It’s no exaggeration to say Final Fantasy 14 is a beast. How Long to Beat pegs Final Fantasy 14’s co-op content at over 1,484 hours long, while the “single-player” story content is anywhere from 106 hours to 1,565 hours long.
While Final Fantasy 14 is and remains a rewarding and worthwhile MMORPG experience, there’s hope now for RPG fans looking to experience the game as a story-driven, single-player game.
Beginning Final Fantasy 14 is daunting, let alone as a solo player. Even before stepping into multiplayer content like Raids and Dungeons, there’s a vast slate of game mechanics and classes to learn, which can be incredibly daunting when put to the test in a live environment surrounded by other players.
That’s all on top of queue times for PvE content, which can eat up well over half an hour depending on the time of day and your job role.
One of the biggest hurdles for Final Fantasy fans jumping into Final Fantasy 14 is the multiplayer aspect, which prevents fans of Square Enix’s single-player odysseys from immediately jumping into arguably one of the company’s best Final Fantasy games.
Thanks to patch 6.1 last month, those going it alone can now take in an entire retinue of NPC characters to a Dungeon, soloing content that previously would’ve required three other players to complete. The system currently lets players complete dungeons in the Shadowbringers and Endwalker expansions, and now A Realm Reborn after Patch 6.1.
Final Fantasy 14 director Naoki Yoshida has spoken at length about how important the ability to solo Final Fantasy 14 is, and now the support system is finally in place to allow that.
The Duty Support system — now renamed the Trust system — is how solo Final Fantasy 14 players select which NPCs will accompany them into a Dungeon. But how effective has Square Enix’s support for solo players in Final Fantasy 14 actually been?
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YouTuber Jessica St. John better-known as Zepla, one of the most popular Final Fantasy 14 content creators with over 300,000 subscribers, reckons its effectiveness depends on your goal as a player. If it’s to experience the full story of Final Fantasy 14, that will eventually be possible even if it isn’t right now. Plans are currently in place to expand the system to include the rest of A Realm Reborn, Heavensward, and Stormblood.
“Trust works extremely well for what it’s supposed to do: give a solo alternative to group content,” says Zepla. If there’s one area Square Enix could improve upon, Zepla says it’s the damage dealt by AI party members. NPCs do far less damage than the average player in a dungeon, and so activities that could normally take 30 minutes with a team of real players can stretch on far longer with a retinue of NPCs.
However, the trade-off to a longer dungeon is not needing to wait in a queue.
Although every main story activity through patch 2.0 of A Realm Reborn can be completed solo now, Zepla points out that many other activities like Raids, still require a team of players. Content like Trials is one such activity, partnering eight players together to decipher the deadly mechanics of one brutal boss fight for greater rewards.
But Final Fantasy content creator and general MMORPG expert Quazii believe Final Fantasy 14 is “a single-player RPG first, MMORPG second.” Quazii thinks the strongest draw of Final Fantasy 14 lies in its storytelling, and it’s extremely feasible to eventually complete A Realm Reborn’s story entirely solo.
“If you ask FF14 players what is their most enjoyable experience in the game, [the] vast majority would say it’s the single-player questing experience, specifically when working through the main story quest,” Quazii says. “Yoshi-p and team [weave] amazing voice activity, riveting storylines, and just really captivating choreography of cutscenes that will move any human being to tears. I’m not one to cry for video games, but this game got me good.”
Similarly, Final Fantasy 14 community commentator and streamer Michael “MrHappy” Poveromo points to the revamped Duty Support system as a gateway for solo players to experience the story of Final Fantasy 14, but like Zepla, says multiplayer story content like Trials might take far longer for the development team to make available for solo players. “So it will be quite some time before you can outright experience the entire game’s main scenario solo,” Poveromo adds.
Both think this is unlikely to change, however. For one, Poveromo thinks keeping certain multiplayer-only content is “deliberate to encourage players to still do Dungeons and other content with actual people.” As such, the streamers don’t see this changing. They say that while it’s great solo alternatives exist in an MMORPG like Final Fantasy 14, group play should be incentivized. “That Duty Finder matchmaker still needs to be populated after all,” adds Zepla.
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It’s clear Yoshida’s comments have struck a chord with the Final Fantasy 14 community at large, as both Zepla and Poveromo recall the director’s past commitments to improving the Trust system and retroactively adding it to past expansions.
“Through the usage of the Trust system, I’d like to eventually convey to these types of players how much fun it is to play with others. That’s why we want to remove as many barriers as possible before that point,” Yoshida said in an Endwalker media tour last year.
Nowhere is there disagreement between the three content creators in recommending Final Fantasy 14 to solo RPG players. Quazii struggles to “find another game title that rivals FF14 when it comes to single-player storytelling,” while Zepla thinks everyone should experience the MMORPG’s story. Poveromo reckon Final Fantasy 14’s expansive story has always been geared towards the solo experience, and all three believe Square Enix’s game is worth the journey for solo players.
In fact, Poveromo and Zepla urges traditionally solo players to step out of their comfort zone for Final Fantasy 14. Poveromo says the majority of players are helpful to newcomers, while the Zepla adds that the “community has a reputation for being welcoming to new players. ”
All you need do is mention that you’re a newcomer, Zepla says, and most players would be happy to help you out and explain things you don’t understand. “It is absolutely worth stepping out of your comfort zone to do the occasional group content,” Zepla adds, all for the sake of experiencing Final Fantasy 14’s storyline.
But is Final Fantasy 14’s approach to solo players enough to make other MMORPGs take notice and learn from it? The gaming landscape has a slew of heavy hitters like World of Warcraft, and newcomers like New World and Lost Ark have muscled into the MMO space over the last year.
Poveromo believes there are a “lot of lessons” MMOs could take from Final Fantasy 14, but in particular the streamer feels like more MMOs are catering to solo players earlier on, via scaling Dungeons, solo activities, and even just basic quest design.
Zepla points to Lost Ark as a prime example of this shifting attitude as an MMO that launched with tons of support for solo players on day one. “I think providing pathways of solo accessibility is critical to the growth of the MMO genre,” Zepla says, adding that people have associated the genre with “obligation and social pressure” for far too long. It’s time for people to realize MMOs have far more to offer than just that, Zepla says, and so it’s perfectly logical for MMOs to add solo assistance for their content.
Final Fantasy 14’s commitment to solo players has hit a milestone with patch 6.1. In a space typically dominated by group play, frequently demanding hundreds of hours to master from players, Final Fantasy 14 is proving it doesn’t have to be this way. Solo players are finally able to complete Final Fantasy 14’s base storyline for the first time, and it’s clear that Yoshida and Square Enix have no intention of stopping here.
Hirun Cryer is a freelance writer for IGN.