Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood preview: Melee DPS jobs

    
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Imperfect balance.
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Oh, melee DPS, you matter to me. You matter to a lot of people, in fact. There is something fundamentally satisfying to the human brain inherent in running up to things and smacking them with sharp weaponry. And this expansion continues making melee the bulkiest category of the DPS options, with four different jobs dealing damage in the paint and another job lunging in and out of melee range. Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood is not a game about snipers.

Considering that one of my main jobs in the game is a melee DPS (Ninja), I was rather interested to see how this role shook out. I was also at least a little bit anxious, as the abilities that we saw didn’t exactly light me on fire just yet. However, I’m happy to say that the overall impression I walked away with was a positive one. There are changes here, yes, but they’re good all around.

Hit it harder!

Melee DPS in general

Of all of the role-specific skills I expected to see, Goad was not among them. It’s nice to have it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also unexpected. Consider that the support for every melee DPS job.

One of the funny things about melee DPS is that for all of the different mechanics in each job, there was a remarkable amount of similarity. Each job basically had a damage debuff corresponding to the damage type inflicted by that job, two DoT effects to manage, and a “main” damage combination. They all played differently enough that you didn’t really notice it until you looked at the bones, but the core was there.

A lot of that has been trimmed away now. You still have your damage type buffs, but the single unaffiliated DoT seems to have gone to the land of wind and ghosts. You’re supposed to be managing your status and making the most of your combos, not just applying as many damage effects as you can and breaking out a big damage combo during narrow windows.

Leg Sweep, Invigorate, Bloodbath, and Second Wind now serve as universal tools for every melee DPS. You’ve also got access to a new trick in the form of an ability which temporarily ignores positional requirements, True North, which I imagine is going to be nigh-mandatory for every single melee DPS out there. No more missing your Trick Attack bonus because the tank spins the boss at the wrong moment, thankfully!

Beyond that, you can also use Crutch to restore mobility to your fellow party members, Feint to reduce a target’s physical damage stats, and Diversion to reduce your threat generation. Arm’s Length also makes a barrier to slow attackers, which seems of limited use in group content but still a neat idea.

There generally seems to be an effort to move all four of the melee DPS jobs further from one another into different roles and playstyles, which is an admirable goal. Having played with all of them, there’s definitely a different sense, which I’ll go into in more depth below; Samurai, of course, gets a separate spotlight.

DAGRON

Dragoon

The changes to Dragoon really highlight how little changes feel like a full-on redesign. Functionally, Dragoon now really sells its status as having a big two-hander with lots of buildup; it now has a functional five-hit combo, instead of the usual one-two-three punch of most combos. Fang and Claw now triggers off of your Full Thrust combo, while Wheeling Thrust comes after Chaos Thrust; however, you also gain a trait allowing you to combo the other “extra” weaponskill afterward. So your skills become five-hit affairs to extend your Blood of the Dragon further.

Geirskogul also no longer depletes your Blood of the Dragon. It’s only accessible while it’s up, but Blood of the Dragon is just a buff, not a resource now. Combined with how you can easily extend it and the thirty-second cooldown on reapplying it, you should have far fewer problems with getting the buff to either stick around or falling off at inopportune times.

“Wait, isn’t that basically all of the complexity of Dragoon gone?” No, my friend, because now you have something else to watch. You have the Eye of the Dragon.

The big new Dragoon ability is Mirage Dive, which can be used after you use a Jump while BotD is up. Each time you use Mirage Dive, the eye opens further. After the fourth Dive, you replace Geirskogul with the ability to trigger Life of the Dragon, a powerful state which outright replaces Geirskogul with a more powerful attack. It inherits the same timer as BotD, but it cannot be extended with Fang and Claw or Wheeling Thrust.

Thus, you have a new management game. Extend your BotD, open the eye, and when you’ve got a maxed gauge for Blood you unleash the power of the dragons. Shorter, punchy combos become the name of the game. Then you reapply Blood of the Dragon and start the whole cycle over.

If the description reminds you a bit of the Summoner management, you’re not alone; however, I think that the thematic links make this a good thing. You’re still going to have that sense of a slow build-up and a slow weapon, but the payoff is going to be worth it in the end. And hey, it’s about time players got to make use of the whole dragon eye craze.

You didn't say no punch.

Monk

I don’t know what it is, but for some reason I can never really sync up quite right with Monk. Something about it has never sat well with me. So you’ll have to forgive me for not being able to quite sort the mechanics as well in my head; it’s one of the jobs where I can’t really see the shape of things quite right.

On some level, Monk was already a prototype for the current state of melee DPS, because it already had two resources to manage, Greased Lightning and Chakra. Of course, the former was more of a buff to be maintained as long as possible, while the latter was something that seemed to mostly be opened during downtime. One of the big shifts seems to be toward making the most of these as resources, offering more ways to open Chakra while making Greased Lightning something you’re more willing to burn off and rebuild.

Stance dancing is also far more important, as each of the three Fists abilities has a Riddle-type ability which goes along with it. This is where I was rather stymied, as the interplay between the various Riddle abilities and the effects of some of them (such as Wind) weren’t altogether clear. You can, however, see each one directly effect your Shoulder Tackle, and Riddle of Fire is pretty easy to decipher as a straight damage buff with an attack speed decrease. Fire off as many instant attacks as you can to get around it, in other words.

In addition to Mantra, you can also buff a party member to do improved damage and have a chance to open Chakra for you as they do damage, which pairs Monks up nicely with other physical DPS as well as tanks. You’ll also open another Chakra with each critical hit, so that helps.

What stands out most to me is the sense that this is really meant to be a more dynamic class now, rather than just having a set of static buffs you keep on at all times. Stance dancing has always been a part of playing Monk, but at this point you have abilities which will explicitly dance you into other stances as necessary, making the shifts all the more important. Rather than just building Greased Lightning, it seems more important to use it, to ebb and flow rather than thinking of Monk simply as a job maintaining the same buffs at all times.

Seriously, not a fan.

Ninja

All right, let me be up-front with you. I hate the frog. It feels like a really jarring inclusion into the Ninja toolset in many ways, because it’s thematically so far outside of the various things Ninja have been able to do so far. So you probably won’t be surprised to learn that my favorite melee job and the one I’ve had as my character’s main since it was first announced is… still actually really good, thematic weirdness with that one ability aside.

The job has, in fact, been stripped of some stuff. Dancing Edge is gone. Mutilate is gone. Poisons are gone. However, the de facto result is that rather than applying your debuffs and then getting to work, you just apply Shadow Fang and start working on the target. Since you’re still juggling your mudra usage, Huton, Armor Crush, and your various instant single-target attacks, the net result doesn’t feel worse, just more efficient.

Our biggest change is the new Ninki gauge, which steadily rises as you attack and hit Mug. Three abilities tie into it. The first is the frog, which you are already no doubt aware of from the benchmark and elsewhere; it belches an AoE fire cloud. We also get a dashing tackle which deals heavy single-target damage, useful when Trick Attack is active.

The weirdest and also neatest new ability basically turns the ninja into a stationary Ninjutsu cannon; it turns off auto-attack and makes the next three Ninjutsu incur no cooldown. It also removes the “consuming” aspect of mudra. In essence, it means you can perform a one-mudra ability followed immediately by a two and then a three; a Shuriken, then Raiton, then Suiton, for instance. Moving immediately cancels the effect, though.

Ninja players will have to get used to a different weaponskill flow, but the core of the job will remain similar insofar as you’re using Trick Attack to open up the target and then pouring out your best instant attacks during that window. Our threat management tools also remain intact, making us a keenly important party support job as well as managing our damage nicely. It’s also trying hard to make Shukuchi more relevant, as its cooldown is now reset when we use Raiton, Suiton, or Katon.

It’s still a job about timing as much as anything. Maximize your windows, keep your speed up, and be alert. You have the least combo-reliant skillset out of the batch, which means that you can hit your abilities more often as needed; the trade is that you’re even more reliant on picking the right moments.

The hotel and the flights for this trip were covered by Square-Enix for the purposes of this preview. I didn’t have great seats on my flight there, but the real irritation was that the second leg of my flight wasn’t letting me watch in-flight movies for some reason. Very annoying. All of the abilities discussed within are still in development and subject to revision. The frog seems pretty fixed at this point, though.
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Chestnut Bowl

I’ll report what I’ve said elsewhere:

I don’t like these changes to MNK. Gaining chakra during combat via the new trait is RNG-on-RNG. Riddle of Fire, when you take the 30% speed reduction into account, only seems marginally better than Blood For Blood. Brotherhood adds even MORE RNG… plus, the potencies of their attacks were lowered and ToD was removed. I’m always willing to be proven wrong (and in this case I hope I am), but MNK seems worse off in Stormblood as it will be putting out less reliable damage than other melee DPS. I can’t see groups taking the MNK’s less reliable damage and 5% damage buff over DRG or NIN.

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yaron_the_devout

All right, let me be up-front with you. I hate the frog. It feels like a really jarring inclusion into the Ninja toolset in many ways, because it’s thematically so far outside of the various things Ninja have been able to do so far. So you probably won’t be surprised to learn that my favorite melee job and the one I’ve had as my character’s main since it was first announced is… still actually really good, thematic weirdness with that one ability aside.

You couldn’t be more wrong about thematic wierdness -> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiraiya

Toads and ninjas are soulmates (BATTLETOADS aside…). :)

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cronft .

Stance dancing is also far more important, as each of the three Fists abilities has a Riddle-type ability

i disagree whit that, by what i looked, it will stay more as a end page note rather than be completely important
fists of wind only affect shoulder takle, allowing to do 2 of them at half of the potency, completely useless unless you need to do multiple stuns
fists of earth gives to that same skill a knockback effect, again completely useless, as well what you can use ridle of earth whit other stance(because when you use it, you automatically change to fists of earth) its only usefull use is to conservation the gl3 on downtime

so we end up on fists of fire on the 99% of the time again because the other 2 gives almost nothing of relevance