How to play the Final Fantasy XIV free trial

final fantasy xiv
(Image credit: Square Enix)

It’s become something of a meme that you can play Final Fantasy XIV and its first expansion, Heavensward, for free. While you’ll still have to pay up for later expansions and higher-level content, you can easily log more than 100 hours in Square Enix’s excellent MMORPG, experiencing two complete story arcs, without ever paying a penny for it. Better yet: Doing so is extremely easy.

Granted, you’ll have to face a few restrictions, and you may well wind up spending some money before all is said and done. Square Enix offers this free trial in the hopes of creating new subscribers, after all. But since FFXIV is an excellent game, and you really can play through two whole arcs for free, there’s very little reason not to at least try it.

How to get Final Fantasy XIV free trial: Download client

final fantasy xiv heaensward

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Downloading the Final Fantasy XIV Free Trial client is pretty simple, but it does vary somewhat depending on whether you’re playing on the PC, Mac, PS4 or PS5.

On a PC or Mac, visit the Final Fantasy XIV Free Trial website and click “Sign up now.” This will take you to a page where you can create a Square Enix account and download the software you’ll need.

On a PS4, simply visit the Final Fantasy XIV Free Trial PSN page, then download and install the game. On a PS5, add the “PS5 Upgrade Edition” content as well. You can find them both on the PlayStation Store via web browser, if you want to add them to your account now and install them later.

The only thing to keep in mind here is that if you’ve used a Square Enix account to play FFXIV before, you’ll need to create a new one to take advantage of the free trial. This isn’t hard to do, since you can simply use a new e-mail address and a different username. But if you took advantage of a previous free trial offer, you’ll have to either pay for a monthly subscription, or simply accept that you’ll have to make a new character on a new account.

How to play the Final Fantasy XIV free trial: Install the game

10 games to play together for virtual hangouts

(Image credit: Square Enix)

This step is also pretty straightforward, although it may take a bit longer than expected. Once you install Final Fantasy XIV, you’ll have to launch the installer on PC/Mac, or wait for it to start installing on PS4/PS5. Don’t be deceived by the relatively short wait, however; the game has been out for quite a while, and requires extensive patching after the initial installation.

There’s no special trick here; just have something else to do for an hour or two while the game gets itself up to date.

Understand the FFXIV Free Trial’s limitations

final fantasy xiv endwalker

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Once the game finishes installing, you can jump right in. You’ll have to choose a server, pick a class, design your character and so forth, but the game itself does a good job of walking you through this process. Likewise, because the game is extremely story-driven (especially by MMO standards), there’s the game will show you exactly how to advance the narrative and explore the world. If you’ve played an online game sometime in the last two decades, you should feel right at home after a quest or two.

However, while the FFXIV free trial gives you access to most of what you’d get with a paid subscription, there are still a few areas in which you’ll face limitations. First and foremost, once your character hits level 60, you won’t gain any more experience. That should be high enough to get through the main game as well as the Heavensward expansion — which is convenient, because that’s all the content you’ll have access to. The Stormblood and Shadowbringers expansions are off-limits, as is the upcoming Endwalker expansion.

There’s also a whole laundry list of smaller restrictions. You don’t have access to every in-game microtransaction; you can create only eight characters, and one character per server; you can collect, at most, 300,000 gil (the game’s currency); you cannot communicate privately with other players unless they invite you to a group; you cannot send letters to other players; you cannot create or join guilds; you cannot join a party unless you’re running a dungeon; you cannot join PvP teams; and you cannot use the official FFXIV forums or companion app.

You can find a full list of restrictions on the Square Enix website, but make no mistake: Some of these are darned inconvenient. If you have friends who have been playing FFXIV for a while, teaming up with them is much harder than it should be, since you can barely communicate with them in-game. Furthermore, you’ll hit the gil cap way before you hit level 60, leading to a lot of lost currency.

Still, compared to what you do get for free, what you don’t get is relatively easy to deal with. You can, indeed, go from Level 1 to Level 60 and experience two full story arcs without paying for any of it. If you like the game, you’ll probably be on the hook for an expensive monthly subscription ($13-15), as well as a few dozen dollars for all the various expansions. But considering that FFXIV is arguably one of the finest games Square Enix has made in years, that seems like a fair tradeoff.

Next: Final Fantasy XIV is free to play and it's definitely worth your time. Or if you love Overwatch, check out how to play Loverwatch, the dating sim spin-off. 

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.