Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood preview: Tank jobs
Instead of new tanks, we get a refinement of the existing tanks in the game’s second expansion. By and large, they should feel pretty familiar to players, but the subtle changes made here and there definitely up the jobs in my estimation. I already play these jobs on various characters, but I’m looking forward to the new tools they’re getting in the expansion. Even if none of them get to include a katana; I’ve moved past that now.
Tanks in general
The fun thing about the role-specific skills is that they make the “in general” column a bit more interesting, simply because there’s stuff specific to tanks to discuss. For example, there’s what may be the greatest mechanics-dependent skill I’ve seen in a long while on the tank role page: Shirk, which transfers a big chunk of your accumulated enmity to another target player.
Solo or in dungeons, this is completely useless unless you really want to have the boss introduce a particularly obnoxious DPS player to a bit of the ultraviolence. (Having said that, now I do want to do that, so I shouldn’t be allowed to.) However, in any sort of content with multiple tanks, this is a great way of handling not just mechanical tank swaps but opportune ones. It even gives you a reason to build up threat when you’re not the main tank; transfer it over with Shirk and give the main tank a bit more of a lead. Easy does it.
You’ve also got Reprisal to lower incoming damage, Anticipation as a parry buff (basically Dark Dance), and Interjection as a multi-purpose Silence. All well worth it.
One thing I couldn’t help but notice was a feel that the game generally wants you to be a bit more… deft, I suppose, when it comes to swapping in and out of tank stance. Every tank has the option to drop in and out, and it seems that you are rather meant to do exactly that, but you’re supposed to be going back and forth rather than just staying in DPS stance. That’ll be a bit more expanded upon with individual jobs.
More so than any other jobs, Paladins really needed an infusion of sexy options for this expansion. The problem isn’t that Paladins are bad, it’s that this expansion has seen so much HP for tanks that you can hard-tank things without any need to consider your defenses. That means Paladins have suffered from their lack of damage and their lack of magical resilience.
Rather than just making Paladins hit harder, Paladins seem to have gotten a few new attack options for flexibility while also just being able to provide a lot of extra party utility. That big flaring shield effect is a good example, reducing damage for party members standing behind you by a whopping 85%. It’s a big cooldown, but it also turns big attacks into light tickles, allowing healers to spend more time focusing on other mechanics.
Paladins also have two new magical attacks, one of which works like Spirits Within for MP; the lower your MP, the more damage it deals. It also makes your magical attacks more potent if you use it with high MP as an added benefit. Your other ranged magical attack is a nice way of keeping up ranged damage or poking targets without depleting your TP, and it sells the Paladin as really having aspects of both spellcaster and soldier.
There’s also your new circular slash, which deals damage in a point-blank AoE and helps supplement Flash spamming to hold group threat. That alone should be a big help when dealing with large packs of enemies, helping you hold them while also doing damage.
The big additional Paladin mechanic is the Oath gauge, which fills up steadily depending on your stance and allows you to deploy some additional actions like Shelltron or the new damage-reducing buff Intervention. While this means Shelltron is a bit less constant than it used to be, I’d need to play with the class more to get a feel of how often it really can go off; I think it’s more interesting to store and spend rather than just hitting it every time it’s off cooldown.
Overall, Paladin feels very similar to how it currently is, but I think its new magical attacks will take some time for players to learn, and its party utility feels notably improved. It’s definitely not a tank with the raw damage of Warrior or Dark Knight, but it’s much more defensive, and a good Paladin will have plenty to do with the group even as an offtank. (Heal your party members, shield them, and hit it with ranged attacks!)
The biggest thing to note about Warriors is how the job now has a oh you just want to hear about the Fel Cleave spam thing, don’t you?! Fine.
Warrior no longer earns stacks of a buff to be spent all at once; instead, your Beast Gauge goes up and gets spent on various tools. This includes the charge-style move you see in the benchmark (Onslaught) as well as Fel Cleave; it also includes an ability, Inner Release, which greatly reduces the Beast Gauge cost of subsequent actions. Popping it will thus allow you to chain out Fel Cleave in quick succession, which should be great for solo situations or off-tanking moments.
Aside from more mobility, Warriors also get an attack with higher potency based on lost HP (Upheaval) and a nice quality-of-life shift; both Inner Beast/Fel Cleave and Iron Tempest/Decimate now automatically switch based on your stance. No need for two different spots on your bar or writing a quick macro!
Ultimately, Warriors feel even more similar to their current incarnation than Paladins do; they’ve got a couple of new cooldowns and attacks to hit, a bit more mobility, and the same overall play style. I would recommend trying your new “desperation” attack once you swap back and forth between Deliverance and Defiance, as that automatically hacks down some of your HP due to the bonus HP Defiance still grants.
I have to admit, one of the things I was worried about with job changes was the new Dark Knight gauge. One of the things I really like about Dark Knight is that constant balancing act, depleting and refilling your MP through play; it’s a fun edge to balance on. Was Blackblood just going to be the new knife and replace MP altogether?
Good news: no. Not at all. Instead, it’s a very different sort of mechanic, but it comes with some shifts which make Dark Knight a bit easier to balance. Case in point: Darkside no longer drains your MP and turns off when you run out. You can’t regenerate MP in combat while it’s on, so it’s functionally very similar, but you no longer have that sense of constantly refilling a leaky boat, nor can you accidentally screw yourself with an ill-timed MP skill. You always need to work to recover it, but you aren’t just emptying all the time.
You’re still going to be using your Souleater combo frequently, however, because that’s one of your main ways of filling your Blackblood meter. The filled meter offers you access to some rather nasty weapon attacks, both the potent single-target Bloodspiller and the spinning Quietus for group damage, but it’s harder to refill with Grit on because you can’t use Blood Weapon. Blood Weapon, of course, fills it up nicely… but then you’re more vulnerable. So you maintain that sense of back-and-forth, boomeranging between durability and vulnerability.
Dark Knights can also erect a barrier around a party member which awards Blackblood when it gets broken. The shield can also be erected around the Dark Knight, so it’s a nice bit of multi-purpose usage; offtanks will get use out of it on the main tank, but it’s still good when you’re the only tank around or just running about solo.
We have lost our third-hit option to follow Syphon Strike other than Souleater, so your threat combo is now your highest-damage combo without Dark Arts. Well worth keeping in mind, although I suspect you’ll still be using Souleater combos much of the time.
The sense I got was that one of my favorite jobs is still there, but the resource management is just a little bit different. That having been said, the core knot of resource management and careful use of assets remains, it just feels less like perpetually balancing on the edge of collapse. So it’s a bit easier to play, in the sense of not having to pick up the pieces for an extended period once you make a lone mistake.