You want to play Final Fantasy 14, but you don’t know where to start. You have many questions, and no answers. Allow us to be your guide. Starting FFXIV is a bit more complicated than most other MMOs, mostly due to the different platforms it’s available on and the massive but restrictive free trial. Let’s start there.
FF14 Platforms: how to pick
FF14 is currently available on PlayStation, Windows, and Mac. These are treated as effectively separate games that happen to share your account data, so note you’ll need to rebuy the game if you decide to change platform (assuming you end up paying – a lot of FF14 is free, especially at the start). On PC, you also have the option of using Steam or going through Square Enix directly.
Things are relatively simple on PS4 and PS5, simply navigate to the PS Store, search for FF14, and scroll down to the Free Trial section. Note that if you have ever tried the game before – an hour on the PS3 version back in the mists of time, like our own Dave, for example – the free trial may not be available. If you’ve started it before, you’ll probably need to go through the process of logging into FF14’s account system at the Mog Station and finding where it all left off. If you never paid for anything, you should be able to keep using that account with the new trial.
PC & Mac
This is a little easier as you can take the official Square Enix route through the Free Trial website and it’ll take you through most of the steps. Do the steps, create the various accounts, and you’re good to go.
Note that Square Enix treats Steam, non-Steam Windows, and Mac as completely separate platforms. You can have access to the same characters on each of those, but expansions need to be bought separately. This is also true if you want to play on console and PC. Pick one and go with it.
Once you’ve signed up for the various accounts and got access to the free trial, you’re good to play. This video recommended by Square Enix has an explanation of what happened before the game starts, though the vast majority of its content is later shown in-game. There was a big war. It ended in an everyone-dies-stalemate because an all-destroying dragon came out of an orb. An old man and his mates stopped it.
FF14 Free Trial: The restrictions
Here is Square Enix’s list of in-game restrictions that come with the FF14 free trial versus having a normal, paid account. We’ve put comments next to the ones that actually matter.
– Free Trial Players can create up to eight (8) playable characters, restricted to one (1) playable character per World. Remember that one playable character can play every class, and do every bit of content, without the need for another.
– Free Trial account characters have all their levels capped at level sixty (60). Currently this is roughly a third of the game, give or take. Doing all the ‘fun stuff’ there will take around 100 hours, minimum, and much more if you find various activities (crafting and gathering, doing side quests, etc.) fun.
– Free Trial account characters can possess a maximum of 300,000 gil (in-game currency). This is not a lot of money, though far more than you’ll need for leveling. Given you can’t sell or buy items from other players, it’s not a huge deal.
– Free Trial Players cannot use the “shout,” “yell,” or “tell” in-game chat options during the Free Trial. These are common chat functions.
– Free Trial Players cannot access the in-game market board during the Free Trial.
– Free Trial Players cannot trade with other players during the Free Trial.
– Free Trial Players cannot send in-game letters using the moogle delivery service during the Free Trial.
– Free Trial Players cannot hire retainers during the Free Trial. All four of these basically restrict you from getting anything from or giving anything to other players, and are mostly measures to fight illicit activities. It will stunt some aspects of the game, but is unlikely to be a huge hit.
– Free Trial Players can join a Linkshell or Cross-World Linkshell if invited but cannot create a new Linkshell or Cross-World Linkshell during the Free Trial.
– Free Trial Players cannot create or join a Free Company during the Free Trial. This is a shame. Free Companies are the main in-game social tool. Basically just a fancy name for a guild.
– Free Trial Players can join a party if invited or by using the Duty Finder but cannot assemble a party during the Free Trial.
– Free Trial Players cannot create or join a PvP team or participate in The Feast (Ranked Match) or The Feast (Team Ranked Match) during the Free Trial.
– Free Trial Players cannot log into the Lodestone, the official forum, or Companion application during the Free Trial.
Everything else is stuff that shouldn’t impact you at all. You also don’t have access to any content – including races, classes, areas, or jobs – from the Stormblood, Shadowbringers, or Endwalker expansions. However, the vast majority of that won’t be relevant until you hit those points in the story and you can always swap your race to one of the ones from later expansions if and when you buy them, for a small additional cost.
In terms of actual content, it’s around two JRPGs worth of questing, storytelling, ups, and downs. The base game, A Realm Reborn, is certainly the weakest part of the whole, but it’s necessary to set the stage for the brilliance that follows. While it’s unlikely many still think of Heavensward as the game’s storytelling high point, it certainly has its incredible moments.
Gameplay-wise, it’s an early-game MMO, so don’t expect incredibly in-depth or action-packed rotations, but it’ll complicate nicely by the time you’re hitting max level. There have also been massive improvements to much of the content in A Realm Reborn, streamlining the main story and making the dungeons more fun and completable solo.
Do I need friends?
Ideally, in life, yes. For FF14, not so much. Joining communities can be done outside of the game, bypassing the need for various in-game chat features, through Discord and the like. In addition, the entire main story up to level 50 can now be completed solo with the help of NPC adventurers in dungeons. If you don’t want to, you won’t need to discuss anything with a real person for months on end. This is an area where Square Enix has promised continued improvements, so expect even more of the game to be playable solo in the coming months and years.
FF14 Expansions: which do I need?
None of them until you reach them in the story. A Realm Reborn and Heavensward, the content of the free trial, give access to 13 combat classes, and every non-combat one (crafters and gatherers). The remaining combat classes can only be unlocked at a higher level anyway, so you’re sorted. If you start to want to exit the Free Trial (for social reasons, for example) but you’re still progressing through its content you can pick up a less expensive pack that does just that.
Should I enable the FF14 one-time password?
Yes, ideally. Account theft isn’t rampant in FF14, but it does happen. Enabling one-time passwords on a trial account is pretty easy, thankfully. Square Enix sells a physical security token for $14.99, but the software token app that’s a free download off the iOS App Store and Android Play Store is probably the better option. There are step-by-step instructions on how to activate a software authenticator here.
Paying for FF14 game-time
99% of FF14 players pay for gametime as you would expect – a regularly charged fee set up through their account. That’s what most of the bits and pieces during account set up will point you towards. Don’t worry about that ‘Crysta’ stuff, it’s a legacy of the previous version of the game, though it does still work. It’s worth noting that unlike WoW or EVE Online, there is no way to ‘earn’ game time by playing. You’ll either have access because you paid your sub with real money, or you won’t.
However, there are two tiers of subscription, and unless you have some very specific needs, the cheaper ‘Entry’ subscription will be more than enough. As noted, one FF14 character can do just about everything, so it’s unlikely you’ll need more than one, or perhaps two to play with different friend groups in different regions.
FF14 Worlds and servers: how to pick
FF14 is split into Worlds, which are part of Data Centers. Each Data Center is for a specific region, with multiple sets for each. In North America, the Data Centers are Aether, Primal, and Crystal. For Europe, Chaos and Light. Oceania has just one, Materia, and Japan has three, Elemental, Gaia, and Mana. Which World you’re on within a Data Center doesn’t matter much unless you specifically want to play with friends in a Free Company.Data Center is a little more important. You want one in your region because it will keep your lag minimal. Some Data Centers are known for certain things – there’s a lot of role playing on Crystal, for example, while the majority of French players are on Chaos. This is kind of random and worth investigating if you care, but there’s plenty of everything, everywhere. Plus, moving Worlds can be done for $18 USD.
Finally, all Worlds within a Data Center are connected for matchmaking purposes. You can also literally visit them with your character to see people, attend events, or what-have-you. Square Enix is also currently working on a system to allow for Data Center travel in a similar manner.
This is roughly where we’ll leave it to you, because from this point they’re your choices, and they’re also completely modifiable. Your choice of starting class will determine where you start within the world and the opening 15 levels of quests. Beyond that you can easily switch to other classes through quests in-game, and you can change how your character looks through various systems as well. Here’s some general advice:
Meteor-border quests are MSQ quests. They tell the story of FF14. Progressing through these is how you level up, get access to new content, and such.Quests with a blue icon give access to new systems and content – dungeons, hairdressers, raids, and so on. You should do these as they pop up and never ignore them.Class quests give you abilities – the game will let you know in the top left when there’s a new one you can accept. Do them.Try to avoid spoilers in cinematics for expansions you haven’t reached yet, on YouTube or in the client or what-have-you. Unlike most MMOs, the story is part of the main appeal of FF14, and some of the big swerves (and, ho-boy, are there some) are best experienced unspoiled.
What is the FF14 MSQ?
The Main Scenario Quests (MSQ) are mandatory obje ctives that are necessary to progress. Everything from particular abilities to entire zones can be locked behind the MSQ, so staying up-to-date is important. Thankfully, there’s a bit of the UI that’ll always point out where to go next. Unlike many other MMOs, FF14’s storyline is half of its appeal — so don’t look at it as a race to the endgame.
What is the FF14 Hall of the Novice?
For aspiring adventurers that haven’t played an MMO before, the Hall of the Novice is an excellent place to learn the basics. Once you reach level 15, there’ll be an option to take on several challenges in the Hall of the Novice. You’ll learn about how tank, healer, and DPS roles should work together in dungeons, along with how many of the combat mechanics work. Again, this is pretty basic stuff, but many Final Fantasy fans jump into FF14 without prior MMO experience, so it’s worth checking out if you’re in that camp
Written by Ben Barret and Kyle Campbell on behalf of GLHF.