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The Trials & Tribulations of Returning to FFXIV After a One-Year Hiatus

It doesn’t even need to be an MMORPG. It could be any live service game. A Destiny 2. A Fortnite. Heck, even a massive single-player RPG like Dragon’s Quest XI could do it.

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You’ve probably been there too. You were completely consumed by a game for months — even years — at a time. You lived and breathed it. And then, suddenly, you just dropped it. And now you wanna come back, but the muscle memory’s not there anymore. Take that feeling and multiply it by about 10, and you’ll get an idea of what it’s like leaving Final Fantasy XIV and coming back to it after not touching it for an entire year.

In the months leading up to the hotly anticipated Dawntrail expansion, I’ve finally decided to dust off the ol’ Logitech MMO mouse and actually get back into playing FFXIV again. I’d taken breaks before, but I would always come back for the next story patch. This time was different, however. After completing Endwalker and clearing the Abyssos raids, I completely fell off. I even canceled my subscription — something I hadn’t done a single time in the nine years I’d been playing. I wasn’t quite sure I’d even return to FFXIV ever again.

fighting ifrit in ffxiv path infernal

Then of course, Square Enix sucks me back in with an absolute banger of a trailer when Dawntrail gets announced. This was going to be the start of a whole new chapter for the Warrior of Light and the Scions. New players were going to be able to jump straight into this without having to slog through A Realm Reborn. Memories of staying up till 3am playing Shadowbringers and Endwalker came flooding back. Of course I had to be there for Dawntrail. And so, I’m back.

Except I hadn’t quite anticipated how much I had missed since I’d been gone. Credit where credit’s due; FFXIV is actually one of the better games out there that really takes care of lapsed players. The Tomestone system is a great way of helping players catch up quickly in terms of gearing up. That wasn’t the issue though; it was more the feeling of getting left behind and not quite knowing if you’d be able to fit back in again.

My first foray in over a year back into Eorzea went a little something like this:

  1. Aha, I’m back! Time to see what my Free Company’s been up to while I’ve been gone!
  2. Oh they’ve disbanded and I am now left alone in this cold, cold world.
  3. It’s alright, I’ll just look for another FC to join…
  4. … but I am but a feeble introvert and I cannot bring myself to even send out a post in the recruitment subreddit, or ask another player if I could please join their cool gang. Please.
  5. That’s fine, I’ll just catch up with the MSQ first! And guess what? The story’s still great!
  6. Oh but now I’ve hit a wall where I need to gear up first before I can attempt this new dungeon.
  7. I’ve been there before. I’ll just quickly do some Roulettes and maybe even do that last Abyssos raid for the currency I need to get that gear!
  8. I’ve completely forgotten my rotation.
  9. Also, what are mechanics?
  10. Also, where have all my glamour prisms gone?

I won’t lie, dear reader. Those first couple of days were tough. I find it hard to describe that feeling of coming back to a game that you used to know like the back of your hand, only to discover that so much has changed. Perhaps the hardest hitting moment was realizing that the guild I’d been a part of for a few years finally called it quits, and now there really wasn’t anyone or anything I could latch on to in my search for some sort of familiarity.

a still of a lavender beds apartment in ffxiv

It hasn’t been all terrible, of course. Upon realizing that I no longer had the muscle memory for the Dancer rotation, I promptly got to practicing it at a training dummy and before I knew it, I was back in the Roulettes doing level 90 dungeons and trials again. I’m still not quite ready for the raids just yet, but I know I’ll be back at it soon enough.

Part of me does wonder if this is sustainable, especially with FFXIV lead Yoshi-P notably stating that after years of catering to the casuals and making the game too “stress-free,” that he wanted to bring back some form of challenge to the game. On paper, this sounds fantastic, especially for the veteran players who have been with the game for years. Yet, I also wonder what a shift like that would actually mean for the more casual players. Would it make it even more difficult for someone like me to come back after an extended break? Would FFXIV absolutely need to be part of my daily routine again if I want to get any sort of raiding satisfaction out of the game?

For now, the journey back into Eorzea has been slightly bumpy, but it’s also been pleasant in other ways. Revisiting my humble apartment in the Lavender Beds reminded me of all the other things I still wanted to do in this game. I still want to max out my remaining crafters, I still want to decorate this apartment, and I still want to empty out the Gold Saucer vendors. Coming back into the game, I was happy to realize that this was a game that could still bring me a lot of joy and comfort, and for now, maybe that’s enough.


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Author
Zhiqing Wan
Zhiqing is a History undergrad from the National University of Singapore. She started playing video games in 1996 when her dad introduced her to Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, and Resident Evil -- and the rest, as they say, is history. When she's not obsessing over Elden Ring and Dark Souls lore theories, you can find her singing along loudly and badly to Taylor Swift's latest bops. Formerly the Reviews Editor at Twinfinite, she joined the Escapist team in 2024. You can reach her at [email protected].