On some level, this is a bit of a complaint because we have not gotten a straightforward listing of skills and their effects along the lines of what Ninja got, and I don’t know why the Final Fantasy XIV developers would think that we don’t want one. But on another level, even a full and precise listing might not actually fix things. There’s going to be ambiguity no matter what because let’s be real here: I know what an array of the new skills are supposed to be, but I don’t know them. I don’t know how they play. And at the end of the day, a listing of skills is just a pile of data. Important data, sure, but not a prime source of figuring out how I’ll be playing my characters when the expansion launches.
Those of you who read this column on the regular know that my main character mainlines Ninja, primarily for roleplaying reasons, which is intensely relevant when you consider the new skills. What we’ve been told thus far is that there might be new positionals involved for Ninja, that there will be a skill to control enmity, that you can extend Huton through an attack, and perhaps one or two other tricks. It’s all relevant information, but it’s also information that doesn’t really tell me much of anything.
Ninja priorities and activities are on a pretty short leash. There are very few times when the job isn’t active and juggling priorities. Will having positionals affect that badly? How will we work in our enmity control? How long does an attack extend the Huton effect?
More importantly, how does it all feel?
I mean, I’ve had months to get used to my Ninja rotation as it exists now, but I haven’t gotten used to a new one. I don’t know yet if it’s going to feel elegant or not, I don’t have my hotbars set up for it (wow, is that ever going to be a fun chore), and I don’t know about animation locks or any of that.
That’s not counting the fact that we’re getting a new set of dungeons, raids, and so forth that have very different requirements. You might not think that’s a big deal, and you’d be right insofar as the game is balanced around all the jobs that currently exists, but certain abilities matter more based on circumstances. What if Silence becomes more commonly useful than Stun as an interrupt, for example?
I don’t know the answers to all of these questions. I’m willing to bet that you don’t know the answers either. And at the risk of being an intense letdown, I think the only way you really can get the answers to these questions is by playing these jobs for months, getting accustomed to how they work, and understanding the intended priorities when in a fight.
There are going to be new crafting recipes, there will be new materials and new crafting actions. Gathering is going to be different. Except for fishing, presumably, but fishing is always kind of in that territory. All we can do at this point is speculate, and even with some idea about what those new actions will be the speculation is pretty far into arbitrary territory.
Perhaps I’m just overly cynical and refuse to get excited by things I have to wait nearly three weeks longer to experience. Anything is possible.
Looking at it the setup in the abstract, I think the biggest changes are the things that haven’t changed. There are no new egis for Summoners, for example, which makes perfect sense with just a moment’s thought – there aren’t many more slots for a pet to realistically fit. (I do like the idea of an Egi glamour system and vote for a Ruby Carbuncle for ranged DPS.) There’s also a definite sense of weaknesses being addressed, but not actual strengths, avoiding the sort of overt homogenization that’s always a threat.
Case in point: Dragoon will still be about precisely timing and consuming single-shot buffs, as it has been. Black Mage is still about the back-and-forth between cycles. Bard is still about disappointing your party by not singing useful support songs, and when you have the time you can also wait for attack procs. All of these jobs have weaknesses of their own, but the new abilities look to expand on strengths and make the gameplay more interesting rather than just, say, outright removing the need for timing brief cooldowns on Dragoon.
I’m also very intrigued by the addition of dedicated damage specs for all three tanks and the idea that we should be able to smoothly switch stances in fights. Perhaps Strength will start being a more attractive choice for stats as a better-geared tank after all; a lot of Warriors already slip over to it, and it might make for a better off-tank if you’ve got stacked damage instead of health.
Cross-class abilities, as they currently stand, do not look to be very interesting. Dark Knights will almost certainly want Bloodbath, Flash, Provoke, Foresight, and Mercy Stroke. Machinist will want Raging Strikes, Hawk’s Eye, Quelling Strikes, Blood for Blood, and Invigorate. In other words, all of the old standbys. Unless some lower-level skills suddenly become cross-class when they weren’t before, I simply don’t see this aspect of the game becoming very interesting or different.
We also really need to hear something about changes vis-a-vis our hotbars because speaking for myself I either need to start making some in-depth macros to free up space or need more hotbars than I currently have on basically everything. Tanks would be served well by having skills automatically shift based on stances, but by and large I think we’re getting into mild bloat territory.
And there’s not much more time to speculate about this; there are two more columns between now and early access, which of course you all know that I’m going to be there for in all of its server-destroying glory. If there are new systems or new hotkeys or whatever to quickly shift between bars, we need to hear about them pretty soon. I would rather not be juggling three bars on a regular basis, but if I need to, I’d at least like to know about it now rather than in two weeks.
Ultimately, though, while I’m happy to know at least a little bit about all the new abilities and stances and what-not, I can’t really know about any of them until the launch has happened and I have a little space to really start playing around with this stuff. Until then, it’s just data, and not particularly useful data. I can guess at how the changes will play, but I’d rather actually find out.
Feedback, disagreement, shouted expressions of excitement — all are welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I’m going to go ahead and make some longer-term lore predictions about the expansion, and the week after that I want to fire off a sort of primer for everyone going into the expansion. Onward to Coerthas!