Despite the usual MMO baggage, a welcoming and helpful community elevates the experience
There is a soft spot in my heart for MMOs and likely always will be. I spent a good chunk of my high school and college years tackling challenges, exploring worlds and just goofing around with my friends. And while the genre’s day in the sun may be nearing that western horizon, plenty of people still call MMO servers home.
So, when Twitch Prime offered a code for the base game version of Final Fantasy XIV on PC (along with 30 days of game time), I needed little persuading to download the launcher and set up an account. It’s been two weeks since I set foot in Eorzea, and I’ve already found plenty of reasons to stay. Here’s why you, too, should walk a few malms as the Warrior of Light.
Okay, this is an easy one. Even if you’ve never played an MMO, or a Final Fantasy game, trying out FFXIV costs you nothing up front. In order to play, you’ll need to either be in possession of an active Twitch Prime account or sign up for one. Twitch Prime also comes with a free 30-day trial, so the fresh babies out there are really getting the cherriest of deals.
Once your account is established, you can claim a unique activation code from the Prime Loot page. Download the launcher, install the game and set up a Square Enix account that’s required to log in to FFXIV. Here, you’ll use that Prime Loot code to claim not only the base game (known as A Realm Reborn, or ARR) but 30 days of play time for absolutely free. And that’s it! You’re ready to jump into character creation and begin adventuring through the world of Eorzea.
I recognize that not everyone wants to provide money or information to the monolithic corporate mega-giant that is Amazon. That’s totally cool, and no one should begrudge that choice. I, myself, have slowly begun untangling from their clutches of convenience in the past year. But cancelling your Twitch Prime account is a fairly simple process you can do immediately after claiming your rewards, and it won’t lock you out of either the game or the 30 free days.
It’s currently full of new players
Beginning a game years after release can feel weird. Hardly anyone is still talking about it online, and your friends are likely trying out the newest, shiniest products on the market. This is doubly so for MMOs, where established communities have staked out their spaces in forums and in the world, leaving the odd fresh recruit struggling to penetrate the social spaces that make online games so interesting.
Luckily, a few factors have combined and flung the doors of FFXIV wide open for a flood of Lv. 1 adventurers trying the game for the first time. The promotional code from Twitch Prime is a big one, of course. But we’re also experiencing a substantial migration of players from World of Warcraft. Like your parents switching satellite providers when the promotional rates expire, dedicated MMO players can tend to switch games when the content well runs dry or they feel unhappy with the current direction of the game. World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Battle for Azeroth, has been highly divisive among players for a number of reasons, ranging between loot systems to story decisions. The disgruntled, calling themselves “WoW refugees”, raised stakes and took advantage of the situation to try something different, swelling the ranks of incoming new players.
But wherever they come from, these baby recruits will need to learn the ropes. You will not be alone in messing up your rotation, getting lost in a sprawling city hub, or not knowing how to talk in party chat (I profess to experiencing all of these and more). The daunting task of learning a new game with years of content and improvements layered on top is much easier with company.
The community is super helpful
Amble into the official forums, or subreddits or Discord communities at the moment, and you will likely be greeted with either posts from new players expressing their wonder and joy at exploring a new world or veteran players providing helpful tips, summaries and guides for making the most of your time in Eorzea. I’m not exactly sure why, but the FFXIV community always seems to make the most of surges of new players by polishing the door handles and putting on the friendliest, warmest greeting possible.
As a new player, you benefit from their sharing of knowledge both in- and out-of-game. FFXIV contains a couple of systems specifically tailored to help on-board the uninitiated. Around Lv. 15, expect to encounter the Hall of the Novice, a training ground for party-size content that teaches skills like avoiding AoE spells, protecting vulnerable healers, and providing support to your tanks. Rewards of stylish, quality gear make it very worth it, no matter your MMO familiarity.
In addition, veteran players can elect the position of Mentor and help shepherd new players, called Leafs due to the plant sprout displayed next to their names, through their first few dungeons or group quests. This doesn’t promise your experience will be positive because people are sometimes garbage and abuse systems, but the community at large seems determined to make those first 20 or so levels fun for all.
I would highly recommend visiting the forums and communities surrounding the game, whether you need help or not. For me, that sharing of experience and passion is a big selling point for MMOs, and while FFXIV isn’t immune to turmoil, infighting and bad actors, you’re much more likely to happen across fan art, interesting stories, and heartfelt testimonials.
Despite all the good I’ve laid out, FFXIV is still an MMO. I understood what I was in for—grindy early levels where you must kill X of this and collect Y of that—so the lackluster writing and design of early zones hasn’t turned me off. Eorzea is also a very different look from World of Warcraft’s Azeroth or Guild Wars 2’s Tyria, which could cause some aesthetic whiplash. All I can recommend is downloading some podcasts or audiobooks and leaving your mind open. By all accounts, the story and zone design improves by tremendous leaps by the time you reach the end of ARR.
So, if I’ve convinced you to give FFXIV a try, you have until May 3rd to deliberate. And if you find yourself traipsing across the Cactuar server, feel free to hit me up with a message. My Arcanist-turned-Summoner, Rinde Forstelys, will likely be Ruining her way across the land with a kitten and a Carbuncle in tow. It’s not my old home, but I’m nonetheless starting to feel pretty cozy.