I’ve been investing a lot of time into Final Fantasy XIV recently, Square Enix’s MMORPG with a Final Fantasy skin. Much like the IP it is based on, there is a lot of nuance to its mechanics, with a lot of important details being left to be discovered rather than overtly explained. As such, the new player experience can be quite rough as you become accustomed to the systems and mechanics the game has in place. Personally speaking, there were a number of mechanics and progression systems which I had no clue about and many hours in I still find myself learning more and more about the game. As we get closer to Patch 5.3: Reflections in Crystal, the patch which streamlines some of the early game so players can more easily get to the meat of the game (Heavensward and onwards), there will undoubtedly be a wave of new players wanting to give the game a go. If you’re one such person or just a casual player who wants to learn more about the nuanced nature of FFXIV, I’m here to give you some tips and tricks to make your move into Eorzea a smooth one so you can more easily become the Warrior of Light!
As you’re starting out FFXIV, you will be given the choice for your starter class (or as they are known in-game, your ‘job’). What class you choose determines where you start out. Additionally, each starter class has an advanced form which features more potent abilities that better suit the role the class is trying to fill. For instance, the Conjurer will be upgraded to the White Healer Mage. The starting classes, their more advanced roles and their associated starting area, are as follows (Tank, Healer, DPS):
|Job||Advanced Job||Starting Area|
|Gladiator (GLA)||Paladin (PLD)||Ul’dah|
|Pugilist (PGL)||Monk (MNK)||Ul’dah|
|Marauder (MRD)||Warrior (WAR)||Limsa Lominsa|
|Rogue (ROG)||Ninja (NIN)||Limsa Lominsa|
|Lancer (LNC)||Dragoon (DRG)||Gridania|
|Archer (ARC)||Bard (BRD)||Gridania|
|Conjurer (CNJ)||White Healer Mage (WHM)||Gridania|
|Thaumaturge (THM)||Black Mage (BLM)||Ul’dah|
|Arcanist (ACN)||Scholar (SCH)/Summoner (SMN)||Limsa Lominsa|
The starting areas don’t really decide too much as you’ll only spend a small amount of time there in the grand scheme of things, but if you don’t really have a preference for class/role, I’d personally recommend a Gridania starting class, as the area is quite easy to navigate. Limsa Lominsa is easily the most frustrating starting area as the level design really isn’t up to par. Ul’dah is fine but will take a little getting used to. Technically, Gridania has the longest string of starting quests but the difference is so minimal I wouldn’t worry about it, unless you wanted to get the most EXP before branching out to other areas.
Unlike most MMORPGs, FFXIV’s levelling is mostly dependent on the story progression in the form of Main Scenario Quests (aka MSQ). This is where FFXIV really separates itself. If you try to level by grinding on enemy kills in areas you will find yourself spending a lot of time but not making much progress. You really need to focus on questing in order to level your first class. The MSQs are balanced in a way that you should keep up in terms of levels and the quest levels span from 1 all the way to 80 in Shadowbringers, the latest expansion. In this sense, FFXIV is very much a singleplayer-focused game until you hit the endgame. While there are a number of co-operative dungeons and trials which are a part of the main story, outside of those the game focuses on your story as the Warrior of Light. As such, I don’t actually advise skipping through everything. You can kind of get away with it during the preliminary stages of the game (A Realm Reborn, which is 1-50) but once you beat the main story in ARR [A Realm Reborn] and move to the post-game story, skipping is not recommended as the story begins to all connect, and this remains a consistent feature of the writing all the way through the rest of the MSQ content.
If you’ve come from virtually any other MMO, your instincts when seeing the sheer number of optional quests in FFXIV would be to complete them all as that is the most optimal way to level. This is not how you play FFXIV in the slightest, which can be quite a shock for most people – it certainly was for me. While it is okay to do a side quest here or there, don’t ever focus on these quests. They act more as filler content and do not exist as a primary source of levelling. The easiest way to figure which quests are worth doing are as follows:
- If the quest has a flame around it then it is MSQ and it is mandatory
- If the quest has an exclamation mark with a + and a blue background, that is a side quest that unlocks something of import – ranging from new systems to additional dungeons, raids and trials
- If it has an exclamation mark with a yellow background, it is a bog-standard side quest which can largely be ignored
This one sounds pretty silly but it’s something that is quite easy to forget about. For the uninitiated, Aetheryte is basically the name of fast travel points. Fast travel costs a small amount of Gil, depending on the distance of the destination from your current point. When you are in a town or an Aetheryte, you are in a Sanctuary, so there will be no enemies attacking you and logging out here will allow you to instantly log out, rather than wait 20 seconds as you would outside of a sanctuary. Within the main towns, there exists a second form of fast travelling with Aetheryte Shards. Each hub has a number of smaller Aetherytes placed around and attuning to these allows you to travel from one shard to another instantly. This makes doing job quests much easier as returning to your job’s guild is a quick and easy endeavour. Attuning to every Aetheryte Shard in each hub is highly recommended as this also grants you access to teleports that aren’t associated with a specific shard, like the airship ports and exit gates. While this seems relatively minimal now, as you do quests that have objectives near the entrances to these hubs you will be glad that you put in the five minutes (max) attuning to all these shards.
As a part of the second type of quests we have the job quests. These are quests which are exclusive to each class and house their own story and skill progression. In most cases, a new job quest is available every 5 levels, with the level 30 job quest being vital in unlocking your advanced job (refer to the previous table). If you want to get even remotely involved in any endgame content, whether it be raiding or extreme trials, it is imperative that you do all your job quests to unlock all your skills as well as your advanced job. Please note that the advanced job only applies to jobs that start at level 1. Anything from Heavensward onwards exists as its own advanced job with no basic variant.
As previously mentioned, upon completing the level 30 job quest for any of the basic jobs in A Realm Reborn, you will unlock access to your advanced job. However, if you don’t pay close enough attention (don’t worry, it’s entirely missable) you won’t actually know how to equip your advanced job. When you look at your character sheet you’ll notice an empty slot on the bottom right of your accessory slots. This slot houses soul crystals, which dictate what advanced role you take on. Removing this crystal will make it so your currently equipped class reverts back to the basic job and the basic jobs just aren’t potent enough for the later stages of the game. Please ensure that you equip your job stone!
This part will probably house one of the more obscure mechanics. Some of the most important information in the game regarding your skills lies in the tooltips for each skill. By hovering over each skill and reading the brief description you can garner an understanding of how it should be used. For instance, when using the Red Mage (RDM), there exists two types of each spell. At a very cursory glance, you’d use the ones that deal more damage, but because the Red Mage houses a unique mechanic in the form of ‘Dualcast’, it is actually intended for you to use the weaker spell first and then use the stronger one. Why? Because the weaker spells have a considerably shorter cast time than the stronger ones and both are used to fill the class gauge (a system which basically doesn’t exist for most classes until you level past 50). By reading the tooltips you can learn the ideal rotation of abilities, including combos. Using a combo correctly can lead to a number of benefits, ranging from a flat damage increase to an extra effect added to the skill itself. In saying, this, there are some classes which exist outside of a fixed rotation. It’s up to you to figure out which rotation of abilities works best in each scenario and mastering this will allow you to maximise your damage on bosses.
Alongside the rotations exist an extra mechanic known as positionals. This mechanic almost exclusively exists for Melee DPS classes (DRG, MNK etc). When reading your tooltip as one of these classes, you may notice that it says to either use it on the ‘flank’ or ‘rear’. These positions are two very different things. When a skill says to use the flank, what it actually means is the sides of the enemy you are attacking. When the skill says rear, it means behind the boss. The easiest way to tell where the flanks are rear are is to look at the boss targeting on the floor. The part of the circle with the gap in it is the rear and to the sides of that is the flank. If you decide to become a melee DPS main it is imperative that you learn both your rotation and the associated positionals. It is for this reason that you will find most, if not all, tanks hold the bosses still in an effort to make your life much easier.
What has to be one of my favourite parts about FFXIV is how the game handles alternate classes. Where most games would have you create another character, almost locking you into playing one class unless you want to sit through the same story a hundred times, FFXIV allows you to switch jobs on the fly – so long as you’re not in an activity or combat. This system is brilliant because it means you aren’t splitting your time with characters to unlock things you’ve already unlocked. Regardless, levelling them is not always easy, especially the ones from ARR which all start at level one and need to be levelled all the way to 80. A lot of people feel the need to purchase level skips for these jobs and I can’t exactly blame them, it can be quite time consuming to level them and sometimes you just want to do endgame on an alternate job to mix things up a little. Fortunately, there are a number of ways for you to level your alternate jobs as efficiently as possible.
Once you are at a high enough level you unlock access to a system known as Duty Roulette. These basically exist as random matchmaking for the specified content and are all given daily bonuses to both EXP and Gil (the in-game currency). While you can do these on the first job that you are playing, after a certain point it’s recommended that you level something else with these while still going through the aforementioned MSQ on your main. This is because the MSQ will ensure that your main job is levelled as much as possible and the Duty Roulettes will ensure that your alternate job(s) are levelled as much as possible. There are 11 forms of Duty Roulette, the ones written in blue award the most EXP and the ones in red have extra prerequisites that aren’t easily attained so they aren’t essential to levelling:
|Expert||Level 80 + beating the Shadowbringers MSQ dungeons|
|Level 80 Dungeons||Level 80 + beating the other three Shadowbringers dungeons|
|Level 50/60/70 Dungeons||Level 50 + complete 2 or more level 50 dungeons or up|
|Leveling||Level 16 + complete the first two dungeons in FFXIV|
|Trials||Level 50 + complete two or more trials in the roulette|
|Main Scenario||Level 50 + complete the last two quests of the FFXIV base game|
|Guildhests||Level 10 + two or more Guildhests are unlocked|
|Mentor||Level 80/Item Level 455 + every dungeon/trial (including extreme)/guildhest/raid/alliance raid|
|Alliance Raids||Level 50 + two or more Alliance Raids completed|
|Normal Raids||Level 60 + at least on raid unlocked from Heavensward onward|
|Frontline (PVP)||Job Crystal must be equipped|
As you can see, there is actually quite a lot here and each of these Duty Roulettes reset each day at 1am AEST (2am AEDT). You can spend quite a while doing these alone, especially the Main Scenario as that can take close to an hour, depending on which of the two dungeons you are given – to make it worth it, you receive a massive amount of EXP at the end, usually equating to an entire level. Now you’re probably noticing that you cannot actually enter into any of these Duty Roulettes without at least being level 10. Don’t worry! There are other easy ways to get there and as soon as you unlock ‘Duty Roulette: Leveling’ your life will be much easier.
Hunting Log and Challenge Log
One of the lesser-known tools for levelling alternate jobs comes in the form of the Hunting Log and the Challenge Log. Both of these are incredibly important for levelling whatever job you wish to level, though do note that the Hunting Log only works for jobs found in ARR, anything from Heavensward onwards can only use the Challenge Log.
So how do you unlock these Logs? The Hunting Log is actually pretty simple as it unlocks fairly early if you make sure to do your job quests. The Challenge Log, on the other hand, is entirely missable but houses a huge amount of potential EXP. First, you’ll need to make sure that you have completed a quest titled ‘Call of the Sea’. It is a level 15 quest available to all three starting areas, so you aren’t going to be punished for not choosing Gridania your starting job choice. If you’ve completed that quest then you will need to head to the Limsa Lominsa Upper Decks and speak to an NPC named I’tolwann (coordinates: x11,10). She’ll give you the quest for unlocking the Challenge Log.
The Hunting Log and the Challenge Log work a little differently. Let me explain.
The Hunting Log tasks you with killing a certain amount of specific enemies. Completing each enemy awards you a chunk of EXP and after completing the ten logs on one page, you are given bonus EXP. There are five pages to complete, with the EXP reward from each log growing exponentially.
The Challenge Log is a little different, however. Rather than going for specific enemies, you are given various (and simple) objectives to complete. In doing so you will receive an EXP and Gil reward. Unlike the Hunting Log, however, the Challenge Log resets on the weekly reset which is Tuesday at 6pm (7pm AEDT). In this sense, the Challenge Log is better for sustained and recurring EXP gains, whereas the Hunting Log is better for burst, early level EXP gains.
Palace of the Dead/Heaven on High
This right here is probably the grindiest that FFXIV will ever get for the average player. Yeah, you can go for all the unique mounts from each extreme trial but your average player isn’t going to do all that. Palace of the Dead and Heaven on High are repeatable, dungeon-like activities which are designed for levelling your alternate jobs as efficiently as possible. Let’s talk about unlocking both Palace of the Dead and Heaven on High.
Palace of the Dead is available in ARR and can be unlocked upon reaching level 17. There is a quest called ‘The House That Death Built’ in New Gridania (coordinates: x12, y13.1) given by an NPC named Nojiro Marujiro. Upon completing this quest you unlock access to the Palace of the Dead. Entering the Palace of the Dead is quite simple. Head over to the Quarrymill Aetheryte (which you should have if you followed No. 3!) and speak with the Wood Wailer Captain (coordinates: x25, y20). Here you will be able to enter the Palace of the Dead. It is recommended you enter as a matched party and not a fixed party, as doing the latter means you will enter with however many people are currently in your party and the game won’t look for people the fill the other slot(s). Palace of the Dead is split up into floors, which is additionally split up into intervals of ten . On every tenth floor, you fight a boss and that marks the end of that instance. The most popular floors to run for levelling are floors 51-60, as this is the most efficient set of floors. This all good, however, because in order to unlock Heaven on High you need to have at least completed floor 50 of the Palace of the Dead, so it’s a win-win.
Heaven on High is Stormblood’s answer to Palace of the Dead. It is only recommended for levelling a job from level 60 to 70. As I just mentioned, you need to have at least completed up to floor 50 in the Palace of the Dead as well as the quest ‘Tide Goes In, Imperials Go Out’ before you can even think about unlocking Heaven on High. Once that prerequisite has been met, you can accept the quest to unlock Heaven on High. Head over to the Onokoro Aethertye in The Ruby Sea and speak to Hamakaze (coordinates: x6.2, y11.7) for the quest ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’. Upon completing this quest you can enter Heaven on High from the NPC named Kyusei near the same Aetheryte (coordinates: x21.4, y9.2). The same rules apply here, enter as a matched party and the most popular floors for efficiently gaining EXP are 21-30. Also please note that your equipped job has to be at least level 60 to enter Heaven on High and that using this place to level is only optimal until you reach level 70.
A game mechanic that stretches from ARR all the way into Shadowbringers is the Beast Tribe mechanic. These are daily quests that award EXP, Gil and reputation with the associated Tribe. Once your character is 70, which makes it eligible for the Shadowbringers Beast Tribes, you can take advantage of the newer quest mechanic introduced in this expansion – quest level scaling. This means that any given quest’s level is synced up to your job’s level and it scales the rewards accordingly. Make sure you do these each day for levelling, and you’ll also be eligible for rewards later down the line, ranging from materia (something which I’ll explain next) to mounts.
The easiest way to explain what materia is would be to describe it as gear mods. Where games like Destiny have gear mods that allow you to put unique behaviours and abilities on your gear, materia allows you to purely buff specific attributes in an effort to make your gearset as optimised as possible. Materia Melding is the act of slotting materia into any free slots your gear may have.
Now I’m going to be entirely honest, this is something that I don’t 100% understand myself but to get a cursory understanding on what to do here you need to understand which attributes are the most potent. Currently, the three attributes to meld into are Critical Hit, Direct Hit and Determination, with that last one only being a priority if the other two are maxed out. We’ll have a quick look at what these attributes do.
- Critical Hit – this determines the strength of physical attacks, magical attacks and healing spells. The higher this stat is, the higher the frequency of Critical Hits occurring becomes, drastically increasing your DPS (damage per second) and HPS (healing per second)
- Direct Hit – this exists as almost a middle ground between a standard attack roll and a critical hit. Direct hits allow you to deal a little more damage/healing than a critical hit, which is great in case your hit doesn’t roll high enough for a critical. Like the Critical Hit attribute, the higher the Direct Hit stat, the higher the frequency of a direct hit occurring
- Determination – this attribute basically acts as a blanket increase to damage and healing. While you would probably think that this would be the attribute to spec into, the potency of both Critical Hit and Direct hit is just undeniable right now and Determination should only be specced into if the other two stats are already maxed.
Additionally, melding is something that isn’t incredibly vital for the early game as you want to save your best materia for your endgame sets of armour, whether it be Best in Slot gear [BiS] for raiders or just general high-level gear for casual players. Materia can be quite expensive to procure so try not to waste them.
Overmelding/Balancing your melds
This part here is where optimising your set can become a little confusing. Each piece of gear has a hard limit to how much of one attribute can be applied to a single piece of gear. For instance, my Eden Choir Wings of Healing (current raid-tier BiS gear for my job) can have a max of 281 for both Critical Hit and Direct Hit. Now, this piece of gear came with 281 as its Critical Hit attribute already, with nothing in Direct Hit, so that would mean that I should slot in two Heavens’ Eye Materia VIII (+60 Direct Hit). If I were to slot in Savage Aim Materia VIII to this piece, I would be overmelding and not gain any benefit from that materia, but instead, be losing out on both the materia slotted and the slot itself. Learning how to balance these attributes correctly will help you a lot when optimising your gear set more and more.
Also note that this overmelding is not to be confused with the Forbidden Melds system, which I don’t understand at all.
Once you start slotting in more and more materia, you’ll find yourself running out. While you can go to the market board and buy, this becomes incredibly expensive so I would only recommend this as a last resort – plus this also depends on player-set prices, which can be inconsistent. Here are some (not all) ways to earn materia:
- Duty Roulette: Leveling @ level 80 (awards cracked stellaclusters and cracked planiclusters)
- Duty Roulette: Alliance Raids @ level 80 (awards cracked stellaclusters and cracked planiclusters)
- Hunts (awards cracked stellaclusters and cracked planiclusters)
- Beast Tribe vendors (directly purchase materia)
As you can see, there are a lot of ways to obtain cracked stellaclusters and cracked planiclusters. You can largely ignore the latter of the two as it’s the stellaclusters that we are after. Each one of these can be traded in at the materia vendor for a level eight materia (Heavens’ Eye Materia VIII, for example).
As for Elemental Hunts. These are basically massive events that happen in the Shadowbringers areas and each mob hunted has a chance to drop stellaclusters.
While there are a number of other mechanics and systems to the game, like the Golden Saucer and Crafting jobs, I’m very, very unfamiliar with them to it would be unfair of me to try and talk about them. Hopefully, with all this info you can make your journey into Eorzea and, if you like it, you stay and experience the great parts about Final Fantasy XIV.
Another thing to note. If you would like to try the game, at the time of writing, the game is free to play all the way up until level 35. However, as of 5.3 (August 11), you can play for free all the way through Heavensward and have a level cap of 60, which allows you to experience some of the more advanced rotations that permeate in the later stages of the game as well as the exceptional writing which is on display during Heavensward (my personal favourite expansion). Bring on 5.3!