World of Warcraft VS Final Fantasy XIV: Which is Better in 2021?

World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV are both incredible MMORPGs, but which is better in 2021? This breakdown of WoW VS FFXIV will help you decide which of these two games is the right fit for you. Between the war-torn realm of Azeroth and the united city states of Eorzea, where will your next grand adventure take you?

World of Warcraft VS Final Fantasy XIV: Which is Better in 2021?MMORPGs can be a great way to game with friends and find new communities. There are dozens of options, but 2 have always stood above the rest; World of Warcraft: Shadowlands and Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers. Please note that I’ll only be talking about ‘retail’ World of Warcraft, and not World of Warcraft: Classic. WoW and FFXIV have a lot of similarities, from their subscription-based play model to the structure of their content, but they also have a lot of differences. I’ve spent a lot of time with both of these games, and they are both very dear to my heart. Today, I’ll be breaking down the pros and cons of both of these behemoth MMOs to help you find the one that’s right for you. Make sure to stick around until the end, where I’ll be comparing the two in a side-by-side table!

World

World of Warcraft is set in the war-torn world of Azeroth, a diverse multi-continent planet with every type of scenery imaginable. Most of the races that inhabit Azeroth are standard fantasy fare. This includes multiple Elf races, goblins, werewolves, humans and orcs to name a few. There are also some more unique races, like refugee aliens from distant planets and bipedal panda folk. These races have been divided into two main factions; The Horde and Alliance. These factions are all-important to WoW, and are the core premise of the game. 

Meanwhile, Final Fantasy XIV takes place within the world of Hydaelen, primarily on the continent of Eorzea. FFXIV is a MMO first, but ultimately stays true to its mainline Final Fantasy predecessors. The human-like and beastfolk inhabitants of Eorzea feel fitting for a game so heavily tied to Japanese media. Reoccurring creatures like Moogles and Chocobo will help Final Fantasy veterans feel right at home. That being said, no real knowledge of Final Fantasy is needed to jump in and explore all XIV has to offer. This makes it the perfect balance of familiarity and originality for new and returning players alike.

Races 

The races of World of Warcraft are very deeply divided, therefore most of the player’s race options are faction locked. The Alliance, the fantasy ‘good guys,’ have races like Humans, Dwarves and Gnomes in their main cast. Meanwhile, the ‘bad guy’ Horde has Orcs, Undead and Trolls among their ranks. There are many more races you can unlock through gameplay, but most are variations of the core races from each faction. All of the races present feel like they’d be right at home in a game of Dungeons and Dragons. This lends heavily to a traditional fantasy setting.

Final Fantasy XIV, on the other hand, remains true to its JRPG origins. Although the player has a chance to join one of three main factions, known as ‘grand companies,’ their race doesn’t dictate which one they join. Instead, you’ll be able to choose which of the three best suits you. Players can also play with characters from other Grand Companies, and even switch companies if they wish. The races of FFXIV aren’t as fantastical as those of WoW, and most of them have a very human-like shape. This includes the cat-eared Miqu’te, the elf-like Elezen and the dragon-horned Au Ra. Each race also has a subrace option, which grants unique racial traits and physical features to your character.

Classes 

Final Fantasy XIV’s class system is inspired by the class/job system found in other Final Fantasy games, and can therefore get a bit confusing. Each player starts the game with a Class. This Class allows them to perform a specific role at the most basic level. Through reaching specific in-game requirements, such as reaching a certain level and completing a specific quest, a player can then upgrade from their Class to a Job. This Job is usually a more specialized version of the player’s starting Class. For example, a player may start the game as a Rogue and then later specialize into the Ninja Job.

Two Final Fantasy XIV Bards playing their instruments.

Two Final Fantasy XIV Bards playing their instruments.

It’s also worth noting that characters in FFXIV can take on as many Classes and Jobs as they’d like. Each new Class starts at level 1, meaning the character has to level it up from scratch. Once a character unlocks a Job, it will share a level with its base Class. Players can switch Classes by equipping a weapon unique to a different Class, and switch jobs by equipping special items unique to each Job.

In World of Warcraft, each character chooses a starting Class. At level 10, each player will then be able to select a Specialization unique to their Class. From then on, every few levels the player can select 1 of 3 Talents that provides a unique skill. For example, a player may start the game as a Mage, choose the Arcane Mage Specialization at level 10, then choose the Rule of Three Talent at level 15.

A Night Elf Mage from World of Warcraft faces off with a giant bee.

A Night Elf Mage from World of Warcraft faces off with a giant bee.

In World of Warcraft, once your character chooses a Class, they’re stuck in that Class for good. A player can switch Specializations and Talents with ease, but never Classes. For that reason, most players level and play multiple characters.

Gameplay

These two games have very similar gameplay loops, revolving around a standard questing experience. Combat follows a tab-target system, although Final Fantasy XIV also incorporates action elements. Both games feature many attractions, ranging from difficult group content to expansive minigames. While the foundation of these games is one and the same, they feature an incredible divergence that creates two totally different experiences.

Watch the Shadowlands Launch Cinematic: “Beyond the Veil”

In World of Warcraft, expect to grind, grind, and grind some more. At the endgame, you’ll be constantly striving to improve your equipment. This comes in the form of building professions, doing daily quests and running increasingly complex dungeons. Your gear can make or break your performance. In the competitive world of Warcraft, you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve. WoW has some truly awesome side activities, such as managing a garrison of your very own and competing in medieval sporting tournaments. Unfortunately, many of these attractions have been obsoleted with newer expansions. You can still enjoy them, but don’t expect much beyond cosmetic rewards for your effort.

Final Fantasy XIV's in-game casino offers tons of great side activities!

Final Fantasy XIV’s in-game casino offers tons of great side activities!

Final Fantasy XIV’s gameplay loop is a bit more relaxed than WoW’s. While there are plenty of optional grinds in FFXIV, you won’t need to grind quite as hard as in WoW. Your gear is still important, but since many of the game’s activities will normalize your stats or drop your level, you’ll have plenty of things to do even with a subpar loadout. If WoW is about the destination, FFXIV is all about the journey. FFXIV also boasts customizable housing and an entire in-game casino to keep you busy. While these side attractions offer little in advancing your character, they are a great way to interact with the community and explore a world created by the players. 

Leveling Characters

As of Shadowlands, World of Warcraft has an unusual leveling setup. Instead of playing through all of the game’s content start to finish, players will instead play one of several different snippets of WoW’s greater story. Your first character will be forced to play through the story of the Battle for Azeroth expansion for your first 50 levels, with your last 10 being reserved for current Shadowlands content. For every character after, you’ll be able to choose a different path by talking to an in-game NPC. This system serves to reduce the time spent leveling characters up for the endgame, but makes it hard to experience Azeroth’s full story.

The content a player can play through is generally gated by level, and thus WoW is very endgame-oriented. Players at a higher level can play through earlier content without issue so long as they’re okay with being overpowered for it, but it doesn’t present much in the way of meaningful challenge. 

In Final Fantasy XIV, level is often secondary to progress on the game’s main story. Most of the game’s features are gated off by main story quests, and not necessarily level. Unlike the branching paths present in WoW, all players in FFXIV rapidly converge into the same main storyline. This quest line continues from the start of the game right up until the end of the current content. Due to its importance, it’s marked by a special symbol in quest logs and on maps. Quests in the line cannot be skipped, and so players will need to complete them all in order to unlock all FFXIV has to offer.

Final Fantasy XIV features a single, rich storyline.

Final Fantasy XIV features a single, rich storyline.

Because there is only one story to play through, players get the full experience every time. There are still side quests and other things to do, but ultimately only one main questline. Unfortunately, this means that each new character will have to play through the same main questline to progress. Thanks to this, in combination with the flexible job/class system, FFXIV players tend to use a single character instead of having alts.

PvP

In Final Fantasy XIV, PvP takes the form of instanced Duties. During PvP matches, players will either be split into 3 groups along their Grand Company lines or into 2 random groups depending on the specific PvP map.

All PvP players have their level and gear normalized, and some abilities will be replaced with PvP-specific counterparts. This ensures a fair, skill-dependent match. Battles can become fairly large, with the largest PvP map holding a grand total of 72 individual players at a time. Unfortunately, PvP isn’t especially popular among FFXIV players and tends to take a backseat to PvE.

In World of Warcraft, however, all PvP is structured around the faction lines. Alliance will always play with other Alliance members, and likewise Horde always plays with Horde. Unlike in FFXIV, players keep their level and gear bonus during all PvP. There are two main kinds of PvP in WoW; Battleground instances and War Mode. The former are very similar to the aforementioned Duties. Unlike Duties, however. the largest map holds a whopping 80 players at any one time. The latter, however, is a bit more complicated.

War Mode is an optional game setting that allows players to engage in open world PvP. With this setting enabled, Alliance and Horde players can skirmish anywhere and any time they meet. Players in War Mode can select and use special talents, and receive extra rewards from completing quests and killing enemies. With two unique options for PvP and the game’s central themes of Alliance V.S Horde, it’s no wonder that PvP is a spotlight attraction for WoW.

PvE

Endgame PvE in World of Warcraft primarily comes down to dungeons and raids. As a key attraction for WoW, these difficult instances can be extremely mechanically complex. Dungeons are run by parties of 5, and modern Raids by parties of 10 or 25.

A Horde party engage a boss in the Azshara's Eternal Palace Raid, WoW.

A Horde party engage a boss in the Azshara’s Eternal Palace Raid, WoW.

Often times PvE parties are selective about just who joins their Raid, and it’s expected that players perform well in current content due to the extreme difficulty. It’s polite to study before joining raids, knowing how to navigate each boss fight and what kind of pitfalls to avoid.

In Final Fantasy XIV, however, PvE is a little bit more relaxed. Players can scale their level down in order to properly play through older content, meaning that endgame groups can still participate in lower-level Dungeons and Raids. The former run parties of 4, while the latter can have either 8 or 24 players. There are also instances called Trials, which see parties of varied sizes face off against a single, powerful foe.

A party of 8 faces the Seat of Sacrifice Trial in FFXIV.

A party of 8 faces the Seat of Sacrifice Trial in FFXIV.

Raids can still become incredibly complex, but often don’t require as much pre-raid study as in WoW. A dedicated raid group can usually learn on the fly as long as they’re willing to accept a few wipes along the way. For that reason, FFXIV’s PvE is much more relaxed.

Story Presence

World of Warcraft’s story is told through hundreds of unique quest lines running in tandem. You’ll need to play through several different leveling zones to get a picture of the bigger story, which is a real shame since many of the characters central to the story of Shadowlands reoccur from previous story arcs. New players will need to invest a good deal of time in learning WoW’s rich lore to get the full impact from current story arcs.

Since WoW’s content is very endgame focused, this takes a good deal of time and patience to do. Multiple characters are necessary to play through both the Horde and Alliance specific quests, as well as quests unique to specific races.

Final Fantasy XIV takes a different approach, instead focusing player progression on the game’s main story quest line. This quest line continues from the start of the game right up to the end of Shadowbringers, and will continue through the upcoming Endwalker expansion as well..

FINAL FANTASY XIV: SHADOWBRINGERS Full Trailer

In true JRPG fashion, story is very important to FFXIV. Unfortunately this means that once you’ve played through the main story, you’ve experienced all it has to offer. And since you’ll have to do it all again for each new character, it tends to discourage alts. FFXIV also has a New Game + function that allows experienced characters to go back and re-experience content they’ve already finished, making alt characters even less appealing.

Community

World of Warcraft is an inherently competitive game, and this is reflected in its community. Guilds of players often play together to conquer endgame content, and these groups can be incredibly exclusive. Players expect one another to play optimally and build their characters for maximum efficiency. There is little space for suboptimal builds or weak classes in WoW. There are places for more casual play, but in WoW, it is the exception and not the rule.

World of Warcraft can be a very competitive game.

World of Warcraft can be a very competitive game.

WoW has developed a bit of a reputation for its toxic player base, but this reputation isn’t entirely deserved. There are bad eggs, as with any online game, but they are a minority of the player base. That being said, if you’re interested in group PvP or PvE, be prepared to shrug off harsh words and occasional party kicks. World of Warcraft’s community runs on experience and competency, and players should be prepared to take initiative and learn without help. There is little sympathy for newcomers, so be prepared to do your homework and pull your own weight.

Final Fantasy XIV on the other hand is known for its relaxed community and atmosphere. Toxic players are by no means absent, but this behavior tends to be actively frowned upon rather than passively tolerated. FFXIV doesn’t demand players to invest as much time to achieve results as WoW does, meaning players need not be so fiercely competitive. Thanks to this, the endgame is much less hostile, and the bar to entry much lower. FFXIV also identifies new players with a special sprout symbol next to their name, which makes it easier to find a helping hand when one is needed.

Roleplay

MMORPGs are still roleplay games at heart, so it’s no surprise that both World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV a have thriving roleplay communities. The server on which you play will dictate your experience with roleplay in both games, but I’ll make some generalizations based on my experience with RP-oriented servers in each. Before you start roleplaying, always make sure you know the etiquette and temperament of your server towards roleplay!

Roleplay in World of Warcraft often takes place in private, party or guild chats.

Roleplay in World of Warcraft often takes place in private, party or guild chats.

World of Warcraft doesn’t give players much in the way of roleplay-specific tools, but the denizens of Azeroth have taken what limited options they have and run with them. Much of the roleplay in WoW happens in private messages, or in hidden guild and party chats. Overworld roleplay still happens from time to time, but is much rarer. Most players who engage in WoW roleplay will choose names that fit conventions for their character’s race, transmogrify their gear to change its appearance, and choose a class that fits with their background. Roleplay in public chat is rare, but does happen from time to time.

Final Fantasy XIV gives its players plenty of room for roleplay!

Final Fantasy XIV gives its players plenty of room for roleplay!

Final Fantasy XIV, on the other hand, provides every opportunity for its players to get involved with roleplay. This includes roleplay-specific options at character creation and a special roleplay status for players looking for groups. This is in addition to meeting racial naming conventions and careful consideration of which jobs and classes to roleplay. FFXIV players also make good use of the Glamour system, similar in function to WoW’s Transmogrification. It isn’t uncommon for players to write descriptive paragraphs in busy corners of the world, and to interact in-character in the open. Roleplayers can be found in every major city, clustered into busy taverns or creating a spectacle in main squares. 

Summary

Despite their numerous similarities, World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV are very different games. Each one offers different features and challenges. Each has its place, although they clearly fill their own niches boast very different design philosophy.

World of Warcraft is the best game for players wanting a fast-paced, competitive environment. Players who are able to invest the time needed to relish in all the game has to offer, and are willing to build characters to competitive standards and perform well during group content will do well in WoW. These players should also be able and ready to shrug off the occasional confrontations and party kicks common to the late-game of WoW.

For players looking for a more relaxed experience, Final Fantasy XIV is the better of the two. FFXIV brings the same difficult content and giant, fantasy world without the hostility of World of Warcraft. Its design doesn’t punish players who play irregularly or casually nearly as hard as WoW does, and the community is much more relaxed as a result. There are ample opportunities for roleplay, and the focus on the story takes pressure off the leveling experience.

Below is a table comparing most of the main points of both games, their pros and cons and the differences between them. Ultimately which of the two is right for you will depend on whether you’re looking for a harsh competitive environment or a relaxed, story-oriented one. For the former, World of Warcraft is unrivaled. For the latter, look no further than Final Fantasy XIV.

  World of Warcraft Final Fantasy XIV
Atmosphere Western Cartoon Anime
Factions Two Hostile Factions Three Allied Factions
Content Focus Endgame Full Game
Player Characters Multiple Characters for Specialized Tasks One Character for Everything
Progression Level + Gear Based Story + Gear Based
PvE Thriving Thriving
PvP Thriving Struggling
Community Competitive Mixed to Casual
Roleplay Common but Private Frequent and Public
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