From Kefka to card games, here’s our beginner’s guide to Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV may technically be almost 10 years old now, but its current incarnation, stemming from a complete redesign following its failure early on, means it’s easier to jump into than ever before. But it can be overwhelming without proper context.

There’s a cluttered HUD with dozens of clickable elements, windows out the wazzoo, and a dizzying amount of content to get through. We’ve pieced together this guide to hopefully help you on your adventure across one of the first truly popular subscription-based MMOs since World of Warcraft.

Classes, Jobs, And Roles

FFXIV battle classes

Classes are split across three (technically four) “disciplines”. There’s your Disciples of War/Magic, Land, and Hand – or battle, gathering, and crafting respectively. War and Magic classes fight the baddies, while Land and Hand classes turn the world’s resources into useful items like weapons, food, and fancy plush couches.

Each class fulfills a certain role in combat; tanks soak damage, healers top up team HP, and DPS whittle down enemy HP. A “Light Party” will usually consist of a tank, healer, and two DPS, while the “Full Party” teams used in more difficult content typically doubles those numbers to eight.

Available battle classes are listed below with the roles they’re designed to fill in a team. Initial names are classes, while those after are jobs. You can begin your adventure as any of the classes included in A Realm Reborn. Those introduced in expansions must be unlocked through play. Crafting and Gathering classes can be picked up anytime after the introduction of the Armory upon clearing the Level 15 Main Story quest.

  • A Realm Reborn
    • Gladiator/Paladin (Tank)
    • Marauder/Warrior (Tank)
    • Pugilist/Monk (DPS)
    • Arcanist/Scholar/Summoner (Healer/DPS)
    • Conjurer/White Mage (Healer)
    • Thaumaturge/Black Mage (DPS)
    • Rogue/Ninja (DPS)
    • Lancer/Dragoon (DPS)
    • Archer/Bard (DPS)
  •  Heavensward
    • Machinist (DPS)
    • Dark Knight (Tank)
    • Astrologian (Healer)
  • Stormblood
    • Red Mage (DPS)
    • Samurai (DPS)
  • Shadowbringers
    • Dancer (DPS)
    • Gunbreaker (Tank)
  • Crafting
    • Blacksmith
    • Goldsmith
    • Armorer
    • Culinarian
    • Carpenter
    • Weaver
    • Alchemist
    • Leatherworker
  • Gathering
    • Fisher
    • Botanist
    • Miner

Control Schemes

Final Fantasy XIV employs a fairly traditional MMORPG control scheme. You target enemies with a click or cycle through nearby mobs with a button and execute actions on the hotbar to dispatch them. Unlike most other MMOs, here you can choose between keyboard/mouse controls and a traditional gamepad.

Using a controller can be confusing and convoluted at first, but the game does an excellent job of easing you in as new spells – and thus buttons – are slowly introduced one by one. It becomes muscle memory. There are plenty of top-tier players using controllers in this game, so you won’t be thought less of for using one. Just pick the control scheme that is most comfortable for you. You might want to pick up a cheap wireless keyboard just to make chatting a little easier, though.

Getting Around

Getting around in FFXIV

The world residing on the mother crystal Hydaelyn is vast and ever-growing, yet getting around only gets easier over time. The world is linked through interconnected “aetheryte” crystals.

You can instantly teleport to any large crystal you’ve touched before and freely teleport from those to smaller ones within the same zone. This makes traveling around the world almost too uninteresting. But until you build up that network of crystals, you’ll have to employ more traditional transport methods like boats, airships, and your own feet if you’re to get from one quest to the next.

It’s not until reaching around level 20 that you’ll unlock your first mount. From then on, you’ll find yourself saving your legs for just casual strolls around cities where mounts are expressly forbidden.

Progression

Even if you log into Final Fantasy XIV with no goal in mind, you’ll quickly find one. With around 25 classes to level up and tens of thousands of items to potentially collect, there’s always something to do. Progression isn’t inherently linear. You can go about it your own way. But knowing what’s at the end of the road will make the journey easier.

Battle classes fight their way to the level cap. Then you’re able to earn tokens from dungeons, raids, and boss battles to obtain the equipment needed to tackle the next leg of new, more difficult content. Gear can even be augmented with “materia” to boost stats further. It’s a similar deal for crafters and gatherers; you level up and use materials to earn or craft the gear needed to gather and craft the next big thing. Rinse and repeat!

How you might want to get there is outlined in our Final Fantasy XIV: How To Level Grind guide, so be sure to check that out if you’re looking to get there fast.

Battle Content

FFXIV Primal trial battle

With five years of patches and expansions under its belt, Eorzea has no shortage of things to do at this point. Grinding out levels is a breeze with a bit of planning, and there are enough challenging boss battles to keep you tackling something new and exciting any night of the week.

Player progression is a mostly linear affair. You run through co-op dungeons for “Tomestones” and exchange those for powerful gear that should see you through the next wave of new content. You can earn Tomestones from other battle content like Hunts, Maps, and Raids to add a bit of variety, but the core system remains the same.

Even-numbered patches tend to add more powerful gear and difficult raid content, while odd-numbered patches cater to the less hardcore with things like an easier “alliance” raid.

Quests

Your primary source of experience points when leveling your first class, quests are dotted all around the world. They’re used to progress storylines and unlock new content. Completing every single sidequest isn’t the best way to level up subsequent classes, but it’s a nice way to learn more about the world and its people.

Dungeons

Serving as breaks between traditional leveling content, dungeons make up a large portion of Final Fantasy XIV gameplay. These breathtaking environments contain packs of enemies, large bosses, and useful loot. Early dungeons will help you level up, while max-level dungeons dish out Tomestones used to buy weapons and armor used in end-game activities. With a whopping 62 unique dungeons before the release of Shadowbringers, there’s a lot to get stuck into here.

Hunts

Separated into S, A, and B ranks, “The Hunt” is an open-world activity that tasks players with tracking down and defeating powerful monsters out in the field. Each zone has a handful of these with strict spawn conditions, leading many to form Linkshells (private chat channels) dedicated to scouting out and reporting the locations of these elusive enemies. Descend on the location and kill the target for rewards you can use to buy and upgrade gear or spend on interesting little trinkets.

Raids

Split into 8 and 24-player varieties, raids are a series of boss encounters designed to test players looking for a true challenge. All wrapped around an episodic side-story format, 8-player raids consist of a regular mode for ease of access, and a “Savage” difficulty mode for the more sadistic audience. 24-player “Alliance” raids, on the other hand, are there for almost everyone to enjoy.

Trials

An in-between for most players, Trial battles usually pit 8-player parties against the game’s signature bosses – Primals. You’ll learn a lot about the entities throughout the story, and you’ll see them just as much. Similar to raids, these typically come in easy and hard difficulties so that everyone can enjoy the attached story without having to necessarily “git gud”.

Crafting And Gathering

FFXIV crafting and gathering

Like any good civilization, Final Fantasy XIV builds much of its economy around items found and created by its players.  There are eight crafting classes and three gathering classes to train up, and it’s a case of one always helping another. While it’s not at all necessary to go all-in with every class, you can very much be a jack of all trades in this game.

Things have gotten a little more complicated over time, but the life of a gatherer mostly revolves around hitting trees, rocks, or fishing up food for crafters to turn into finished products to sell to their customers. It’s a never-ending supply chain, and gatherers need only keep their eyes on the clock to harvest items that can fetch a pretty penny on the market boards.

Likewise, crafters spend their days turning gathered materials into goods likes weapons, armor, and even furniture. It’s not the most exciting activity in the game, but crafting has its own expansive toolset that players have turned into a rather complicated game of numbers. It’s not easy, but it brings in the money. Crafters can even salvage raw materials from completed goods through “desynthesis”; yet another thing to level up if you want.

Mini-Games and Pastimes

There’s a lot to see and do in Final Fantasy XIV. You could argue there’s too much if you’re a newcomer given the length of the proverbial checklist of content at this point. But when you shake off the need to grind levels and equipment, you’ll find plenty of more relaxing and fun-filled activities waiting on your doorstep.

The Gold Saucer

Triple Triad match in FFXIV's Gold Saucer

The sheer definition of extra in Final Fantasy XIV has to be the Gold Saucer. This throwback to Final Fantasy VII is a fairground designed as a reprieve from battle content. Home to around a dozen different minigames, you could use your entire month’s subscription raising and racing chocobo alone.

Challenging NPCs to rounds of the Triple Triad card game and pitting your collection of minions against your friends in Lord of Verminion are just a few of the things you can do here. Anything and everything you do will net you MGP; a unique form of currency used to buy anything from incredibly rare mounts to silly costumes.

Treasure Maps

Not really a single player activity these days, treasure maps are a constantly evolving part of Final Fantasy XIV. Gatherers can find one map a day in their nodes. Unravel it, cross-reference the location on the world map, and dig in the location to unearth some potentially valuable rewards with more being added with each patch.

With enough luck, you’ll open up a portal to a unique dungeon teeming with enemies and progressively more valuable loot. Players typically group up to tackle stockpiles of maps and reap the rewards. It’s battle content for sure, but it’s less about skill and more about luck.

Roleplaying and Photography

FFXIV roleplay wedding

Over time, Final Fantasy XIV has grown into a budding roleplaying hub. The developers have slowly introduced more and more ways to satisfy the growing community of roleplayers and creatives.

One of those is the constantly evolving Group Pose (/Gpose) tool. It’s an in-game tool that allows players to manipulate animations, lighting, and the game’s camera to take some truly impressive photographs. Huge communities of photographers come together online to share their work, too. It’s almost a game in itself.

The introduction of player-owned housing also helped create a thriving roleplaying community – and it’s only getting bigger. Whether it’s breathing life into your character or putting on theatre shows in someone’s basement, there’s no shortage of creativity coming out of this game right now. Hang around the game’s main cities and you’re sure to come across just some of these colorful characters ready and willing to rope in new blood. Just watch out for the inevitable erotic antics some groups pride themselves on.

Collections

A growing understanding amongst the Final Fantasy XIV playerbase is that “glamor is the true endgame”. The game has hundreds – if not thousands – of unique items of clothing and gear, and putting together outfits is a major pastime these days.

Final Fantasy XIV players love to show off their collections, and from clothes to trading cards, and mounts to minions, there’s an insane amount of stuff to collect through almost every activity currently in the game. Some even devote themselves to months of hard work just to unlock each of the grind-heavy “relic” weapons for each class. It never ends.

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