The Elder Scrolls Online: How does ESO Compare to FFXIV?

Are they two completely different games, or will MMO fans enjoy welcome similarities?

The massively multiplayer online role-playing genre is more unique than almost any other in gaming. You’ve got free-to-play titles, monthly subscription games, new properties, classic franchises; all of this comes together. While World of Warcraft continues to reign supreme, while Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn captured a large player base. As the latest subscription-based MMO to hit store shelves, Final Fantasy is drawing a lot of comparisons to The Elder Scrolls Online, the next big subscription-based MMO set to debut this year. A lot of MMO fans are debating which MMO they should play, or if both will appeal to them, so let’s take a look at how these two games stack up.

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Player Base

One of the biggest concerns about any MMORPG is the eventual player base. In many cases, when a new MMO releases, a lot of people play it. This is true of both F2P MMO games, as well as subscription-based titles. It’s due to the fact that beyond the game being new, there’s almost always a free trial for subscription-based MMOs. You have 15-30 days to try the game out before committing to pay more than the initial purchase price.

With Final Fantasy XIV, the game had a fantastic start (despite server issues), and the player base seems to be holding firm. With the PlayStation 4 release coming up in April, it looks as though the title will only expand its number of users as new content is added. However, one big advantage that FFXIV has is cross-platform play. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing on PC, PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4. You can play together across all platforms.

When ESO releases, it will almost certainly have a big launch. There are a ton of Elder Scrolls fans out there dying for a multiplayer addition to the franchise. Unfortunately, not only is the player base divided between the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, even the retail releases are staggered. The PC version hits first in early April, while the PS4 and Xbox One versions don’t land until the end of June.

From a player perspective, if you’re planning to play ESO on your PC, you don’t have much to worry about. It’s a safe bet that a majority of players will opt for the PC version. However, given the price and availability of next generation hardware, coupled with the monthly subscription fee of ESO, it’s unlikely the PS4 and Xbox One versions will have a player base  close to the PC version.

That said, if you already own FFXIV on the PS3 and plan to pick up ESO on the PS4, you should definitely get both titles. PS3 owners of FFXIV will get the PS4 version for free, but not until it releases on April 22nd. That means you can pickup FFXIV on PS4 for free, then pick up ESO on PS4 two months later.

PvE and PvP Content

Final Fantasy XIV is primarily a PvE game. In the most recent patch update, PvP was added, but it’s a secondary element. A vast majority of the player base prefers PvE to PvP, so if you’re looking for a solid PvP experience, Elder Scrolls Online will be the title of choice. There’s a huge PvP area that allows you to participate in huge battles, or complete individual quests at the risk of being attacked by a random player. It has a significant leg up on Final Fantasy XIV, and it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon.

From a PvE standpoint, Final Fantasy offers more content simply due to the fact that it will have been available for seven months by the time the PC version of ESO hits. The game had time to develop, and will continue to evolve with the big patch scheduled for April. ESO will be just starting out, but that means that every single aspect of the game will be brand new. For FFXIV, a vast majority of the player base is already at end game activities. ESO players will be able to experience the entirety of the game as a new experience. Both games offer something for people looking for PvE gameplay, while ESO will offer a better PvP environment.

General Gameplay

The one thing everyone seems to agree on when it comes to ESO is that it plays like an Elder Scrolls title. That’s not something you can say about FFXIV, especially considering how the series changed so much in recent years. If you enjoyed playing Skyrim, ESO is essentially Skyrim with PvP and a more open gameplay system. The graphics took a hit since it’s an MMO, but the experience stays the same. Through a good portion of the early levels, you will feel as though you’re playing an offline Elder Scrolls title. It won’t be until you start getting into the higher levels that the MMO aspects begin to set it apart.

That’s both good news and bad news for fans. Anyone who enjoyed Skyrim will have a field day with ESO, but they may not stick around for the monthly fee. MMO fans will enjoy the MMO aspects of the title, but will have to work through the early levels before they’ll experience that.

Thankfully, no matter what kind of fan you are, both ESO and FFXIV offer solid gameplay experiences for the masses.

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Bryan Dawson
Bryan Dawson has an extensive background in the gaming industry, having worked as a journalist for various publications for nearly 20 years and participating in a multitude of competitive fighting game events. He has authored over a dozen strategy guides for Prima Games, worked as a consultant on numerous gaming-related TV and web shows and was the Operations Manager for the fighting game division of the IGN Pro League.