Let's go on an RPG road trip
After a start which could politely be described as a bit bloody rocky, followed by a lot of hard work, Final Fantasy XIV has gone from being a well-meaning mess to one of the most interesting and community-friendly MMOs around. Set in a rich, diverse world stuffed with FF lore, featuring engaging combat, and genuinely startling scenery, I think it’s well worth revisiting. Particularly with a free log-in period—on EU and NA—running from February 27 to March 9. If you're still unsure, let my character take you on a tour of the best of what Eorzea has to offer. Trust me, you aren’t going to want to miss the Cave of the Muscle Men.
1. Scale the Crystal Tower
This being a Final Fantasy game there are tons of series references to discover, one of the most obvious being the huge, sparkling monolith that is the Crystal Tower. Set by a lake surrounded by the debris of war, it stands as tribute to the mighty FFIII and is filled with iconic monsters for you to take on as part of a 24-man raid.
2. Race chocobos
Not one for raiding? Try your hand at oversized poultry racing instead. This addictive minigame sees you straddling your feathery friend and competing for riches and glory. Well, as much glory as it’s possible to get for being the best at giant bird wrangling. There’s actually a surprising amount of depth here though, thanks to a breeding system—FFVII says hi—that will change the colour and stats of your future generations of chocobo. (Erm, chocobi?)
3. Get debuffed into a battle toad
As with all good MMOs, FFXIV delivers some complex battles with new mechanics introduced in each dungeon. Some of the debuffs are weirder than others, as our good friend Mr. Frog knows only too well. Instead of the usual poison and paralysis to contend with, certain fights see you transformed into a frog and forced to hop around the stage—sometimes chased by a green chicken—as you shake it off or wait it out. Just be sure you don’t croak. (Sorry.)
4. Magitek moments
In FFXIV, it’s often the little things that catch you by surprise. Like some unexpectedly lewd NPC dialogue, or a reference to Crocodile Dundee nonchalantly hanging out in the corner of a crowded market. But the really special moments for me are the quiet ones. Just exploring the world at night can give a real sense of wonder. Especially if, like me, you’re rocking a set of FFVI Magitek armour.
5. Sunbathe at the Costa Del Sol
Sometimes you just need to get away from all those dank dungeons and catching some rays at the Costa Del Sol is the obvious answer. Tucked away in a little cover, this resort is a beautiful throwback to one of the most iconic locations in FFVII and comes complete with its own bar. And no, UK readers, it isn’t called Lineker’s and doesn’t do a decent fry-up.
6. Become an interior decorator
After a hard day’s adventuring, sometimes you just want a comfortable night in. If your Free Company (which is basically a guild) has saved for its own private house, you can get a room of your own to decorate with an extensive range of items and home comforts. Or, if you’re really loaded you can buy the whole house yourself. In either case, the next step is to throw a private party. Maybe mine is too private? No one’s turned up. Is it the hat?
7. Play Triple Triad
One of the most popular pastimes in Eorzea (and in FFVIII of course) is getting together for a few rounds of the card game Triple Triad. Simple enough on the surface to easily enjoy, and yet bafflingly complex and rewarding should you choose to get really involved. May need a bigger table though for a high roller like me though. “Goddamn it guys, stop cramping me…”
8. Go farming
If you’re not bothered by home comforts or card games, you could always become one with the land and take up a life of farming among the sunny fields of La Noscea. As well as all of your typical combat-focused classes, there are also crafting and gathering classes to try, with extensive quest lines of their own.
9. Get glam
This one is for those of you with strong fashion sense, because sometimes you’re just far too fabulous to get your hands dirty. As any roleplayer knows, sometimes the best gear isn’t the best looking, and you have to suffer being butt ugly in the name of better stats. Worry not, beautiful people, because in FFXIV any wearable item can be Glamoured onto another, taking on its striking appearance. And yes, thanks, this is a big look right now.
10. Get drunk at Bronze Lake
With its steamy baths, beautiful views and creepy dude who keeps insisting you help oil him, Camp Bronze Lake is easily one of Eorzea’s most memorable locations. It’s the perfect place to soak your battle-ravaged muscles, and sample the local vino. All of it.
11. Ride the Fat Chocobo
Just look at its adorably bloated face! Available as part of the special edition, the Fat Chocobo is one of FFXIV’s most iconic mounts. He merrily waddles along, endlessly chomping at the Gyshal Greens dangling in front of his face. He even gets his own theme music, a bastardised version of the series’ classic chocobo song, complete with comical trombones.
12. Find the secret muscleman cave
I’m not sure why this exists, but I’m glad it does. Hidden in a cave just outside the Forgotten Springs of Southern Thanalan, you’ll find a group of fitness fanatics happily getting hench together, feeling the burn. Get a little closer, though, and they’ll show you what they’re made of, happily posing for you. You’re already on the way there, aren’t you?
13. Watch the sunrise
During your stay in Eorzea be sure just to stand still for a moment, tilt your head upwards at that big fiery ball, and watch. FFXIV has some of the most mesmerizing sky boxes I’ve seen in an MMO. Littered with stars at night, wispy clouds by day, and burning gold at dawn. I’m in love every time I look up.
14. Get together
Travelling solo is all well and good, but even better things can happen when you’re rolling as a group. The FFXIV community is one of the most helpful and friendly I’ve encountered, even if you’re a colossal noob, so it’s well worth joining a Free Company and taking camping trips with your new friends. Who knows, if one thing leads to another you could even find yourself with an in-game husband or wife.
15. Hunt big game
Yearn for a life of danger? Give hunting a go and bag yourself a big prize. Marks and battle leves are scattered around the world and vary from giant ladybirds to the hideous, Cthulhu-like Mindflayer (as friendly as he sounds). You’ll earn seals which you can trade in for rewards if you manage to take them down. I’m a wuss though, so tend to stick to tackling leftover Figgy Puddings like this guy.
16. Have a gentlemanly adventure
The star attraction of Final Fantasy XIV is the fantastic Hildebrand questline that sees you helping out a comical gentleman detective on his misadventures through Eorzea. Filled with plot twists and the kind of slapstick humour that actually had me laughing, it’s worth playing through the main story just so you get to this. Exceptional stuff.
17. Look Heavensward
Finally, trek through the snowy fields of Coerthas for this glorious view of the holy city of Ishgard, and a glimpse of what’s in store from the Heavensward Expansion later this spring. Soon we’ll be getting an inside look at those intricate towers, assuming they remain in one piece…