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

Final Fantasy XIV may have launched in a buggy, borderline-unplayable state, but in the decade since its release, it’s grown into one of the most beloved MMORPGs around. That’s thanks to a total overhaul called A Realm Reborn, which itself has been around for more than seven years now. Since then, developer Square Enix has continually improved the game, adding regular updates and more sporadic expansions that both change aspects of the base game and add brand new content and a continuing storyline.

With all that history behind it, it may feel difficult to jump into Final Fantasy XIV for the first time so long after its release. 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.

Further reading

Free trial

Fortunately for anyone who’s still on the fence about Final Fantasy XIV, the game offers a generous free trial for newcomers. An update in 2020 greatly expanded the game’s trial, letting players get up to level 60 without a subscription. It also unlocked access to Heavensward, the first expansion to Final Fantasy XIV and one of the best parts of its story. Playing through A Realm Reborn and Heavensward and hitting level 60 can take well over 100 hours, and that’s not even factoring in content outside of the main story. Trial players are locked out of buying and selling items on the Market Board and joining Free Companies (the equivalent of guilds in other online games), but there’s still more than enough content in the trial to let you know if Final Fantasy XIV is a game you want to play in the long-term.

Social life

It’s possible to play through most of Final Fantasy XIV alone, and in fact, many main quests can only be tackled solo. However, there’s plenty of content that relies on teaming up with other players, and those are some of the most rewarding activities in the game. Fortunately, Final Fantasy XIV is well known for having an active and friendly community, so even loners can likely find a group they click with eventually.

The main way to connect with other players in Final Fantasy XIV is by joining a Free Company. Free Companies are groups of players that chat and play together, as well as provide mechanical bonuses like experience boosts. Free Companies can even buy their own houses, giving members a place to hang out together. Free Companies vary widely, from small groups of close friends to massive organizations with hundreds of members. If you play long enough without joining a Free Company, you’re bound to get invitations from groups looking for recruits, but it may be worth considering one before even starting the game.

Square Enix runs an official Community Finder, which allows players to search for Free Companies as well as more informal social groups called Linkshells, and Free Companies frequently recruit on the FF XIV Recruitment subreddit as well. Using one of these services will let you find a Free Company that sounds appealing to you so that you can make your character on a server it’s active on. Even if you decide to save this step for later, checking out one of these recruitment sites can be a good way to vet a Free Company before joining it. Just because Final Fantasy XIV players are a friendly bunch overall doesn’t mean that every Free Company will click with you, and there’s no shame in jumping ship if things aren’t feeling right with your current group.

Character creation

The first thing you’ll need to do once you decide to take the plunge into Final Fantasy XIV is make your character. Since you may end up spending hundreds of hours with your new character, the choices you make in character creation are important, but maybe not as much as you’d expect. Before you embark on your adventures in Eorzea, you’ll first need to pick a race, appearance, and class, but these can all be changed later. Your class is actually the easiest of these to change, making the choice of a starting class less significant than it is in other MMOs. Your character’s hair and makeup can also be changed fairly easily once you’re in the game, making their race and other appearance options the most permanent choice you’ll make in character creation. Each race has slight differences in stats, but not enough to actually affect how they perform. Just pick the character you’re most excited about playing as, and you’ll be happier for it.

Classes, jobs, and roles

Final Fantasy 14 Classes
Square Enix

Classes are split across three (technically four) disciplines. Disciples of War and Magic are combat classes, and you’ll choose one to start as in character creation. Later on, you can take on additional Disciples of Hand and Land classes, which gather the world’s resources and turn them into useful items like weapons, food, and fancy plush couches.

Each combat class fulfills a certain role in battle; tanks soak damage, healers top up team HP, and DPS whittle down enemy HP. There’s no wrong class to start as, since even dedicated healers can take down enemies on their own, but picking a DPS class is generally easier. These classes are the most efficient at killing foes and they have the easiest time in early dungeons, though higher levels still demand mastery of lots of mechanics. 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. At level 30, you’ll unlock a job quest for whichever class you’re playing, which will give you access to more specialized tools for an upgraded version of your base class. You can begin your adventure as any of the classes included in A Realm Reborn. Those introduced in expansions must be unlocked through play. Once you hit level 10, you’ll unlock the ability to change your class by completing a quest at the appropriate trainer. From this point on, you can freely switch between any of the classes you have unlocked. For that reason, most Final Fantasy XIV players only have one character (as opposed to other games where alternate characters, or “alts,” are common).

Disciples of War/Magic

  • A Realm Reborn
    • Gladiator/Paladin (Tank)
    • Marauder/Warrior (Tank)
    • Conjurer/White Mage (Healer)
    • Arcanist/Scholar/Summoner (Healer/DPS)
    • Pugilist/Monk (DPS)
    • 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)

Disciples of the Hand

    • Blacksmith
    • Goldsmith
    • Armorer
    • Culinarian
    • Carpenter
    • Weaver
    • Alchemist
    • Leatherworker

Disciples of the Land

    • 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. Executing complex combos will quickly become 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

Final Fantasy 14 Mounts
Square Enix

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, which can be found in major settlements around the map. You can instantly teleport to any large crystal you’ve touched before and freely teleport between a network of smaller crystals in capital cities. Of course, you’ll first have to travel on foot to reach aetheryte crystals and expand your transportation network, but once you do, traveling from one side of the world to another in Final Fantasy XIV is a breeze.

Aside from teleporting between aetheryte crystals, you also have the option of using airships and ferries to get around in Final Fantasy XIV. Both of these transportation methods allow you to travel between specific locations, such as major cities and the Gold Saucer amusement park, but you’ll often be able to connect to aetheryte crystals in those locations once you get there, making ferries and airships somewhat redundant.

At first, you’ll be exploring the continent of Eorzea on foot, but once you complete the level 20 story quest, you’ll unlock your first mount in the form of one of Final Fantasy‘s most recognizable creatures: A chocobo. From then on, you’ll find yourself saving your own legs for just casual strolls around cities where mounts are expressly forbidden. Throughout your journey, you’ll likely acquire a large stable of additional mounts, and hunting for rarer steeds is a common part of the endgame experience.

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, and there are plenty of ways to advance toward your goals that don’t involve your main combat class at all, but knowing what you’re searching for at the end of the road will make the journey easier.

With battle classes, you’ll fight your way to the level cap through main quests and dungeons, and 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! The best ways to level up are 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.

In addition to — or instead of — leveling up, players often focus on acquiring certain pets or mounts, building the perfect outfit, or getting filthy rich by selling items on the Market Boards.

Battle content

Final Fantasy 14 Online Dancer
Square Enix

With 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.

The end of each expansion tends to funnel players into a similar endgame. 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. Quests marked with blue icons are especially important, as they’ll unlock new features ranging from class abilities to new dungeons.

Dungeons

Serving as breaks between traditional leveling content, dungeons are repeatable instances that pair players up into parties to take down more challenging foes than those found in the outside world. 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 more than 70 dungeons following the release of Shadowbringers, there’s a lot to explore here. Main quests will often send you into dungeons, giving most players their first taste of party-based gameplay in Final Fantasy XIV.

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 eight- 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, eight-player raids consist of a regular mode for ease of access, and a “Savage” difficulty mode for the more sadistic audience. Twenty-four-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 eight-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 several difficulties so that everyone can enjoy the attached story without having to grind their way through or learn intricate mechanics. Trials can be extremely challenging at higher difficulty levels, but many of them also offer some of the game’s most coveted cosmetic items, such as mounts.

Crafting and gathering

Final Fantasy 14 Disciples Of Land
Square Enix

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 there’s quite a bit of overlap when it comes to the items they produce. 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, and doing so will let you make resources you need for your other crafting classes without having to pay a premium on the Market Board.

Things have gotten a little more complicated over time, but the life of a gatherer mostly revolves around hitting trees, rocks, or fishing 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 Board.

Likewise, crafters spend their days turning gathered materials into goods likes weapons, armor, and even furniture. It’s not for everyone, 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. Getting to a high level with a crafting class can be an enormous time sink, and many players choose to wait until they’re a good way through the main story of the game before embarking on the long, often expensive, process of becoming a master crafter.

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

Final Fantasy 14 Gold Saucer
Square Enix

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 mini-games, you could use your entire month’s subscription raising and racing your 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. Spending time at the Gold Saucer is completely optional, but sooner or later, the lure of its neon lights seems to attract plenty of players.

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

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 served to build a flourishing roleplaying community — and it’s only growing. Whether it’s breathing life into your character or performing in a variety of fun theater shows in someone’s basement, there’s no lack of creativity emanating from this game today. Hang out in the game’s central cities, and you’re bound to stumble across just some of these eccentric characters ready and willing to welcome you into their posse. Just keep an eye out for the impending erogenous antics some crowds seem to pride themselves on.

Collections

A developing understanding amongst the Final Fantasy XIV player base is that “glamor is the true endgame.” The game has a substantial amount of uncommon pieces of clothing and equipment (we’re talking in the hundreds and thousands). Creating outfits is a meaningful hobby these days.

Final Fantasy XIV players adore showing off their findings. There’s a crazy number of items to accumulate through almost every activity that currently exists within the game. From clothes to trading cards and mounts to minions, there’s something for everyone. Some even dedicate themselves to months of exhausting effort to unlock each of the grind-heavy “relic” weapons for each level. The truth is, it never ends.

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