FFXIV is a much more relaxing experience than most live games I play. While there is gear to grind, it’s usually pretty accessible. You repeat dungeons, raids, and boss fights to acquire currency. Turn around and spend that currency, and boom, you’ve got a nice new set of pants. There are exceptions (the ultimate weapons have their own years-long questline to complete). But mostly the game is about finishing the story. At least for me.
Endwalker, the fourth full FFXIV expansion, will apparently lean even harder into the simple life this fall. It’s adding a new sort of “Island Sanctuary” system. Wherein, players can “Raise animals, cultivate the earth, and learn to live off the land!” FFXIV has long featured a surprising amount of content for crafters and gatherers — giving them endgame crafting raids and community projects — but this sounds like full-on Stardew Valley. I’m here for that.
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FFXIV excels at making me feel like I belong. Part of that is the outstanding, friendly, and welcoming community of players. Part of that is the writing. The last expansion, Shadowbringers, in particular was helmed by Natsuko Ishikawa, who also wrote the quest line for my main class, the Dark Knight, and created my favorite villain in the game’s multiyear history, Emet-Selch. Her words and characters have been a key part of my playthrough almost since the beginning.
One thing FFXIV does not always accomplish is make me feel like I have space to myself. In-game real estate is cutthroat. More gets added every expansion, but it gets scooped up immediately. There are apartments to decorate, sure, but they’re not physically present in the game world. It’s not the same.
A little island home is just what the chirurgeon ordered. I fell off Animal Crossing: New Horizons pretty quickly last year, just like New Leaf before it. I just can’t take the 15-minute check-ins those games impose. I don’t want to schedule my life around a game. I want to be able to play it when and for as long as I like.
FFXIV has an incredible breadth and depth of content at this point. There’s always something more to do after I check back on crops, animals, etc. I can hold back a god while my friends rush to defeat it. I can heal folks through Heaven-on-High while we expand our Job horizons. And when it’s all done, I know I’m better prepared to aid impeccably written in-game heroes at the next patch.
Endwalker will expand on that even further, while also adding new ways to just “be” in that world. It’s not a complete replacement for the more technical games I obsess over: Warframe and Monster Hunter and, goddammit, a BattleTech campaign I’ve modded to include shit like realistic pilot injuries. I like games with lots of preparation for the eventual battle. I like feeling as though I can “get one over” on the monsters and masterminds. FFXIV is unique, however, in the way it gives me time to chill out after the encounter. That’s why it’s held such a special place in my heart for so long.