When I left Final Fantasy XIV over the summer, though I had a mostly fine time with the game, I wasn’t sure when or even if I’d get back to it. At the time, I was keen on getting some final use out of my Fallout 76 sub, and once that was done, I really wanted to find something else on which to focus. My attempts led me through a bunch of different games, with none of them quite finding solid ground, for several weeks. Eventually I set my sights back on FFXIV. Though nothing like Fallout 76, I hoped it would provide something similar – long-term immersion in a world worth exploring.
Excited at the thought, I loaded up the game (still the free trial version) to something less exciting: account information that I had forgotten! Not thinking ahead when I created my first account a few months ago, I used a throwaway name and email, and I didn’t save any of that information. Not wanting to deal with a long-winded recovery process and with regrets to my amazing Roegadyn archer Early Squirrel, I started over with a new game account. After going through the normal rigmarole which such, and after diligently saving all my new info this time, I debated recreating Early Squirrel but instead started up a new life in Eorzea as a Hyur Midlander gladiator named Naomi Fairwind.
When reading all that I could about the game, one of the things that I apparently glazed over was that new characters have different starting areas depending on their class. As an archer the first time around, I started out in Gridania, the capital of a forest region called Thanalan. This led me to meet two main characters named Yda and Papalymo, who I then presumed, would guide me further. But, I stopped playing before their inclusion in Early Squirrel’s story progressed. (I spent most of Early’s playthrough focused on progression within the Archer’s Guild). With Naomi, however, I started in a desert town called Ul’dah, capital of a region called the Black Shroud; and I eventually met up with a different main character, Thancred. This realization set off a little light bulb: three different introductions meant that I needed three different characters to see through each. Or, at least that’s what my brain thought.
Having not gotten very far in the story with Early and forgotten how to play in detail, I took my time with Naomi and all that was asked of her. One thing I did remember was that the game was loaded with the brim with sidequests and that it was easy to get lost in doing them. With Naomi, I figured I’d focus on just the main scenario quests (MSQs) and her gladiator training. This approach worked well, and it made me realize that, I didn’t actually enjoy being a gladiator. (After reaching a couple dungeons, it turned out that I’m not very good at being a classic tank, though I do like how the game sets up that role.) So, when the game invited me to try out another role, I went with a DPS one, the pugilist. In this role I felt much more comfortable, and I loved whacking my enemies into infinity. Plus, the pugilist’s guild story line (each guild has its own) was truly wonderful to play through.
When Naomi reached character level 30 and completed a level 20 quest in which she received a mount (finally!), my brain clicked back to that little thought about have three characters for three different starting story lines. And so, I set Naomi’s adventures aside and created an Au Ra Xaela arcanist named Inyx Ura.
With Inyx, I started the game in the seafaring city of Limsa Lominsa. I had briefly visited the city with Naomi as part of a quest but didn’t spend any time navigating its twisty, multi-leveled routed. When it was time to really explore the city with Inyx, the process took me the better part of a session with the game. Once it was all said and done, I fell head over heels for it. Limsa Lominsa was just so different from the obliquely familiar settings of both Gridania and Ul’dah – it was lively, unusual and interesting. Its surrounding region, La Noscea, was also a treat with rolling hills, watery valleys, and lots to explore. Inyx arrived in Limsa Lominsa by ship (rather than by cart with the other two starting stories), and in my mind, that tied Inyx to the sea, to independence, and to being a fierce mage. Speaking of which, playing as an arcanist with summoning abilities was pretty darn fun, too. It helped that I had gained a much better sense of how combat worked in the game, thanks to time spent with Early and Naomi. In addition to working through the MSQs in La Noscea and eventually meeting up yet another main character named Y’shtola, Inyx also completed several rounds of training the arcanist’s guild (good story line, but I like the pugilists’ one much better). She also got her chocobo mount, of course.
When Inyx hit that same level 30/20 situation, I had a firm debate with myself about starting, or rather re-starting, another character in Thanalan. I had developed a strong internal connection to Inyx, more so than with Naomi, and I thought that maybe it would be best if I just focus on her journey. But…no. That nagging three stories, three characters nagged at the back of my skull, and I knew it wouldn’t go silent until I had seen that through. And so, I welcomed into the fold another Roegadyn archer, Nimble Mist.
As much as I loved Early Squirrel way back when, I was not blown away by the archer’s mechanics. In order to start in the game in Gridania, I could have also chosen to be a lancer, another melee DPS class like the pugilist, only one with more reach; or a conjurer, a mage with a healing focus. Neither sounded appealing in the moment, so archer it was. Nimble and I set off in Gridania, and I mostly followed in the same footsteps as I had with Early, this time sticking closely to MSQs and guild training. As I hadn’t gotten far with Early’s archer’s guild training, I was delightfully surprised at both the abilities Nimble received through it and its own story, which rivaled that of the pugilist’s guild. If I had to rank the classes I’ve played so far, archer would sit in third place behind pugilist and arcanist and before gladiator. I have a much better understanding of how the class works within the confines of the game, but it’s not very enjoyable to run solo. Its mechanics work much better with a team, as I discovered in the dungeons that must be completed as part of early MSQs. Regardless, I persevered, again met Yda and Papalymo, revisited a number of story points, and uncovered new ones. By the time I reached that magic 30/20 level and received Nimble’s mount, I must admit that I felt a little, well…a little burnt out. Serves me right, I suppose.
In hindsight, I don’t outright regret my choice to run three new FFXIV characters. The process taught me tons about the game, how things worked, what’s worth doing and what can be ignored (initially), and what playstyle is right for me (for now). But, it might have been a good idea to give each character a little more breathing room, rather than running one after another. The three individual starting stories merge at one point, and then players start playing the game proper, so to speak. It was at that instance of merging that feelings of burning out set in, especially with Nimble. With her, I skipped over dialogue and just wanted to get her to the same point as I had with Naomi and Inyx so that I could call things “done.” Not that I’m done with the game, oh no no no. While I am taking break, I heartily intend to pick it up again with one of my trio. Which one that will be? Stay tuned to find out!
All images, including lede, were taken by author during PS5 gameplay of Final Fantasy XIV [free trial] (© Square Enix).