I've tried writing this about 8 times now. The knock against GoV and the current state of XI is just bugging the **** out of me.
That game is better than ever, and the updates released in the last two years absolutely saved the game. Games must evolve and change. Stagnation is a horrible thing for a game that should live and breathe.
You enjoy grinding, so you should have no problem with this game at all. There is a lot of that, and the fights are somewhat like 2005 Robber crabs and crap. If that's your thing you should have quite a bit of fun.
All quests in XIV reward you with Exp. This wasn't always the case, but that's how it is now. Sidequest, main storyline quest, whatever, they all give you some amount of exp. However none of them can be repeated, so they're definitely not the primary way to gain exp here.
Guild Leves can be repeated, and you are allowed to accept 4 of them every 12 hours(This continues to build up to storing 99 of them).
These are a lot like WoW quests. I guess. I've never played WoW, but I did play Perfect World International and that's pretty much WoW China.
You accept the Leve(Quest) and after arriving at the location are instructed to
A.)Kill X amount of monsters for no real reason
B.)Obtain X amount of items for some insane reason(It's always an insane reason)
After finishing these you are awarded with a certain amount of exp depending on how long it took you to complete it, Gil depending on the difficulty, and sometimes items(Crystals, gear, medicine, food).
But you don't have to do these. They aren't required to progress in the game, though they certainly help a ton. There are some items you can only receive from these(Guild Marks used to buy additional abilities, some rare armor used to craft other junk), and it is one of the quickest ways to make gil. Crafting can be done with these same leves, and are an easy way to gain some levels with that.
At this point, no matter what the game is actually like, every MMO will be called a WoW ripoff. Even those that came before it still get that.
Whatever WoW is doing, it's working. I have no interest in the game, but I can't deny that fact.
MMO developers are trying(seems that way to me) to move away from that old model. That exp should be hard to get and take a lot of time. That you should have to grind and grind away before you can start doing some new content. Those old ways are just sort of dead, and if that's what you are hoping for, it seems unlikely you will ever find that in a new MMO.
XIV is fun for what it is. There are problems, a lot of them really, but it's not a terrible game at all. And, besides that initial cost, it's free. It's really very hard to beat free, and it feels worth the cost of the disc alone to me.
You're experience in XIV may be totally different from others, there's really no definite way to to enjoy the game here, unlike most other MMOs. I'd say give it a chance at least. At worst your out 20$ and a few hours of your time. At best you find something you really enjoy and want to stick with for a good while.
This used to be pretty fun.