Wisdom of Nym: What will Final Fantasy XIV do for melee damage dealers in Endwalker?

    
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aeiou

This particular role is the easiest one to fill up whenever there’s any column about the various roles getting stuff added in Final Fantasy XIV. With four jobs already occupying the melee role and another one slated to come along in Endwalker, there’s just more to talk about than there are for other roles. Yes, I think about these things when I’m writing columns and thinking through the work needed for any given week. Sometimes it really is just that cynical.

Of course, out of those five jobs, one of them is being added whole-cloth and thus we can only begin to speculate about what sort of rotation or gameplay mechanics we will see from that job. Our other melee DPS, though… well, we know how these things work, so we can speculate a little about what each job could use and what it needs. Sometimes it’s just little tweaks, and sometimes it’s something more quintessential.

I've got a lot of problems with you people!

Dragoon

We’re starting with a job that is, honestly, in a pretty good place overall. The trailer for the benchmark seems to show what might be a new sort of jump or dive for Dragoon, but the reality is that Dragoon doesn’t need a whole heck of a lot. It flows pretty well, the five-hit combo it has going with its bonus damage for executing properly is fun, and it doesn’t suffer from a grindingly slow startup like it did during Stormblood, so there’s not really a whole lot that Dragoon needs to have added right now in a vital sense. The job is in a good place and can keep its buffs going while dealing solid damage.

The one thing that Dragoon could use is a quality-of-life increase for trash pulls in dungeons because it’s the one job that has a self-damage buff which cannot be maintained via its AoE rotation. Most jobs either don’t have that kind of buff or can maintain it with AoE, but Dragoon has to keep re-applying the same two-hit single-target combo to keep that damage buff up. Changing that fact would definitely help Dragoons out quite a bit, and it’s not a weakness of the job but seemingly an oversight.

Other than that, though, Dragoon is in a really good place in terms of overall balance and ability lineup. I wouldn’t be surprised if it mostly just gets another improved dive for Life of the Dragon and otherwise keeps doing what it does for the most part.

WE FALL

Monk

The overall Monk state of affairs has been in a weird place for most of Shadowbringers. It’s not that Monk is terrible, but Greased Lightning buildup and maintenance was a problem and remained a problem until it finally god moved to just being a straight-up trait instead of a buff to maintain. The slight redesign involved in that has given things like Tornado Kick a direct use in Monk rotations, which is good, but it also has left the job’s playstyle in a bit of an odd spot where it’s still kind of build around a flow of maintenance that no longer requires maintaining anything.

Another element that’s worth considering is how Monk has a lot of associated vestigial features that have never really been defined well. There’s a paucity of reasons to swap stances, for example, with Fists of Earth and Fists of Wind having minor applications but generally being inferior options for most of your gameplay. In other words, Monk is kind of a mess of things and is ripe for a bit more loving care and some redesign, which it’s likely to get in Endwalker. Probably not to completely revise it, and I don’t expect anything as severe as what we got for Machinist in Shadowbringers, but I think we’ll see something more Greased Lightning-like but not quite as vital pop up again.

The result is that it feels a little hard to predict what Monk will look like when all is said and done. Hopefully with a clearer identity and some fun new tricks, though.

borf

Ninja

If Monk has been a car backfiring and stuttering all the way through this expansion, Ninja started the expansion with the Check Engine light flashing. It was bad enough that a big revision was needed for Ninja almost right away, and while the changes allowed Ninja to recover from its original spot of uselessness, Ninja still has the fundamental problem of requiring some of the most complicated play in exchange for just keeping up with other jobs and still dealing less damage.

The reason for this is understandable; Ninja’s vulnerability-up debuff is powerful and it’s a defining aspect of the job. But the sheer complexity of Ninja’s rotation works against it, and so it seems likely that one of the big changes will be a reduction in some of the more fiddly bits going on with the job’s overall rotation. Things like Ten Chi Jin and Meisui aren’t useless by any stretch of the imagination, but they feel like leftovers from a different era of the job’s design that we can move beyond.

Of course, you could argue that Ten Chi Jin is fundamental to the idea of the job being a melee job with spellcasting, functionally the inverse of Red Mage. So that’s ambiguous.

We do see at least one new Ninja ability pretty clearly, what appears to be launching a ghostly double at your target in an air-elemental attack with the signature posing of a new sort of Ninjutsu. Whether this will be another replacement ability similar to what Kassatsu does or something altogether new remains to be seen.

IF YOU WANT TO BE AN ACROBAT GO PLAY THAT

Samurai

Gosh, all of these melee jobs required a little tweaking, didn’t they? The big problem with Samurai was just a mismatch of when to use Meditation, so a little tweaking got the job to where it needed to be. And Samurai has, on a whole, been in a pretty good place. While it can’t out-damage Black Mage on the regular basis (which is a little weird, given that they’re both selfish DPS and the latter has the benefit of range), it’s definitely not a bad job and deals solid damage all the way through, complete with a satisfying and functional rotation.

What little we see of the job in the benchmark trailer appears to be a new AoE, which would make a certain amount of sense as Samurai has always had a very potent and satisfying AoE rotation. Some overall tweaks to how the Sen gauge works wouldn’t necessarily go awry, as it’s been one of the most fixed part of the job since its introduction; then again, changing it now might involve some pretty major tweaking.

Ultimately, Samurai is much like Dragoon in that it has a pretty solid foundation and a firm rotation; rather than needing large-scale changes it can do fine with some new tricks, a balance of numbers, and more or less bringing the same basic mechanics forward to another tier of content.

Feedback, as always, is welcome via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com or down in the comments below. Next week, I want to talk about Trusts – how the system has worked on a whole, what areas it could use to improve, and how much it has benefitted the game as an aggregate.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
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Bannex

Im always amazed that devs still can’t strike a balance between ranged and melee dps.

There is no reason for ranged to be at the top of the dps charts for most fights. They either need flat out lower dps or more encounters with mechanics that make them move as much as meleers.

In ffxiv they should just shorten the agonizingly long GCD for most abilities for melee.

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Vincent Clark

Not to be THAT guy, but…you are incorrect.

I don’t do savage anymore and/or have that-program-we-won’t-talk-about installed, however, my old static does and…

For personal DPS, the ranking is as follows:

1. SAM
2. BLM
3. MNK
4. SMN
5. DRG
6. NIN
7. MCH
8. BRD
9. DNC

So, the top 5 DPS are 3 melee and 2 casters. I think that strikes a pretty good balance.

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David Goodman

I’ll just be here in the back, as a RDM, ressing your dead ^_^

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Vincent Clark

oof, my bad. Totally skipped over RDM.

1. SAM
2. BLM
3. MNK
4. SMN
5. DRG
6. NIN
7. RDM
8. MCH
9. BRD
10. DNC

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Bereman99

“How to tell others that I don’t play FFXIV, without saying that I don’t play FFXIV.”

So let’s address the last point and work up. As any player at endgame (or really from around 50 and up, depending on class) will tell you, the frequency with which you use abilities between GCD abilities – particularly as a melee – removes a lot of the feeling that the GCD is overly long.

But even without that, of the four melee, three of them already have their GCD sped-up. Monk, Ninja, and Samurai all have their GCD at around 2.0 seconds or even lower, depending on gear and stats. Monk natively has its GCD reduced through traits (mine is currently 1.92 seconds, but I’m more geared around Samurai and they share gear). Ninja and Samurai both maintain long buffs that reduce their GCD.

In other words, part of the kit/design for 3 of 4 melee IS shortening the GCD…and the one that doesn’t is designed around having it closer to 2.5 seconds, due to the abilities it weaves in-between benefiting from the extra time.

Now, moving up – ranged at the top of the charts for most fights. Well, in FFXIV, this sometimes is just Black Mage sitting above Samurai when we look at the overall performance…but this depends heavily on the skill and knowledge of the player. Black Mage in particular requires either really good knowledge of the fight, or a raid group willing to accommodate the Black Mage, or both, since – guess what – the fights in FFXIV already have mechanics that make ranged players move as often as melee, and Black Mage more than any other caster in FFXIV requires moving as little as possible to do that chart topping damage ahead of a Samurai.

But there’s more to it than just Black Mages and cast bars – frequently the mechanics can be handled in such a way that melee are able to remain within range of the boss to continue attacking, and the raiding community as a whole tends to favor these strategies. Enemies in FFXIV frequently have a larger hitbox than the ring that appears when you target them would suggest, and this is especially the case for bosses in raids and such. This allows for melee to move further out and be able to resolve mechanics that forced them to move while still having their abilities reach the boss – it’s called, unsurprisingly, “Max melee range” and is often used in strategies as part of positioning.

And mechanics that push everyone out of max melee range often come with either the boss being untargetable or require movement such that not even Black Mage can afford to stand still for very long, and certainly not long enough to maintain casts. At that point, the only ranged DPS that can continue to do consistent damage are the Physical Ranged – Bard, Machinist, and Dancer – and wouldn’t ya just know it, they are already balanced around both their high mobility and (in the case of Dancer and Bard) utility that they bring to boost other’s damage, and as such are the three lowest in terms of potential DPS output, ahead of only the tanks and healers.

Which, incidentally, if we look at the site where everyone uploads their logs and such numbers are tracked, I’ll think you’ll find the actual leaders in terms of how much damage they put out are the Samurai, so melee are in fact topping the charts ahead of ranged…

I’m absolutely positive that there are other MMOs that struggle with this kind of fight design and balancing.

FFXIV is not really one of them. Selfish (little to no utility) classes do more than those that bring buffs, and the more potent the buff the lower the overall DPS output, and then that’s further separated by melee and ranged (which is itself split into cast-time/no cast-time).

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Erika Do

The very last non-tank class I need to level to 80 is monk, and boy does it need work. Its rotation was boring at level 50 and going up to higher levels doesn’t really add anything that makes it more interesting. While samurai and dragoon ran into the “I don’t have enough keys for all the buttons I need to press regularly” problem pretty early on, I’m nearly 70 on monk with a ton of buttons still empty, or with niche effects on them that I never need to press.

I would love to see more options in the basic rotation so it’s more complicated than “do I need to refresh this dot or no”. I’d love to see more oGCDs, both attacks and self-buffs or utility effects. I’d love to see a reason for having stances, like you mentioned (mechanics have to be dodgeable/survivable by non-monks, so running faster or taking less damage is rarely necessary).

But let’s be real, even if they do fix its issues, it’s still unlikely to be a favorite class of mine. Maybe just a bit more bearable.

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IronSalamander8 .

With Reaper being added as another melee DPS job, I’m curious how they will handle all this. Melee DPS in MMOs has almost always been fun and wth some cool class design, but also the ones that have to worry about AoEs the most from bosses or making sure that they aren’t in areas like frontal cones and such that the tank needs to stay in, when I was tanking Gharj in SWTOR we had a Marauder that constantly complained about how they had to run away from that boss at certain points which killed their DPS as one example . FF14 adds the differentiation of rear vs. flank as well to that equation as well.

Of these, the only one I really played to any great extent was my original foray into ARR as a Lancer/Dragoon and that character still languishes on an off server to this day. My main DPS is Machinist which is ranged, and can move while using most of your skills and abilities so is my favorite. My friend who plays Ninja mentioned they made macros they found online for that class as they are that complicated that they need them, so that could use some work! I like FF14’s more complicated styles of play that it has, of varying degrees among its jobs, but it isn’t turn based so too much complication can bog things down. I do hope we see them keep jobs different and interesting with cool ideas, but without them being so complex that you need a flow chart to make them work.

Edit: And the rework for Machinist was amazing! I liked it before, but it had some issues with the way heat worked and now it flows smoothly and you can use hypercharge to spam heat blast (with a 1.5 second cooldown, which is delightful), to really pump wildfire’s damage up to boot!

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somber_bliss

I agree, I love just running around the boss encounters as my machinist dancing around and playing the keyboard. Makes even MSQ roulettebearable.