I’m a huge JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) nerd, a love that stemmed from dipping my toes into the Final Fantasy franchise at age 11 with the tenth installment in the main series – Final Fantasy X. It’s also the series that taught me how to use Roman numerals, if you can believe that. I fell deeply in love with the characters, the story, the way I could build and develop my party, oh, and the music. That music was the soundtrack of my teenage years, (along with Linkin Park, Muse and Evanescence… we all make poor choices okay?) and followed me to my adult years, as I picked up more Final Fantasy titles. In order, I played IX, X-2, VIII, VII, III, VI and XIII, the latter being my least favourite.
I stayed away from the first FF MMORPG (that’s a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game for anyone not familiar with the daft term) which was XI, because it didn’t appeal to me. Plus, I had somehow managed to dodge the online gaming bug that seemingly started with World of Warcraft. I had to pay monthly to play a game with strangers who were probably going to be mean to me? You’re talking to someone who gets worn out from talking to friends in real life, let alone online! I played a WoW trial for an hour a few years ago and didn’t enjoy it. When I first heard about the next MMO in the series – Final Fantasy XIV – I was intrigued. I’d heard that it was going to be available on PS3 as well as the PC, which appealed massively to me, as my PC at the time was basically an advanced typewriter.
But… well, when FFXIV first came out, it wasn’t received very well. In fact, ‘disaster’ wasn’t even a strong enough word for it. Bugs galore, shoddy interface, lacklustre content – there was still a loyal, if frustrated, fan base for the game, and despite attempts to fix the unseemingly unfinished launch product, the game was pulled offline altogether and completely rebuilt from the ground up. Released under the title Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn with a new team in control (ALL HAIL YOSHI-P!), they literally dropped a meteor on the old story and world, bringing in a fresh start for old players and new.
So, where do I come in? Well, a friend of mine called James (check his Twitter, he’s a huge comic book nerd!) introduced it to me as he played with someone we knew. They showed me the massive in-game world, along with their characters and classes, and then told me to give it a go. I saw there was a trial available for me to play, so I installed and found myself immersed in the story from the beginning. I was a Warrior of Light, destined for something amazing as time would go on. I created my character, a human Gladiator named Kezia Walker, and started my journey in the vast world of Eorzea.
This game would have won me over had it been a standalone game, as it ticks all the boxes that I expect from a FF title – the surroundings are absolutely gorgeous, the characters are engaging, and the story… easily the best in a long time, probably since X. And I probably don’t need to comment on the music, the composer Nobuo Uematsu is a genius, I couldn’t love him more if I tried.
I was amazed at just how much content I could do without having to build a party, or even communicate with other players. The effort was made on my behalf, matching me with other players to do the first dungeon in the story as well as other content which required four players. My role as a Gladiator put me in position of being a Tank for the party, meaning I would take the enemy’s attention away from the other members, while the DPS (damage dealers) pummeled their way through, leaving the Healer safe from harm. It was a role I didn’t quite understand, and when I found myself in a Free Company (FFXIV’s guild system) and played with more experienced players, I realised that taking charge and being a sponge for damage wasn’t quite for me.
The brilliant thing about FFXIV in my opinion, is the Job system. You start off with a class – so in my case, I was a Gladiator – which would then lead me to picking up a Job as I levelled up. This requires some experience in another class, which is an option in FFXIV. I know people who play WoW who have multiple accounts to play different roles, as that’s the only way you can, but not in FFXIV!
The Job available to me beyond my class was Paladin – which required getting to level 30 on my Gladiator, and level 15 in the healing class Conjurer. So, I played at healing as a Conjurer, and found that I enjoyed healing way more than I ever did tanking. And although I eventually unlocked the Paladin Job, I continued to level Conjurer, before levelling up the Arcanist class to 15 so I could become a White Mage. It sounds complicated on paper, but couldn’t be easier to pick up in-game.
I also ditched my human appearance and became an adorable purple-haired Lalafell – a race that can only be described as what an anthropomorphised potato would look like – took up the stave and became a determined, if easily irritated healer. I have now been playing FFXIV for well over a year, I have made some amazing friends within my Free Company, I’ve shared some amazing experiences and have been lucky enough to see this game go from strength to strength. The original incarnation of FFXIV was known as version 1.0, A Realm Reborn was 2.0 and with the launch of the first expansion for the game called Heavensward, we are now in the era of 3.0. And with yet another free patch rolling in on February 23rd, it only gets better.
As for the tale of plucky Lalafell White Mage Kezia Walker? Well, she’s conquered gods, downed beasts and has saved the world from oblivion more times that anyone has counted. Along with every other Warrior of Light she has encountered during her time. And you know what? She’s had a lot of fun along the way. If only her FC mates would stop slapping her…
Final Fantasy XIV Online is available on PC, PS3, PS4 and Steam. Heavensward available separately. 14 day free trial also available – and highly recommended!
Are you already playing? If you’re on the Cerberus server, look me up and we’ll do some fun things together!
Claire is a foul-mouthed British twenty-something who spends most of her time pretending to be an adult. Her nerd status started from an early age with her dad’s love of sci-fi and developed through a love of gaming, reading and horror. As well as volunteering for a charity, Claire writes about her life with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and mental health over at her blog, as well as tweeting nonsense over as @MouthAndSpoons. The dream is to either make it as a successful writer, or go into mental health research. She lives at home with her equally nerdy husband, their dog Lady, cat Pip and a lot of fish.