What’s the Payment Model?
Final Fantasy XIV Online (a.k.a. FFXIV) is a subscription-based MMORPG, although there is also a free trial with no time limit. This free trial allows you to play up to level 35 with some social restrictions. More details on that in a bit. For purchasing the game, the payment model requires you to buy the base game (A Realm Reborn), which comes with 30 days of play time included, and allows you to play up to level 50. After those 30 days you will have to pay the subscription fee (monthly) to continue playing.
There are 2 types of subscription: Entry (which allows you to create up to 8 characters, all on separate worlds) and Standard (which allows you to create up to 40 characters, with up to 8 on a single world). Entry subscriptions must be purchased each month, while Standard subscriptions may be purchased monthly, or in chunks of 3 months (for a small discount), or 6 months (for a bigger discount, at which point it is the same price as the Entry subscription).
Sometimes people ask this, so it is worth noting that your subscription time ticks down in real life time, not in time spent playing the game! Additionally, the game will be down for ~24h maintenance approximately once every 3 months for major patches, so plan your playtime accordingly!
There are also expansions (Heavensward, Stormblood, and Shadowbringers) which raise the level cap (to 60, 70, and 80 respectively), progress the main story, and offer lots of other content including races and jobs (what this game calls ‘classes’ in some other games). Unlike some games, expansions in FFXIV are linear, meaning you cannot play them out of order, or play any of them without completing the base game.
You can purchase a scenario skip to skip over the story, up to the beginning of the Stormblood expansion. You could also buy a job level boost to level a single job all the way up to 60. I don’t personally recommend either of these on your first playthrough of the game, but the options are there if you want them. The only expansion being sold is the most recent one, and it includes all previous expansions for free. Historically, expansions come out every two years.
At the time of this post for example, Stormblood is still available for purchase, because Shadowbringers has not launched yet. On July 2 Shadowbringers will launch and will be the only expansion for sale since buying it includes both Heavensward and Stormblood. Its launch will likely see the addition of a new scenario skip and job level boost as well.
What are the Free Trial Restrictions?
Now, let’s talk about the free trial. You may create up to 8 characters, each on a different world, just like the Entry subscription. You are capped at level 35 on all jobs, though you may level as many of them as you like. Any experience you gain on a capped job is wasted (this is also true if you buy the game and hit the level cap). There is no time limit to worry about, however if you decide to buy the game you may not return to this unlimited-time trial on your account. From that point on you must have subscription time credited to your account (remember the base game comes with 30 days included). Some other notable restrictions to the free trial include:
You cannot use certain chat functions, including private messaging.
You cannot use the in-game marketboard or trade with other players.
You cannot hire a retainer (extra inventory management).
You cannot create parties or linkshells (chat groups) but you can be invited to them.
You cannot be in a Free Company (player guild).
I HIGHLY recommend downloading the free trial. Despite the restrictions it will still introduce you to the overall feel of the game, including main story duties (solo combat), dungeons and trials (matchmade co-operative combat), gathering, and crafting. You’ll also get tons of flavourful stories in the class quests, which each have a complete story arc even before level 35.
If you really want to squeeze all the value out of it, you can level all of the jobs as much as you can during the free trial, but personally I recommend just one or two to get a sense of their theme and style, and maybe a crafter or gatherer, then buy the base game to continue on with the main story.
The lower levels in this game aren’t terribly exciting combat-wise since you don’t have all your skills, and you may burn yourself out trying to level so many jobs when they are at their least engaging. I played the free trial for a week or two and knew I was interested enough to purchase the game after that.
Is the Game Worth a Subscription?
I think you know my answer, since I wouldn’t be writing all this if I didn’t enjoy the game, but I will state it here anyway in no uncertain terms. This is a great game with hundreds of hours of content to play through. I’ve been playing for over a year and there’s still plenty of content I haven’t really explored. A FFXIV subscription to me is totally worth it.
Don’t feel like you have to do every single thing the game has to offer. If there are some jobs or pieces of content you don’t enjoy as much, you can focus on whichever parts of the game you do enjoy. Glamour, housing, treasure maps, endgame raiding, chocobo racing, jumping puzzles, and of course much more, including so, SO many stories to play through in sidequests in addition to the main story quest (MSQ).
If you choose to take a break and stop paying the subscription at any point, the only thing you may lose is your plot of land, if you had bought one. The reasoning behind this is to open up housing spaces for people actively playing the game, so if you don’t enter your house at least once in 45 days, it will be relinquished. If you buy an apartment, that will never be demolished.
Where/How do I Buy the Game? How Much is it?
Let’s get the prices out of the way. Prices obviously depend on your region/currency, but the quick breakdown in USD is as follows: $19.99 for the base game (includes one month FFXIV subscription), $39.99 for the current expansion pack (includes all expansions), and $12.99 for one month’s subscription. Note that the game and its expansions do go on sale on various platforms from time to time, so you may be able to find it for cheaper than these prices if you wait it out.
When buying the game, the ‘starter edition’ is just the base game (A Realm Reborn) up to level 50. The ‘complete edition’ is the base game plus all expansions. Both options come with 30 days of subscription time. NOTE: The newest expansion Shadowbringers comes out July 2, 2019. Buying the complete edition right now only has the first two expansions. Wait until July 2, at which point the complete edition will include all three expansions!
If you have the base game and are looking to get the upcoming expansion, you can preorder it from the Square Enix store, or on Amazon (PS4, PC, Mac). The preorder gives you a bonus minion and a pair of in-game earrings that increase your combat experience gain up to level 70. Expansions on their own do NOT come with subscription time.
After you have bought the game, go to the Mog Station to manage your subscription, as well as to pay for various services like server transfers, cash shop items, name change, or extra retainers.
And that’s everything! Hopefully this has helped you figure out how to get started, or if a FFXIV subscription is right for you. Again, I do recommend starting with the free trial for a low-commitment peek into the game with no time limit, so you can explore it at your own pace. Let me know in the comments if you have further questions about subscribing or the different expansions. See you in Eorzea!