Fifteen years of World of Warcraft has led us back to where it all started. WoW Classic, or vanilla, is incredibly popular. I know because the second it was released I had friends trying to peer pressure me to pick it back up and jump back in as if I were in high school all over again.
Part of me was tempted. I would love to relive the glory days of vanilla and rock out in Ironforge in my Stormrage gear. However, the realist 33-year old version of myself knew that this was impossible. I started to think about what it took to get all that gear, raid at the peak of Molten Core, Black Wing Lair, AQ40, Naxx and so on… I just can’t do it. Not again.
There are a lot of reasons for me to poke holes in WoW Classic. Not only would I be re-subbing to a game I played for fifteen years only to reward them for recycled content, but I have learned that you can really never go back. Nostalgia is a very powerful emotion, but there is no way that the 33-year old version of myself is going to feel the same as I did when I was in high school.
Even if the game is the same, and even if I had the same time I used to, I am different and I need a game that keeps up with the ways I have changed.
Enter Final Fantasy XIV (FFXIV).
Let’s start with the basic basics of any MMO. Leveling is really the game before the game. Or in my case, it was often the game that prevented me from playing the game (altaholic anonymous meetings please).
Present me vs past me prefers a rich leveling experience. Something that keeps me engaged in what I am doing. Whereas teenager me was willing to pull all-nighters and zerg to level cap. Sometimes I get that same urge, to just blitz through content and take on end-game content, but playing FFXIV has taught me that a rich story with deep lore is actually my preferred route to leveling.
While questing and grinding were a BIG part of my WoW experience, I can honestly say I have done that at a very minimal level in FFXIV.
FFXIV has a Main Story Quest (MSQ) that your first character follows, which takes you deep into the world and makes your character the focal point of the story. I have not done much questing or grinding outside of the MSQ. This is largely due to the fact that the MSQ exposes you to dungeons and bosses on a regular basis. It also credits you with the proper experience to level your first character without doing much of anything else.
The result is an incredibly rewarding leveling experience that connects you to the game and community in a way that WoW never did for me, despite my fifteen year investment. To put this in perspective, I have been paying FFXIV for 5 months and I uninstalled WoW and the Blizzard launcher after a week of playing FFXIV. JUST. FROM. LEVELING.
I can see where the feelings and reviews between WoW and FFXIV start to come into play here. To me, there are two very distinct dungeon experiences to be had. There is the leveling and early endgame dungeons, which really do not require optimal gear to get through and then there is endgame dungeoning like the Mythic+ experience WoW offers.
When it comes to leveling or early endgame dungeons, FFXIV forces the player to embrace them as part of the MSQ. The dungeon is then given its purpose from the story, which makes defeating the dungeon rewarding based on the effect in the MSQ. It also grants gear to help make the overall leveling experience a bit easier.
In WoW, leveling and early endgame dungeons do not require much effort at all. In fact, if we remove WoW Classic from the equation, dungeons are a straight up joke. If you add other in-game benefits such as refer a friend, they just become a vehicle to zerg to level cap, and offer very little reward outside of that. Gear granted is obsolete quickly as well.
To that end, the dungeon experience in FFXIV is much better. The alternative is true for endgame, limit pushing dungeons. WoW’s Mythic+ system is great if you can find a core group with common interest in pushing dungeon content. This is one aspect of FFXIV that is currently lacking today, but it is also hard to tell if the player base would embrace something like this.
If you play an MMO for high-end dungeon content, then WoW may still be your answer between the two options.
The comparison between WoW and FFXIV becomes a bit more nuanced with raid content. Both offer multiple tiers, a variety of content, and a robust Rolodex of classes/jobs to enjoy it with. However, I do personally feel the FFXIV has the edge of modern day WoW.
The reason for this is pretty simple. I know when new content is coming and when to prepare for it. FFXIV has essentially a 2-year cycle per expansion, with new patches coming out regularly introducing new dungeons, trials, and raids. In addition to building on existing story and lore, these give players content they can count on to keep the game fresh. WoW is much less regimented in this way, and WOD certainly lowered expectations for Blizzard when it comes to quality content. Honestly, if it weren’t for WOD I never would have tried FFXIV.
The major drawback to FFXIV’s raiding scene is that it can be somewhat difficult to get into, especially for those of us who like running with a consistent group. The reason for this is that raid groups are not necessarily formed within a Free Company, which is FFXIV’s version of a guild. Instead, to find a stable or ‘static’ raid group, you need to leverage forums such as Reddit or even discord. Otherwise, you can PUG, which is also fine, but can be more painful if you like and enjoy pushing new or more challenging content.
WoW is better than FFXIV for PvP. I cannot even try to argue the other way. All that being said, WoW’s PvP isn’t exactly the greatest either. So if you are looking for a PvP rich MMO, you’ll likely need to look elsewhere.
So here is the deal. I have very, very fond memories of WoW. This range from release, all the way up to WOD. I played every class in end game content (except for Rogue). I have officered guilds, I have GMed successful raiding guilds, I have parsed purple and I have grinded for 15 years’ worth of loot. And after all of that, WOD drove me straight into the arms of another MMO.
WoW Classic does not give me hope for the future of the franchise. It only tells me that its best days are behind it.
FFXIV requires your first character play through the MSQ from start to finish. This means that they have not condensed any of the storied content or MSQ from when the game was released. I played through A Realm Reborn all the way up to Shadowbringers. My biggest takeaway has been that the game got better with EVERY expansion. Dungeons got better, raids got better, the story got better, and the current content has been the BEST.
I miss my Panda Monk, but the future is brighter as a Gunbreaker main. I finally have a reason to be excited to play a MMO again.
I finally have a reason to be excited for the future of a MMO.