I’m going to start this particular part of the Final Fantasy XIV media tour by just reassuring everyone who’s reading that if you were worried about Reaper… don’t be. It’s fun, it’s good, and it’s complex and technical as you will no doubt see once we get down into the section talking about it, but it is definitely as cool as you would hope a scythe-wielding job would be. Yes, the game is going to be awash in Reapers for a bit and a lot of them are going to be very bad at the job, but that was going to happen no matter what. At least in this case the problem is not that the job itself is bad, right? Right.
Of all the job changes, Dragoon is probably the simplest to understand. You’re no longer forced to maintain your swirling draconic effect because that’s now a trait, with the major upgrades to the trait simply extending how long Life of the Dragon is active. You get upgrades to your third combo hits. Also, Sonic Thrust now grants your damage boost, so you never need to weave in single-target abilities to maintain your damage rotation on AoE.
Straightforward? It gets more so; the positional requirement to get Raiden Thrust has been removed, with a special unlock state gained from executing your full combo in either single-target or AoE situations. Fully unleashing your combo twice unlocks your new marquee ability, a very powerful straight-line attack that you can whip out in any necessary situation as long as you’ve executed two Raiden Thrusts or Draconian Furies (that’s the new AoE upgrade to Doom Spike). Beyond that, though, Dragoon is going to feel entirely familiar in rotation from Shadowbringers.
This is probably not a problem for anyone. It’s a bit easier and still relentlessly potent.
Most of the Ninja changes are subtle but useful along the way. For example, unleashing Raiton now opens up a special high-damage two-hit weaponskill combo that you’ll want to make sure to use during your Trick Attack windows. Bunshin also adds a new weaponskill that has a single hit but will, again, be saved for that 15s damage buff. Meisui now buffs your next Bhavacakra, so you’ll basically want to use Ten Chi Jin to set yourself up to fully unleash your buffed abilities before hitting another Suiton and unleashing your full damage might.
The core of the rather technical dance that Ninja has specialized in remains intact, however, and while you have a new set of ability priorities to unleash in the middle of your Trick Attack window, it is still fundamentally balanced around making the most of that Trick Attack window just like before. Dream Within a Dream no longer triggers but outright replaces Assassinate, and you can also buff up a Huton with another new skill that seems intended to ensure that letting your Huton fall doesn’t require you to spend a Ninjutsu refresh just to get it back up and running again. Useful!
It’s still the same high-activity job as it has always been, in other words. I look forward to seeing people pace out exactly the best path to make use of those 15 second windows of damage, too.
Surprising perhaps everyone, Samurai has actually been made a little more complicated and a little more technical. This is not entirely surprising; if it’s going to be slightly higher damage than Reaper, it kind of needed some more technical aspects to make that feel fair. For starters, your new marquee ability Ogi Namikiri automatically triggers for use after using Ikishoten, which now has a flat two-minute cooldown; it’s a very powerful ability with an automatic followup, but Tsubame-gaeshi no longer grants Meditation stacks, even though Ogi Namikiri does now.
Samurai also has a new AoE option for Shoha and a new AoE weaponskill that offers your third Sen mark, something previously lacking in AoE rotation, as well as higher potency than the other two AoE skills. The implication is clear; since both of those skills grant buffs to maintain, you want to swap back and forth between them while using your new weaponskill as much as possible to keep your rotation going smoothly.
While this does introduce some new technical wrinkles, the basic gameplay flow of Samurai will remain more or less the same as it was in Shadowbringers, which you probably note has been a theme. It’s just going to require a little more timing and precision along the way.
Now, let’s talk about a job that actually has changed significantly from Shadowbringers. Monk is not quite as severe a rework as Summoner, but it has significantly changed. Gone are all the Monk stances, gone is Greased Lightning maintenance, and in their place is a new type of rotation centered around Perfect Balance. It makes sense, but I think theorycrafters will be wrapping their head around it for a bit before nailing it down quite right.
See, Monk now revolves around a new ability called Masterful Blitz, which is how we get access to Tornado Kick, Elixir Field, and a host of other new abilities including the new marquee ability Phantom Rush. Aside from a cheeky Final Fantasy VI reference, the mechanics work like this: Using Perfect Balance allows you to execute any weaponskill without any regard for form, but – and this is most important – it opens up a beast chakra of the corresponding stance. So if the ability requires Raptor Stance, it opens up a Raptor Chakra. You can have three of these open, Perfect Balance lets you use three weapon skills, it all fits together.
From here, you enter the next big element. There are two other special states associated with unleashing your Blitz, Solar Nadi and Lunar Nadi. Your biggest ability requires both to be open at the same time. So you use Perfect Balance to open three different beast chakra, use your Blitz to open the Solar Nadi. Use Perfect Balance again, open two different beast chakra, use your ability that opens Lunar Nadi. Wait for cooldown, unleash Perfect Balance, unleash your Blitz with three different beast chakra for your best ability.
It’s all a bit complicated, but it seems as if it’ll sink into a nice cadence over time. It also finally seems to put the nail in the coffin of macroing Monk abilities together; you really do need to be able to unleash the right abilities in the right order with Perfect Balance to maximize your damage.
Hoo boy. So Reaper is complex. Fun, but very technical. It’s a matter of raising one gauge to unleash the attacks to raise another gauge, which in turn lets you unleash attacks to raise a third gauge. So let’s walk through this in the simplest possible terms.
To start with, you have your basic three-hit combo, which increases your Soul Gauge. This is what fuels your avatar’s attacks; you also have a couple charges of instant-hit abilities that immediately add large amounts of Soul Gauge and should be used first. Once you can summon your avatar, that gives you a buff which allows you to unleash a two-hit specialized combo which alternates back and forth between positionals; this is how you raise your Shroud Gauge. So raise Soul Gauge, summon your avatar, then hit one of your Shroud Gauge weaponskills.
Once your Shroud Gauge is full enough, you can merge with your avatar in your shroud state, which gives you access to a plethora of new attacks transformed from your prior attacks. Essentially, you want to chain out your attacks making use of the new five-hit gauge you’re granted during your merged state, ending with your big marquee ability that ends your merge and deals a bunch of damage. Then you’re back to square one. Oh, and you also have to deal with the fact that rather than maintaining a damage buff, you’re maintaining a debuff on enemies that increases your damage dealt while it’s active.
This is all a lot to juggle at first. However, once you start getting a feel for the rotation, Reaper feels deliriously good. It’s a load of fun weaving the technical web of your abilities, and you also have a remarkably useful set of utility options from a party-wide buff to the instant dash or backstep with a recall ability. It’s also, well… just cool-looking fun, and it really delivers on the flavor of being a void-infused monster.
I wound up clearing dungeons multiple times on Reaper and getting more practice in playing it, and it really is a remarkably well-designed job. The complexity is going to throw some people at first, but if you can stick with it, there’s a lot to enjoy in its execution. Just, you know… be prepared for a learning curve.