Building the Best PC for Final Fantasy XIV and Stormblood


Last updated: August 2018

Final Fantasy XIV is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game from Square Enix. The game takes place in the fictional world of Hydaelyn, with the region in which the game is set called Eorzea. The player's character takes on the role of an adventurer, with the game starting with a vision of your character wielding a blade of light to strike down a masked man in black robes.

Stormblood is the second full expansion for FFXIV and it brings about improved visuals. This has resulted in them dropping support for the PS3 (it still supports PS4), as well as changes to the minimum and recommended specifications.

This guide takes a close look at FFXIV: Stormblood's graphical settings and the impact they have on the game. We'll also give you a good idea of the kind of PC hardware you'll need to run Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood to your satisfaction. If you just want to know what to buy without all the in-depth analysis, you can skip to the Recommendations Section.

If you already have a PC but want to know what settings to use for best performance, check out the Graphical Settings section.

Final Fantasy XIV Hardware Requirements and Performance

Final Fantasy XIV is built on Square Enix's Crystal Tools engine, the same engine used for Final Fantasy XIII and Dragon Quest X. Considering how visually impressive the gameplay is compared to other MMOs, Stormblood still runs very well on a decent modern gaming PC. For PC gamers on a budget, the fact that Square Enix have the game running on PS4 also helps for overall performance.

Before we discuss how various PC components influence Stormblood’s performance, let’s take a look at the game’s updated Minimum and Recommended specifications, which were released by Square Enix along with a benchmark tool for the game during a recent producers LIVE letter.

Note: Although there is a 32-bit version available for the game, it is only available for DirectX 9. If you want to use the DirectX 11 client, your version of Windows 7, 8.1 or 10 must be 64-bit.

Minimum System Requirements:

  • Processor: Intel Core i5 2.4GHz
  • Memory: 3 GB RAM (4GB if 64-bit)
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): NVIDIA GTX 750
  • Graphics Card (AMD): AMD Radeon R7 260X

Recommended System Requirements:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7 3GHz
  • Memory: 8GB
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): NVIDIA GTX 970
  • Graphics Card (AMD): AMD Radeon RX 480

Although the minimum specifications are still pretty acceptable, the recommended specifications should be a key indicator to the level of graphical improvements made to the game for Stormblood. That CPU and GPU combination especially means that your PC will need a fair amount of power to play the game smoothly on maximum settings.

To match the minimum recommended specifications, you could build a “Minimum” tier ($400) on the Logical Increment parts list. That would let you run the game smoothly with the settings turned down at 720p resolution.

It is highly recommended that you have hardware at least as good as our “Very Good” tier ($850) if you want a smooth experience at 1080p with the settings turned up.

Recommended GPUs for Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

For how impressive the game looks for a current MMO, Square Enix have done a decent job at allowing older systems to at least still play the game, while having enough variation in their graphics settings to allow those with more powerful rigs to really push up their in game visuals.

For maximum settings at 1080p with 60 FPS, we recommend going with a GTX 1060 3GB or an RX 580.

For maximum settings at 1440p with 60 FPS, we recommend a GTX 1070.

For maximum settings at 4K with 60 FPS, you will want a GTX 1080 Ti.

Recommended CPUs for Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

With the updates to the game engine, for the best in-game experience, having 4 or more CPU cores is now essentially a requirement. Those of you who have recently purchased new Ryzen processors will be particularly happy with the performance for the price when playing Stormblood.

For gaming on Maximum settings with 60+ FPS, we would recommend at least a lower-mid-range hyperthreaded CPU. A couple of great options would be an R5 2600 or an i5-8400.

For the best performance, as long as you have a powerful GPU to go along with it, get an i7-8700K.

RAM

The official recommendations are good for RAM. 4GB is the minimum, and would allow you to run the game, but 8GB is much better. More than 8GB is unecessary for playing FFXIV, but certainly won't hurt anything.

The performance impact of RAM speed depends on what CPU and motherboard you have, but the difference between the fastest and slowest RAM available to you will be small (less than 10%).


Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood Graphical Settings and Performance

This section takes a close look at the graphical options in the game and their effects on the game’s performance.

The ‘performance impact’ in each subsection below is the measured difference in average FPS between playing the game with the settings at their highest and turning only the setting in question down to the lowest while leaving all others at maximum.

Graphics Quality Presets

Along with a number of general modes, Final Fantasy XIV also comes with an auto-detect feature which is pretty accurate to what people's PCs can handle. The quality presets are ideal for those who don't want to touch individual settings, allowing you to change multiple settings at once.

From testing, going from Maximum to Standard (laptop) preset results in a 30-45% increase in average frame rates, and has a moderate loss in overall in-game visual quality.

Because the game fundamentally still needs a decent PC to run, in order to squeeze the best performance possible out of your own rig, we have found that tweaking the individual settings can result in a much nicer graphical experience overall, while potentially resulting in a lesser decrease in frame rate.

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Drag the bar to compare Quality on Standard and Maximum.

Screen Space Ambient Occlusion

The biggest standalone performance change comes from the engine's ambient occlusion setting. When enabled, this adds small, soft shadows to crevices and nearby objects, giving them a more natural look and improving image quality. Yet that performance comes at a cost. Note the difference in shading on the cobblestones in the foreground of the comparison image.

Performance Impact: ~15% between Off and HBAO+

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Drag the bar to compare SSAO off and on HBAO+.

Shadow Quality

One of the outright best performance jumps outside of tweaking your resolution comes from shadow quality and displaying shadows on yourself and other NPCs. This encompasses a few sub-settings: Shadow Resolution (high, normal, low); Shadow Cascading (best, normal, off); Shadow Softening (strong, weak); and Use Low-Detail Models on Shadows (on/off).

Performance Impact: ~5-10% between Off and High

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Drag the bar to compare Shadow Quality at Low and High.

Transparent Lighting Quality

This mainly adjusts the lighting quality from in-game spells, which can have a larger impact in big group activities.

Performance Impact: ~3-5% between Normal and High

Grass Quality

Although this is generally a smaller detail, the grass quality setting can have an obvious effect on the appearance of certain areas within the game.

Performance Impact: ~3-5% between Off and High

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Drag the bar to compare Grass Quality Off and High.

Texture Filtering

With the general improvements to texture quality in the game, even on the lower settings this has a limited impact by itself. However it's benefit to improving frames if you drop it down in quality increases as your gameplay resolution increases. So worth keeping in mind for high resolution builds.

Performance Impact: ~3% between Bilinear and Anisotropic (x16)

Background Tessellation

This impacts the visuals of the in-game background. Depending on your other settings, this can have a larger impact but by itself isn't a huge performance drain.

Performance Impact: ~3% between Standard and High

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Drag the bar to compare Background Tessellation on Low and High.

Real-time Reflections

This impacts reflections on water and other surfaces to both the general weather and in-game combat effects. Real-time reflections can have a varied impact depending on the part of the world you're in.

Performance Impact: ~2% between Off and Maximum

Glare

This provides a more natural lighting effect from in-game light. There are two settings at work for Glare: One is glare from the main light source (low or off) and the other is for how the light refracts and reflects off surfaces (standard or off). Individually, their impact isn't great, but combined they can have a slightly larger impact.

Performance Impact: ~1% for each option

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Drag the bar to compare Glare set to Off and Normal/Standard.

Water Tessellation

This impacts the overall look to the water, specifically in its general flow and wave appearance. It's a feature specific to DirectX 11, but by itself doesn't have a huge performance impact.

Performance Impact: 2% between Standard and High

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Drag the bar to compare Water Tessellation set to Standard and High.

Occlusion Culling, Wet Surface Effects and LOD on Distant Objects

Here you will find a few settings that by themselves aren't hugely impacting, but add on to other bigger settings elsewhere. They do still have impacts on graphics and loading times. These settings are: Enable Wet Surface Effects; Occlusion Culling (disables endering of objects when not visible; and LOD (using low-detail models on distant objects).

Performance Impact: Negligible ~1% for all of them combined. However, scenes can load a little faster.

Choosing the Best Settings for Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

Assuming PC can handle a stable 60 FPS with all the settings turned up at your desired resolution, then we recommend just leaving them as they are. As noted earlier in this guide, the automatic detection does a great job at adjusting the game settings to suit what your PC can handle, so if you're unsure, we would recommend leaving this by default.

However, if you’re not reaching 60 FPS, or if you have a specialized monitor with a higher refresh rate and want to get even better performance, there are certain settings you can lower to improve your framerate without sacrificing too much in the way of visuals.

Unfortunately, lowering multiple settings will not have a cumulative effect on framerate: If a setting give 10% improvement, and another gives 10%, lowering both will not give 20%, but possibly between 10-15%. This is where PC system specification variation comes into play!

Improve FPS considerably with little to no impact on visuals

  • Lower Ambient Occlusion and/or Shadow settings slightly

Improve FPS by larger amounts with moderate impact to visuals

  • Set Shadows on player and NPCs to Off
  • Set shadow resolution to low, shadow cascading off, shadow softening to weak and turn on use low-detail models on shadows
  • Set Grass Quality to Off

Last Resorts

If doing all of the steps above still does not achieve your desired framerate, try some of the following:

  • Lower Antialiasing (from x16 to x4)
  • Set Ambient Occlusion to Off

Very last resort:

  • Set everything as low as you can tolerate.

If you try all of the above and still can’t run the game as smoothly as you would like, you may need to upgrade your hardware.

Logical Increments Tiers and How They Fare

At Logical Increments, we maintain a free, regularly updated list of parts for optimal gaming PC builds. These PC builds cover a wide range of budgets that are sorted into tiers, starting with the Destitute going all the way up to Monstrous. Each of these tiers features the parts that we have spent hundreds of hours researching, and have decided will provide the best combination of performance, reliability, stability, quietness, and aesthetics for the price. The builds are tailored for playing a variety of games, and also work exceptionally well for any other demanding PC task.

This table shows how builds with our recommended hardware perform in FFXIV:

Tier 1600x900 1920x1080 2560x1440 3840x2160
Destitute ($175) Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable
Poor ($250) Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable
Minimum ($330) Borderline Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable
Entry ($400) Playable Borderline Unplayable Unplayable
Modest ($500) Playable Playable Borderline Unplayable
Fair ($550) Smooth Playable Playable Unplayable
Good ($650) Smooth Smooth Playable Borderline
Very Good ($800) Very Smooth Smooth Smooth Playable
Great ($900) Very Smooth Very Smooth Smooth Playable
Superb ($1100) Silky Smooth Very Smooth Very Smooth Smooth
Excellent ($1300) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Very Smooth Smooth
Outstanding ($1400) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Smooth
Exceptional ($1700) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Smooth
Enthusiast ($2500) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Very Smooth
Extremist ($3300) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Very Smooth
Monstrous ($5000+) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Explanation
Below 20 FPS Unplayable Jerky animation, "lag" and "stutter".
20-30 FPS Borderline Ok for some, too "laggy" for others. AKA "Cinematic".
30-45 FPS Playable Acceptable to most people. Not very good though!
45-60 FPS Smooth Fluid animation, no "lag".
60-90 FPS Very Smooth Very smooth is very smooth to almost everyone.
Above 90 FPS Silky Smooth Criminally smooth. For hardcore and professional players.

To see what different FPS looks like and understand how high FPS you need, read: All About Frame Rate.

To see how resolution affects visuals and performance, read: All About Screen Resolution.

We aim for a very smooth 60+ FPS with the graphical settings turned all the way up. If you’re willing to lower any graphical settings, or you’re happy with framerates lower than 60 FPS, you can get by with an even lower-tier PC.

Below, we list the the tiers on our parts list that would achieve that 60 FPS baseline with Battleborn at a range of progressively more demanding screen resolutions.

1600x900

The Good tier, featuring the GTX 1060 3GB and the R5 2600, will get you very smooth performance in FFXIV at 1600x900.

Downgrade to the R5 1500X to save some money at the cost of a little performance.

1920x1080 (1080p)

The Good tier, featuring the GTX 1060 3GB and the R5 2600, will also get you very smooth performance at 1080p.

2560x1440 (1440p)

The Superb tier, featuring the GTX 1070 and the R7 2700, will get you very smooth performance at 1440p.

3840x2160 (4K)

The Outstanding tier, featuring the GTX 1080 and the i7-8700K, will get you very smooth performance at 4K.

Conclusion

To play Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood to its full potential, you need a fairly powerful PC. Like other modern Final Fantasy games, Square Enix have made Stormblood look visually impressive, especially for a MMO. However, considering its polished visuals, the game is pretty well optimized for PC hardware. Players with at least a quad-core CPU and a decent graphics card will find themselves having the best time here, yet even less powerful PCs can manage to play the game with lower graphical settings, still resulting in a game that is visually appealing.

We hope this guide has helped you understand the necessary PC hardware for running FFXIV to your satisfaction. If you want to do further research on PC hardware, please visit our main PC parts list on our homepage.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below, or email us at contact@logicalincrements.com.

About Us

Chris is a contributing writer for Logical Increments, and has worked in the gaming and technology industries as a community manager for many years, as well as a live streamer. He has been building PC's for over 11 years.

When Chris is not here creating builds and guides, he can be found at University, studying for a BSc in Video Production as he makes the transition over to the film industry from gaming. You can read more about his journey on his website.

Logical Increments helps more than 2 million PC builders each year with hardware recommendations for any budget.

If you want to see our build recommendations for general purpose gaming PCs, check them out!

Sources

  1. Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood System Requirements
  2. Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood Official Benchmark Tool
  3. Reddit thread comparing benchmark results