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Understanding Final Final Fantasy 14

How to choose the right job, use a controller and level up in the wake of Stormblood

After a troubled 2010 launch, Final Fantasy 14 got a new lease on life. In 2013 with A Realm Reborn, Square Enix remade the MMO, tasked players with picking a job and increased the level cap of 50 and added some of the most iconic enemies in the franchise. That cap increased to 60 with the first expansion, Heavensward, and then again to 70 with the latest expansion, Final Fantasy 14: Stormblood, which was released late last month.

It's a lot of information to take if you’re new or returning. Here's a breakdown of what you need to get your bearings in Final Fantasy 14, from leveling up to using a controller and choosing the right job.

How do I level up?

By the time you hit level 15, multiple options will open up for you to level up. Here are the most effective methods, in order.

Keep in mind that unlike most MMOs you only need one character for Final Fantasy 14 — you merely need to switch jobs by equipping a new weapon if you want to level up another role (more on that later).

Main Story Quest

There are myriad ways to get to level 70, but the absolute fastest path is by following the main story quest (called the MSQ by players). Kicking off in your capital town that you chose at the very start of the game, this long string of tasks will bring you all the way from level 1 to the finish line. That’s all the way through the original Realm Reborn game, as well as Heavensward and Stormblood.

As soon as you get a main story quest, go to to it (it’s denoted by a large circle with flames around it) and accept it immediately. You’ll be funneled through the appropriate areas for leveling to ensure that you’re always ahead of the curve and unlock new dungeons (called instances) that you’ll need to clear to progress with the story. In recent months, MSQ experience (XP) has been increased, making it imperative that you follow it.

The Stormblood launch patch added in a new UI option that always highlights the next main story quest. Click it if you need some nudging.

Dungeons

Every so often, you’ll either be required to finish a dungeon or you might need to level up a bit more to even accept the next main story quest. That’s where dungeons come in.

Not only do you get a hefty bonus for completing an instance (more if someone in the group, including you, has never finished it), but you also get experience for each enemy you kill. Dungeons tend to skew toward providing more XP per enemy, so it’s preferable to head into a dungeon than grind outside in the open world.

As a rule, queue for the dungeon that is closest to your level for the biggest bonus. But there’s a caveat, as you may not always be able to instantly get into dungeons whenever you want.

PVP

If you haven’t played an MMO before and are choosing a damage class, you’re going to have to get used to queue times.

While tanks (damage soakers) and healers are in high demand and thus favored in the matchmaking tool, most people play damage roles and will have to wait their turn to be matched up with other tanks and healers.

However, PVP is kind of a mishmash that doesn’t require any strict adherence to role requirements, so for experience you can opt for queue up for a massive 72-person battles called a frontlines. The most popular mode right now is called Shatter, an objective control/destruction map that takes roughly 15 minutes to complete. Unlike a dungeon, you do not need to win to get an experience boost.

If you’re getting frustrated not being able to clear dungeons, try your hand at PVP to cool off and level up, then come back. Shatter has the quickest queues if you’re a damage dealer and want to get into matches immediately.

Note that as of July 4, 2017, PVP experience has been decreased for losing teams.

Fate grinding

While randomly killing enemies in the wild isn’t an efficient way to level up, finishing Fates as you wait for your queue time to pop is. Denoted by big purple and blue circles on the map, Fates are periodic world quests that reward players with a huge chunk of experience after completion.

Note that there is a downside to Fates: Since you’re always at the mercy of who’s available to help, their experience gain is lower and less consistent than the above events. That said, there’s always going to be dungeons to queue for, so you can get these done while you wait for a queue to pop.

Don’t rely on Fates, but if you see some on the way to your next story quest or need something to do while queuing, go ahead and finish them. The population might be low in legacy areas, thus making them even lengthier to complete.

Armory bonus

This isn’t an option for brand new recruits, but Final Fantasy 14 players get a bonus for leveling up alternate jobs that are lower than their highest level job.

In other words, if you have a max-level 70 job in Stormblood, you’ll get the biggest XP bonus possible for bringing any other job up to 70. This exists because you can only complete the main story quest once per character, so it makes it a little easier to bring your other jobs up.

Also keep in mind that some bonus items (by way of pre-orders) grant extra experience and eating any food item (even the cheapest consumables possible from vendors) gives players an extra 3 percent experience boost.

Should I just buy the level-up boost instead?

If you haven’t checked out this promotion yet, your Mogstation account (which you can access in an internet browser) has a whole section of optional items full of cosmetics and boosts.

A level boost to 60 (which will bring you inline with the start of Stormblood) is one of those choices.

For $25, you can opt to buy a book that instantly levels up a job to 60, but there are a number of provisos involved. For one, you can only boost one job per character per account, so you really need to choose wisely. Also, we don’t recommend that you jump into a brand new role for the first time and expect to dive into dungeons as you're going to be completely lost.

Boosting up to 60 will grant you every single talent and skill up until that point in the game, which can be overwhelming for new players. You not only need to understand how each skill works, but how they synergize with one another, something you’ll pick up gradually by leveling up a character manually.

Since Summoner and Scholar both share the same root class, boosting either of them will grant you both jobs at 60. Just note that you will have to complete all of the job quests up through Stormblood for the job you don’t boost.

The best way to approach this entire situation is to level another job in the same role so you gain the experience of playing it, then boost the job of your choice. Or better yet, just refrain from buying the item until a later date so you aren’t stuck with your hasty decision. There are roughly two years between expansions, so you have plenty of time to decide.

Can I use a controller?

As one of the few MMOs that plays nicely with a controller, you can opt for both an Xbox One remote or a DualShock 4 on PC.

Due to a complex array of settings added over the years, you can perform high-level content and access multiple skills (displayed across bars called hotbars) with simple button combinations.

The first thing you’ll want to set up is your initial hotbar with all of your core skills. By pressing R1 (or the right bumper) you can swap between hotbars, which host 16 skills each, eight on each side (linked to L2 and R2 through combinations of the face buttons and each cardinal D-pad direction). At first you’re only going to need to put a few skills onto your bar, but by level 70 you’re going to have enough to easily fill two entire hotbar pages. When this happens, you have options to filter them.

For one, you can link an entire hotbar to the L2+R2 combination (when pressing L2 first) or the R2+L2 combination (when pressing R2 first). We recommend that you stick your lesser-used skills here (or ones that aren’t typical of your role, like damage-dealing abilities for a healer or healing abilities for a tank). That way most of your core kit is on your main hotbar.

Another option is to assign a hotbar to the double-tap action of L2 and R2, which each bring up their own miniature bar of four abilities. Placing contextual spells or seldom used spells here is perfect, as you can double-tap in a jam and use them without having them overwhelm you on your main bar.

While you could get away with two hotbars in total before Stormblood, the sheer amount of abilities now requires three bars for most jobs. Put your core powers on one, L2+R2 powers on two and the sparingly used powers on three with the double-tap.

Every role is viable on a controller even at high-level play. Just keep in mind that, due to the D-pad targeting system, healing is a tad tougher (but still entirely possible).

What job should I pick and how do they work?

When you start off Final Fantasy 14 you’re going to be choosing a class (Marauder, Gladiator, Pugilist, Lancer, Archer, Rogue, Conjurer, Thaumaturge or Arcanist). This is sort of a blueprint for what’s to come, as you’re going to be graduating to a job at roughly level 30. This is the lifeblood of Final Fantasy 14’s role-based party system.

Either way, you’re going to be part of what’s called the MMO Holy Trinity, which is broken down as follows: tanks (who take damage for the group), healers and damage dealers (called DPS for their ability to dole out damage-per-second, which is how we measure their efficacy).

The development team has noted that they want to move away from classes entirely, so let’s just focus on jobs and the roles they slot into.

Tanks

Paladin

Although the ease of use of any job is hotly debated, Paladins are probably the simplest tanking class to learn of the three currently available.

Paladins have a number of abilities for holding enmity (also known as “aggro” or “hatred” in MMOs) so that other players don’t have to actually fight the enemies in question and get ripped to shreds. When a tank is holding enmity, the enemy is focused entirely on them. To accommodate this task, all three tank jobs have abilities that generate extra enmity that no other role has access to.

Paladins generally don’t do as much damage as the other two classes, but they make up for it with damage mitigation. They also have access to Hallowed Ground, a power that nullifies most of the hardest-hitting attacks in the game by making your Paladin impervious to damage for a small window. Every other tank has a similar ability, but again, the Paladin’s spells are the safest for keeping you alive and include a clutch healing spell.

Warrior

Warriors are the other side of the coin. More proficient at dealing damage, they sometimes require more healing. It’s because of this that many Warriors are called upon as a secondary tank (called an “off-tank”) that excels in dealing out damage while holding hatred at certain points in the fight with a more involved set of abilities weaved together in what's called a “rotation.”

All three tank jobs are generally safe when it comes to most of the game’s content. It just starts to delineate down to party preference when you get into the hardcore raiding aspect of the game. As of Stormblood’s launch, the jury is out on Warriors, as they did not get the same upgrades as the other two tanking jobs.

Dark Knight

As a sort of mix of both tanks, the Dark Knight (which was introduced in the last expansion) is great at healing themselves and dealing large amounts of damage to groups. If you're the type of person who wants to dive into lower level content, the Dark Knight is one of the most sustainable jobs available for tanking and off-tanking. However, they also lack raid utility, so work best with another style of tank.

Keep in mind however that you'll need to finish the initial main storyline for A Realm Reborn to even unlock the Dark Knight, which starts at level 30.

Healers

White Mage

Just like the Paladin, the White Mage is the first healing class you’ll want to pick up if you’re completely new to the concept. Their role is based around a reaction to damage, as most of their spells simply heal up their party rather than mitigate it (though they do have that option in some cases).

Their total spell count is less than a lot of other casters, so the challenge of choosing which spell to use in any given situation is less taxing. Knowing when to heal without over-healing (wasting mana by using spells to restore health when it’s not needed) is the main skill ceiling for a White Mage.

Scholar

Scholar is a more advanced class that operates around the principle of stopping damage before it happens.

While they have plenty of pure healing spells, they excel at putting up shields that absorb damage preemptively. Rather than use traditional healing spells, often the Scholar is ensuring that every party member has a barrier that technically boosts their health to a rating beyond what a White Mage can provide. They also have a pet available that can grant teams buffs or heals.

With the use of a Scholar and another healer, not only can you mitigate damage, but you can heal through it with ease. While the Scholar is hard to learn (and even moreso with Stormblood given some tweaks to the job) it can be very rewarding and support a more active playstyle.

Astrologian

Astrologians are sort of the wild card for the healing role and the most complicated. While they're closer to the White Mage with their reactive spell-slinging style they also have access to cards, which are drawn from a theoretical deck. Cards are doled out randomly and provide bonuses to your party, so you need to act fast to decide whether or not to use a card or put it back in the deck. This can be incredibly hard to do in the heat of battle so keep this in mind before you commit to this job.

Like the Dark Knight players will need to access the city of Ishgard in the Heavensward expansion which has a requirement of level 50. Astrologians are slightly boosted and start at level 30.

Damage (DPS)

Monk

As a hand-to-hand melee fighter, the Monk weaves in and out of different stances to deal the most damage possible. Wholly self sufficient, the Monk can heal itself and buff its own movement speed, defense or attack to adapt to any situation.

If you plan on playing a lot of content by yourself, the Monk is a great way to level up solo. While anything is viable in solo play, you might have an easier time with the Monk because of how versatile it is.

Dragoon

If you’ve ever played a Final Fantasy game before, you may have seen a Dragoon or two jumping around the battlefield. That’s basically how they work in Final Fantasy 14, as they dish out large amounts of melee damage. But they also have access to several ranged abilities in the form of jumps so they can traverse the battlefield when necessary.

They also have a few big party enabling buffs, so groups often request them over other damage dealers. If you want to become part of a group (referred to as a “static” in the MMO world), Dragoons are a great option and are always in demand.

Ninja

Ever since they were introduced in the tail-end of the 2.0 run, Ninjas have been immensely popular. Like the Dragoon and Monk, they’re melee oriented, but they rely on Ninjutsu magic to control groups and deal some ranged damage. They’re fast and frantic, so if that concept sounds like fun, choose a Ninja.

If you want to be a Ninja, you cannot unlock it from the start. You need to have leveled up at least one other class to 10 before you can choose the Rogue class, which turns into a Ninja.

Samurai

As one of the new flashy additions to Stormblood, the Samurai is a melee-focused job that deals massive amounts of single target damage. Although its benefit to the party is limited, a Samurai’s damage scales very well with the new content. Many groups are going to want a Samurai in the mix.

Red Mage and Samurai are handled a bit different from Dark Knight, Machinist and Astrologian. Now you just need to hit level 50 with any tank, healer or damage job and unlock them in the appropriate areas in the 2.0 city of Ul'Dah. They start at level 50.

Bard

Along with the Machinist, the Bard is a ranged job that can move and shoot at the same time. That’s key, as they don’t need to stand still for pretty much any ability while casting, making them two of the most versatile and easy to use damage-dealers in the game.

While everyone else is stopping their spells to move out of the way of battle mechanics, Bards can keep firing. This is what’s referred to as “uptime” in MMO fights — one of the several skills you’ll have to master to perfect your DPS. The more time you spend dealing damage and not moving around or dodging, the more damage you’ll deal.

In addition to that perk, the Bard’s main role is to buff your party with beneficial songs and powers that provide bonuses like magic recovery or extra damage. Although their efficacy ebbs and flows with any given patch, they’re often one of the most sought out jobs for a full party given how well they enable everyone else.

They’re the DPS role we recommend to brand new MMO players.

Machinist

Like two peas in a pod, the Machinist provides the opposite function of the Bard. Instead of helping your party get better, the Machinist disables enemies with abilities referred to as “debuffs.” Although their popularity has dropped in Stormblood due to lower damage scaling, they are an option if you hate the idea of playing a Bard for whatever reason.

Like the Dark Knight and Astrologian, players will need to access the city of Ishgard in the Heavensward expansion, which starts at level 50. Machinists start at level 30.

Black Mage

Black Mages have been one of the most consistent jobs in the history of Final Fantasy 14. You can always count on them to deal massive amounts of damage in just about any situation and their ability to easily manage their mana ensures that they have almost no downtime. At level 52, they tend to stay in place with an ability called Ley Lines, which draws a magical buff on the ground that grants them cast speed bonuses.

As the most traditional caster of the lot, they're a perfect choice for players who want to focus on one task. If you have MMO experience, give the Black Mage a try.

Summoner

If you like the idea of bringing pets into the battlefield, Summoner is probably your best damage dealer — just be aware that they aren't nearly as flashy or dramatic as the typical summons found in most Final Fantasy titles. Instead, the Summoner focuses on debuffs in the form of poison-like damage-over-time (DOT) spells, doling out a steady amount of damage to both single targets and groups.

Summoners also have another amazingly versatile function — they can cast Resurrect in the middle of a fight to bring a party member back from the dead, even though that role is typically reserved for healers. As a reminder, if you have a level 70 Scholar, you have a level 70 Summoner (and vice versa).

Red Mage

If you're looking for something completely new to play in the MMO genre, you'll want to work your way up to Red Mage.

Although they're mostly focused on damage, they also have access to several light healing spells as well as a resurrection spell, granting them an incredible amount of party utility. Given that they can self-sustain and help out a group, they’re a viable option for just about any style of play.

Red Mage and Samurai are handled a bit different from Dark Knight, Machinist and Astrologian. Now you just need to hit level 50 with any tank, healer or damage job and unlock them in the appropriate areas in the city of Ul'Dah. They start at level 50.