Why You Should Play FFXIV
There's never been a better time to get into Final Fantasy XIV. For almost two years, it's been many players' go-to game, but it was thriving well before we started. There's so much to do and so much to see, a lot of which is now free and doesn't require a subscription. With the entire base game, A Realm Reborn, and the highly regarded first expansion, Heavensward, available in the free trial, you owe it to yourself to give FFXIV a chance.
Final Fantasy XIV's story remains the best reason to play. Much as in a good single-player RPG, much of the narrative unfolds in cinematic cutscenes, and its mature themes touch on everything from loss to redemption. Square Enix does a good job of making the members of the large cast come off as real people, and some of the main characters have undergone believable changes over the years. It's only gotten better since launch. The music is also consistently amazing, and, well, all the characters are just frickin' beautiful.
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Beyond that, Final Fantasy XIV has the friendliest community of any major MMORPG. That's not to say you won't stumble across the occasional toxic jerk, but based on personal experience, they're nowhere near as common as they are in World of Warcraft's heroic dungeons or The Elder Scrolls Online's Veteran content. FFXIV even has a commendation system for rewarding players who are especially skilled or helpful, so there's some incentive to be kind.
FFXIV does have an endgame loot grind, but it never feels as essential as it does in a game like World of Warcraft. You can play FF14 largely as you would any single-player RPG—aside from the fact that you do have to participate in some raids or dungeons to progress the story—but it doesn't pressure you to participate. That's partially because there's such a ridiculously wide range of other things to do:
1. Conduct many raids and trials
2. Participating in player housing
3. Participate in rich crafting scene
4. Challenge other players to several rounds of mahjong
5. Participate in various forms of instantiation of PvP
6. Join the hunt against the mighty open-world boss
7. Fight your Chocobo with other players
And that's not even touching on the glamour system, which allows you to dress up your character in virtually any way you want. Some players call the glamour system the "true" endgame. Best of all, you can do all this and level every single combat and crafting class on the same character. To play another class, you simply need to equip the weapon associated with that class. And you should do everything on one character, too: There's really no reason to make a traditional "alt" in Final Fantasy XIV.
FFXIV also may not satisfy you if you're looking for a deep challenge unless you're willing to devote time to endgame "extreme" and "savage" content. Even then, most of the normal content is relatively easy compared to what you'll find in, say, World of Warcraft, and most of the biggest challenges rely on knowing when to stand in a specific spot. A single misstep can often mean the difference between life and death. On the bright side, this is partly what fuels the comparatively friendly atmosphere: You can often correct a poorly performing player with a smart piece of advice.