2 weeks and I got two drops one of which was also 100% useless. I was in full 239 gear from Heroic Sanctum and I have as of now replaced 1-2 pieces with 242 cypher equip, but for real upgrades I need to get to cypher level 3. I am not doing M+, which is my own fault of course, but in order to get any loot in any reasonable time… I guess daily ZM it is. That said, I actually enjoy ZM in a way that I didn’t with the Maw or Korthia. I do a lap of 30 minutes per day and it’s fine. I could grind out more but I don’t want to, but still would fall behind even more if I didn’t do this daily. So “impose” – no. “Strongly encouraged” – yes.

    On the other hand FFXIV doesn’t even give me any way to progress at the moment, as of yesterday I’m at 591 after getting my P2S Boots. I’ve not had any luck rolling, and my BiS is mostly Aspho and less Augmented, so my static mates are a smidge higher than I am – but I’ve been capping tomestones every week simply for alt jobs, my main is hard stuck on Savage progress. So I actually think for my time investment there could be a little more grind for the possibility of getting stuff.

    That said, I don’t have any real qualms with either game at the moment, I’m (slowly?) leveling all my jobs in FFXIV and slowly getting rep in ZM in WoW, all the while raiding about exactly 4h per week in either game.

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    1. I’ll tackle this in reverse order, because I feel the loot ceiling in XIV right now since I can’t get my serving of KFC in PF! I’ve been slowly bringing up item level in other roles, and it’s nice that once reclears stopped being worthwhile for my “main” job (whether Samurai or Sage since I can’t make up my mind) that I can just bring things up elsewhere. In 6.1 that should change, as they’ll likely have a crafted gear exchange to get 590 in any slot provided you save some tomestones and have crafted pieces to trade for certs, plus the Alliance raid, but that will just raise the practical ceiling without more prog.

      On ZM, I appreciate the perspective, because I haven’t played it first-hand on live so I see the intent a bit more than the practice (and to be fair, I was already 246 average on my DH before quitting the game, so the relic upgrades would have carried minimal value anyways). It’s my hope that Blizzard moving in that direction, however slowly, is a good omen for 10.0, and I’ve used that to dull my more cynical reading of the state of the game. Ideally, more zones should be enjoyable in their own right with the rewards being almost secondary and more time spent paying off in a rewarding way – in my view, at least.

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  6. I also moved to FFXIV after playing WoW since vanilla on and off (at a casual level). I got really into it, realized I enjoyed tanking and healing and could be pretty good at both, while I was always afraid of trying in WoW and thought I never would. Unfortunately I am a serial quitter (deleter)/rejoiner when it comes to MMOs and XIV’s character restore system is much stricter than WoW’s. Let’s just say they’re serious when they say character restore is a one time thing. Don’t think I could bring myself to dungeon spam all tanks to 90 again, max all crafters and gathers etc. So I will probably not be going back to XIV, even though I found the story to be a sincerely beautiful work of art, especially compared to the cartoony mess of WoW. I’ve actually been playing some WoW again and enjoying healing in M+, another thing I was too intimidated to try before.

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