Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail Hands-On with Viper

6 Jun 2024

Last month we had a chance to play a preview build of Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail as part of the North American Media Tour. During our hands-on time, we were able to experience many of the Job changes that are in the works. For the Jobs that we weren’t able to personally get hands-on with, we still had an opportunity to look into the changes that will be coming when Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail arrives on July 2 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series, Mac, Windows, and Steam.

You can see all of the Viper changes, along with our thoughts below. Additionally, you can view the upcoming changes on our wiki by clicking on the Dawntrail tab on the Viper Job page.

You can also find more coverage of the Dawntrail Media Tour here.

This article is based on play of an in-development build of Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail, and content in the final version is subject to change.

Hi, hello to all you aspirant Vipers out there. This is always one of the best moments of any Job, when we first start mapping out how it works. I know you want to know so I’ll keep this intro brief. I can see most Melee players enjoying Viper. It will have some busy and bursty moments while juggling buffs with just enough complexity. This is looking like a winner to me.

The first question we can answer now is that of Viper’s utility. Does it have a partywide damage buff like it’s older Scouting brother Ninja? Nope. Viper is all about Viper. It does have multiple buffs to manage, but none to share with the rest of the class. That immediately sets our expectations on where Viper fits in compared to the other Melee on the damage front. It seems like it is headed for that Samurai, Black Mage stratosphere. This makes sense, as later we’ll see that they will have a similar complexity to Samurai, at least in maintaining buffs. Knowing that, what does it play like? My take: A Samurai-Reaper with absolute reckless abandon- let me explain. Starting off we’ll go through their defensive utilities, Viper learns a movement ability named Slither at level 40 which works just like Thunderclap from Monk, even down to the three max charges. That’s all. Not one defensive cooldown, no HP drain, no self-mitigation, nothing. Even Samurai has Third Eye. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it will matter at the tippy-top end of content when creating mitigation strategies.

Getting into their combat flow, Viper’s base “1-2-3” GCD combo is a little tough to grasp from the text on tooltips, but it is easy to understand when we break it down. The combo starters are Steel Fang and Dread Fang. Dread Fang is how we’ll be introduced to Viper’s “Death’s Design” like debuff- Noxious Gnash, as it applies it or extends it for 20 seconds up to 40. This debuff works just like Death’s Design in that while an enemy is affected by it, the Viper who applied it deals 10% more damage to them. Basically, keep this up on all enemies, forever. The other starter, Steel Fang, just does more direct damage than Dread Fang, which means we’ll try to start as many combos as we can with Steel and just use Dread when we need to.

The next phase of the combo introduces how slick the Action change system can be. Once you press Steel or Dread Fang, they will both morph into new skills. Steel Fang changes to Hunter’s Sting and Dread Fang becomes Swiftskin’s Sting. After you acclimate to that, they’re easy to understand. They both deal damage and continue the combo, but Hunter’s Sting also gives you a 10% damage buff for 40 seconds, while Swiftskin’s Sting grants a 15% haste buff for the same duration. Now those same two buttons will change into two different ones depending on which of the second step options you picked. Admittedly, this part sounds complicated, but hold on, stay with me.

If you used Hunter’s Sting as the second attack, that would change to Flanksting Strike and Swiftskin’s Sting would turn into Flanksbane Fang. Both are options to end your combo and, as their name might suggest, they are both Flank positional attacks. They both also increase your Serpent’s Offerings Gauge (the blue juice) by 10 and grant you similarly obscure sounding buffs, Hindstung Venom and Hindsbane Venom. These buff those skills and enforce a looping order to your combo finishers. If we ended with Flanksbane, we’ll have a buffed Hindsbane. If we end that next cycle with Hindsbane, it will buff Flanksting, and so forth. This gives it a back and forth, Flank, Rear, Flank, Rear combo cadence. If you’re out there fretting about remembering this, don’t worry. The UI will guide you through the sequence by lighting up the next logical step in the combo. If that isn’t enough, the Job Gauge is trying to signal the same thing to you with even prettier flashing lights. Finally, after your third combo hit and before rotating back around to your next cycle, another ability, Serpent’s Tail will morph into an oGCD follow up called Death Rattle. You can think of this as a “Continuation” like oGCD that you’ll be very familiar with. Many abilities grant you a use of an ability through this button so put it in a comfy spot.

Well, that seemed like a lot, but the rest will make more sense now. Your AoE combo works much the same as your GCD combo that we just discussed. This combo starts with either Steel Maw or Dread Maw- wait a minute. I really meant that it is the same, you’ll start with Steel or Dread depending on if you need to get that damage debuff out to all the enemies in the AoE, then use Hunter’s Bite or Swiftskin’s Bite depending on if you need the Damage or Speed buffs. The AoE finishers are easier as there are only two to alternate between as they buff each other’s damage, Jagged Maw, and Bloodied Maw. The same action change pattern exists here so shouldn’t be hard to grasp. Both finishers also fill your Serpent’s Offering Gauge by 10 too.

Next, we’ll cover the harder hitting Dualblade or Twinblade combo. These attacks use your swords in their connected form. This starts with Dreadwinder a weaponskill with two charges recharging every 40 seconds. It starts with ‘Dread’ so you know it afflicts the enemy with Noxious Gnash, but it also grants you a Rattling Coil, the red gems on the Job Gauge. We’ll tackle that later. Dreadwinder starts this combo, but the next step is either Hunter’s Coil or Swiftskin’s Coil. These seem familiar huh? They do what these similar skills have done so far, re-up your damage buff, or haste buff, but they also are sneakily positionals! Hunter’s Coil is a Flank positional, and Swiftskin’s Coil is a Rear one. You will then press the other Coil that you haven’t already used. That means these finishers also give you Serpent Offering Gauge charges, though just 5 for each one. Lastly, as with the other combo, there is an oGCD follow up. Though this time they’re twins. Twinblood and Twinfang are two oGCDs that morph at the end of this charge-gated combo. Depending on which finisher you just used, one of them will grant a buff that allows the immediate use of the other one. For a full example When you use Dreadwinder to start the combo and follow that up with Hunter’s Coil, Twinfang Bit will be available. Using Twinfang Bite will grant the buff that boosts Twinblood Bite. Then you’ll use Swiftskin’s Coil, and those bites in reverse. Complicated in text, but just press the glowing one.

I swear, we’re getting closer to talking about what the blue mode does. First though is the charge based AoE combo. It works the same as the non AoE… Yeah. It starts with Pit of Dread which grants a Rattling Coil, that is followed by Hunter’s Den or Swiftskin’s Den. Those give you the usual buff and 5 Serpent Offerings Gauge of the other charge combo. The AoE combo is followed by twins of its’ own Twinfang Thresh and Twinblood Thresh which are similarly double oGCDs. Now let’s get to that red gem! Rattling Coil charges are spent by Uncoiled Fury, a weaponskill granted at level 82. This is a ranged targeted AoE with no falloff that is followed by two oGCDs. Our friends Twinblood and Twinfang morph into Uncoiled Twinblood and Uncoiled Twinfang and are both targeted AoEs as well. This will be good to weave in for damage, but a solid option for anytime you’re forced to disengage from melee range.

The last portion of Viper’s kit is what we spend that Serpent’s Offering Gauge on. When you have at least 50 of this gauge’s charge, you can use Reawaken to enter your quick recast, ‘Enshroud’ mode. Reawaken itself does a large chuck of damage in a player based 5 yalm AoE, then grants you 5 stacks of Anguine Tribute, those circles under the gauge. Four of your weaponskills and Reawaken itself will morph into new abilities. First Generation, Second Generation, Third Generation and Fourth Generation. Each of these are a large potency, quick recast weaponskill that lead to the next one in sequence. At level 100 you gain access to similarly named oGCDs, First, Second, Third and Fourth Legacy. These are accessed through our other old oGCD buddy, Serpent’s Tail, or the follow up to your GCD combo. The flow is using First Generation, then the oGCD First Legacy, Second Generation, Second Legacy, and so forth. This is why it seems close to the flow and tempo of Enshroud.

You may have noticed that this leaves one Anguine Tribute charge left, which isn’t directly used by Reawaken’s follow up- Ouroboros, but it does require you still have one left. This weaponskill ends the Reawakened effect and hits like a truck in a close player based AoE. In fact, every hit of this combo is an AoE with no falloff on multiple targets. 

Phew, that’s all of Viper’s systems. As I have said earlier in this behemoth of an article, this seems tough to understand in text, but so did Reaper before Endwalker released. What we have here is a selfish melee DPS with similar complexity and damage output as Samurai. Viper is fast, and a little slow- hard to parse on (digital) paper but intuitive in the hands. I think the design is seriously great, and I am definitely leveling through Dawntrail on it. Only time will tell how it fits into the solved puzzle that is our endgame.

Viper’s Attire