Throughout E3, we’ve had a few opportunities to drop by the Square Enix booths and play a little Final Fantasy XIV. I know, Early Access drops in a matter of days and by this point you already have plenty of answers to “What does it do?” pertaining to the new jobs coming in Heavensward. A few of you are even well into theorycrafting rotations and understand the jobs much better than I do from a little live tinkering. Still, after a little time with 3.0, I wanted to offer a few things from the angle of “How does it play?” A few of my expectations have been pretty heavily adjusted after some time with our three new friends… Again, though, these are just superficial impressions that could easily change with some more experience.
As a first impression, Dark Knight feels as similar to Paladin and Warrior as the latter do to one another; a very different house on a very familiar foundation. You’ve got your main combo, and that combo branches, and the other abilities will surely fall into rotations considered optimum pretty quickly. By now even Letter from the Producer has gone over the basics of the DPS/Tank stances and abilities, so I’ll just throw out a couple things that you may not have heard. For starters, the greatsword actually feels heavy. The way the global cooldown and animations work together, there’s a sensation of weight and momentum behind the swings that I picked up on right away and it gave the DRK’s mechanics some character. The sheer fun of the job is likely to draw a lot of PLDs and WARs away, but the unique challenges presented to each job in a given role may cause some to retreat back to familiar ground. Still, did I mention it’s fun? … It’s fun.
If you don’t already know Dark Knight’s abilities, there are two that really stood out to me as far as the job’s personality goes – particularly the “Oh, $%*#!” button that gives a dying tank one last shot at preventing a wipe. Paladin has Hallowed Ground, Warrior has Holmgang; Dark Knight has Living Dead, which doesn’t so much cheat death as draw it out. HP is prevented from falling below 1 for the duration, but the only way to truly beat the KO is to be fully healed before it’s too late (and at this point, Benediction is probably long gone…) Similar in tone is an ability whereby the DRK essentially says, “I bet you’re about to die,” and marks a party member with the prediction. If that death comes to pass, the DRK gets 20% HP/MP restored. I’ll leave it up to you to think of the applications…
As long as you’re into ranged damage dealing in the first place, if you liked Bard, you’ll probably like Machinist. If you didn’t like Bard… you’ll still probably like Machinist. Yeah, you’ll still be required to do some support, but not at much mechanical cost. It feels much closer to the “I just want to DEEPS!” job that many hoped Archer would become, but you’re not getting off without some secondary responsibility.
The turrets might seem kind of like pets, but they don’t require half as much management. Decide whether the placement is to help you or hurt them, toss it somewhere appropriate, use its buffs wisely, and revert back to pew-pew-pew. Repeat as necessary. Your focus will likely end up spent on using reloads and attachments wisely, instead.
I’ve heard a lot of current healers talking about planning on making the switch to Astrologian, and I suspect that many of them will be making the jump right back. And that’s a compliment to Astrologian. Attentiveness and quick decision-making are required. Every thirty seconds, you can draw a card, decide whether that card will be used, shuffled, or sacrificed for an enhanced next round, and decide who gets the buff. Remembering to use your cards – and using them to an optimum advantage – while taking care of your party, enmity, and encounter responsibilities may be too tedious or overwhelming to some players. Similarly, the two stances will allow you to cover for either a WHM or a SCH, but your style might require adaptation depending on who’s missing. If you can manage the complexities, however, the challenge is damn fun and bound to be rewarding to players that like a challenge.
This is all just a first impression, of course; it could become second nature after some practice… but Astrologian may very well be the most demanding job in the healer category. The downside? AST has very little offensive capability. There’s no Clerics-DOT-Bane or Holy spam, here. Be prepared for solo encounters to take a good chunk of time or you may be forced to resort to the stun-and-run.