FFXIV is a little bit of a breath of fresh air for me; I didn’t expect the story to be anything memorable, gripping or just enthralling, and while this can be the case for some parts – there is no doubt that the story-emphasis is on a much higher level than your average MMORPG. The writing is good and sometimes great if you ask me, as any MMORPG this game does suffer from fetch quests here and there (pray return to the Waking Sands!), but this is pretty established for the genre as a whole. Do note that you are never really forced to do any fetch side quests, since doing dungeons e.t.c. give you good exp, an alternative way of leveling. Class quests can be of decent quality as well, but I cannot speak for all of them since I’ve only done the Rogue and a lot of the Ninja ones.
I paid around 27€ for one month of sub and all expansions, I have well over 100 hours by now and I am not even done with all the story parts. This is not a game that you try to speedrun to level 80 from the get-go, there are skip potions though, which I feel mixed about. For all newcomers – I suggest not using this, not only does it cost money but you probably end up not feeling invested and involved in the universe, and you miss a ton of character interactions and story sequences and the feeling of awesomeness which you will probably encounter more than a few times during the story.
My main gripe with this game though (and I think many can agree on this), is that the start is soooo slow, like, it might be the slowest start and build-up I have ever experienced in gaming. The combat really suffers in the beginning, you will only have a few combat abilities which might also share cooldowns, making combat a little bit of a slog at the start. You really feel this later on when you are much higher level and you do a leveling roulette (which syncs your level), and you are locked out of your higher level abilities, ugh. In my opinion the beginning needs a rework, getting some of your major abilities sooner might be a way to make this more tolerable. At the same time I do like that leveling is in general pretty slow, at first this might be off-putting, but you will most likely end up feeling it being more rewarding.