I reached level 50 in Final Fantasy XIV and entered "the endgame," that fabled zone where only the elites live. Now I can evaluate FFXIV’s version of what some vehemently insist is "the only real game."
As with any MMO (except GW2), the FFXIV endgame is a gear grind. Your basic goal is to increase the "average item level" of your gear. This in turn allows you to unlock more and more difficult instances, in which you can acquire gear with higher item levels.
Unfortunately it doesn’t all open up to you at once. You have to go through and "unlock" all of the new endgame instances one at a time by jumping through quest hoops. Crystal Tower, for example, requires a painfully long quest chain during which you have to complete four FATEs that are basically impossible to complete without groups. If you’re extremely lucky, you’ll get to the FATE area at the exact time that other people are doing them. Otherwise, you’ll stand there waiting for other people to show up.
The currency you’ll be farming at endgame is what I call Allegheny Tokens, but which are actually called Allagan Tokens of Philosophy (lower tier) and Allagan Tokens of Mythology (higher tier). With Philosophy tokens you can buy item level 70 Darklight gear from a vendor in Revenent’s Toll. With Mythology tokens you can buy item level 90 gear. There’s a limit to how many Mythology tokens you can farm each week.
Where do you get these tokens you ask? Running instances over and over and over again. You unlock Castrum Meridian and The Praetorium by completing your main storyline (I think). These are 8-man instances which reward 100 Philosophy tokens each. There is also a Duty Roulette – Main Scenario, which rewards an extra 200 Philosophy tokens every day. Other Duty Roulettes also reward Philosophy and even Mythology tokens daily.
You can also get them from a handful of new dungeons unlocked at 50. I have not yet done any of these dungeons because I’m super lazy and to be honest you don’t really need to do them except one for your relic weapon quest. I’ll need to learn them eventually though so you can do the Duty Roulette – High Level, which awards extra tokens.
Okay, so you’re getting your Allegheny tokens and getting your Darklight gear. What else can you do? Well there’s this thing that everyone calls the Crystal Tower (but the game actually calls it the Labyrinth of Something), which is a 24-man "raid" you can queue up for and farm for item level 80 gear. It also rewards Allegheny tokens. You get level 80 gear from CT, but you can only get one piece of gear a week.
I put raid in quotes up there because it’s more of a public quest kind of raid than a real raid that requires coordination. Only a handful of people need to actually know what they’re doing to get through it. Most people just run around in a chaotic dance of lights and explosions. Personally I think it’s easier to farm for the tokens, although it can take a while to get in through the Duty Finder.
Oh, I almost forgot the Hard Mode Trials. Ifrit, Titan, and Garuda have 8-man harder instances available that you can do. Ifrit requires 51 item level, and Garuda requires I think 54 item level. I haven’t gotten to Titan yet but I would assume it’s higher. There is also an Ultima Weapon trial that requires item level 61, which I’m assuming is a repeat of the final boss fight(s) at the end of Praetorium. These hard mode trials drop a chest at the end from which you can get weapon upgrades if you haven’t yet done your relic quest.
I’m assuming that once you get all your 80 gear from CT, then you can go to this thing called Coil which I think is a more traditional-style raid, but I haven’t seen it. I’m in an FC now but I’m about a tier and a half behind everyone else.
One nice thing about the FFXIV endgame is that you can do almost all of it *without* an FC. However you will need to suffer through PUGs to do it. The people in this game seem more polite than average, but there’s still a number of dorks who are trying to speed run everything.