I talk about Final Fantasy XIV everywhere that I can on RPGFan, but if I have to pick one moment, one thing in the game that sticks with me as a defining experience, it remains to this day the final battles in The Final Coil of Bahamut. I played through these in 2015, and while XIV does not lack in fun battles, these are still the high water mark for me, which is why I went to the trouble of editing together a custom mix to mimic the in-game use of "Answers" in a 2015 episode of Rhythm Encounter. That song still gives me chills.
Right about the time World of Warcraft exploded onto the scene, I was trying my best to get into MMO games. It seemed like a genre that was right up my alley, but nothing ever really took. I tried WoW, and it was cool. I tried other games like Anarchy Online and even followed the launch of a game you probably don't remember called Pirates of the Burning Sea. I never really stuck with any of them.
Then came FFXIV. Not the 1.0 version, mind you. If I had started there it's likely I would have stopped there. When I tried my hand at A Realm Reborn, though, I was absolutely hooked. It was really everything I didn't even know I wanted in an MMO. The classes, the combat system, the surprisingly awesome pick-up groups, the huge and fascinating world I could explore on the back of my chocobo — what's not to love? The real kicker for me, though, was the value the developers placed on the story and how tightly it was woven into the experience. What was it that made me fall in love with FFXIV and, finally, an MMO? The fact that the amazing gameplay was buoyed by an exceptional story, one that was a vital component of the experience and not a mere afterthought.
It's hard for me to narrow down favorite moments in Final Fantasy XIV out of the multitude of experiences I've had with the game over the years. There are story beats I'll never forget, characters I've come to love perhaps even more dearly than their counterparts from single-player entries, and fantastic music that I still want to listen to after hearing it dozens of times. And then there's the challenge and triumph that comes with running raid content, which is admittedly an acquired taste but still one that takes up a significant portion of my time with the game.
If I had to pick just a few, though, the main Heavensward story arc from patches 3.0-3.3 would definitely be among them. The story is just well told from start to finish, with intrigue, excitement, loss, and victory doled out in equal measure. I also have to give a nod to the cast of characters from the Heavensward patches, particularly a certain Lord Commander; they made Ishgard a joy to explore and a point in the overarching story that I will forever be returning to with fond memories. Perhaps the highest praise I can sing about both this story and its characters is that they proved to me that an MMO can have a tale on par with or, better yet, superior to that of single-player RPGs. I'm not ashamed of the many hours I've logged in Eorzea because they have been time very well spent, which is more than I can say for the last couple of mainline entries in the series.
As far as endgame combat goes, nothing that Final Fantasy XIV has produced from Heavensward on has managed to top the Final Coil of Bahamut from A Realm Reborn. It's quite likely that nothing ever will top those final four fights and the story that accompanied them. I doubt I'll ever forget how euphoric I felt when I finally triumphed over Turn 13, the final showdown against the Dreadwyrm himself. But whether it's Bahamut, Alexander, Omega, or any one of the other primals that make up the raid content in FFXIV, one of my fondest experiences has long been taking on the challenging fights with a group of likeminded adventurers and chipping away at them until I've mastered everything these beasties can throw at me. This is unusual for me, as I tend to shy away from super challenging content and I am, myself, a shy person so I don't usually gravitate toward online play. But Final Fantasy XIV has helped me come out of my shell somewhat, and that's another experience for which I am ultimately grateful.