While most of the typical MMO niches are abound – questing, exploring, crafting, saving the world, blah blah – the one thing in particular that I have yet to see is that you can do literally any class and any profession on one character. Do you want to be a tank? You can be a Paladin or a Warrior. Melee DPS? How about a Monk or a Dragoon? Enjoy healing? Go be a Scholar or a White Mage. But, there’s a rather unusual catch: none of these are starter classes. To give you my personal example, I love tanking and have been one since I decided to roll a warrior over my rogue back in World of Warcraft about seven years ago and I haven’t looked back. So, in order to strap on the sword and board, I chose a Gladiator.
Wait, what? So how’d I become the Paladin I am? Once I reached level 30 (out of 50), I had to talk to the Conjurer guild and tell them to sign me up. Once I reached level 15 with that class, I was given a Paladin ‘soul’ by a different NPC. But it doesn’t end there if I don’t want it to. If I wanted to switch my roles up, I’d have to level the two necessary classes (ex. a Dragoon is a level 30 Lancer/level 15 Warrior) to get a new soul and simply swap out my gear. I must say, that’s a pretty cool idea.
One of the things that goes with this is the fact that you can choose a few abilities from your other classes that you can use with your primary role. For example, my Paladin can use Cure, a basic Conjurer healing spell, even though I’m a tank. It doesn’t heal for much, but if I wanted to use it, I could. Unequipping the Paladin soul allows me use any Gladiator abilities that I’ve learned, but you lose out on the Paladin-specific abilities, bonuses and use of cross-class abilities. Would be interesting to see what kinds of spells people would use if you had the ability to choose any of the other class’ abilities you’ve learned.
Combat roles aren’t the only things your one character can do though. Want to build powerful weapons? You can be a Blacksmith. Like cooking? The culinary field is for you! Having trouble finding earrings and neck pieces on your travels? Make them yourself as a Goldsmith! Just gather up the appropriate armor and you’re halfway there!
Wait…you need a specific set of armor to go pick flowers or dig from rocks or fry a trout? That seems a little, well, different. But they do try to make gathering and crafting unique by allowing you to improve the quality of the items you make or find by using various given abilities. Also, when you’re out and about gathering the materials you need, you don’t have to worry about fighting over nodes; each marker is your own. Great! So what’s the armor for then? Simply, it grants you more crafting or gathering points so you can use more abilities in an effort to improve the results of whatever you’re trying to do. You almost end up playing a little mini-game each time you craft or search for something.
In most other games, you simply type in how many of a particular item you want made and go afk. In FFXIV, you have to meticulously keep an eye on the item’s durability (to make sure it’s actually made and not ruined in the process) and the item’s quality (the higher the quality, the greater the chance for creating a better than average piece, granting it some higher stats). Funny enough, this can simultaneously interesting and tedious. However, if you want to simply tell the game ‘please make X amount of this thing’, you can. Unfortunately, this comes at a huge XP cost.
Okay, so the gathering/crafting aspect of the game is different than the norm for the most part. How’s the combat? Honestly, the combat is pretty cool. A lot of the abilities and spell effects look awesome and explosive at higher levels. FFXIV also has ability chaining, where you have to use one particular skill after another after another for maximum effect. While those abilities can each be used on their own, you get more out of them by using them in sequence.
A unique idea that FFXIV brings (at least as far as I’ve seen, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!) is something called a Limit Break. Basically, when you’re in a party of four or more and you attack a boss or heal other players, one of potentially three small bars over the party’s UI starts to fill. Once at least one bar is filled, depending on what role activates the Limit Break, a special ability is unleashed. If a tank uses Limit Break, the party’s defense skyrockets for a short time. If it’s done by a direct damage-dealing DPS, that player does a huge burst of single target damage. Casters call down a massive AOE, which is generally used to quickly annihilate a bunch of smaller targets. Healers using Limit Break heal everyone to full health, and if all three bars are full when it’s used, anyone who’s dead is resurrected as well and without resurrection sickness. This is definitely a cool addition to combat and can make or break some higher level fights.
However, despite combat ultimately being pretty fun, I do have a few major problems, the most annoying being the 2.5 second GCD. Being forced to stand there and do nothing for so long can make combat feel a little slow at times. While there are a couple abilities that aren’t on the GCD, the important ones that can easily lead to a wipe are, and it can be extremely irritating: survival cooldowns, potions, a timely stun, hell, even holding aggro sometimes. I can’t tell you how many times I was sitting there trying to quickly decide whether to hold off on using a threat-generating ability in favor of waiting to interrupt a boss’ attack that was about to come up. Either choice could have lead to the group getting screwed, and I hate that lack of control.
Another thing that I’m rather unhappy with, especially as the meat shield, is that threat seems wildly all over the place. White Mages, one of the two healing classes, sometimes (and sometimes not) can attract an enemy’s attention with next to no effort, even a few minutes into a long fight, despite the fact that scholars, the other healing class, can put out similar healing numbers. Even when I throw everything I can to tear threat away from them, it feels like pushing a boulder up a mountain. This inconsistency has made me yell at the screen more than once and seems to happen most often when a White Mage uses any of their heal-over-time abilities, which, for whatever reason, generate an absurd amount of threat even on a single target. Why their larger direct heals don’t is beyond me.
This isn’t where the threat issues end unfortunately. There have been many instances where I would pull an enemy and, despite locking onto me, it would go running half a football field past me, smack someone else who hasn’t even done anything yet and come back. Not only can I not figure out what the hell the mob is doing, the amount of time it takes for it to return to me can easily result in threat being lost thanks to heals or a trigger-finger DPS while I chase the enemy down. While you may be thinking this is simply high latency making it look as if the mob is jumping all over my screen in the first place, the friends that I group with and chat with over Skype have laughed at this insanity multiple times.