Choose My Adventure: Dungeons, soloing, and PvP in FFXIV’s Heavensward

    
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Hello again, everyone, and welcome to week three of Choose My Adventure. If you’re tuning in for the first time, allow me to bring you up to speed. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been adventuring my way through Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward. At the behest of the first week’s poll, I transformed my dear Miqo’te into an Au Ra of the Xaela clan and cast off my robe and wizard White Mage hat and donned the vestments of an Astrologian, which, as it happens, are pretty much the same. But I do get a spinny-ring-card-orb thing — star globe, whatever — so I suppose it balances out.

At any rate, last week I outlined my initial impressions of the Astrologian and asked you lot to vote on how I should go about leveling him up. It was a massacre; there were no survivors. Even the combined forces of PvP, which fell dead last with 9% of the votes, and open-world content (quests, leves, FATEs, etc.), which barely trumped it with 28%, couldn’t stand against the might of dungeon-delving, which won by such a margin that “landslide victory” doesn’t quite cover it. However, a few of you pointed out in the comments that you would have preferred for me to do a bit of everything, and since I so thoughtlessly neglected to provide that as an option in the poll, I decided it was only fair that I do so. Consider it penance for my indiscretion.

My negligence aside, however, dungeon-delving did win the vote fair-and-square, so I suppose that’s where we’ll begin. Let me start by saying that I’m going to be having dreams about Brayflox’s Longstop and Sunken Temple of Qarn for the next month, so thoroughly have they been seared into my brain. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I woke up in the middle of the night to discover I was running them in my sleep. But Qarn did have the decency to give me a spiffy new star globe called Altair, which I think is pretty badass, so I’m OK with it. I also made a few runs through Haukke Manor and The Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak courtesy of the Duty Roulette, and both left me wondering how I had never noticed how bizarre (and quite frankly disgusting) some of the mob names are. Prison Pudding? What even is that? Actually, don’t answer that. The more pressing question is, what in the everloving hell happened in Haukke Manor that left it inhabited by homicidal, sentient Carpet Stains? Go ahead and take a few minutes to mull that one over. I’ll wait.

At any rate, the dungeons themselves are old news, and I somehow doubt y’all came here to read about them. That’s what the wiki is for, after all. The real matter at hand is the Astrologian itself. So how did my experience progress as I started racking up the levels? Well, picture this: You’re on a road trip. A few hours in, the road has been nothing but perfectly, unerringly straight, with nary a curve or bend to be seen. So you set your cruise control, turn on some tunes, and put your brain on autopilot. This makes it especially jarring when you realize that you’re hurtling through a hairpin turn on a one-lane mountain road without so much as a safety barrier separating you from the canyon floor however-many miles below, and that’s to say nothing of the bus full of rather surprised-looking tourists with which you’re currently on a collision course.

But that’s enough about my last vacation; the point is, that’s roughly how I felt around the time my Astrologian hit level 40. Why? At level 35, I earned the Royal Road ability, the first of many abilities that allow me to make my divining card tricks a little bit, well, trickier. Essentially, it allows me to discard my currently drawn card in exchange for a buff to the effect of the next card I use. The buff granted depends on the card discarded by the ability: The Bole and The Balance grant a 150% increase to the effect’s potency, The Arrow and The Spear double the effect’s duration, and The Ewer and The Spire change the effect from single-target to an AoE that affects all allies near the primary target, though this comes at the cost of a 50% reduction in the effect’s potency.

You can probably see how this bumps the complexity of the class up a bit. No longer is it simply a matter of drawing a card in between heals and tossing the buff on the most fitting target. Royal Road provides the option of trashing a less-useful card in order to pump up the power of the next one, which is great for those times when I draw The Ewer while everyone’s MP is still full; instead of letting it go to waste, I can just use it to turn the next card into an AoE so I can spread the love to the whole group. Useful though it is, however, Royal Road is a relatively minor addition to my arsenal and, on its own, certainly isn’t responsible for the harrowing mountain-road scenario I laid out earlier.

No, the ability responsible for unceremoniously bucking me out of my precious groove is the Astrologian’s level 40 ability, Spread. It’s actually a monumentally useful skill that allows me to take a drawn card and set it aside for later use, thus granting me some degree of control over the otherwise random nature of the cards and providing me with some much-needed versatility. But you know the old saying: With great versatility comes overwhelming panic. Or something like that, anyway.

See, prior to my learning Spread, utilizing the Astrologian’s divination cards didn’t require a whole lot of thought on my part. At first, it was simple: Draw card, give card to whichever party member will benefit most from it, and you’re done. If I drew The Bole, which grants damage mitigation, I threw it on the tank; if I drew The Balance, which provides a damage increase, I just tossed it on one of the DPS. Divining the future using magical cards: super simple stuff. Then Royal Road came along and shuffled (sorry) things up a bit, forcing me to consider whether each card I drew should be used immediately or sacrificed to power up the next one, but it was generally a pretty straightforward decision, and the randomness of the draw meant that sometimes I just had play the hand I was dealt (really, I’m sorry, I just can’t resist) regardless of whether it was ideal for the circumstances.

But when Spread got thrown into the mix, the Astrologian’s little card game suddenly began to require a degree of situation-analysis, foresight, and decision-making to which my little White-Mage-conditioned brain simply is not accustomed. In addition to performing the standard array of healing duties — you know, little things like making sure that no one meets a gruesome and untimely demise — now I also had the means (and therefore the obligation) to prepare my cards ahead of time to deal with whatever problems may arise.

It’s a juggling act, really, and as it turns out, I’m not a particularly good juggler. Healing is the easy part, but to really eke every last ounce of effectiveness out of the Astrologian, it seems essential to use Spread in conjunction with Royal Road to literally stack the deck in anticipation of the fight’s mechanics. For instance, if there’s going to be bunch of group-wide damage, you probably want to make sure you have The Bole in your spread (for the damage mitigation, of course) and that you’ve used Royal Road on The Ewer or The Spire, thus allowing you to cast The Bole as an AoE. Alternatively, if you’re expecting a huge damage spike on the tank, it would be a better idea to make sure you’ve got Royal Road’s buff from The Bole or The Balance to bolster the damage reduction effect’s potency. But at the same time, you’ve got to take into consideration that it might be a better idea to go ahead and use the card you’ve drawn rather than setting it aside with Spread or sacrificing it to Royal Road. Oh, and while you’re maniacally flipping cards around like Gambit on amphetamines, make sure you don’t forget to keep healing.

Striking that balance between addressing the immediate problems at hand (e.g., the ever-encroaching specter of death) and preparing your cards for the obstacles to come really seems to be the core of healing as an Astrologian, and despite the occasional jolt of panic when I realize I’ve been so busy doing card tricks that I’ve neglected to actually do my job and heal someone, this is the most fun I’ve had playing a healer in recent memory. It’s not that the mechanics are necessarily groundbreaking, but I really dig the keep-on-your-toes spin that Astrologian puts on the usual game of health-bar whack-a-mole.

Phew, look at that huge wall of gushing praise about how much I loved running dungeons as the Astrologian. This article’s going to become a novel if this keeps up. But don’t worry. It won’t. See, somewhere around level 37, I decided to take a break from dungeons to see how the Astrologian fared in solo content. Suffice it to say, there will be neither gushing nor praise in the next few paragraphs. In the interest of full disclosure, I did only a small handful of leves and a smattering of quests over the course of my playtime this weekend, largely on account of the fact that if I had done more, I would have ended up lying in my bed, glazed-over eyes focused intently on counting the little bumps on my ceiling. And that would have been exponentially more fun.

I did only a small handful of leves and a smattering of quests over the course of my playtime this weekend, largely on account of the fact that if I had done more, I would have ended up lying in my bed, glazed-over eyes focused intently on counting the little bumps on my ceiling. And that would have been exponentially more fun.
OK, so maybe I’m being overly harsh to the poor Astrologian. I mean, I can’t say I didn’t expect this. Having previously played through the entirety of the pre-Heavensward story questline as a Conjurer-turned-White-Mage, I knew exactly what to expect in regard to soloing as a healing class. Like the White Mage, the Astrologian has only precious few damage-dealing spells, and the most complimentary thing I can say about them is that they do, in fact, deal damage.

Really, it was like déjà vu all over again because the array of damaging spells currently available to my Astrologian — all three of them — are almost exactly the same as those available to a Conjurer/White Mage of similar level, only somehow even more underwhelming. I’ve got Stella, which inflicts the heavy debuff like the Conjurer spell Stone, but its paltry 100 potency pales in comparison to Stone’s — I can’t believe I’m about to write this — relatively impressive 140. The Astrologian’s bread-and-butter DPS spell, Malefic, echoes Stone II and almost, but not quite, matches its potency. And then I’ve got Combust, a DoT that actually deals more periodic damage than its Conjurer mirror, Aero, though it lacks Aero’s up-front damage, so it’s probably worse in the long run.

The solo Astrologian’s only real saving grace is the fact that it inherits the Conjurer’s Cleric Stance as a cross-class skill, which provides at least a small damage boost. And if you’re especially lucky, you might consistently manage to draw The Balance or The Arrow, the only two of the six divining cards that provide any meaningful damage increase. All told, the Astrologian is perfectly capable of soloing, but I certainly can’t say that it’s an especially riveting experience. It gets the job done and little else.

So now that we’ve gotten the dungeons covered and the open-world solo content out of the way, now we can talk about my PvP experiences, right? Wrong! “But Matt,” I hear you screaming at your monitor (stop that, people are staring), “you said you were going to do a bit of everything! It’s right up there in the second paragraph!” First of all, I’m impressed you even remember the second paragraph from way down here in the murky depths of this ostensibly endless wall of text. Second of all, you’re right, I did say that. So why will I not be talking about it? They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, and you’ve already had to trudge through two pictures’ worth of rambling just to get to this point, so here’s the condensed explanation:

Glad we got that all cleared up. Now then, we’ve finally come to the choosing part of “Choose My Adventure.” I think we’ve spent just about enough time with the Astrologian for now, and I know there were more than a few folks who were hoping to see some action from Heavensward’s other two newcomers, the Machinist and the Dark Knight. So this week, I’m going to give you folks the opportunity to shake things up for me and switch my class to either one.

But wait, there’s more! If you’ve had enough of new classes and are more interested in new lands and new adventures, you can vote for me to toss my star globe in the junk drawer for a while and reassume the mantle of one of my two (that’s right, two!) level-50 classes — White Mage and Monk, in case you were wondering — and venture forth from Ishgard into the wilds of Coerthas and perhaps into the heart of Dravania itself.

CMA: What do you want to see next?

  • Dark Knight! (26%, 53 Votes)
  • Machinist! (28%, 56 Votes)
  • Forget those guys, swap to a 50 and explore the new zones! (46%, 94 Votes)

Total Voters: 203

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CMA: In case it ends up being relevant, White Mage or Monk?

  • White Mage (30%, 60 Votes)
  • Monk (70%, 137 Votes)

Total Voters: 197

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You know the drill: Make sure your votes are in by Friday, July 31st, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. And as always, join me next week for the dramatic revealing of the results and the subsequent accounts of my perilous exploits, or exploitative perils, or something along those lines. Until then, friends!

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Matt each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures — and you get to decide his fate. Be gentle (or not)!

 

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n3rdbomb3r
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n3rdbomb3r

Sorenthaz n3rdbomb3r A Dad Supreme Yeah, its basically the same with chhocobo racing. instead of “Lala McLalafell” you just see “black mage”, etc. in the big 24 x3 fights, the enemy teams are all color coded, so yellow for adders, red for maelstrom, blue for flames. Its pretty simple. The game also gives you pvp specific skills that’re like… long cooldown/big effect skills, and as you raise your pvp rank, you get skill points you can slot into those skills to make them do different things. as a bard I have a skill that restores 50% of my personal mana and 50% of everyone’s mana in a like 40 yard radius instantly. Or warriors get a knockback with a stun component, etc.  
I played WoW for nearly a decade, and was part of their whole brotown-hoedown arena/rated battleground/whatever scene, and this is suuuuuper laid back in comparison. it can be a little grindy but, I mean, its a JRPG, so just comes with the territory. Its a lot more fun for me personally than running Ex Roulette over and over again hehe ^__^;

Sorenthaz
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Sorenthaz

n3rdbomb3r Sorenthaz A Dad Supreme  That’s cool.  I also noticed how the Chocobo Races do something similar with only naming the Chocobos rather than the riders themselves, so people can’t yell at one another for doing stuff like thorning/grav-bombing ’em.  
Might have to try out PvP at some point just to see what it’s like in XIV. Main thing though was I was a bit leery of the Wolves Den because I’m not a huge fan of hyper-competitive arena stuff.

n3rdbomb3r
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n3rdbomb3r

Sorenthaz A Dad Supreme PVP in XIV is basically like: “grand company training exercises against one another”.

XIV is a whole lot more community/story centric than other games, so the PVP is more mini-game oriented, less traditional ‘kill everyone’, and more ‘work as a team to do a THING’. I don’t think there’s even a pure deathmatch style game-mode other than Wolves Den, which is just classic 4v4 arena. Arena can be pretty competitive (I’ve had fights last as long as 20 minutes!), but since you can talk to each other and factions are largely superficial, rivalries tend to be more friendly than anything.
Also, when you fight other players, it doesn’t list their name, only their class, so no singling people out for harassment, etc. All of them are also gear/ilvl synched. The rewards you earn through PVP are simply having cool armor or weapons, titles, mounts, etc that you can’t get through badges/tokens/RNG drops, so the motivation comes down to “I want to make my character look really cool”, thus, pvp is all about fashion haha ^__^;

n3rdbomb3r
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n3rdbomb3r

As a side note on PVP, I hate to say it, but queuing for anything other than ‘Seal Rock’ right now (minimum ilvl req. of 150) is more or less a waste of time.
Its kind of a terrible decision on SE’s part, but there is zero incentive for anyone to queue for anything else, since SR rewards 50 Law/20 Esoterics per match (70 of each for the daily), and frontlines Regular/Slaughter reward only Poetics, (which are effectively useless since everyone is capped at this point). The pvp community, while dedicated, is fairly small, and arena/basic frontlines have mostly dried up. 
However, queues for SR are avg’ing about 4-6 minutes during primetime, which is kind of insane given the long PVP queues before HW launch. If you get the opportunity to check it out, its really fun ^__^. Slowly but surely advancing up to rank 50 >.>

MVOP_Matt
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MVOP_Matt

JimGriffiths I’ll be switching games within the next week or two, though I’m not sure that I’ll be holding a proper vote on the matter because I’m trying to stick with games that are currently topical in some way or another. But if you have any suggestions, by all means please leave ’em in the comments and I’ll keep them in mind when the time comes!

JuniperTonic
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JuniperTonic

A Dad Supreme Well, in particular, people don’t PVP sub-60 (or 50, before). It’s a good source of endgame tomes, but doing it on a low level character isn’t worth it.

MVOP_Matt
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MVOP_Matt

A Dad Supreme I know right? What a surprise! :D

anatheod
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anatheod

ReginaldAtkins SCH seems to be vastly better at dps than AST and WHM.

ReginaldAtkins
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ReginaldAtkins

I’ve got AST to 59 and really what little damage they *can* do just doesn’t come into play until you get Malefic II and to a lesser degree Gravity, even with that don’t expect to be in a position much different than WHM of similar level and gear allotment.  Also Malefic II is something of a mana sponge and Gravity drinks it like a fish, still one makes do, it’s certainly not a class for soloing fates (i’ve done it, it’s pretty slow) but it’s not impossible if you pick and choose your battles.  Still best to fate with the crowd and toss out heals like there’s no tomorrow.

mandodo69
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mandodo69

MNK. MNK. MNK. MNK. Should I say more?