We’re getting in the zone with Perfect Ten lately. A few weeks back, Justin posted his own personal ranking of World of Warcraft zones. It’s not the list I would have personally made, but considering that both of us have played the game on and off over a long period of time I know it’s natural that we’re both going to have different emotions and associations with the game. But you know what I definitely know well? Zones in Final Fantasy XIV. That’s kind of my jam, you know?
Yes, WoW is also my jam. I don’t own it.
So today, I want to count down my top 10 zones from FFXIV. My goal here (because it’s possible) is to give every single expansion at least one zone among my personal favorites, since I feel that’s only fair. My goal here isn’t necessarily to list which zones are the best-designed, have the most interesting parts of the MSQ, are home to the best content, or whatever; this is purely a list of my personal favorite from the game. With all that in mind, let’s begin.
1. Southern Shroud
Right off the bat, I think the Southern Shroud is a pretty interesting place to be. For one thing, it’s got the closest we have in the game at the moment to a proper swamp, and I feel swamps are generally a bit underrated as interesting zones for adventure to happen in. (Maybe not pleasant places to live, but not everything has to be.) It also has a really interesting split of architecture and general feel between the northern and southern portions of the map… and even a split between the northwest and northeast in terms of areas having a different feel. Each part of the map feels distinct and identifiable, which is something I appreciate.
2. Coerthas Central Highlands
What a brilliant zone. Coerthas Central Highlands sticks in your memory immediately because it looks and sounds like nothing else in the entire base game when you first visit it; you get a little slice of Ishgardian culture, more insight than we ever got in 1.0, and it manages to cover a wide swath of environments and different areas while all being one contiguous locale. I still want to get a chance to see more of the areas that are partitioned off from here and have a chance to visit more of the Coerthan region, even though the game and the story has largely moved on from it.
I still remember visiting here for the first time when the relaunch was new and fresh and finding it amazing. It feels thematically similar to the Western Highlands from Heavensward, sure, but I think this is a better zone in design terms and also just from being first.
3. Upper La Noscea
All right, this one is very much a zone of two parts, what with the huge lake in the middle separating them. However, those two parts are both interesting mini-zones in their own right. Frankly, if anything I feel like this zone is underutilized; so much of the western half is given over to a town that I’d follow quests about, but we only ever see them through the frame of a FATE series. Give us more, darn it! This area is ripe for more content!
4. Dravanian Hinterlands
Our first look at anything approaching Sharlayan architecture mixed with a zone that feels marvelously well-arranged; this is a wholly linear zone, and yet it easily feels like each individual part is a portion of a contiguous zone so much that you miss how much of the zone is one-way on foot until it’s pointed out to you. It’s the penultimate zone of the expansion and a personal favorite, and I’m glad Idyllshire meant there was always good reason to come back.
5. Sea of Clouds
Real talk, actually navigating this zone is kind of a pain. But it has a really unique look and feel, at once very fantastical (since you are literally on a group of islands suspended in the clouds) and very grounded (the environment isn’t all that different from how the Coerthan Highlands looked back in 1.0. So it gets a nod. I honestly like it better the less time I have to spend going through here looking for hunt marks. (And it’s been a very long time since I had to do that.)
6. The Peaks
Ala Mhigo could probably have been an expansion all by itself. I understand why it wasn’t, even if that means there’s a lot of space to explore more zones around the Far East at some point in the future, but the “missing” city-state definitely had space to fill out an entire expansion by its lonesome. The Peaks is my personal favorite of the Gyr Abanian zones we did get; it has that “two-part” zone structure I quite like and a lot of memorable features both on the lower half and the upper half.
What ever was the deal with the Qiqirn here, though? I feel like that kind of got elided.
There’s not much to say about Yanxia as a whole, I just like it. Both halves of the zone look very similar, it’s kind of a rough split to navigate between them, but it has a very grounded feel and has a lot of great vistas spread throughout it. Yanxia is neat.
8. Rak’tika Greatwood
“Wait, only one zone from Shadowbringers?” I know! I was surprised too. But while I definitely think that the expansion was in many ways a high-water mark for the game as a whole, possibly even better than Endwalker on a whole, the zones themselves are generally not that interesting to me. Il Mheg in particular I have always found to just be annoying, and while the last zone has one really interesting stinger at the end that doesn’t make up for how most of it is bland undersea nonsense.
Rak’tika, though, is a wild overgrown forest in a way that we don’t really have elsewhere. It feels like a zone that could only exist on the First, and that’s a welcome difference. And let’s not forget the simple joy of walking in and hearing “LA-HEE” screamed at you every time.
Thavnair is easily the zone we had heard about the most in game before ever getting to actually see it. A lot of storytelling revolved around what was in Thavnair and Radz-at-Han, what the environment must be like, and so forth. So what did we get? A zone that feels very much inspired by the more tropical parts of India with an interesting mix of cultures and visual influences, something that feels wholly different from everything else on the planet and yet consistent with what we’ve been told. It slots in almost effortlessly to what we had been told to expect. That’s a win in my book.
I’m the worst, I’m not giving away the name of the last zone here! Even though I absolutely could. But even disregarding the emotional impact of the various components within this zone’s storytelling, this zone feels like a perfect “final” zone for the entirety of FFXIV. It feels like it’s wrapping up long-hinted story threads while also containing new vistas, it feels unique from the other zones in the game, and it all builds to an endearing and memorable climax at the very center of the map. What a great end to the journey.
Here’s to many more.