FF14 has a few paths for leveling. I wanted to write a quick summary of my recommended approach. I’ll update again in a couple months once Endwalker has settled.
Hopefully you pre-ordered something, which will give you access to an earring that increases EXP gains while leveling. Being in a guild will give a flat 10% boost as well. Logging out in a town (the moon icon near the EXP bar) gives rested exp gain of 50%. Finally, any food will give 3% exp gain and is super dirt cheap.
Also of note, if you are leveling a job that is a lower level than your highest one (e.g. you are leveling a 30, and you have a 70), you get an EXP boost as well! For that reason, it’s a huge benefit to fully level 1 job before taking on others.
If this is your first character & job
Fresh sprouts (you have an icon over your head) have two choices. Either you follow the Main Story Quest (MSQ) on the top left of your screen from 1-80 or you buy a pass to jump straight into Shadowbringers territory. I strongly recommend you do the MSQ. It will guide you through most of the systems, unlocks a bunch of stuff, and the story is absolutely worth it. It will take about 200 hours, all told, if you don’t skip cutscenes. It is worth it, and a great way to meet people.
Alternatively, you can boost to level 70 and skip the quests (pay for both) and then select NewGame+, allowing you to replay the MSQ and still access all the systems. This is certainly viable if you have friends at the end with whom you wish to play.
If this is your second job
The first thing I would recommend is unlocking all the flight points in all zones. This will take a couple days to knock out (aetherial compass to find the nodes, then 4-6 simple quests per zone). Insanely useful.
After that it boils down to level ranges and your preference:
- Level 1 – 15: Unlock the job, complete the Rank 1 hunting log, and then do FATES near Aleport until 15. You will want a Chocobo companion, likely set to healer, to make this go smoother. It is better to do lower level FATES without sync, than to do a high level one that takes longer.
- If you are a healer or a tank, you are better off just queuing for Duty Finder for leveling dungeons (avoid the 50/60/70 ones – the gear requirements here are too high). You’ll get decent experience, gil, and stuff to sell. Queues are usually pretty fast. If you are a DPS, or don’t ever want to worry about gear levels…
- Level 15-61: Palace of the Dead is the place to be. You need one class at 17 to unlock (you have one at 80). Run it a a matched group, and keep going 10 floors at a time until you’ve cleared floor 60. From then on, just re-run floors 51-60. Gear doesn’t matter at all here… but you want to pick up the blue chests to have stat boosts instead. Weapon + armor buffs max out around 65, so you’ll be a while before that happens. Pomanders aren’t that big of a deal here.
- Level 61-71: Heaven on High. This is PotD version 2 and you cannot access it until 61. Very similar structure, you’ll be repeating floors 21-30. There is one floor type that sucks, it’s entirely open. Save your esper summons to clear this one out. Aether boosts are also present, so your actual gear does not matter a lick.
- Level 71-80: Bozja. This requires to the Return to Ivalice quest be completed and then start the resistance quests. You need to be 80 to start it, but 71 to access it with another job. You will be item level synched and boosted to level 80. Again, no need for gear at all here, everyone gets synced to the same stats and level. You can enter with level 1 gear and deal a much damage as someone in full epic gear. The goal of this zone is to complete as many FATES as possible, increase you rank (this is quickly explained in game), which will then open critical engagements (8-24 person events). Leveling here is pretty quick.
These 3 last activities are repetitive, but they are also social and quite quick. The neat bit is that they lock you to level 60/70/80 along with the skills, allowing you to fully experience the job quickly, and set up you hot bars. Even if you don’t use them for primarily leveling, it’s a good idea to run through them just to get a feel for the jobs. It also means that you only need to buy Poetics gear at the end of your leveling journey, and only per role (tank, healer, melee DPS, physical range, magical range). It’s very economical. However, without gear you wont be able to do any Duty Finder activities – if you do plan to buy gear while leveling, I suggest doing so at 51/61/71. Buying gear at the X0 levels is usually 3x the cost and half the stats of a level X1 equivalent.
Have fun leveling!