Fans of both MMOs and Final Fantasy most likely have heard and at some point played Final Fantasy 14 and its expansions. As with expected from a franchise MMO, this Square Enix RPG has fan-favorite signatures such as the iconic Job System, memorable characters, captivating storylines, and an outstanding soundtrack.
Overall, fans consider FF14 one of the best things to have come out of both Square Enix and the MMO space. However, with one reboot, three expansions, and a fourth expansion underway, how would fans rate FF14‘s many iterations?
10 A Realm Reborn: Self-Aware And Into New Life
Essentially, A Realm Reborn formally “corrects” the underwhelming original FF14 release. The story begins at the end of the Sixth Astral Era, back when the Garlean Empire launched a full-scale assault that culminated in the use of an ancient magic Meteor. This magic would force the moon Dalamud to descend and release its prisoner, the Primal Bahamut, that will purge all life in Eorzea.
Unfortunately, it would take the life of almost all heroes (NPCs) in 1.0 to stop Meteor. As such, ARR officially starts when the player wakes up in a new Eorzea and soon discovers their true identity as the Warrior of Light.
It’s noteworthy to give credit to Square Enix’s handling of ARR‘s story. Instead of simply “restarting” the game, the team managed to salvage the original FF14 story and segue a means to add a restart while at the same time paying homage to players of 1.0.
9 A Realm Reborn: Square Enix MMO Done Right
In the context of 2013, ARR easily bests the other expansions with its highest achievement: redeeming the disastrous reception of FF14 1.0. However, in the context of FF 14 today, ARR simply provides the framework of patch upon patch of its unique MMO formula.
Players gain access to eight Classes that can evolve into Jobs. Additionally, players can switch Classes (and carry over special skills) at any point. Moreover, ARR‘s combat shuffles the traditional MMO formula by focusing on juggling resources, CDs, and combos.
At this time, ARR also captures player interest with its console compatibility. Despite the intensive nature of its combat mechanics, players can perfectly enjoy ARR with a controller. As such, aside from the story overhaul, ARR‘s console-compatible, high-attention MMO gameplay easily makes it a standout game for its time.
8 Stormblood: Enter The Morally Grey
Unlike the other expansions, Stormblood gets praise for its focus on the morally grey. Its story revolves around rebellions within the Eorzean state of Ala Mhigo and the Far Eastern Doma against a conquering Garlean Empire. However, instead of being a standard “resistance good, empire bad” story, Stormblood tackles more of the human condition that revolves around this tale.
As such, Stormblood has a delightful cast of characters with equally-valid personal stakes in the expansion. Additionally, players would love Stormblood‘s slate of villains equally-invested in their goals. Sadly, despite its solid ending, Stormblood did drag the story too often for players to properly enjoy the experience as a whole.
7 Stormblood: PVP Focus, Swimming Became Underwhelming
Being the “second” expansion after ARR, it makes sense for Stormblood to ease on rapid innovations. As such, aside from the underwhelming swimming mechanic, its biggest gameplay changes come in two fronts. Firstly, the Samurai Job makes a welcome addition for a fairly balanced melee DPS. Additionally, the Red Mage finally gives much-needed mobility to magic-users.
However, players do criticize Stormblood for its revamp on major combat mechanics. Essentially, Stormblood majorly “simplifies” combat and PVP by combining some interrelated abilities. In turn, others would say Stormblood‘s PVP focus made combat more repetitive and less challenging for overall PVE.
6 Heavensward: Take To The Skies
Of all early FF14 expansions, Heavensward easily trumps the others for its robust improvement on ARR aside from stylish outfits. Essentially, Heavensward sends the Warrior of Light to find refuge in the icy lands of Ishgard where they get involved in an ancient feud between humans, beastmen, and dragonkin. Without spoilers, this deep dive into a new a new region of Eorzea is standard Final Fantasy at its core.
However, despite its attempts at innovation, Heavensward does falter in terms of player experience. For instance, to ensure players become familiar with major players in the story, Square Enix did require all players to finish all content prior to Heavensward. Additionally, even the Jobs had to grind in previous story zones to meet the level cap requirement to take on Heavensward and its quests.
5 Heavensward: Testing Ideas, Innovation
As with other “first” expansions, Heavensward took stride in a lot of ideas for its mechanical and visual changes. First, the new race Au Ra corresponded to the dragon theme of Heavensward. Additionally, the new Astrologian, Dark Knight, and Machinist Jobs added much-needed versatility for Classes in terms of skills and visuals. These new Jobs do come with drastic rotation changes across the existing roster of Classes, forcing players to switch up their playstyle to adapt.
Additionally, Heavensward boasted a new flying mechanic that fit well with the stunning visuals and depth of new areas such as Sohm Al and Ishgard. As such, the vast spaces of these zones also accommodated new dungeons players had to traverse in the grind from Level 40 to 50 in Heavensward. Despite criticisms towards this grind, others praised this change as a breakaway from immersion-breaking reliance on FATE events in ARR to progress to the endgame.
4 Shadowbringers: A Worthy Climactic Game-Changer
Of all FF14 expansions, Shadowbringers boasts its heaviest story yet. After the events of Stormblood, the game ups the stakes when the evil immortals Ascians begin their plan to revive their dark god by plunging the world of Hydaelyn into chaos. In order to do this, they need a cataclsym in a dimension of darkness that would spill over into Hydaelyn. As such, players have to go to this dimension, called the First, to stop the eternal light from dominating the darkness – to restore balance.
At its core, Shadowbringers combines the intricate storytelling of Heavensward with the personal stake of Stormblood. In turn, all plot points theoretically diverge in Shadowbringers. Most characters introduced in the previous expansions settle their stories in Shadowbringers, much to the joy and devastation of players. In the end, the story concludes with a climactic finish that sets up a new status quo for Endwalker.
3 Shadowbringers: A Set Up For The Future
Given the criticisms with Stormblood‘s gameplay changes, Shadowbringers once switches up overall mechanics. Essentially, the expansion reworked almost all Jobs to boost the efficacy of most kits. This change is a welcome one, considering the challenging nature of the expansion’s new dungeons. Sadly, players have qualms over the White Mage and healing, as most Healers seem to have very similar kits in the expansion.
Regardless, Shadowbringers boasts endgame content that continues to challenge the existing meta. In turn, players can feel satisfied in both training for Endwalker and the sheer grind for new loot.
2 Endwalker: Across 10 Years
Unlike other MMOs, it seems Endwalker will put an end to FF14‘s ongoing 10-year storyline. Granted, Square Enix made no news that Endwalker serves as the final expansion for the game. However, director Naoki Yoshida did emphasize that this expansion provides an “end” that other MMOs can’t provide.
This sense of foreboding further adds to the excitement and thrill that Endwalker teases into its story. As per the trailer, players find themselves at the dawn of yet another end of days. This time around, the game now takes players to Hydaelyn’s remaining Moon, the Garlean capital of Garlemald, and its neighbor state of Radz-at-Han.
1 Endwalker: Enter The Sage, New Mysteries
Granted, Square Enix has yet to reveal the full extent of changes to Endwalker. However, players know enough to feel optimistic about the expansion. For instance, players can expect a new healer in the form of the Sage. This addition merits a balance change across healers, which will make the Scholar focus on shielding while the Astrologian becomes healing-oriented.
Meanwhile, players can expect a new melee DPS to appear as well. Outside combat, it seems FF14 will let players enjoy life not just in player housing but also in an island sanctuary.